Register | Login
Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: World Class Obstacle

in: iansmith; iansmith > 2016-08-25

Aug 25, 2016 10:10 AM # 
The fastest route to control 2 in the WOC Sprint isn't for everybody:
Aug 25, 2016 7:33 PM # 
" Imagine a national series of city races and sprint festivals all around the country"

I would use the $50K to develop a video to promote urban racing and longer mass start races and to develop two series (sprint, mass start long) that have high quality, high energy race day atmosphere.

But pink socks suggested this years ago.
Aug 25, 2016 8:01 PM # 
Yeah, these are all great and established ideas. My thinking is that marketing doesn't really have much of a point if we don't tell people to come to something, and I think that something has to be more exciting than local weeknight trainings. We can hook them with big, accessible, fun races and use those to draw them into the sport.
Aug 25, 2016 8:31 PM # 
Well I would argue that they would be doing the sport with those big accessible races but that we use that to draw (some of) them into the traditional forest races. Though for many it won't be something they want to do. I mean the atmosphere at a 2-day "A" meet with interval starts is pretty poor.
Aug 25, 2016 8:33 PM # 
I think the goal should be improve the quality of our product for both sprint+city and forest races. Running a city race is engaging and accessible, but it cannot compare to the adventure of blasting through the woods in Pawtuckaway or Harriman.
Aug 25, 2016 8:40 PM # 
agree 100%. But if it is OK for Euro races to have a few 'dead legs' at the end of races to make sure the race finishes near a good arena then it should be OK for us. No more remote finish lines please.

For the urban races it might be possible to partner with an event management group that is linked to a charity. The O club does the technical side and takes a few bucks per person while the event management does the rest. finish line, promo, swag, food, etc.
Aug 26, 2016 12:42 AM # 
FWIW I did the Whistler Tough Mudder several years ago, and it was the closest thing I've done running wise that is not orienteering but felt much more dynamic then even the most technical trail races I've done.

There was still snow, the course had us ran off trail steep descends, we climbed the skijump slope, jumped in the fozen lake, stopped every few minutes for this obstacle or that. And it was still a solid 9 mile run. The whole experience was awesome and that's even for me (someone that has done so much "crazy forest stuff")

The hit with the obstacle races is that it lets regular joe feel and look like a bad ass. No beginner can experience the fun of successful and fast run on a reasonable technical orienteering course as you see in the videos you link. And a fit competitive runner would never get a workout that he would be satisfied with. In the mud runs everyone gets to experience and feel what's in the video.

May be at orienteering events set an off trail flagged running race. Give folks maps with the course drawn. Market it just as the toughest 5K or 10K you'll ever run.
Giving folks maps with the course is optional. Where orienteering comes in you ask, I don't know. Maybe ability to shortcut with the risk of getting off course and lost.
Aug 26, 2016 5:48 PM # 
Honestly I think the biggest differences between OCR and orienteering are the following:

1. There are training opportunities, videos, gyms, etc. that will prepare you for the obstacles in Tough Mudder That isn't the case for orienteering. I don't think it's fair to say that orienteering obstacles (i.e. map reading and navigation) are intrinsically harder than those in obstacle course racing. Rather it is a less common skill.

2. OCR promotes itself (to the base) as a very friendly "we all help each other" kind of sport. Orienteering doesn't. Period. In OCR if someone is struggling to get over an obstacle the spirit of the participants is to lend a hand and push or carry someone else over. That's highly encouraged. In orienteering, if you help someone find a control that is cheating.

3. Marketing dollars.

I've never actually done an obstacle course race so what I write above is purely hearsay base on the promo and hype I've seen but I think there are a few lessons we can learn.

1. Have a mass start series of races where it is encouraged to help each other find controls. The people that need to help each other will be so far behind the competitive traditional orienteers that neither group need to be affected by the others and each can have what they want.

2. Market the shit out of the above but realise that the product has to become before the advertise. I.e. if the product isn't right and isn't available then there's no point in promoting it.

3. Once people realise there is this awesome fun product out there provide them with the support to do better at it with training programs tips of the day training videos, etc.
Aug 26, 2016 6:15 PM # 
#1 is exactly a goat race.
Aug 26, 2016 6:58 PM # 
Good points, Canadian. With respect to the obstacles, I find contrived obstacles less interesting than natural ones. Perhaps I'm in the minority, but I find crawling under barbed wire uninteresting compared to getting to the top of a mountain or crossing great distances.

