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Discussion: Primal Quest

in: Adventure Racing; General

Sep 6, 2018 6:43 PM # 
Carbon's Offset:
The race starts today. It looks like there are just 7 teams. After it got postponed last year, I hadn't heard much more about it. That's a shame; this is SUCH a perfect area for an expedition adventure race!! Lots of great, big wilderness, if they really put them out into the wilderness.
Here's a link to the website

They've tagged a few big names: Mike Kloser, Ian Adamson, etc...
Sep 6, 2018 7:45 PM # 
Bones and Columbia Vidaraid are competing so they attracted some top racers. If you add the 4 Pursuit teams (including Fenix Multisport), there are 11 teams - still much smaller than they were aiming for.
Sep 6, 2018 8:28 PM # 
Unfortunately we were already committed to racing Shenandoah Tough next week when the PQ date was announced. The attendance at both races is lower than expected. North America doesn’t have the number of active racers/teams to support competing Expedition races in the same timeframe like it might have had years ago. Strange as it might sound I think the proximity of the USARAs and WT dates have also impacted the attendance at these races.
Sep 6, 2018 8:57 PM # 
At least it will be easy to pick the top ten.
Sep 6, 2018 10:57 PM # 
Hope all goes well and maybe a little spark will go a long ways for future races.
But for now...Go PQ racers!
Sep 7, 2018 12:09 AM # 
I have to wonder if PQ will try again after this. Numbers were low in Tahoe in 2015, but word was they put on a great event, and at twice the size, that field was huge compared to this one. I know I was very excited to watch this race unfold LAST year, and I was a bit shocked when they canceled it, not to mention it shook my trust in them. Now, I admit I still don't really know what happened there, but I heard plenty of rumors that they pulled the plug due to low numbers, only to find themselves with even fewer teams this year.

I think they have several things going against them right now: as JayXC noted, too few committed XPD racers in North America right now, so they are in a dogfight for customers. Plenty of teams that will do one event, but not many that would or can shell out for multiple XPDs, esp. with PQ costing what it does. On that note, cost seems to me to be a logical barrier. I COMPLETELY hear and even agree with the argument they have put out (backed by Warren from Godzone, and even echoed by Grant at UNE): people don't fully recognize the value and cost of such a race. 8500 or whatever it costs is arguably worth it for the experience you are getting. BUT, the AR scene has changed dramatically since PQ was at its height. They were still benefiting from the ECO craze and still could bring in big sponsors and money. I think largely out of necessity, RDs have shifted gears, producing lower budget events more out of race entry fees than sponsor dollars and without the hope or promise of much big-time media exposure. While there are absolutely drawbacks to those changes, it means there are many races for us to choose from that are more affordable and easier to manage in regards to time off.

Maria and her team can argue for the value of their event until they go blue: the reality is the financial landscape and reality of our sport is very different as we close in on 2020. They are running a model that really derives from the 1990s. Most ARWS events run from 2500-6500. Few exceed that. Throw in events like Sea to Sea that tend to cost even less, and there are plenty of options to choose from. Even with travel expenses, I can go to a number of events internationally for about the same entry fee as PQ if I want. This is the norm now.

I recognize that a lot of older timers argue that these very events (ARWS and others) are too santized. As someone who missed the "golden days", I can't comment too much, BUT as someone who raced XPD Alaska and through a nonstop Atlantic storm in Ireland, I can say I do also hear and agree with that argument: there IS something different about wilder less controlled events. Still, this just isn't the norm in big race production anymore either. It's not to say that PQ shouldn't try to bring that back, but when there are great events in awesome places that cost half or even a third or less of the cost, it's no wonder people are looking elsewhere; maybe they don't generate the same bonkers stories as an Eco in Fiji, or desert death marches in Moab, but they still are challenging and often have some great things going on in them. These events and courses honestly are also more attractive BECAUSE they are more accessible to the less experienced.

