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Discussion: Portugal ARWC

in: Adventure Racing; General

Nov 11, 2009 5:02 PM # 
I could be a moron, or the race is very disorganized and hard to follow ... maybe both.

I predict the front runners will end up disgruntled regardless and there will be protests and complaints. Although I suspect the bulk of the teams in the middle will find it a great adventure.

If anyone has a good grasp of what's going on and who's leading (or likely to be at this point) please translate it into cro-magnon and post here so I can follow too! ;-)
Nov 11, 2009 5:26 PM # 
FB - It's possibly the most confusing site to follow that I've ever seen! Terrible updates, leaderboard and tracking. Plus all the bogus "bonus CPs" that I just hate makes it even more confusing.
Nov 11, 2009 6:30 PM # 
Agreed! Very disappointing. For a world championship (or indeed for any event), the amount of meaningful coverage is pathetic. What's funny is that there is lots of "data". There just isn't much "information".

The Sleepmonsters coverage lets us envision what's going on to some extent (although well after the fact) - and that recent article by a support crew confirmed my worst suspicions about the poor organization, not to mention the disadvantages that our unsupported friends on Team ATP/Salomon face.

The Twitter and the Sleepmonsters TwitAR give us some news, but it would be impossible to know who is "winning" - except for some info in the Sleepmonsters articles.
Nov 11, 2009 6:35 PM # 
As of Wed. morning from Twitter:

Nike is the leader,2-Quechua,3-Helly Hansen,4-Buff,5-Lundhags and 6-Orion

But if I understand correctly, that could all change after the cut-off today.
Nov 11, 2009 6:36 PM # 
Nov 11, 2009 8:29 PM # 
Well if ATP/Salomon (or Kinetic) can't win then I'll have to cheer for HH. They were a great group down in Patagonia (even though it's only Nic that's common to both HH teams)

I hope they are 'enjoying' it... I suspect I would be very frustrated and driving Urthbuoy crazy right about now :-)
Nov 11, 2009 8:30 PM # 
Thanks for the updates. This is only place from which I can make sense of what's happening. Keep em coming!
Nov 11, 2009 9:07 PM # 
Well, that's a relief! I thought maybe it was me. The info is so outdated on the leaderboard that I thought there must be a way to navigate to more current information. Yet the potential for "mucho" information is there.
Nov 11, 2009 9:54 PM # 
kinda sorta looks like Kinetic made a cutoff that ATP/Salomon did not??
Nov 12, 2009 5:48 AM # 
FB Not sure, Orion, Nike, Helly aren't in that "unofficial list" either. So I dont know what to believe. Unless I am just more confused than I think?
Nov 12, 2009 1:50 PM # 
I've been having trouble figuring out what's going on too, but let's not jump to any conclusions until the thing is over and we get the whole story.
Nov 12, 2009 1:55 PM # 
I think the only conclusion we've reached is that the race coverage stinks.
Nov 12, 2009 2:18 PM # 
Agreed! I just hope that there is a reasonable explanation that we'll hear about once the dust settles.
Nov 12, 2009 2:52 PM # 
I wouldn't hold your breath - the explanations are always the same for events with poor coverage. "Poor cell phone communications between race course volunteers and the web master" and "Volunteers too busy to communicate with HQ" are usually right up there.

Coming from an IT background, I can see that the *real* reason is that people planning the race coverage focused only on the technology. We are bombarded with Twitter, GPS tracks and elevation profiles of mountain bike rides. What is missing is the part that should pull all the puzzle pieces together to tell us the story. A real time leaderboard usually helps a lot with that, allowing people to see the status of all teams at a glance, with the option to click for more details. This race has no real time leaderboard, leaving us to depend on Sleepmonsters articles, which are great, but are hours out of date by the time they are posted and cannot provide updates on every team.
Nov 12, 2009 3:14 PM # 
Bash, too bad the IT side of things looks pretty awful as well. The site itself is confusing, the tracking isnt working well,the leaderboard was removed. Just a poor showing all around. No excuse for such a big event!
Nov 12, 2009 6:20 PM # 
Agreed. Someone put effort into planning all the little bits of data that people might find interesting, but technology can be unreliable (as it has been), and it's hard for people to extract meaning from all that data. That stuff should be extra detail that we look at if we want to - if and when it is working. But the important thing is that someone needs to tie it together somehow to communicate the big picture. That shouldn't be Sleepmonsters' job. It doesn't help that communicating race rankings has not been a priority - although the format of the race makes that harder than in most events.
Nov 12, 2009 8:29 PM # 
Here's an interesting blog with "on the ground" race info.
Nov 13, 2009 12:18 AM # 
the dude from Untamed has arrived on site and has the best updates on twitter.

Trying to see of Salomon made the latest cutoff.
Nov 13, 2009 12:27 AM # 
Doesn't sound good Kirikou... but things are a bit confusing!

34 min ago from johnlaughlin:
@Untamed_Adv Where are Lundhags, have they made it in yet?

25 in ago from Untamed_Adv:
@johnlaughlin no, lundhags is conspicuous in their absence -- ATP Salomon too.
Nov 13, 2009 12:36 AM # 
I think Grant is quickly becoming the busiest guy in Portugal!
Nov 13, 2009 3:39 AM # 
ATP/Salomon missed the cut-off. :-(

Kinetic made it, so there are still some Canadians on the full course.

However... interestingly, one source says that Lundhags purposely missed the cut-off to get more sleep. So ATP/Salomon may be able to regain some strength, then STORM to the end picking up CPs. ;-)
Nov 13, 2009 4:37 AM # 
Ya I saw that....

I am so confused about the race format. So you have a cut-off, but you can skip as many CPs as you want to make it? But if you dont make it then what? It's just silly if you ask me.
Nov 13, 2009 4:44 AM # 
IMHO - this format is a significant departure from previous WC's (good or bad) and I'm suprised Geoff H. would give them carte blanche (apparently) to magnify the subtle differences that made (make) this race somewhat unique.

I've given up caring who wins and am now more anxious to see what the reactions are once it's all over.

I hope the poor coverage is not indicative of the experience the racers are having. Otherwise this could be the most serious blow to international AR since John Howards team was caught riding in the RD's truck (I just made that s&%t up to see if you were still reading.... not that many people remember who JH was/is... only the best AR'r ever)
Nov 13, 2009 5:07 AM # 
According to Twitter, ATP/Salomon's mood was described as "upbeat but intense" by Scott's girlfriend, who is doing what she can to provide support, but is not acting as an official support crew.

It looks like missing the cut-off means that they miss the first two of 6 sections of Stage 5, and it appears that the final 4 sections are chock full of CPs to pick up. There is also another cut-off at the start of the 4th section. So there is still time to move up. (Fingers crossed.)
Nov 13, 2009 5:15 AM # 
P.S. I remember John Howard, FB.
Nov 13, 2009 12:39 PM # 
It was exciting to fall asleep and wake up to read all of Untamed_Adv's tweets!

I think I'm with FB... I'm very anxious to see what the reactions are!
Nov 13, 2009 3:38 PM # 
It's awesome having Untamed_Adv's news, especially since he knows our friends at ATP/Salomon. So now I'm confused about something new... If they missed the cut-off, they weren't supposed to do any more paddling because they were supposed to miss Sections 1 & 2 of Stage 5 according to Sleepmonsters.

But Untamed_Adv described them as coming off the paddle to a super-fast transition and mentioned that Leanimal is still smiling. Did I miss another rule change?
Nov 13, 2009 5:45 PM # 
I'm interested to hear what happens to Orion due to Wayne Oxenham's misadventure.
Nov 13, 2009 9:10 PM # 
They way the race is set-up it seems there is no order to when the teams leave/arrive. I am sure the same will be for who crosses the finish line as well. That makes for a pretty lame finish if you as me.

