Thanks for sharing your story! Thanks for sharing your lessons too. I'm glad you made it back and that we found you with a smile on your face! I can't wait to return to Lord Hill and see what happens to you next. :)
Oh man! That's intense! So glad you made it out ok.
Would people begin searching for me as soon as the course closed?
It depends on what information we have. The e-punch team usually has a pretty good indicator who's still out there as the closure time approaches. Also, do we know the person? What time did they start and how long have they been out? If someone you know is still around and waiting for you, then it's obvious that you're still out.
The e-punch team compares the start box punches with the finish/download boxes, too. This isn't foolproof, though, as some people, especially first-timers, forget to punch the start box or finish box. In the case of a mass start, we try to get everyone to check the check boxes, since there isn't a start punch.
If your car is still in the parking lot, then it's a good indicator that you're still out, but if your car isn't, that doesn't mean that you've left (maybe you carpooled, or maybe your online registration info isn't up-to-date and you have a new car that we don't know about). Sometimes your car is there, but maybe not parked where most people park (depending on venue).
Once the course closure time hits, then we start calling people. Most of the time, the phone calls work. A lot of people just forget (or don't know) to check in. Last week at Bridle Trails, there was a participant who was parked in the parking lot (Eric Jones and I went to confirm), so Amanda called the participant's phone. No answer. Then we called the emergency contact (who really didn't have any idea). Fortunately, the participant called us back, so it was all good.
Usually, a search doesn't start right away, because in every instance I've been involved with, the missing people are either already returned (and skipped part of the process) or they make their way back shortly after the closure time. A search wouldn't usually start until 15 minutes afterward (after collecting data from parking lots, start punches, and phone calls). Unless there's reason to start right away (worried person at the finish).
My first time directing a meet was a score-o at Lord Hill. The finish time came along a few people weren't back, including Dave Enger. 10 minutes went by, and he wasn't back. Ok, this might be something. So I grabbed the control pickup crew and started to divy up walkie talkies and send them out. And then he comes back. He had wanted to clear the entire course, no matter how late he was.
Another time I was directing at Putney Woods. It was the night-o of the Ultimate Series, but we also had the same courses open in the daytime. Ken Lew was participating during the day, but he was really late coming back, and it was starting to get dark. I sent out the course setters to see if they could find him on the trails, and thankfully, they did right away.
The furthest I've been involved in a search was at Salmon La Sac (the year that we teamed up with course setting). SLS is tricky because there's no cell coverage, and the competition area isn't close to the sno-park, so even walkie-talkies aren't reliable. I was part of the search party for this one. The one good thing about this one was that it was an adventure racing group. Meaning that if it were a medical emergency, they had each other as first responders. After searching for a while, I decided to head back to where I was parked on the road to get better communication with the sno-park. At my car, there was a note on the windshield that they had made it out to the road and walking back to the sno-park. Crisis averted.
It seems like that over the years, we would have something worse happen, but we haven't, thankfully.
Would it be better to blow my whistle to direct them to me, even though I wasn't hurt or in danger?
This is a good question, and I don't know what the best answer is. My first thought is to not freak out the searchers by inducing panic when you're actually ok. But then I'm thinking maybe you should. The course is closed, and the searchers are looking for you, so better to direct them to you (maybe you think you're ok, but you're in shock and could use some help).
When I was in college, the dishwasher in the apartment caught on fire. My roommate and I pulled out the fire extinguisher and directed it to the fire, which was in the space above the dishwasher and below the countertop. It seemed like it was out, but we couldn't move the dishwasher to check the wiring in the very back, so we called the non-emergency fire department. We explained the situation, and how it wasn't an emergency, but that we'd like to have someone come check to make sure that the fire was out. Sure enough, they sent an entire engine, sirens ablazing. They came in and checked, and everything was ok. We felt bad for calling, when it actually wasn't a big deal, but they explained vehemently that we had done the right thing.
Seems like getting their attention with a whistle would be good. The emergency whistle pattern is 3 equal blasts, or the SOS morse code. I don't know if there's a specific non-emergency whistle pattern, though.
RB: Would it be better to blow my whistle to direct them to me, even though I wasn't hurt or in danger?
PS: This is a good question, and I don't know what the best answer is. My first thought is to not freak out the searchers by inducing panic when you're actually ok. But then I'm thinking maybe you should. The course is closed, and the searchers are looking for you, so better to direct them to you (maybe you think you're ok, but you're in shock and could use some help).
Yeah, this is what I struggled with. Ironically, I wanted to end a search party by using my whistle. People could be getting into cars to drive to the north part of the park, headed out onto trail to start searching, etc. By directing a potential search to me, I can end the search sooner. And at that point, I wasn't even going to disturb anyone's course (except for Ing apparently, who started late and was still out there).
Although I wonder how many random hikers would have recognized the call, and if they would come looking but not find me by the time I got in the car and left, then a for-real search party would be called, and... Hmm.
It would be nice if there were a whistle pattern that says, "we're looking for you" or "where are you?" or "abandon course and return to the finish." It seems that part of the problem is that there is no designated way for organizers to communicate with participants on the course.
What if an air horn blasted at course closure time? Then ~15 minutes later blasted a two-blast pattern to indicate that a search party was underway?
Wow. Glad your adventure ended well! That must have been frustrating.
We've had a few missing runner drills (one at night) that have involved pulling the farthest controls and dumping their data as well - helps focus the search party because you can figure out how far someone got in the course. Especially important for controls near the edge of the map. But I hadn't thought of the lost map possibility...have to keep that in mind, especially in parks lacking distinct large or linear features.
Usually takes about 30 mins before search party is ready to launch, and often we have found the runner by then. Quicker launch if weather, inexperience, or health concerns are involved.
Yeah, I actually count myself weirdly fortunate for getting to experience what it's like to be Actually Lost, and witness myself make very inaccurate guesses as to my location.
Here's the course: Long Advanced
I was schwacking directly towards 15 when I lost it. I had no idea where I was in the scheme of things when I was last navigating, because I had tunnel vision on getting to 15. Being later in the race, my guess was that I was in the South West corner of the map (the area west of the big marsh), which is how I justified going North for a bit before cutting over. But I was actually in the North West corner.
Of course now, from the comfort of my home (and being able to look at the map), it's easy to see that I should have just gone East toward the pipeline, and it didn't really matter how far North or South I was. Or that by just going South I would run into the river... though I guess I could still run into problems by traveling South if I veered too far West. Navigation sure is difficult without a map!
But instead of thinking rationally as I am now, I came down with a case of, "oh, I'll just check out this thing over here," which seems like the thing to do (it isn't) when you don't have a map.
While it is frustrating to have done dumb stuff, it is comforting to know that I turned my situation around once I saw a map, and that I only even needed a glance at it to fix my problem.