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Discussion: reflections on PQ2015

in: Adventure Racing; General

Aug 25, 2015 11:18 PM # 
Wow, PQ is back. well, kind of. From it's arguable peak in 2006 (the only PQ i've raced...conicidence? ok, only joking), this version--while the course may be epic or whatever, is simply a shadow of the event that took place nearly a decade ago. Alaska was epic as well, but only a handful of teams. Wyoming too. These had the added advantage of being ARWS qualifiers. So what gives? Are american's just lazy? Is AR doomed as I suggested in this article?

As a former RD I cringe at the thought of putting on such a massively challenging event (logistically speaking) to have the course only challenged by a dozen teams. What a bummer! What gives?
Aug 26, 2015 12:54 AM # 
Good question!

The original PQ Tahoe had around 80 teams.

AR in the USA is unlikely to return to it's 2000-2005 hey day without prize money. The sport (in the USA especially) has not attracted much, if any top multisport talent since that time frame.

This year's PQ never seemed to attempt to be more than a scaled-down, grass-roots version. Not saying that's bad. It's not! Just different. The guided team idea was cool...but it doesn't look like that came to fruition unless I missed something.

Rusty Bottom Runaways, a team of extremely popular (in CF circles) CrossFit Headquarters trainers, who happen to be top 5 CF games athlete husband and wife, along with a US Marine war hero and a black Navy SEAL raced together. I don't believe they had time to run, hike, MTB or paddle much (compared to most) in training. There's your human interest story!!

Maybe since Reebok HEAVILY sponsors CF, and OCR through Spartan, Maria could have had a chance at Reebok as a sponsor? Next year maybe?

If you look at early AR, 89-mid 90s Southern Traverse, Raid G, Eco Challenge, etc, every race had entry fees over $10k, often without prize money. Over 20yrs ago! The AR scene was more like today's Racing the Planet series. A niche for those with the time, interest and $$. Ask RDs of thise races...or any expedition ARs reallly, about their ROI.

We could list myriad reasons for the end of the competitive talent/big money cycle. Some site TV, but TV only helped attract sponsors (in some cases). Talk to Don Mann about what he have up trying to jump start the expedition racing scene, well before PQ, in Alaska.

We cannot have this discussion without also mentioning the tragic death of Nigel Aylott at PQ Washington in 2004. There have been other accidents, including fatal ones, in AR, but if it was a "freak" accident, that was on American turf.

Some RDs have also sabotaged the sport by pussifying it, making it rogaine style, with optional CPs and hence eliminating the chance for anyone but sliding pants and headband wearing orienteering geeks to enjoy that format...let alone stay in the sport.

It's a niche sport.

Those who want authentic big hairy ass racing can still find it. Alaskan Mountain Wilderness Classic, or Dave A's race, former Baja Travesia...

Rather than complaining about something we may not have the power to change, perhaps some underground "throw downs" can happen. Point to point ARs like AMWC, but in the lower 48.

Also, feeder multisport races like NZ's C2C are an idea. There are several shorter but similar races on the PNW, Colorado and the East Coast.

Yadda Blah Etc
Aug 26, 2015 1:08 AM # 
Many teams in the late 90s until ~2001 the era of Irrational Exhuberance (aaaand the Eco Challenge on TV) were funded by .com sponsorship, or generous sponsors who wanted their name on a team for ego, expecting nothing else in return (I was lucky enough to race on one of those teams at the first ARWC/Discovery Channel race in 2001, and for Salomon in 2002 when they needed a couple American teams to represent in Euro racing).

There was some money in the sport atill in 01, 02, but not much.

Look at the boom of the last several years in silicon valley...millenials running the show have ZERO interest in anything sporty. Outdoor gear brands discuss them as a lost generation. They want flannel and retro hipster shit, not light weight gore tex.
In fact, they probably would lose cred for sponsoring anything, especially a niche AR or AR team it seems. Galen P knows better than I. A few teams have sponsorship, but they work for it daily, as marketing reps essentially via social media.

What say you?
Aug 28, 2015 12:56 AM # 
Aug 28, 2015 5:29 AM # 
I will throw my 2 cents in on next weeks podcast.
Aug 31, 2015 4:04 AM # 
Aug 31, 2015 4:37 AM # 
Race Directors are as much to blame in my eyes. A lot of races seem poorly promoted, and only those of us actively seeking them out seem to find out about them.
I have missed a number of races over the years simply because I didn`t even hear about its existence till it was long over.
Also it is not uncommon that after the race is over, Directors don`t ever post race results, recaps etc.
PQ 2015 seems like a prime example.
If you go to the website there is no info promoting the top finishing teams, We could only figure out who won by looking at the leader board.
Even then its still confusing as the top team appears to be missing many of the CPs?
If AR is ever to grow racers and directors need to do a better job of promoting the sport.
Race promotion doesnt just happen before the race, if you want more to teams to come to your race there needs to be good griitty race stories/videos, post race that show the spirit of the race. this would help entice those with no knowledge of AR to want to try it.
Typically when you go to a races website post race, it still looks like it did 2 weeks before the race even began.
I don`t mean to be picking on PQ 2015 only, but if you go to the website right now without AR experience or knowledge, would it give you a desire to build a team and drop $8000 go race?
The sport needs some AR style glitz and glam thrown back in to it.
Race teams should be better about writing a post race experience and stories more importantly photos and video then submit them to event staff for use on the website.
Aug 31, 2015 5:00 AM # 
Ok here is my 2 cent on this. I raced PQ 2004 which was the race in which Nigel Aylott died. Our team and several others pulled out of the race during that point. I then raced in the 2006 PQ Utah on team MPgear where we were one of the teams that had a camera guy follow us and recording our race.