Its one of the main reasons I detest race formats like this or with O sections on them. In AR the winner should cross the line first, it's that simple.

I miss the good old days!!
Nov 13, 2009 9:12 PM # 
You know Kirikou... you should write an article about that. *nudge nudge*
Nov 13, 2009 11:26 PM # 
With the advent of advanced sections in most races it has been awhile since the good old days of first team across the line being the winner. There have been races where we have spent more time on course than 75% of the teams and still won. I can see why race organisers do this as it allows more teams to feel like they finished the course. I don't think having 5/30 teams finish a race was healthy for the sport.

The ARWC this year certainly will take the cake for most confusing finish I am sure. I enjoy score orienteering formats however over the course of 5 days it would be mentally taxing. Especially if you never really get updates on the rankings when you are out on the course (I'm not sure if teams at the ARWC see the leaderboard or not). Essentially you are racing against yourself the whole race to see how many points you can get. You aren't necessarily racing against the teams around you.

I was confused by the cutoffs at first but I think I've figured it out now. They aren't hard cutoffs they just mean you lose the opportunity to pursue some of the CPs on the next stage. In some cases missing the cutoff may make strategic sense.
Nov 14, 2009 3:23 AM # 
And here I thought that Rogaine racecourses were stressful to plan and execute...nothing like having the most physically demanding part of the race (eg. the rush to the finish line in time) over and over and over again. My mind would be mush by now if I were racing and I have to think the racers' nerves are fried. Kudos to the eventual winners but holy sh!t, this race could have been so much better had the organizers leveled the playing field (eg. unsupported) and prepared everyone accordingly for the type of challenge they were going to be presented with. Can't wait for all the stories!
Nov 14, 2009 8:17 AM # 
Interesting that you bring up the supported vs. non-supported issue. It seems that it would make a big difference in this race if you had a navigator on your support crew they could be a huge help in the transitions. I was suprised to hear Jen from DART say that they didn't realize that this was a supported race on her blog. Phatty I am curious what Leanne heard from the race organisers with regards to this.
Nov 14, 2009 2:24 PM # 
79 maps or something like that...I couldn't imagine.

Strategy in this race seems to be huge and like Phatty says I think my brain would be mush. Definitely adds and interesting aspect to the race...but still very confusing.

Should be interesting to hear all the goods on the race that is for sure.
Nov 14, 2009 3:29 PM # 
At the time ATP/Salomon won the entry in July, ARWC was an unsupported race. Thus ATP/Salomon turned down the offer of a willing support crew. Later, the rule changed, which benefited the European teams who could make last-minute travel arrangements more easily. It was too late for ATP/Salomon to line anyone up. One racer's girlfriend was there as unofficial support crew, but she was not transporting their gear. I'm told she is super-organized, but I doubt she'd be in a position to repair bikes or prepare maps.

Regarding Revy's question about Jen's comment... it sometimes took ATP/Salomon weeks to get answers to questions that they sent by e-mail, and there was considerable confusion about gear, rules and disciplines. So her comment is not surprising.

In a race with that many maps and so much strategy, having navigators on the support crew would be a huge advantage. When I worked support at PQ, that was a big part of our job.

One report said that there were only 12 unsupported teams in this event, and an early report mentioned that the bus carrying unsupported teams went to the wrong town the night before the non-stop race, resulting in a post-midnight arrival at the right town before the 8 a.m. start. Racers still had to work on the 76 maps and arrange their gear - I doubt there was much sleep. Supported teams could have arrived earlier, and they don't have to plan their gear in advance quite so carefully.

Unsupported teams were limited to 40-lb bags of personal gear, plus (if I remember correctly) one larger bag with paddling and rollerblading gear - or maybe it was one bag for each. Meanwhile, support crews could carry warm clothing and food for their teams, not to mention extra headlamps, bike repair gear, etc. One report early in the race mentioned that rules were changed during the race to allow support crews to drop food and clothing at some TAs that were supposed to be unsupported. This help, of course, would not be available to unsupported teams.

Bottom line - any team that finished the race without a full support crew was racing in a different event. It will be interesting to hear from the racers.
Nov 15, 2009 3:19 AM # 
Wow. This sport has been around toooo long for this to happen at the CHAMPIONSHIP race.... this type of thing is why many people fail to recognize a championship race.

ultimatley I'm disappointed in Geoff H.
Nov 16, 2009 9:22 AM # 
I'm back from the scene in Portugal; I'm working on a few written pieces for "publication" on line, and these may address some of the questions, but I'm happy to try and answer any questions in the aftermath of the race. Let me share some of my notes:

I think a key takeaway is that the race closing awards were well attended and teams recognize Helly Hanso/Prunesco as deserving Champions.

Before this race I heard mumblings about the "creative" race format in Portugal, but dismissed it. I think many teams did the same. The race organization didn't help matters by not providing concise explanations of the rules, examples to teams, and open communication pre-race. 75% of the teams, probably more, started the race not fully understanding the rules and they were forced to learn as the race progressed. The teams who figured it out earlier did better, while the ones who continued the "don't miss any cutoffs!" thinking of traditional adventure racing paid a heavy toll for that. It turns out you should INTENTIONALLY MISS CUT-OFFS with this format so you have additional time to rest/focus on other sections of the race; one key to success is picking your missed cut-off(s) carefully.

All the other World Championship qualifying events, including my Untamed New England race, operate on a more classic adventure racing format (where if you miss a cut-off you're permanently ranked below all the teams who make that cut-off, no matter what happens later in the race). The fact the Championship race changed that fundamental fact AND DIDN'T CLEARLY COMMUNICATE IT is the crux of the problem; it's like qualifying for a nordic ski race with "classic" ski technique, but only permitting "skate" technique in the final race. How's that for a snow reference my Canadian friends can relate to?

So, I don't know if you want to hear more, but I can try my best to shed light on what went down. I don't have an agenda or vested interest, since I was truly a spectator down there watching it unfold firsthand.
Nov 16, 2009 9:25 AM # 
By the way, Jason (our Untamed Competitor Relations guy and IT nerd) hooked up some audio interviews with me from down in Portugal. Check them out if you're dying for more, particularly the last one after the race finish:
Nov 16, 2009 3:07 PM # 
I'd certainly be interested in hearing more of your thoughts here, and I'll check out the audio interviews. It was a relief when you arrived in Portugal because we finally had a better grasp of what was going on in real time. Thank you! The Sleepmonsters articles were helpful too, but they were necessarily time-delayed and focused on the race leaders. Preliminary reports from our friends who raced indicate serious frustration.
Nov 16, 2009 3:08 PM # 
I'll second the desire for more info in any capacity!
Nov 16, 2009 3:51 PM # 
The format isn't so complicated, now that I've seen it in action, but the problem was the race org didn't spell it out for teams despite teams clamouring for definitions/information.

I don't think anyone feels like there was a travesty of justice here, and acknowledge Helly Hanson as worthy Champions, but most everyone I talked to felt that they would approach this race totally differently were it to be raced again. Several were disappointed at the wasted opportunity to compete against the best in the world; they felt cheated because the format got in the way of the racing.