In short, I'm not convinced that the PQ model will work any longer. nearly 10,000$ before any travel or training expenses are factored in; nearly two weeks off; trouble competing with other events; and for whatever reason, a cancellation that left a lot of people in doubt...that's a lot to overcome. Add in the fact that to draw international teams in substantial numbers it seems you either need a) money b) ARWS standing or c) a reputation like Godzone (though they don't actually get huge international numbers either)...

I really wanted them to succeed, and I really wanted this race to be awesome the first time it was scheduled. I hope it is this time for the 30 people competing in the main event and those in the smaller one. But I think I will spend my time and energy elsewhere for a while. I would personally need to see them stage more than one successful event in regards to drawing a bigger field.
Sep 7, 2018 12:37 AM # 
+1 to all of Broots comments. I will add that there are really a lot of long races out for the number of expedition-length racers there are in the world. The market is saturated. Even this week, there's Shenandoah Tough, Raid Gaspesie (which costs ~$700 per person and draws a big Canadian crowd and a sizable international contingent), and the ARWS Croatia race. Then you add in the fact that there are a number of big races the month before and after (Untamed, Sweden, and Argentina), and the difficulty of having to take two weeks off and spend tons of $$$ to get to a very remote island for Worlds this year (or Patagonia), and that just splits and splits and splits your already-small pool of potential customers down to what we're seeing at PQ.

I know there's been a lot of back-and-forth about whether the sport needs to grow. This is the trade-off for not growing the sport. A lot of these races are not going to be able to keep operating at no profit or even at losses and there's going to be contraction. Expedition racers are spoiled for choice right now; that won't be the case for long.
Sep 7, 2018 2:49 PM # 
I'm so disappointed in the size of the field that I'm not interested in following what's happening. I've looked at the tracking several times out of habit, maybe, but when I have, I just drifted away without even taking time to see who's leading, or what discipline is they're doing.
Sep 7, 2018 4:09 PM # 
Conman, I am totally with you. I'm surprised at the general lack of course info, media, imagery...I might be missing something? But I'm really seeing very little out there.

I'm actually wondering if they packed it in with this stuff. I'm just wondering out loud, but I am left daydreaming of a scenario where they decided: you know, we will run this thing for these 7 teams. But we're not going to put energy or resources into the bells and whistles or those at home because we aren't going to do this again, so why bother...

Again, this is totally me wondering why there is so little out there considering what they have done in the past and what they claim to be (premier event in North America), and I really can't figure out any other reason for the dearth of coverage considering what and where this is happening.

So yeah, I'm watching the dots occasionally more out of habit and the feeling that I should rather than from actual interest at this point.

And then I just feel sad...
Sep 7, 2018 4:31 PM # 
Broots we'll chat IRL sometime about the media for PQ.

I am pretty sure those 11 teams will have the race of their lives. The actual race is always great.

Also my good Alex Flynn, has Parkinsons and has been looking forward to this race forever. He's racing with Mike Kloser. Now that will be a story
Sep 8, 2018 12:09 AM # 
Well teams have been at TA for 4+ hours and no comments on what is happening or why there are there for so long. Guess I will check again tomorrow to see if anything happened over the evening. Maybe there are enjoying the downhill MTB park.
Sep 8, 2018 12:20 AM # 
From Bones' facebook page:

So if you're wondering if it's the provided hot food that's keeping the teams in T2 and not moving, it's not... it's actually because there is a "dark zone" for the glaciers. This means that they aren't allowed to be on the glacier at night, and they are only allowed to start onto the ice between 6am and 12pm. They will stay in T2 and sleep. (This will be the same for the rafting section as well. There are only 2 raft launches, at either 7am or 1pm). I believe that they are only getting more sleep by arriving first ...or second... or third... or whatever the tracker says at the moment... but the race essentially starts clean when the dark zone is over. Sleep in the first 48 hours of a race? may be a first for Team Bones...
Sep 8, 2018 12:20 AM # 
Also, from Bones:

Rumor has it, that Team Bones had a brown bear run out in front of them while they were going 20+ MPH on their bikes.. the whole team had to brake quickly and almost had a pileup! It seems bears are no match for Bones.. the bear ran, and Bones biked on... Go Bones
Sep 8, 2018 2:45 AM # 
Legendary, I did see a little while ago that some images and video have come out. i'm glad about that. I'm sure there are things we don't know about. But if PQ wants to be "the premier" event they say they are, they could look to UNE or a number of other events for how to engage the public from the start of the race on. I just haven't found much to get all that excited about from what they have presented as a spectator.