I feel that the reason that AR in the US is dying is because they are unable to market the sport properly. Unlike the Ironman Tri's that sell out the minute they are open. AR is unable to tell the story properly to bring the people in.
Unlike Mark Burnett was able to do with Eco challenge, he told a story in a way that allowed us to see the challenge but also think it was something that we could do or at least wanted to try to do.

When an AR race is filmed and broadcasted today it focuses on how super human you have to be to do it and if you’re not how you won’t finish. When I raced PQ 2006 they didn’t show the real story of 4 friends that loved AR and how we put our hearts into the race and the training it took to be ready for the race.

What they showed where the tired moments after racing in 120 degree temps for days were I and my team would snap or just be so tired we couldn’t think. And to add to the drama they built on the editing floor, they show me carrying my best friend out of the race on my back no to be heard from for the rest of the broadcast.

What they didn’t show, which was a story I think could have helped the sport. Was how well we worked together to get to that point in the race and how I and my other two friends finished the race with our friend there to greet us with open arms.

This is where AR could learn a thing or two from the producers on the Iron Man races. They show the pros who are super human and what they can do with those abilities but they also show the average person and how with enough, heart, determination and training they can also complete a superhuman task. Like Mark Burnett did in the early days of Eco Challenge when the teams that raced in the 90’s and early 2000’s brought the sport to its highest point, we raced not prove we were super human but that we together with our team could accomplish super human feats.
Aug 31, 2015 5:05 PM # 
Interesting discussion. TV helped attract some sponsors but more importantly - in our area, at least - it attracted participants, including 'Bent and me 13 years ago.

Cliff raises a good point and I'm trying to remember what it was about seeing EcoChallenge Borneo that inspired us to look for local AR events. We were not competitive athletes but we had done a lot of wilderness tripping. The idea of expanding the range of our outdoor activities was appealing. We were attracted by the challenge of exploring wild places away from standard routes, using map and compass. We were interested in testing ourselves to see whether we could reach the finish of an AR. The idea of trying to do it faster than another team wouldn't have crossed our minds in those days, nor would it have been any attraction. That all came later.

As I write this, it makes me think of the appeal of OCR to most people - the tens of thousands who make up the majority of the event revenue. Most participants are attracted by a different challenge from their day to day lives, curious about whether they could finish, keen to post a great Facebook profile shot, attracted by the fun, social event atmosphere and not that interested in aiming for the podium.

As Cliff points out, there must have been something about EcoChallenge Borneo - a tough, epic race - that made us think we could do this sport. Perhaps it was that EC focused on human stories that held my interest more than the race - and most of the humans seemed quite human. At least, that's the way I remember it. I should watch EC Borneo again! I remember people overcoming fear, making mistakes, working together, caring for one another, encountering unexpected challenges and being smart and creative. I don't remember the battle for the win.

I imagine that a competitive athlete would have had different takeaways from watching EC Borneo, and I know a number of adventure racers were athletes who added wilderness skills to their repertoire so I wonder what appealed to them.
Aug 31, 2015 5:27 PM # 
Coincidentally, while I've been reflecting on Borneo and OCR, Ian Adamson posted this on Facebook this weekend:

Best birthday present yesterday: seeing my result at the Boston Spartan Race (research for International Federation and Olympic push - first time, untrained, had to learn the obstacles on the fly!) ... 1st 50-54, 1st male and 1st overall in age groups. Another day of racing today some young buck should do better! Secret sauce was warming up with a beer and chugging it to make the start.
Sep 3, 2015 4:07 PM # 
I am still trying to reenter the "real life" without fits of exhaustion that put me out like a light, but I can truly say that departing the beach for the final paddle felt surreal - like I was walking into/out of all the old school AR (eco) videos I grew up on. This event was real, and while smaller than its predecessors, it will be the spark for US expeditions to ignite again. I'm still working on my report, but I have to say out right that Maria, Dave & Paul put together a logistics team and race staff that was bar none. In the mean time enjoy Warren's musings on the race and the future (for all you doubter out there).
Sep 4, 2015 10:59 PM # 
I only have one problem with the race. The backend media people didn't understand how much content people want to see. I shot, edited and uploaded 30 videos, (and Pics) during the race. If you didn't go to my FB page you didn't see them.
I like to show the cool parts of the race, but I also like to show the bartering of who carries the TP, or watch JD try to eat a one pound hamburger.

That said Maria,Dave, and Paul now have one under their belt, they know what will work. It just takes a ton of people to make it happen.
Sep 5, 2015 12:47 AM # 
Bates needs to write more, that was a fantastic race report
Sep 7, 2015 4:14 PM # 
My report - sorry lengthy.
Sep 12, 2015 12:32 AM # 
Here is the Team Bones race report:
Oct 13, 2015 10:26 AM # 
The film is on Outside TV this Saturday, October 17 at 9p EST (best I can tell).
Oct 13, 2015 10:56 PM # 
Carbon's Offset:
Anyone know if it's possible to see this online? (for us non-cable folks)
Oct 14, 2015 11:28 AM # 
It's our plan...I hope so!
Oct 28, 2015 1:42 PM # 
Hey Randy
Any chance I can get access to the PQ show? (UK)
Oct 30, 2015 2:45 AM # 
Carbon's Offset:
Contact Randy, he'll set you up. That dude is legendary!

This discussion thread is closed.