I don't think we'll see wider adoption of this race format after talking with some of the other race directors there, too. The French were particularly concerned that this new style was gaining in popularity but I think it's limited mostly to Portugal XPD and several UK events due to permitting requirements. The Spanish race organization, when announcing their race as the 2010 World Championship, made a particular point to say:
"Our race will be a traditional format . . . first team across the finish line wins" and there were many sighs of relief around the room.
Nov 16, 2009 3:59 PM # 
Grant, could you spell out exactly what the format was? It wasn't that clear to some of us!
Nov 16, 2009 4:19 PM # 
Agreed - the problem seemed to be communication about the format, not the format itself (which may not be everyone's favourite but did produce a credible podium). I know our friends had difficulty finding out even what disciplines they should bring gear for, and they certainly weren't given info that would allow them to think through the different strategies for this type of format. Perhaps the most unfortunate thing about the format is that it doesn't lend itself to communicating standings in real time, so teams would not be able to include that info in their strategizing. In a 24-hr rogaine, that's not a big deal, but when you're budgeting your energy over 6 days in a race where no one is going to get all the CPs, it must be very difficult.
Nov 16, 2009 5:11 PM # 
...not to mention the difference that having a support crew makes to a given team's efficiency. Unsupported teams were in the dark from what I could tell and would have had to spend a great deal more time in TAs and evaluating / plotting maps. In fact, I'd go as far as suggesting that each unsupported team should be ranked differently versus supported teams. At least indicate them in the standings just as they do for incomplete / withdrawn teams. Not a level playing field...which is shocking in a World Championship event.

Personally, I think the format isn't the central issue here - indeed, some will love it, some won't. I'm sure the racecourse was well thought out given the amount of stats, electronics, and complexity created. As Untamed mentions, it's the communication and event management that was severely challenged at this event. For there to be ANY problems with clarity whatsoever, the burden of responsibility falls on the RD.
Nov 16, 2009 6:57 PM # 
I agree with Phatty (doah!!) about the burden of responsibility falling on the RD. In this instance, having run this format many times, they may have thought the rules were clear... so in my (limited) mind I feel that G.H. has to shoulder, or at least share, this responsibility. There needs to be some sort of continuity b/n ARWC's and the playing field should be level. Geoff certainly has the experience and intelligence to understand (and predict) what problems were being created. Fortunately it appears that all of the top teams were in the same predicament, which levelled the field....if I was a mid-packer in this race and 'missed out' because I was unsupported - I would be unhappy.

I don't want to sound like I have a beef with Geoff. In the few times I have met him I have found him to be a 'great' guy. Maybe he has chosen to take a completely hands off approach... and maybe that needs to be re-evaluated if he wants to call it a WC.

The whole suport issue is an interesting one to me. Firstly because in this race they appear to have changed it late in 'the game' from Unsupported to Supported... that's a huge change! Also, the support is huge because a good/bad support crew truly is like having additional strong/weak racers on your team. I've been in races where the crew had a direct impact on giving thier team many hours advantage over competitors. Up and coming teams would have a tough time putting together a good crew on short notice, unlike some of the more established teams with more resources.

This whole thing could be a lengthy (and healthy debate) that can't really occur here. I sure hate to build a box around what 'you should and shouldn't do', but it's tough to go to a WC race and be surprised and confused. A lot of us make huge sacrifices to be able to go to these events....
Nov 16, 2009 7:47 PM # 
If the purpose of the World Champs is to see who the best racers are, then World Champs should always be unsupported. This is my vote.

If you're interested in which team has the best overall race organization, including racing ability as well as money and support crew with AR expertise, then a supported race helps to measure that.

If you're going to change the rules about support within a few months of the race - and even during the race - then you should do what Phatty said and set up a different category for unsupported teams. I'd be interested to know the highest rank achieved in this race by an unsupported team.
Nov 16, 2009 8:41 PM # 
As FB said there could be a huge debate here, but it seems like this edition of the WCs was a total gong show. It's really too bad and I think does a great job at showcasing why real AR has had a tough time becoming a little more mainstream.

I am truly happy that I got to experience some of the great racing of the late 90s and early 2000s. Even think back to the Raid Gauloises, bare bones AR....all steak, no sizzle. It looks like the Patagonia Expedition is the only race doing this now...and that is a novelty, not the norm anymore and I think that sad.
Nov 16, 2009 8:58 PM # 
Yup - no sizzle at PER. In fact you should take a course in bus repair with makeshift tools if you want to make it to the start line!! :-) ... brings a tear to the eye ;-)
Nov 16, 2009 9:13 PM # 
Wow, this could become the endless AP thread! Where to start?

I have the impression that unsupported races are uncommon here in Europe, certainly anything long expedition style. I think our Untamed New England race is the only race in the World Series that doesn't permit support crews, for example.

Geoff Hunt is hands-off, completely. This isn't a good/bad judgment by me (since he runs the Series our organization participates in), but a fact. Portugal didn't enforce strict race bib requirements, as one example, and Geoff would have slapped down the penalties in a heartbeat -- I was with him as he commented on this exact issue.

The race format is as follows:
1) Team with the most checkpoints wins
2) Race course is divided into distinct Stages with fixed opening/closing times. After a Stage closes, all the checkpoints on that Stage are no longer counted if you punch them.
3) If you miss a time cut-off, several of the checkpoints on the next Stage are not available to you; your team is forced on a shorter course with fewer checkpoints.

In practice, this means teams who miss a Stage cutoff will be fast-forwarded on the course to the next Stage, and probably have more time on future stages because they're spending less time on the Stage they were shortened on. Helly Hansen and Lundhags both did this, Helly Hansen did it intentionally but I don't know about Lundhags; they intentionally missed a cutoff to get more time on more favorable sections of the race. Team Kinetic (of Canada!) realized this "it's good to miss cutoffs" idea on Thursday, and put into practice on Friday (I think) and they finished the race in 14th place. Who knows, they could've been top 10 if they'd have figured it out on Tuesday or -- gasp -- even known before the race began!

There are a few other gems of miscommunication; the race org had clustered checkpoints such as 12A, 12B, and 12C. To get credit for the single checkpoint #12 you'd have to visit 12A, 12B, and 12C. If you just get 12B, for example, you get credit for nothing so you might as well skip any checkpoint 12. ATP/Salomon and NYARA both told me on Friday (5 days into the race) that they finally realized why they weren't getting credit for all the checkpoints they were hitting: they didn't know about the concept of clustering some checkpoints. NYARA obtained 56A but not 56B; APT/Salomon visited 40A, 40C, and 40D, but not 40B -- neither team got credit for any of those checkpoints.

I'm sure the race org feels they communicated the "clustering" idea well, but for so many high quality teams to not get this crucial concept reflects a problem in the race instructions. These are not novices to reading race instructions, these are two of the more experienced teams in North America!

Bottom line is that the race org didn't account for teams being unfamiliar with their format.
Nov 16, 2009 11:04 PM # 
With adventure racing being a sport which requires mental endurance as well as physical, the added stress of all these misunderstandings is a clear disadvantage. As well, the supported teams had an immense advantage in that their support crews could study the maps and discuss some of these problems with others(?) With the late change concerning support crews, it was definitely not an even playing field.
Nov 17, 2009 3:06 AM # 
Disclaimer: I'm only reading what I 'can' online, and I'm sure there's a whole other side to the story in addition to reading into events too much, but here is my rant anyways. And the only reason I rant is because I love AR, and want to see it succeed.

This type of result shows why AR has never reached its true potentail, and I think it comes down to weak leadership at the top.
- Potentially poor communication of clustering of CPs (a new concept I've never heard of; why is a new concept in the world championship and teams not getting it?),
- it being beneficial to intentionally miss cut-offs (huh? I thought the fastest team wins)
- some teams supported while others are not (unfair advantage)
- a terrible website to follow (I actually gave up; not good for sponsorship $$$).
- a format that was not conducive for the leaderboard (not good for viewers; not good for $$$)

So, given that it was a world championship, and these types of things should never had happened. I remember at the 04 ARWC (I was volunteering), Ian Adamson saying that the sport needed a central body to really experience growth and sustainability. Here we are 5 years later, no central body, and a world championship race with the above pit falls. Thats not to say these couldn’t happen with a central body, but with proper central governing body with policies, procedures, standards, resources, and vetting, I think the potential goes way down.

