Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Cross the finish line together

Adventure racing is a team sport. Yes? Whether racing as a pair, 3 or 4 the essential AR element is that the entire team completes every stage together. They have to visit every check point together and they are expected to cross the finish line together. Why then do participants desert their friends?

De-sert, verb - to leave (a person, place, etc.) without intending to return, esp. in violation of a duty, promise, or the like.

At the recent SPUR Adventure in Joburg I caught a number of participants at the finish line, without their team-mates. When I asked where they were I received answers like, "they're behind me" and "they're coming down the hill". I made them wait for their buddies and chastised them about the team element of the event and also the safety element. What if their team mate had wiped out on the long steep downhill to the finish? And, why would they not wait for the person who had done the whole race with them to cross the finish line as a team?

This is by no means specific to the SPUR event; we see this all over at sprints and distance races.

But, one of the saddest situations of the day involved a young girl, Amber.

One of my marshals was driving down the hill when he saw this little girl pushing her bike. He had our event photographer and a tv cameraman with him. He pulled over and asked her whether she was ok. Amber burst into tears saying that she'd crashed and her mom had left her. She was reluctant to speak to my marshal, which is quite right; she shouldn't be in the position where she has to talk to strangers.

He said that they could load her bike into the bakkie and that they could give her a lift to the finish. She quite rightly didn't want to get into this strange man's car. With the reassurance of the photographer, cameraman and event stuff, they loaded her bike, got her into the bakkie and took her down to the finish.

My marshal was walking with Amber to look for her mom, who came up to them. My marshal, not one to mince his words, said to her, "What kind of mother are you?". She was startled and in the course of the brief conversation said, "I just couldn't go that slow".

When you're an adult racing with a child, you should expect that they would be a bit slower than you. I'm glad I didn't see this woman 'cos she would have had it from me too. It was just a 15km sprint! The chance of this sweet little girl doing another race is probably close to zero.

That said, the moral of this tale is that the whole point of racing as a team is to stay as a team, whether you're faster or slower than your team-mates. The satisfaction of completing a race is when you cross the finish line together. If this team element is not your thing, do triathlon.


Unknown said...

Not that I have anything against the team concept, but why is it that all AR are team events? Why isn't this optional?

I find it difficult to find team mates that are on the same fitness level and have the same dedication as I have. Furthermore, I am a bit of an introvert and it is in my nature to do things solo. Surely, the team approach is not addressing a certain section of "the market".

I've done a couple triathlons and they are dreadfully boring.

adventurelisa said...

Heya Andre,

You have a good point. AR evolves originally as a team event because of the distance and duration; sprints didn't exist. Actually, the initial teams were 5-person, not 4.
The whole team thing just became an integral part of the sport from a safety angle. If something happened to one person, one could stay with them and the other two could go for help.
When sprint races were created, they hung on to this. I've shot my mouth off before about sprints not being "adventure racing" but more multisport; nonetheless the team element remains.
Because of the safe nature of sprint races and the number of people, I let people do my event on their own. It may be something for other sprints to folow-up on... but then they really become much more aligned to multisport. The line is thin.

In the early 2000's Zirk presented the Desert Challenge, which was a solo event. I think the event only ran for two years. Hano presented the Solo Traverse a few years ago - an AR for individual entrants (people could enter pairs too).
Numbers are small for these races.

Something like Coast to Coast in New Zealand is a solo event but it is marketed as multisport, not an adventure race.

So... sprint races may allow more solo entrants to take part but because of the safety issue it is unlikely that the longer events will do so.

Indeed, as you say, this may not address a certain section of the market.

But, what we have to keep in mind is that the core elements of adventure racing, that distinguish it from multisport, are team and navigation. Making it solo would be like making triathlon a team event, where the team does everything together.

You other point is also very valid: finding team mates that are on the same fitness level. You've hit the nail on the head. Finding your most optimal team mates does not happen on your first, second or third races. But, through events you'll meet people of similar strength. Also remember that someone will be better than you at one thing, you'll be better than them at another. That is the nature of the sport and together you'll compliment each other. And this is where the team thing plays a role in making the team as a whole stronger.

Good points Andre. - Lisa

coydogheath said...

see i would rather see photos of you in a strappy top and cute little shoes

Anonymous said...

Yep, I agree with you, if you enter a team event, then no matter what happens the team should stick together to the end. I have had some very good and also bad experiences in team events. Unfortunately the bad experiences have put me off team events completely. I would rather have a slow partner with an excellent sense of humour than a fit partner who throws a tantrum when the going gets tough. I have switched to Triathlons which I thoroughly enjoy as I only have my own pain to deal with.

Unknown said...

@ Lisa: Thanks for the reply. Looks like I found a partner with the same attitude and more or less the same fitness levels. This weekend's race in Parys was a blast!

adventurelisa said...

Heya Andre,

Yippee! Now you got a team-mate base to work from. It really just takes time to find the right combo for you and it looks like you're getting there ;)