Wednesday, February 23, 2011

An Effort to End the Required Gear List

To be required is to be essential or absolutely necessary. It seems in today's races, that the only thing essential about an item on a required gear list is that you need it to pass inspection before or during the race. The required gear list has manifested into a mix of items that truly are needed in order to participate, that are necessary by law, that might be handy and those that promote safety. Based on these categories, it is my belief that we can do away with the required gear list and proceed to a future with more streamlined pre-race proceedings and more room in our packs for stuff we actually use.

First let's consider equipment that truly is needed in order to participate. These might be mountain bikes or boats. We don't need to list these items. When a race lists mountain biking or paddling in the disciplines it's strongly implied that you'll need a bike and boat. For specifics, the rules can indicate whether cyclocross or road bikes are permitted; likewise for kayaks versus canoes and any paddle type restrictions. There is some grey area when it comes to races with a ropes section since the bulk of participants may not be familiar with what equipment they might need for such a thing. In which case, a concise note without the formality of a required gear list will suffice.* A special note for race directors: in your rules, be sure to include something requiring teams to have their bikes / boats with them when completing the appropriate sections. Advantageous position can be achieved by leaving your bikes / boats on course and finishing on foot for example. A 'no gear drop' clause can also cover this.

Secondly we've got the gear that is necessary by law. These would be bike helmets, pfds, a bailing device and tow rope etc. These can and should be covered in the rules. "A helmet must be worn at all times while on the mountain bike" means a whole lot more than the required gear list's stipulation that you have the helmet with you. Other items required by (Nova Scotian) law are matches, compass and a knife. A gentle reminder in the rules can make sure participants will carry these items as well.

The next required gear list items to discuss are those that might come in handy. Dearest race director, I do love you for what you do, but you're not my mother. And if it makes you feel any better, I wouldn't listen to her either. Yes, spare socks might be useful for some participants, but I prefer to make that judgment myself. I also prefer to bring the bike repair tools that I deem appropriate. And if I want to catch some color during an adventure race, it should be my prerogative. Now, I will concede that since I've been racing for 10 years, that I'm a qualified participant to make these judgments. However, if the purpose of your gear list is to make sure that new participants have all they need then you'll fail at that purpose. If your race will have new racers, then you should have some kind of resource available (even a link to a website will do) that identifies typical gear used. These types of items can be suggested and advised as much as you like, but not required. The best resource for helping new racers in this department is to put them in touch with an experienced racer; as an RD you'll have enough correspondence to worry about. Give them my contact info if you like!

Lastly we have items that promote safety. Adventure racing is ridiculously dangerous. A raincoat, toque, some gauze and a triangular bandage will not change that. It's always been my theory that any injury I could treat with the meager required first aid equipment isn't worth treating in the first place. Any injury requiring treatment, in my opinion, needs a whole lot more... including first aid personnel; will they fit in my pack? Sure I know first aid, but I can barely state my name after 24 hours let alone practice sound first aid! Again there is some grey area here with a raincoat and toque whereby hypothermia is a considerable risk in any race. However, the consideration for these types of things with respect to liability is slowly changing toward less requirements equaling less liability. When requiring an item like a rain coat that has no standard for qualification, like a pfd or bike helmet, the race director actually puts themselves in a liable position by qualifying that item. Take note of that one RDs; protecting your participants may not be protecting you.

If you're brave enough to host an adventure race, it's your right to include a required gear list if that's what you need to satisfy your level of comfort. But please, if you do include one, do it because that's what you want and you believe it's necessary for your race, not because it's always been that way, or because you think people will show up without shoes because they weren't listed for them.

*For races with a ropes course I'll go against my usual advice and suggest that there should be a pre-race inspection of gear. My reasoning: the prussik, for example, is often used as a redundant safety device. Unfortunately most people don't realize that your prussik can't be 4 ft long because it will either get jammed in your figure-8 / ATC or it will be too high for you to operate if it does engage. It's a very annoying thing to be in a bottleneck at a ropes course while the rope staff have to reconfigure someone's gear on another team. The same goes for harness adjustment.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Sno-Racin'! A 2-Stage Adventure Race
Date: March 26, 2011
Location: Porter's Lake, NS
Stages: ~10 km Trail Run / ~4 hrs Orienteering
Team Size: Teams of 2 or more, no categories specified
Registration: Available online at Atlantic Chip
Cost: $25 per racer
7:30 - 8:45 a.m.: On site registration / Check in (you have to check in even if you register online!
8:45 - 8:59 a.m.: Pre-race meeting / questions answered
9:00 a.m.: Trail Running Race Starts
12:00 p.m.: Orienteering Race Starts, maps & control sheets issued at start line
4:00 p.m.: Orienteering Race Ends
4:15 p.m.: Awards

More Details:
Trail running has been gaining momentum in Nova Scotia, and Adventure Race style orienteering has always been popular. I've decided to mate the two into a stage race to try and encourage some cross over between the two disciplines. This is also one of the first stage races that Nova Scotia has ever seen! I'm excited to try the race style and I look forward to it catching on for future events. In order to address all of the questions I'm sure this event will generate, I've put together an FAQ...

Where will the trail run be? How about that orienteering section?
In the spirit of adventure racing, these aren't usually revealed until the last minute. But because we're trying something new, the trail run will be on Crowbar Lake Trails, and the orienteering section will be in the trail system at the end of Myra Rd.

You mean where you hosted Storm the Beach AND the Snowgaine?
Yea... problem? Just kidding. I don't generally like repeating a venue like this, but with the proximity to Crowbar lake trails it was hard to pass up. Besides, there are a ton of trails in there that I haven't used yet, so you'll definitely cover some new ground.

Do we start orienteering as soon as we're done running?
No. The orienteering starts at 12:00 p.m.

Do teams have to stay together on the run?
No. The team's total time will be the sum of the two members, or in the case of a team of three or more, the sum of the fastest and slowest times.

What are the conditions like?
It's impossible for me to tell until the day before the race, it is Nova Scotia after all! Call me at 902-489-8096 anytime to get an update.

I don't know how to navigate, how will I do at the orienteering?
Poorly. But that doesn't mean you won't have fun! In general, the navigation will be intermediate. Controls that are more difficult will be identified by a higher point value.

I'm not a fast runner, how will I do on the trail run?
Poorly. But that doesn't mean you won't have fun! And then you can get'm with the maps!

Do we have to participate in both stages or can we just do one?
I would really like to see everyone participate in both since one of the goals of this event is to create some crossover between trail running and adventure racing. However, I won't turn anyone away. Be prepared for a pretty convincing phone call though! Unfortunately the registration cost will remain the same.

Are we allowed bikes during the orienteering section?

What else are we allowed to use during the orienteering section?
Cross-country skis, snowshoes, regular shoes... and if you can think of anything else ask and I'll let you know!

Will there be any paddling during the orienteering section?

Will the orienteering section take a full four hours? And do we have to be finished in four hours?
For most people the orienteering section will take longer than four hours, BUT you are required to be at the finish line no later than 4:00 p.m., which means some teams won't collect all of the controls. There will be penalties for tardiness, and the RCMP will be called at 4:30 p.m. if you're not out of the woods yet. Seriously.

What required gear is there?
None. But it is Nova Scotia law that you have matches, compass and a whistle on you in the woods. Also, it's law that you wear a helmet if you're riding your bike. And if you have any other questions about gear, just ask.

Will weather play a role in the schedule?
It's possible. The start of the orienteering may be delayed if conditions are such that the run times are exceptionally high.