Ultimately, most AR races seem to have some issue, so I don’t really mind; but that’s pretty sad that’s become the norm! Too bad this thread isn’t about why Nike took this route, or HH that route, but instead (as typical), poor race logistics.
Nov 17, 2009 7:53 AM # 
The clustered CPs is a bit weird. Each cluster counts as one CP? Were the clustered CPs easy to collect on an individual basis? I'd imagine as a group they had to be equivalent to solo CPs. Sleep deprivation and strategy - an excellent combination:) Sounds like fun but only with three caveats:

-rules are clearly laid out ahead of time
-level playing field re support crews
-real time standing updates

This isn't really an appropriate world champs format but as a stand alone event I can see it working (obviously it has for a few years now).

Out of curiosity does anyone know how many total CPs were available?
Nov 17, 2009 8:19 AM # 
Revy, your caveats are spot-on. Total CP count is maybe around 60 (I forget, honestly), but with many clustered CPs (where multiple CPs aggregate to a single CP in the rankings) you had to have maybe 100 CPs?

Yes, the theory on clustered CPs is that they sum to the same level of challenge as a "normal" CP. Since the race is won by the most # of checkpoints visited, this was their method to balance the difficulty.

I'm no apologist for their decisions in Portugal but I can see some positives with this format: everyone finished the 6 days of racing within the same 4 hours on Sat morning. In Spain next year, with a traditional format, the race starts Sunday morning and the winner will finish on Wednesday; the stragglers will come in through Friday. That's not particularly spectator-friendly either.

And your point Ryan, about why we're not discussing strategic decisions by teams etc, is a key. I was physically on the ground and couldn't get a handle on where Helly Hansen got ahead; the sport-ident computer spit out the number of CPs they visited and everyone nodded and said "wow." I don't think that confusion and mystery are spectator-friendly.
Nov 17, 2009 8:48 AM # 
Tom has posted a quick summary of HHP's race which may help.

Unfortunatly I did not find this thread till after the race or I would of given similar updated to what I was putting into the UK SM thread. Having supported the race last year I had a good handle on what was happening. Unlike most of the teams as has been observed.
Nov 17, 2009 10:53 AM # 
Ifor -- thanks so much for that! Saved my butt on this piece for Adv World mag:

I owe you!
Nov 17, 2009 12:25 PM # 
I'm certainly intrigued by some of the concepts of the race... and my racers might be in for some surprises in 2010 on my courses! However, I think that I share the general feeling in this discussion that it probably wasn't an ideal format for a world championship.

A few people have mentioned European versus American AR differences though... was this format indeed more typical of the other side of the pond?
Nov 17, 2009 1:25 PM # 
No, only in the UK do they use this format frequently (probably no coincidence that Helly Hansen, the winners, are from the UK), and in Portugal just the XPD Portugal organization.
Nov 17, 2009 4:15 PM # 
The more I learn about it, the more I think I'd like to try some races under that format... huge strategy component once it's understood.

But, I'm only just now understanding how it was supposed to work after a lot of reading and input from others...

Some very good communications lessons for RD's to (re)learn here ............
Nov 17, 2009 7:33 PM # 
I think the only way to really understand the format, and all the decision making implications, would be to race in an event with this format. Probably race multiple times!
Nov 18, 2009 4:12 PM # 
Awesome thread! Thanks everyone for the support and for following along. I’m sure my ATP/Salomon teammates will be chiming in with their thoughts soon, but here’s my contribution to the discussion:

1) The points made here regarding the lack of information on the race format are spot-on. The pre-race briefing was an absolute joke – 60 minutes previewing the scenic beauty and highlights of each section of the course, with barely a word explaining how the format worked. And the barrage of questions that followed were mainly focussed on the basic logistics issues that hadn’t yet been addressed (ie. “when will our gear be picked up?”) because we hadn’t even received the maps yet at this point! (8:00pm on the night before Race Start, at which point we were issued EIGHTY-TWO maps at 1:25,000 each!) And as if it wasn’t bad enough that the format wasn’t explicitly explained, the organizers actually told us point-blank (as Grant indicated above) that we were NOT to miss cut-offs, when in fact it turned out to be strategically advantageous to do so, and would not result in a tiered ranking system as we naturally assumed it would.

2) The “race support” (ie. support provided by the race organization to the 11 unsupported teams) was in a word, appalling - it was shockingly evident that unsupported teams were a very low priority to the organizers. Prior to the beginning of Stage Two (following the bus ride from the prologue stage), I confronted the Logistics Manager to point out that unsupported teams were still waiting for their gear bags at 1:30am and would not be given the opportunity to even see their bikes before the 8:00am start, while supported teams had already been on-site for hours with all of their gear and equipment. He literally turned and walked away from me (this was the same individual who “forgot” to pick us up prior to the Stage One race start – had it not been for a kindly race staffer who’s family member’s house we had been staying at, our team and our gear would have never have made it to the start line). Stories of gear not arriving at drop-off points or going missing altogether were not uncommon (we went home missing several gear items without so much as an apology from the organizers). So as mentioned above, unsupported teams were definitely in a very separate category from the rest of the field.

3) The racecourse - while beautiful, was at times very unimaginative. The “clustered” checkpoints on bike and trek sections (ie. CP’s “A” through “C” – the completion of which would yield a single point value) almost always followed the exact same formula: CP”A” would be at the top of a hill, CP“B” would be at the bottom of a valley, CP”C” would be at the top of another hill. Challenging – yes, creative – no. Everything was purely trail or road based – there were very few opportunities for overland trekking or strategic route-planning (although keeping on top of 82 maps at 1:25,000 was enough of a challenge in itself – kudos to our navigator Scott for nailing everything so perfectly while keeping his head from exploding!). The maps were excellent (all pre-marked and poly-bagged/sealed), and the 100+ CP’s were all correctly placed, but the repetitive nature of the CP positioning became pretty monotonous after a while.

Despite all of this, the most unfortunate part from our perspective, was that the overall race format would have actually have been REALLY interesting had it just simply been made clear. The opportunities for strategic racing were unlike anything any of us had seen in an expedition race before – we just didn’t realize it until around Day 4 of the race!!
Nov 18, 2009 4:39 PM # 
Finally some notes from a participant! Thanks Storm. Looking forward to hearing form the rest of your crew!
Nov 18, 2009 6:19 PM # 
Thanks Storm. Sounds like a pre-race total communication failure and major assumptions were made. These are issues that could easily have been addressed in a pre-race newsletter months before the race: Format, explanation, examples of the format, etc. Was there a language barrier? what is Geoff Hunt's side of the story, his take?
Nov 18, 2009 7:32 PM # 
Welcome home, STORM. We've been thinking about you a lot (as you can see!) and we're glad to have you all home safe. What a mess!!!! Sorry that your ARWC experience was so, um, what's the opposite of fun? It must be doubly frustrating for you as a race director, knowing how hard you work to provide other racers with well-organized, fair, interesting, challenging events. It was clear that you guys had the potential to be in the top ten, and I'll be cheering for you next time! (Kinda wish I'd gone to help this time - especially seeing how it turned out for unsupported teams.)
Nov 19, 2009 3:33 AM # 
Hello all! Thanks for weighing in on this STORM. Thanks to everyone else for trying to follow along during the race. What is funny is that as everyone knows how horrible the race coverage was, I was talking with one of the Aussie support crews who was actually texting home to Australia to find out updates from the website as she could find out even less information in person.