Of course, they should be focusing first and foremost on the racers experience and obviously I am not experiencing that part. All word out of Tahoe was super positive, and I'm hoping the same is true for this one.

That said, as someone who is constantly shopping for the next bucket list XPD event, they have lost me. Not so much from the slow start to the coverage, but I'm looking at the tracking map, and I'm seeing quite a bit of out and back travel. Will it be beautiful? Absolutely, but I personally don't find the course flow to be all that inspiring.

This said, I'm looking forward to checking out the pics and the video from Day 1.

Ultimately, you, and I, and most focused dot watchers and racers have seen races put together courses that don't rely on out and backs half as much, that engage thousands upon thousands of people, that market their courses before and during the event to show us all just how awesome it all will be (Addendum: I do see that a fair number of people watched the day one video which was solid, though I'd give a shout out to YOU Legendary and the whole media team at UNE. THOSE were seriously good videos. not only were they nice to look at, but they told some of the story even if only a few minutes long).

Maybe there are good reasons for the sparse info, but I think many of the people paying attention to this race are waiting for info that sheds light on some of the simplest things: rules, cutoffs...what is going to happen with the glacier? What are the highlights of each section? Potential unforeseen challenges? all the info that makes an event like Godzone or XPD or UNE so much more impressive to someone like me who is weighing whether to shell out thousands of dollars to a given race next year.

I don't recall what exactly it was like in 2015, but I THINK it was very different, leaving me and others I know wondering now: WHY is it all so much more vague? The imagination can run wild, and not in good ways.

As Conman said, the bottom line is: I want to care more about the race, and I just am not that excited about it at this point even if I am still checking out the map once in a while. Seems to me this is a problem for PQ if they aren't really exciting the sorts of folks that are still on here posting on AP in the middle of the night...

P.s. I don't mean to be harsh about them and I totally know and HOPE that the experience on the ground is something different. I can think of 5-10 other races I'm more keen to do at this point in the next couple of years if my schedule allows, and that's a bummer, because two years ago after Tahoe, I was really excited to see where PQ went and was moving it up toward the top of my to do list.

Still, I'll reserve final judgment until I hear some reports from those racing:)
Sep 8, 2018 1:27 PM # 
On a more positive note:)

I'm wondering if the race is going to really "start now". Yesterday just seemed odd to me: while there was some space between teams at times, I was struck at how tightly packed everyone more or less remained. The opening paddle made sense once we learned what they were up to. But then they kind of stayed packed closer than I would have expected.

I'm wondering if the dark zone situation meant that stronger teams weren't racing as hard. I still don't have a clear understanding of what the rules were for any of that, but it's clear they all rolled in and got a ton of sleep. No need to kill yourself if the race didn't start until TA2. Someone told me they didn't think they were getting time credits at TA2, so all the more reason to conserve for the first day+.

Maybe now we'll see teams actually take clearer positions?
Sep 8, 2018 10:47 PM # 
Just watched Maria's update from today. Sounds like it's significant part stage race.
Sep 9, 2018 5:50 AM # 
Does anyone know if there is a course description somewhere or a race logbook or something to tell us how this race is supposed to unfold? I have a feeling I'll just be waiting for some post race reports to see how things went.
Sep 9, 2018 12:05 PM # 
I looked around earlier in the race on social media, the website, and the tracking page. Couldn't find anything. Abiperk noted seeing something on FB somewhere about another dark zone for the water, but other than that, not much more info other than they can't be on the ice at night...I think?
Sep 10, 2018 1:44 AM # 
I can't ever sort out links on this site:)

The most recent video from PQ has some intense footage of Alex Flynn. If you don't know his story, check it out. He has been suffering from Parkinsons for quite a long time and competes in big races. Kloser is racing with him. Until the race started, their team was named after Alex's charity: 10 Million Metres.