OCR promotes itself as a very friendly "we all help each other"

I think only Tough Mudder has that team mentality; Spartan races seem more individual challenges, albeit ones where everyone is encouraged. I like camaraderie and mutual encouragement, but I don't think we need to build a womb of positivity for race situations. Mass start races do seem to help; I could envision a mass-start hour urban city race that would be very accessible even to neophytes. You're definitely right that advanced level orienteering is basically inaccessible to a true beginner.

Agreed with your second set of points entirely. If you go to the Spartan race website, the most obvious link leads you to this find a race page. I think a national series of mass start races - both urban and forest - is a great way to market the sport that doesn't have to detract from its core. Consider also

So imagine 3 tiers of races:
(1) Local meets - clubs doing what they do now. Generally pretty chill, good camaraderie, and a good way to learn to get better.
(2) Mass start races - goats in forest, urban city races when possible. Maybe also sprint tournaments? Dunno. Fun, accessible, and challenging.
(3) National Meets. The apex of the sport - standard forest weekends, sprint tournaments, etc.

A noob has no business at a national meet. No one is going to come to NAOC to try orienteering for the first time. You attract people with (1) and (2). And right now, we only really have the local event scene.

So I think we need to build a product around (2). These are still legitimately challenging - who doesn't love the Billygoat, the Highlander, various goats around the US, London City Race, Venice City Race, etc. But they can also be accessible to a beginner. Then we market them - conquer Boston, explore New York, venture into the unknown in Minneapolis or Blue Mountain or whatever. From that, we attract people to the rest of the sport. And maybe some people only like goats; that's fine, too. It has controls, a map, and a clock - it's orienteering.
Aug 26, 2016 8:11 PM # 
Ian, what do you mean by 'nation meet' in your second last paragraph?

Ottawa has quite successfully hosted intro clinics and recreational events in parallel with our annual Canada Cup event and even with the NAOCs. I don't have numbers for you unfortunately but it seems to me that it is good to take advantage of the build-up and the atmosphere (which admittedly many national events / Canada Cup events don't have) to get new people excited about the sport. It also serves as something for friends and family of competitive orienteers to try while they are there to cheer on racers.
Aug 27, 2016 12:14 AM # 
"A noob has no business at a national meet". Oh yes they do. My partners parents came to every National Meet for about 5 years .... to spectate. They were intimidated and put off by similar rhetoric as the above, confusing entry criteria and long pre-entry requirements, so didn't actually do any orienteering in that time. But eventually they tried it. And were hooked.
People travel with friends and relatives - these are a market waiting to be tapped. National meets are orienteerings best product. Why would you not want someone to try it out??
Aug 27, 2016 7:58 PM # 
Pink Socks:
I'm reiterating what I've written extensively elsewhere, but my basic thought is this:

Two national branded series:

1) Adventure Running Series. Mass start races, like goats, Street Scrambles, TrailCross, that are also accessible to beginners, because that's the point. We need to focus these so much on first-timers that this may frustrate traditional orienteers, but it needs to happen. There are enough existing events around the country that could work for this, but there needs to be a lot of effort to collaborate and polish things up to receive a positive perception of these events (needs a nationwide brand manager and some marketing push).

Nowadays, I think it would be smart to have race maps available on GPS-enabled mobile devices so that people have a bit of a crutch because maps scare people (remember what I said: "We need to focus these so much on first-timers that this may frustrate traditional orienteers."). This could be a great sponsorship opportunity for someone like Otterbox because all of those phones need protection.

2) Adventure Running Elite Series. The standard National Meet, but rebranded as the more intense version of #1. This keeps the existing base happy and gives newcomers who get hooked something to aspire to. In addition to the standard courses, it would also be wise to have an offering for the basic Adventure Running Series, too, that way we have something for everyone, and the basic runners can get a little visibility to the Elite Series.

A noob has no business at a national meet

Not really in the current format. I talk up a lot of orienteering to a lot of people, and it's a hard sell. National meets are usually further away and more expensive, and the options facing beginners are either something too short and too easy, or something waaaay over their heads.
Aug 28, 2016 9:35 PM # 
Seriously, who would pay $90 to jump through mud and hop over slightly burning wood when you could run around in Pawtuckaway or Harriman?

IIRC, something in the neighborhood of 8000 people in the DC area (some travelling from outside what "the DC area" normally means, to be sure) the last weekend of August 2015 alone, the one time I ran a Spartan Sprint race. (BTW, if you enter an elite male or female heat it's one thing but for the great mass of participants the Spartan ethos does allow for asking for help from strangers with at least a subset of the obstacles - I gave a boost on request to one woman so she could reach the top of a wall and have a hope of getting over.)