I don't know how to write a short post here as there are so many shocking stories and facts to tell. STORM recounted the pre-race briefing well. The RD stated multiple times that strategy would be important, but failed to say how. He also stated multiple times how important it is to race to the cutoffs, do not miss the cutoffs. Another small example of the lack of clarity is that first section of the race - the "multi-activity". This involved running around Estoril/Cascais doing a bunch of fun activities to accrue points. Once a team achieved 100 points (of a possible 150), they would be awarded Bonus CP-A and could continue on the course. Unfortunately these pointes were quite spread out and we estimated it would be a minimum 11km of running to get the appropriate points, then tack on time to potentially wait in line at the stations and perform the events and it was quite the time investment for one bonus CP which we estimated would be meaningless. The RD said multiple times in the briefing that it is mandatory and that we had to do it. We were thoroughly confused as we were under the impression that no CPs are actually mandatory. It took a bunch of grilling on the start line to finally determine that it was indeed not mandatory. We thought this was quite unfortunate as we would have loved to do the activities, but feared that it would mean that we would miss the finish line cut-off at the end of the day meaning that we would miss a regular (read: more valuable) CP. I realize this is a long story and relatively inconsequential, but to me just shows how we really had to battle for clear information every step of the way. Incidentally, apparently the organization was trying to take Nike’s bonus CP away as they achieved 105 points and not 100 as was required. There were a number of incidences later in the race where we were forced to forgo the fun activities as they strategically didn’t make sense. Unfortunate as the RD goes to all of the trouble in providing these fun activities, but makes it disadvantageous to do them.

As others have previously mentioned, the one retribution is that the race course was beautiful. There really were some stunning sights along the way. Of course, being an engineer in the wind energy business, I was quite enthused with the number of wind farms we travelled through (my poor teammates got the random fact banter a few times). One eerie evening we were in amongst the turbines in a thick, windy fog where we could hear the blades slicing through the air above, but couldn’t see the base of the tower until we were <20m or so away; very cool!

I’m glad that everyone has really picked up on the incredibly tilted playing field in favour of the supported teams. Most unfair treatment can be drawn back to this. TAs were supposed to be areas where support crews would drop off only gear necessary for that section and the team had to bring all items left by the support crew (so called “assistance areas” were where full support was allowed). What actually happened is that support crews treated it like a full assistance area with little or no attention by the race staff. Smorgasboards were laid out for teams and any remaining items were cleaned up by support crews to ensure that teams had light packs for the ensuing section. Us unsupported teams – for example – carried our harnesses throughout most of the race as we were never able to legally offload them. Support crews escorted their teams into transition areas to make sure no last-minute wrong turns were made. Incidentally, Scott’s girlfriend was able to be at the race and had a horrendous week as a volunteer. She did a huge amount of work for all of the unsupported teams and battled the race staff in our favour. Without her, a tonne of our gear would have been lost, we wouldn’t have got half of the food that we actually paid for and wouldn’t have had anyone reminding the race staff that we exist and require our gear moved. Awesome work D!

Also, as stated by others above, the support crew would be able to strategize for the team so they could come into the TAs, change, sleep, eat and get out of there. Us unsupported teams spent upward of 2 hours in transition pouring over the myriad of 1:25 000 maps trying to figure out a good strategy.

Many have commented that they like the format now that they understand it. While I do understand its advantage of keeping the race pack compact, luck ends up being a strong factor in success. As Geoff Hunt was involved, obviously the course will be far longer than any mortal would be able to complete in over double the allotted race time. What this does is allows teams to skip sections where they may not be as strong and still have plenty of CPs to punch in later sections. As Bash points out, for a 24-hour Rogaine it takes quite a bit of mental crunching to go through a bunch of potential combinations before an optimal route is reached. With the CPs of this race being divided by up to sometimes 5 different flags over 84 detailed maps, route choices are not optimized, but arrived at somewhat randomly. One team could decide to exclude some early CPs just to find that later CPs are much easier to achieve; alternatively they could end up getting increasingly more difficult. Luck of this type should never enter into a world championship of our sport.

What seemed to be the icing on the cake was how Geoff Hunt stood up at the closing ceremonies and stated how it was maybe misleading how they stressed how important the race cutoffs were at the pre-race briefing, then went on to talk about the insane speeds he was driving during the race. While he may have been trying to talk about how difficult the race was to keep up with, it certainly makes me wonder why he shows up for these races in the first place.

Obviously, I feel cheated out of my chance to weigh our team up against the best in the world, but I feel more angry that our sport cannot gain any credibility if we can’t even hold a world championship that even approximates “fair”. The principles of our sport are not being upheld and the whole point of it is lost.

Anyway, I’m babbling in an unorganized fashion right now so I’ll leave it there for this post.
Nov 19, 2009 12:07 PM # 
Thanks PhattyJR!

Guys, while I'm sure you're holding back some comments, rest assured that every detail you provide about what worked / didn't work for you is information that race directors like myself will file away for the next race.
Nov 19, 2009 1:17 PM # 
I am on page 7 of my race report right now so if you are the least bit interested in that set aside some time this weekend. A lot of what I touch on is in STORM and PhattyJr's posts but I also get in some funny stories and how we worked our way through the course. I also have the race maps (we got a second set through Donna, Scott's girlfriend) so I will try to take some pics of them and post them somewhere to give you guys an idea.

One word keeps coming to mind for me....."CLUSTERF*CK"! And after thinking about it for a while the race format is interesting but I have to agree with PhattyJr here and say that despite knowing what is going on I still think too much luck can play into the race in the end.....I just don't think it's for the world champs. Oh and does anyone else think it is weird that Orion was separated for 1 1/2 hours and didn't get a penalty. Where I come from that's a disqualification. There are no standards for this sport. It's sad really. There are other stories of separated teams (I can't be bothered to mention the names) but let's just say they weren't at the back of the pack either.

I would also probably have an easier time forgetting about my anger toward the race organizers if I didn't have to look at my brand new bike and see that it was grossly mishandled and has more chips, scratches and chunks out of it than my old bike that has been transported in probably over 30 races!!!
Nov 19, 2009 1:26 PM # 
I've never participated in a race where a 1.5 hr separation of a teammate wouldn't be a DQ, or at the very least a crippling penalty. Especially considering this format where separation would seemingly be so advantageous for collecting CPs!
Nov 19, 2009 1:52 PM # 
Welcome to Portugal XPD where you can make rules up as you go along!!!
Nov 19, 2009 3:00 PM # 
I think I just read on the race website something about the race director saying how happy he was to have shown his organization to the world - WHAT???? I think this guy is delusional!
Nov 19, 2009 7:31 PM # 
He certainly showed his organization to the world...
Nov 19, 2009 7:36 PM # 
A few years ago, I saw members of a top team separated by a couple of kilometers in a major U.S. race. Few of us will rat on our friends, but I think we'd all like the rules to be enforced better. I liked our Swedish race with the SI cards on non-removeable wristbands, but now I hear that people sometimes cheat by putting the wristbands on loosely enough that they can be removed. Makes me glad I'm not on a super-competitive team, because it would really hurt to lose that way.
Nov 19, 2009 8:04 PM # 
It is hard to enforce... but when teams arrive at checkpoints in pieces? That's a no brainer. It doesn't sound like they did it on purpose, but I suppose you never know.

Any word on what the rules were on this kind of thing? Around here we usually specify 'within sight and earshot' at all times.

On the smaller races I direct I run / bike through the course taking pictures etc. and on a few occasions I've caught teams trying to be sneaky! Once even caught a team sketching a second map before the race! Talk about cheeky.
Nov 19, 2009 8:49 PM # 
Sounds like most of the CPs were unmanned, so easy enough not to get caught. Leanimal was generous in her race report in not mentioning other ARWC teams that purposely separated.

One of the ARWC racers will have to let us know their team separation distance requirements. In Ontario races, the allowable distance ranges from 25-100 meters. In the Salomon Raids, a rule was introduced this year requiring all three teammates to physically touch each flag. The gold standard is the SI card on a tight-fitting wristband on each teammate, as we used in the Bjorkliden Mountain Marathon this summer.
Nov 20, 2009 12:12 AM # 
Grant had all team members punch wristbands on odd controls. Neat idea! Though I always did appreciate it when we could chill ~25 m from the control while someone else punched it on the ones that didn't require team punches!
Nov 20, 2009 4:32 AM # 
The question is, what stopped you from chilling 2 km away from the control? Sometimes it's ethics; sometimes there's no benefit to separating. But to cover situations where neither of those is applicable... I like Grant's idea a lot.
Nov 20, 2009 8:10 AM # 
We're looking at using SportIdent for 2010 in New England.

