Thursday 19 April 2007

AR for corporates?

A few weeks ago I forwarded an email to the group about a team-build... err.. team development concept. This concept seems to have achieved success in Europe and the US and now the series includes South Africa. It all culminates in an event that pits the 4 top teams from each of the 7 participating countries against each other. I've just received their event pack.

Intelligent Sport's Challenger World ( can be thought of as an "adventure race for corporates". They have day and night stages, multiple disciplines (mountain biking, trail running, kayaking, ropes and night navigation) and the good ol' 4-person team element. The SA event (in October) is one of a series taking place around the World and if you and your team qualify (4 teams from each country go through) you then go through to the World Team Challenge in the US December; to represent your company and country.

The event includes three elements: Strategic, Physical and Intelligent. Looking at this list of elements... troops, this is adventure racing; neatly packaged and made attractive and accessible to non-racers.

When I first received the note about this event I went to their website; and the first thing I looked for was the price. Their rates were absent on their website (my radar was twitching) so I emailed them to ask about this. They kindly posted their event information pack to me.

So, I'm sitting here as I type with papers spread all over the place and I've just watched a lovely DVD production of the UK Challenger event (I can say that their event information is presented professionally and neatly).

A few things that have caught my eye:
  1. 4-person team format with multiple disciplines: I'm seeing the fundamentals of AR coming through loud and clear - teamwork, many disciplines, trying situations, problem solving, decision making, bonding etc. I'm sure the person who first developed this concept watched a couple of Mark Burnett's Eco Challenge productions and altered the concept to make it easier and friendlier and attractive to corporates.
  2. 2-day, 2-night event; staged multi-day AR format
  3. BIG companies have entered these events in the UK. Any big name that comes to mind is probably on their client list.
  4. Charity involvement: every major event is involved with a charity and this one is no exception (note that your company's donation/pledge to the charity is in addition to your entry fee i.e. not included in your entry fee).
  5. PRICE: it costs R45,000 ex VAT (R51,300) to enter each team of 4-people. Entry fee includes accommodation, meals, running suits (they look like our orienteering suits) and "use of specialist equipment"

My first thought was - oh my goodness! This is almost R13,000 per person for 2 days (and 2 nights) and you'll have to fund your transport to the event venue (W. Cape). Then I got to thinking about it...

Big corporates probably wouldn't blink at this amount. They pay all kinds of hefy charges for things purely because they are corporates. I wrote a thing to Runner's World a few weeks ago about the Game Challenge Relay, which was charging R50 per person for a 6-person relay team, where 2 people run/walk a 2-kilometer route, 2 people run/walk a 4km route and 2 people run/walk a 7lm route. I felt sorry for the suckers paying R50 to run/walk only 2km! I wouldn't even get out of bed for 2km and I certainly wouldn't pay R50 for it. A good point was made on the Runner's World forum; people are not paying for this, their companies are paying for it. And thus R25 per kilometer was justified...

When you take a closer look... I'd assume that mountain bikes are provided for all participants. You don't need support crew (although you can bring along two additional squad members at R8,500 ex VAT each; these are not competitive substitutes as the core 4-people are the ones taking part), you don't need support vehicles, you don't need your own mountain bike, you don't need a kayak, you don't need mandatory equipment, you don't need a backpack, you don't need to bring race food... All you have to do is show up and thrash other corporate teams. When you look at the event in this light... well, R13,000 per person doesn't seem quite as steep (especially when you are not paying for it).

Anyway, the long and the short is that the price had me gasping for air. But, this event is not aimed at "Lisa the adventure racer". The event is aimed at corporates who challenge each other in the business world and presents them with the opportunity to challenge each other in the adventure sport environment.

Nonetheless, I am curious as to what the fee would be to send the winning 4 South African teams to the US in December? I'm sure the company would be expected to foot the bill?

To win something like this would certainly be prestigous for any company, especially within the event and amongst the participants (just like adventure racing)... Perhaps a new avenue for would be as an employment agency to source adventure racers, as staff, for companies looking to enter (and win) this event?

Alternatively, a number of us may come in very handy as "corporate adventure racing coaches"? Yeah... this would work. Corporates, give me a shout. I'll get your team ready for this challenge (for a fee)...

Thursday 12 April 2007

Ergonomic, 3D bottle-shape, lumbar pack

I've been wanting one of those hydration lumbar packs (aka hip packs) for some time, having seen runners with them at races overseas (hip packs are very popular in the US). Today I got my very own Salomon Twinbelt (thank you Salomon), a 2 x bottle hydration lumbar pack.

Before I get to the product trial, I'll explain my interest in lumbar packs.

I drink a lot when I run, even on cool days. I find that my mouth gets really dry so I sip, sip, sip the whole way. What this means is that whenever I go out running I take water; either a bottle or my hydration backpack (Salomon Raid Revo 15l). It's a bit of a nuisance to carry a bottle and when my backpack is almost empty it doesn't sit as snug as when it is loaded. In the last two weeks, with the cooler weather, I've been for some runs without any hydration, settling for slurping water from irrigation systems - an acquired skill! But when I get back I'm always incredibly thirsty. This ain't good.

I've been interested in lumbar packs for ages because:
  • your hands remain free
  • one or two bottles are adequate for most training runs so it offers an alternative to using a hydration reservoir and backpack
  • the zipper pocket is a perfect place for munchies, keys and your cellphone
  • I've wondered what it feels like: backpack hip belts end up around your waist... would the lumbar pack sit on my hips or waist?

The Salomon Twinbelt has two bottle carriers (and comes with two bottles). I put water in both bottles (each half-full) and headed out for a 30-minute road run this evening.

When you walk, the lumbar pack sits on your hips (lumbar spine area; lower back). Very comfortable. When you run, you do need to tighten the belt around your waist or it will jiggle up and down on your hips. For guys, who don't have curvaceous hips and waists, it may very well sit on your hips.

Once fitted did it jiggle up and down? Nope, and I didn't have to tighten the belt too tight either - just enough to fit well. As I started sweating it stuck even better.

Are the bottles really ergonomically designed? The bottles are a "3D" design (a bit like a triangle bottle-body shape), which means the one side lies flat against your lower back. Logical eh? The bottle carrier pouches are positioned such that you can reach back with your right hand to pull out the right bottle and the left hand to take out the left bottle, with ease. No contortionist moves required. And the bottle-fit is snug; a good tug is needed to get the bottle out and you need to give it a bit of a push to get it back in. Nothing too strenuous. The good news is that the bottle doesn't jiggle around. A nice idea is to put juice or a hydration drink in one bottle and water in another.

Other features of interest:

  • a removable pocket; sits on your front right hip and is attached to the belt. I didn't use it tonight but this is the place where I would definitely stash lip balm and eye drops.
  • a rear zippered pocket: this is where I put my phone. It is an unsuspectingly roomy pocket.
  • rear gear carrier: criss-crossed bungy cords between the bottle carriers (on top of the zippered pocket). Perfect for holding your wind/rain jacket.

All in all I was pretty happy with the Salomon Twinbelt on this first outing. It exceeded my expectations in terms of stability (not jiggling up and down) and I look forward to really bonding with it on Saturday morning when I'm meeting friends for a 20-odd kilometer road run.

Monday, 16 April - hip pack worked even better on Saturday than Thurs night. I got it just right and had a bit more weight in it with the bottles more full (in the beginning anyway). Nice, nice, nice.