This discussion is making me worry that the vision of national races series may distract people (and draw resources away) from lower hanging fruit. I'm not at all sure that if I controlled $50K in funding to promote orienteering in the US, it wouldn't end up all being spent on professional web site redesigns for O clubs (there are still a fair number of lamentable sites out there) and various forms of online/social media marketing to promote local event schedules.
Aug 29, 2016 1:45 AM # 
A couple more anecdotes to illustrate the problem with the all-too-common attitude:

"A noob has no business at a national meet"

I travelled to a competition many years ago with a girlfriend who hadn't been orienteering before. I had to get to the start for my slot, so left her to enter herself. I came back to find that she had only been allowed to do the kids string course and she had felt a bit silly punching farm animals. Luckily she wasn't put off and finished top-10 in the National W21 a couple of years later.

Some years later in a different country I travelled to an event with a (male) colleague - again he'd never been orienteering. Similar situation - he was only allowed do the "Very Easy". When he finished that in 8 minutes, he was reluctantly allowed to go out on the "Easy", a 12 minute effort. However, in this case, his Dutch temperament led to his dismissing the sport as a joke.
Aug 29, 2016 1:50 AM # 
On the subject of goats for less than advanced orienteers, I recall that Peter Gagarin set the first Billygoat at the intermediate level of navigation.

Recently, in order to be more inclusive in my medium size club, attract at least the usual 30 to 40 participants for events in my area, and give intermediate orienteers a stepping stone between city park orienteering and the often challenging forest orienteering out here, I designed a goat so that advanced orienteers would go on more technical routes, but solid intermediate orienteers could take easier around routes that took a little bit longer. I wasn't sure how well I'd succeed with this, but the reaction seemed positive, and turnout went beyond the usual people. That seems at least somewhat along Ian's type 2 events. It's not quite beginner targeted, but still a useful stepping stone event, while still seeming to please most advanced orienteers.
Aug 29, 2016 2:37 AM # 
Peter didn't set the first Billygoat, Fred Pilon did, and it was about as challenging as it could be at Mt. Tom. But Peter did always say that some intermediate navigation in the Billygoat was appropriate.
Aug 29, 2016 11:11 AM # 
@PinkSocks: Thanks for sharing your thoughts again. I think the unfortunate reality is many great ideas and observations made on attackpoint are lost forever to the void; they don't always stick and become policy. I remember many of your previous observations to this effect, though. I'm tempted to try a regional experiment - because New England has such a high population density and club density, it would be the ideal proving ground for this accessible, publicized mass start or city race event. I'm all for having some races like goats or city races that are intermediate difficulty, but a beginner isn't going to be able to run an M-21 long course at West Point, say. While I think we should work on having accessible events, we shouldn't compromise the pinnacle of our sport, either.

Maybe I'm being curmudgeonly, but I don't like the term "Adventure Running [Elite Series]".

@O-ing: While I agree that we shouldn't restrict enthusiastic beginners to just going out on the trail courses, elite races are not ideally suited for beginners. No one would use the Olympic marathon as a way to learn about road racing; no one would go to an Ironman Triathlon to try triathlons. It's great when the organizers of major competitions can also support opportunities for people to try orienteering at all difficulties, but that is a separate event. Some clubs will be able to pull off the double event, but for these championship caliber events, the primary focus must be the competitive races.

But I think this discussion is really productive: we need to find a product to market that is accessible, fun, interesting, and challenging. Right now, for the most part, that product is the garden variety local meet.

Thanks for the comments and insights, everyone!
Aug 29, 2016 4:13 PM # 

It started so well.
Aug 29, 2016 5:05 PM # 
That would be a lot easier to read if you transposed it.
Aug 29, 2016 5:30 PM # 
If we had an acronym for "Adventure Running Elite Series" or whatever that was a complete scrabble block, I think it would only discourage people from joining us.
Aug 30, 2016 4:29 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Maybe I'm being curmudgeonly, but I don't like the term "Adventure Running [Elite Series]".

To do this right, we'd also do some market research and focus groups and such to figure out what term resonates the best with folks. I don't claim to know that "adventure running" is the best, but I jumped on the bandwagon because a) ARK is a success and uses the term, b) Road Runner Sports uses the term for mainstream events with finding checkpoints, c) the sport of Adventure Racing has maps and checkpoints, d) CascadeOC had an "adventure run" back in 2001, so someone thought it was a good idea back then, too.

The term does alienate some of the base, however. See some comments in last year's SART thread about how some APers didn't realize that it was orienteering.
Sep 1, 2016 6:02 AM # 
There's a video to go with my post...

This discussion thread is closed.