The last time I looked into e-punch for AR the devices only had 24-hours of power and wouldn't be able to handle our advance setup schedule. Things have come a long way over the years and now, as I understand it, we can have a functional SI box out there for years since it only sips power one beep at a time. This way, if we set some of the course 1 week prior, the boxes will be live come race time.

It also opens up great ways to upload team splits at CPs without any data entry.
Nov 20, 2009 1:21 PM # 
Grant's idea did keep racers honest, not that it was necessary for us!

But Bash, otherwise you're right... nothing keeps teams from "cheating." Until I caught a few teams in my races I had never imagined that people would! AR just doesn't seem to be the sport that corner cutters would choose. But I guess some people are just THAT competitive.
Nov 20, 2009 3:45 PM # 
I'm a little bitter after seeing rampant cheating in a recent event - sigh... Fortunately, Grant is in a part of the world where there are some very knowledgeable and active orienteering clubs. Given that SI was used for ARWC, it seems that the technology is now better equipped to handle AR.
Nov 20, 2009 4:06 PM # 
Interesting excerpt from the Globe & Mail today - an article about cheating that caused France to win over Ireland in a World Cup soccer qualifier
But sports ethicists say the incident symbolizes a new reality in competitive sport. Mr. Henry may be a cheat, they said, but his refusal to admit it mid-game just makes him a modern-day competitor.

“Is he a bad guy? No. He's a normal guy in the sense of what's going on in sports today. He did what most people would do,” said Sharon Stoll, a University of Idaho professor who runs the Center for Ethical Theory and Honor in Competition and Sport.

Prof. Stoll's research has measured the moral compass of 90,000 athletes ranging from those in high school to the pros, and she says ethics in sports is at a historic low. A drive to win, combined with what she calls the twin “demons in the corner” – strategy and deception – have created a competitive culture where bending the rules has become the norm, she said.

And sports that require officiating, she added, tend to be the worst. “Many times [athletes] see their actions as acceptable because they see themselves competing not only against their opponent, but against the official,” she said. “It affects their moral reasoning over time, where they say, ‘That's just a part of the game.' ” As a result, athletes are loath to admit to infractions if officials don't catch them, said Los Angeles-based sports ethicist Michael Josephson. “Had [Mr. Henry] reported it, two things would have happened: one, his own teammates would have wanted to kill him, and two, it would have been worldwide news because it would have been so exceptional,” he said.
Nov 20, 2009 4:11 PM # 
How do you cheat at soccer?
Nov 20, 2009 4:24 PM # 
Used his hand. France knocked Ireland out. But you've probably seen that all by now.
Nov 20, 2009 4:43 PM # 
The only surprise for me in that article was that some university had a "Center for Ethical Theory and Honor in Competition and Sport".
Nov 20, 2009 5:07 PM # 
It kills me to read all the things wrong with the race and organization ...and the thing is I don't see any changes in the near future. I think AR would be tough to govern as a whole, but I would at least expect Geoff Hunt to have some control over the races in his series to ensure they are fair, consistent and a true measure of the best AR teams in the world. It clearly appears there are different priorities.

I am not sure how big the chatter is outside this group, but I hope Geoff H gets wind of how disappointing, unfair and truly unsuccessful the race was and maybe change things moving forward.
Nov 20, 2009 7:38 PM # 
It does not need to be complicated:

Pick your races wisely...most of the time RDs have a track record
and we all know someone who has done one of their races. Plenty
of good ones out there. ARWS and WC is cool, but it's just some dudes who decided to call their race the "WC". 10 years ago the Raid and some other RDs threw a hissy and they all decided to have their own WC race. Were there 3 in one year?

The last thing this Wild Rumpus of a sport needs is governing. Plenty of fantastic races and RDs out there putting on races in spectacular and challenging terrain, all over the world.

The rise of the Rogaine format in AR is lame in my opinion, even though it favors my team (national rogaine champ is our navvy) Navigation and Orienteering are two different things. I prefer point a-z races where you know where you stand in the race. there is never going to be a crowd at the finish line at an AR unless it is at a busy resort and it's sold as a freakshow made-for-TV spectacle like EcoChallenge.

So while I understand the goal of having the teams finish in a similar timeframe, the cons outweigh the pros. One possible way to do include Orienteering in an AR if you have to have it: have the orienteering section first or last, next to the start/finish line, with a certain time limit. Throughout the race you know where you stand, and in the case of finishing with an O course, at the END you have an opportunity to go out and bag X number of bonus CPs. Starting this section you will know your ranking and the opportunity available.

This of course assumes communication and math skills of the RD.
blah blah blah
Nov 22, 2009 4:47 AM # 
AMEN Mr. Clancy!!!!'s just some dudes who decided to call their race the "WC".
Nov 23, 2009 2:16 AM # 
Hi Folks

A few quick comments from me. As a member of team Orion (former world champs). I am disappointed that anyone would think that we would actively cheat.

We pride ourselves on racing hard and within the rules. We do not cheat and if we see another team cheating do not think twice about reporting them or protesting. I absolutely encourage other teams to do the same. It is a professional sport and we all need to do our bit to ensure that cheating doesn’t become an accepted part of the sport. Even if it is your mate cheating they shouldn’t be and don’t deserve to beat anyone who plays within the rules.

In this race everyone had SI cards attached permanently to their wrist, separating was not an advantage (unless you removed them which was not allowed).

We did become separated, but this was entirely unintentional, we were not doing anything dodgy apart from racing hard in the rain at night, and with other teams around failed to realise when we lost a member. This is the first time this has happened to us, but it is not uncommon.

At the time we contacted the race HQ because we had serious concerns for our missing team mate, for all we know he had fallen from a cliff, any thoughts of penalties soon turned to worry when the following teams failed to see him on the course.

Interestingly enough there was no rule specifying that team members had to stay together, although obviously if a team member fails to go to a checkpoint then it does not count.

To be honest we did think it likely we would receive a penalty or even be DQ’d but if the race director chooses not to penalise us further, we were not going to argue.

None of the other teams we were racing against chose to protest, in-fact Nike, who we were having a good battle with at the time (and whom eventually found our missing team mate), said that they thought we been penalised enough with the time lost trying to locate him. (several hours at least)

We have since done some post race analysis and figure that if we didn’t stuff up and become separated it is very likely we would have retained our world title, or at least come 2nd so some mistakes carry their own penalty.

Geff Hunt has shown time and time again that the welfare of the races is of very little concern to him, we are owed tens of thousands of dollars in prize money from an AR series race which Geff has completely washed his hands of. Just need to remember if is the race directors that pay him, so he does his best to keep them on side, unfortunately often at the expense of the races.

We will be writing formally to Geff advising him of the races dissatisfaction with this World Champs. I think it unlikely it will get him to change anything, but you never know.

Like someone said earlier in the forum we need to choose the races we do wisely, we all know who the good race directors are (normally the ones who do some racing themselves).
Nov 23, 2009 10:59 AM # 
Fi McB:
I did the Portugal ARWC with a Kiwi team, we are nowhere near the front of the pack (we finished 32nd I think). Interesting reading all the discussion, both here and on a number of other sites.