And then the race started and the name switched to Out There...huh...

Anyway, some intense video of Alex, clearly pushing through with the help from his teammates. Earlier today, I thought they were out, but Mark Sky posted a note suggesting they went to a hotel for him to rest. Their tracker is back on the map, though it's not really clear what they are doing.

I would LOVE to see more coverage of Alex and his team. I'm sure he will talk about it in some form afterwards as he usually blogs about his big efforts. Kloser is interesting enough, but I find this story to be the most compelling thing going down at PQ.

I hope they are still official and racing. (In the pursuit category btw)
Sep 10, 2018 4:34 PM # 
Carbon's Offset:
Bones is now on top of the leaderboard. Go Bones!
Sep 10, 2018 5:05 PM # 
So, I'm not sure, but I THINK it's a tie between all three teams. Some have noted that somewhere early on they noted that there are no time credits at dark zones. This has not been confirmed, BUT:

If you look at the post about the Pursuit finishers, they note they all finished very close to one another. Thing is: Fenix reached the water dark zone WAY ahead of the other two teams. But they were held as is happening now with the Pure teams. and then all three teams restarted. From the sounds of the PQ facebook post, it seems to confirm that they are not taking time into account in the multiple dark zones. Rather they are allowing teams rest on the clock. The more rest the better, but it means all three remaining full course teams are starting the next leg anew.

Looking at the tracker, Vidaraid reached the TA roughly two hours ahead of Quest with Bones, perhaps slightly behind them. Which, as far as I can tell, is the biggest gap any team has opened at any point in this race.

On the Bones facebook page, someone noted that they seem to be holding back perhaps.

This all makes sense if there is no time credit...but who knows!
Sep 11, 2018 1:05 AM # 
Alex and I go way back. PQ has been on his list for as long as I have known him. Here he is on the podcast.

We'll have a chat after this race
Sep 11, 2018 1:18 PM # 
Race is on. Vidaraid has a solid lead by this race's standards after the final restart.
Quest and Bones look to be virtually tied with Bones' tracker a bit wonky.

I assume those teams are racing each other. But who knows. Weird race with the teams more or less being held together until this last section. Maybe they are just sticking together. Would be surprised if that is the case, but who knows!
Sep 11, 2018 2:26 PM # 
Finally, something really exciting:) Looks like Vidaraid is off course. Quest closing in. Bones not updating, but I'm guessing they are either with Quest or perhaps just ahead of them...Still looks like they have an hour or so, give or take lead, but...

Bones' chance to make amends for Hell Hole...?
Sep 11, 2018 7:16 PM # 
Quest trying to make a move; dropping off the ridge. Vidaraid continued on. Bones? looks like they are continuing or deciding. If they stay high and Quest is able to pick up a more substantial track, that could be the deciding factor for the placement. Looking at the satellite imagery, I'd say Quest might be making the right decision!
Sep 11, 2018 9:35 PM # 
Clearly looks like Quest route choice was the one to go with. They appear to be even with Vidaraid again.
Sep 11, 2018 11:14 PM # 
Indeed! Awesome move by them. I don't know if they were locked down prior to the race or if they had access to satellite. Not sure what the race maps showed. But it's pretty clear that road was a good one compared to the ridge on the satellite. A good call for sure.

Quest has had a really good history lately going back to Godzone a couple years back. I think they have always been good regionally, but they have turned into one of the best teams in North America, as their performance is showing.

Sounds like there is some nav on the final bike, so who knows!
Sep 13, 2018 3:51 PM # 
Carbon's Offset:
If I look at the leaderboard, it appears that five teams have finished. In order: Columbia Vidaraid-Godzone, Bones, Quest, New World St Martins, NorCal. Essential Costa Rica withdrew, and Alpha Dental had an injured teammate and continued unranked.

Not much for news updates re: the finishes on the webpage. I now realize there was a little more coverage on the Primal Quest Facebook page.

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