While overall I enjoyed the race, especially the chance to experiance some amazing parts of Portugal, I was a little bit disappointed with how the race panned out for our slower team. It felt like we had to choose to skip a lot of the fun activities, which were usually on the bonus CPs. While we did do the canyoning in Stage 2 (which was fun) in a purely strategic sense we shouldn't have, as it took time and meant we had to carry our wetsuits/climbing gear for a 45km trek leg. Ditto for the first 'Bonus CP' on Day 1 - the Race Organiser at the briefing led us to belive that the whole prologue should be acheivable for all teams, and that the frst bonus CP was in the 'spirit' of the race to do and that all teams should do it. Thus, we spent 2 hours doing the bonus CP (which was fun!) but for us the penalty was missing 2 more valuable CPs on the rest of the prologue, which put a bit of a downer on the start of the race for us, being behind before we had even really begun!

We then skipped out most of Stage 2, as we were worried about making the cut off at the end of stage 3. At one stage we were leading the field we skipped so many CPs! Which made us wonder if we were doing the right thing, but in the end we only made the cut off with a couple of hours to spare.

While we did enjoy being able to see so many teams throughout the race, we didn't really feel any sense of 'racing' as we had no idea about any placings etc, and didn't feel the urge to 'chase down' a team spotted on the horizon, as who knew where anybody was in the overall rankings? I think I definitely prefer a format where you know the teams areound you are your competition, it encourages you to push harder to catch them up etc.

So, thats my perspective from a 'mid pack' team. Like most teams I don't think we really came to grip with the format and what it actually all meant till a good way into the race - despite coming a week early for a 'training week' put on by the race which was supposed to explain everything.

Maybe if we did it again with a better understanding of the format we would like this way of racing more, but I don't think I would be keen to do this type of race again - it makes the head hurt too much!
Nov 23, 2009 12:36 PM # 
Hey Brent,

Hope my post(s) didn't sound accusatory. We were just discussing the situation it as we knew it... with speculation in full gear.

As I'm sure you gathered the info we received during and after the race was minimal. Until Grant gave us the skinny in this thread many of us didn't even know how the race worked! When we heard reports of the separation it was just more confusion on the pile... and we found it to be strange that there was no statement from anyone addressing it, for as we all know such a thing is potentially a serious rule infraction.

Thanks for the inside story, and the interesting tidbit that there was no 'separation rule'.
Nov 23, 2009 4:51 PM # 
The rules for the race do mention no seperation. It is not obvious but it's in the bit about potentialy penalisable things, and realy just looks like an example of something that may incure a penalty.
Nov 23, 2009 6:46 PM # 
Yes pcbrent I would also like to say that although I mentioned your team's separation in my rant about the race in no way did I mean for it to be interpreted that it was intentional. There was no advantage (in fact a distinct disadvantage) to separating in this race and I would never imply that your team would do that. I also read in the race rules after the race that separating is under the list of things that could be penalized for but there was no hard and fast rule listed as you have mentioned.

This being my first international race I was unaware that there were not a basic set of rules that were adhered to by all races.

I certainly hope that you guys, and anyone else who is as disturbed by the organization of this race and Geoff Hunt's refusal to take any sort of responsibility for the "World Series" quality, write a letter to the organizers and to Geoff. I am going to do so but I think they would certainly be more apt to listen to those who are at the top of the sport if they are going to listen to anyone at all. I will hopefully get to another international race in my time but rest assured it will be chosen more wisely than this one.

I think it is important for a certainly quality of event to be upheld at this level, not only for the teams at the top fighting for prize money, but for those of us in the rest of the pack who are taking the same amount of time off, paying the same amount of money (sometimes more) and should receive the same kind of treatment.

So thanks everyone for weighing in on this discussion and please do send a note to the race and Geoff Hunt. We may be right about nothing changing but I have to agree that I am also confused about what the ARWC is and why race organizers would have to pay to become a part of something that usually has them not running their event the following year????
Nov 26, 2009 2:07 PM # 

I was the captain of team « sofermi raid nature 46 », one of the french teams (number 42). What I am just reading conforts the feeling I had about this race.
Here are some points that might be of interrest in this discussion :
0)We were lucky to find an assistant just 2 days before departure.
1)The biggest difficulty for us was to find out whether it was most important to validate as much CP as possible or to pass the cut-off time to avoid short cuts
2)Prior to the briefing, we had the right understanding, but after the briefing we had understood that if we did not pass the cut-off, we would be classified after the team that did, no matter how many total CP we had validated
3)Several other french teams had the same understanding.
4)Fortunately, we didn't listen when it was said that the first « bonus », on sunday was mandatory and we skipped it, allowing us to enjoy the first day.
5)We cleared the first cut-off by a bare 40 minutes wednesday night, losing much energy in doing so, and it was only early thursday morning that we realized it would not be possible to complete stage 4 before the next cut-off.
6)At that point we had a doubt about what was said in the briefing on cut-off, so we broke the rules and called our assistant asking him to find out about this.
7)Unfortunately, he asked to Claudio who confirmed him what was said during the briefing, pointing to him a very ambiguous statement in the rules about « drop-outs »
8)Having a confirmation of the wrong rule, we just zipped through stage 4 as fast as we could, we validated only 2 CP on this stage and cleared the next cut-off by only 20 mn.
9)At T11 when I asked organisation about any « forbiden route » for the 160 km mountain bike, the answer was evrything is allowed except the controlled access motorway, so we bought a road map at the next gas station and took fast truck roads to be on time, not a really pleasant thing when you come for an adventure race that is meant to take place in nature.
10) Road safety was really a concern. During the 4th short cut our girl got hit by a car rear view mirror, fortunately she wasn't hurt.
11) We really loved the last MTB section, and there were some other good section as well. It seems that the Orienteering federation of Portugal took in charge the plotting of the route and the setting of the control and they really did a good job.
12) At the closing dinner, we had the luck to see Claudio and Alexander sit at our table : perfect time to give them a debriefing of some of the things that went wrong : « So Alexander you said at the briefing that if we didn't pass the cut-off we would be classified after the teams that did. But it was wrong. » Alexander replied that what he said was « If you do not pass the cut-off, you will surely be classified after the team that did, as you would not have access to many CPs »
13)This means that instead of giving an answer from a « regulatory » point of view, the RD gave an answer from a « strategic » point of view. Many of us understood it as beeing the rule, but it was not.
14) I wished we had thrown Alexander and Claudio in the pool instead of Geoff, or the 3 of them altogether.
15)It is surprising that Geoff didn't have more control over this race, or maybe not as I guess it must have been difficult for him communicating with these guys too.

Hope this helps,
Laurent Lestarquit
Nov 26, 2009 8:07 PM # 
Well said Starqman! It sounds like you guys had a very similar experience to us. We also had some terrifying moments on very busy roads and had the same understanding of the rankings with regard to cut-offs as you did. It sure makes for a frustrating finish when you are racing hard for 6 days only to find out you could have done it all very differently.

Thanks for your input!
Nov 26, 2009 8:08 PM # 
And yes I agree that all three should have been thrown in the pool!
Nov 26, 2009 10:32 PM # 
Wow, thanks for posting starqman! I was on ATP Salomon as well. It is nice to hear that many other teams with different primary languages felt as mislead as we did as well as Fi McB and others. Amazing that you were actively mislead by the organizers during the race!

Thanks also for your comment vitargoSC. I have thought about that quite a bit, and while I agree to a certain extent I think that is what the AR World Champs is SUPPOSED to do. In every other sport, the world champs is supposed to be a competition with as level as possible of a playing field for the competitors regardless of their country of origin, spoken language, knowledge of the race staff, etc. That ball has certainly been dropped in this case.

Now who is going to start the "Adventure Sport World Championships" and do it right this time? After this year's gong show (in combination with gong shows of past), teams could boycott the ARWC and finally put an end to crap like this in our sport. Easy for me to say as a 'mid-packer' I suppose who wasn't vying for the $35 000 prize.

On that note, also interesting to hear that you haven't actually received all of your prize money pcbrent. In that case, who is enthusiastic to do the worlds next year?
Nov 27, 2009 1:27 AM # 
Just from reading the above comments, its appears the model of running a world championship like a franchise is not working. Unlike McDonalds or Coke, unfortunately when you go to different ARWC locations, the quality is not consistent, which is a function of lacking standards.

Maybe it was just a bad year, but I feel this sport has shown its too expensive to give second chances.
Nov 27, 2009 8:46 AM # 
As the lead organizer of North America's race in the ARWS this year (Untamed New England), I think I should weigh in. I'm no apologist for the show in Portugal -- I saw it in person (at least the final couple days) and it was nearly as frustrating as a spectator as it must have been to race.

For our race to become a part of the World Series, we had to provide numerous testimonials from high-profile athletes who have int'l racing backgrounds. Scott Pleban, from ATP/Salomon, was one of our references as he has done a lot of our events through the years in the mid-Atlantic. We also had to provide copies of our race plans, official materials, and management strategies. There was additional criteria, but in terms of speaking to the quality of our events these were the main factors and it was pretty rigourous (it took us about 18 months to finalize everything).

I'm sure every organization went through the same sort of vetting to earn their way into the World Series (at least I hope so...), but I don't see any sort of continued governance protecting against such a disappointment as in Portugal.

As we look at 2010, and our continued involvement with the ARWS, we still think the ARWS brand is the most recognized internationally and it attracts a competitive field of international teams. For example, we've already had team inquiries from France, Portugal, Denmark, the UK, Sweden, and Central America for Untamed New England 2010 -- that is mostly because we're part of the ARWS and because racers feel it's a reliable indicator of a well-run event; as word spreads from the teams who compete in our race, we're seeing momentum develop. Of course, if our race was crap, the opposite would happen and there'd be negative word-of-mouth turning these teams away. Fundamentally, the ARWS lets us host a race on North American soil that has genuine international appeal and lets "us" compete against some of the best in the world on "our" own home turf.

I would hate to see a situation develop where the AR World Series brand is a drag on our race participation, and that would defeat the purpose of our involvement. I guess what I'm saying is, if you feel you must boycott the World Championship I would hope that doesn't prevent you from racing in a well-run New England event that is part of the same global Series. My ears really perk up when Leanne and Andy, from the team who won our 2009 event, voice such frustration and it concerns me that it can damage our good reputation.
Nov 27, 2009 6:15 PM # 
Hey untamedadventur,

Thanks for your thoughts as well. I can see that it must be a bit of a frustration for you to witness the disorganization and confusion in Portugal too since you are a part of the ARWS. Fortunately what you guys have is a well run event and if asked by any of those teams from other countries I would not hesitate to back up your event 100%. I think the ARWS affiliation gets you so far and from there your reputation is what should seal the deal.

There is no doubt that Portugal XPD went through the same process that you did but they fell short when it came to excecution. Unfortunately what I think this all boils down to is the lack of information given to the competitors. Sad since the rest of the racecourse (the time consuming part) was all finished but they just failed to inform us properly on how to excecute. Don't get me wrong this is not all that they failed to do properly but it is much easier to forget the rest if you have had a great race experience.

In the end maybe people will just be more careful and ask more questions before they sign up for a race. I think you guys can be confident enough to open a discussion board (I am sure you probably already have one) for racers to post questions about prior races etc. so they have the confidence that if their fellow competitors are happy with an even then they will be.
Nov 27, 2009 8:49 PM # 
Hello all.

Read with interest this thread and thought I might be able to add a little more light on the confusion.

A few thoughts from team Helly Hansen Prunesco.

Firstly, a little word of well done to the unsupported teams. We were planning to go unsupported with a few weeks to go until we decided we were fit and wanted to give ourselves the best possible chance. You undoubtedly had a different race and worked harder and under more stress than the rest of us with support.

This was a race which was contested from the start in a typical ‘follow my leader’ format as NO team (apart from perhaps some in the middle of the field who had done the race before) knew how to apply the rules or had had a chance to analyse maps and realise the course was not clearable before the start. Bonus points were considered fair game and we chased each other like idiots across mountains and lakes. None of the top teams gained the advantage of missing early bonus CPs and I’m glad because that would have really put the cat amongst the pigeons and created a winner purely on good strategy.

Races should be won on speed across the ground, sleep strategy and good nav and technical skills. All credit to Nike and Orion pushing the pace early on and demonstrating how World Champs should race. We were hanging on their tail in the knowledge that we’re OK at maintaining speed in the 2nd half of a race. In the middle of the race however, our pace surprisingly was higher than the other teams and we managed a few long stages in a good time including getting 4 hours (race winning) sleep in a barn. Gaining time advantage and more flex later in exchange for a CP or two seemed to keep us in charge of the race when Nike in particular were putting in some really impressive stage times to make cut-offs but then having to rest afterwards.

It wasn’t until half way through the race that we realised we couldn’t clear it. Around the same time as Nike and Orion, Buff, Quechua and Lundhags I suspect. We had to miss a kayak CP to allow us to hit a cut off in time because we, like everyone else, thought cut-offs were paramount to success. Someone mentioned us missing a cutoff to our advantage. We didn’t. Lundhags cunningly missed a non-punitive cutoff at one stage and until the end of the race we thought this put them out of the ranking. How wrong we were! We didn’t do this as we were scared by the comment in the briefing that this would put us out of the race… and because we didn’t think of it!

Separation in this race was never an advantage and Orion were very fairly penalised by the stress and time it took to find Wayne. Being honest, we had a similar briefer drama through a forest but lost an hour. Certainly didn’t help our race! Separation wouldn’t be advantageous for collecting CPs as everyone had a sportident wrist thingy. Everyone had to punch each control.

I saw a posting on your forum which says “only in the UK do they use this format frequently (probably no coincidence that Helly Hansen, the winners, are from the UK)”. None of us have raced a race ANYTHING like this before. In fact, I was keen to avoid these World Champs cos I thought they looked too complex and we, like every other team are used to racing straight. We do the odd bit off score orienteering (noone here has heard of regaining though), but unfortunately, even that didn’t mean that we raced this race as it should have been from the start!

It was great to see loads of other teams out there and actually race often near the back of the pack. The finish was the best I’ve seen in AR. I don’t think score format races should be outlawed because they do allow the best in the World to compete fairly and they allow everyone to finish at the same time (I vote Friday next time!!). Communication obviously needs improved and I am sad that all our races were far from perfect because none of us fully grasped the format.

That said, stunning castles, shattering downhill biking, tricky nav and eerie windmills kept the adventure in there, and the format atleast kept our minds busy during a long race. includes our support team and team reports if you want to see what the others thought.

Thanks to Nike and Orion for being gracious about our win. If work allows us time off we are looking forward to a straight and uncontroversial race in Spain!

Good to meet many of you. Who did win the unsupported race!?

Nov 27, 2009 10:05 PM # 
I agree with nicmac, score format race are interresting, they bring an higher strategical dimension to the race, but maybe the rule could be a little diferent. First, as said earlier, suppress the bonuses. Next, it was a shame that all the fun stuff (canyon, orienteering relay, rope ascension, etc ...) made no strategic sense and were to be skipped by the best teams, so an idea could be to make them really mandatory. To do that, there could be mandatory CP's that must be done or it's DQ, and extra CP's from which the teams can pick in order to collect as lmany CP as they can.
Another possible rule could be that if you don't get all the mandatory CP's during a stage or a section, then you don't score any of the "extra" CP even if you visited them. There is a race called Transmassif in France that works this way.

Another subject : reading the earlier posts, it seems that race orgaisations need to pay to be part of the WS, and maybe pay even more to be the WC, does anyone know how much an organiser has to pay ?

And another thing I forgot in my first post : didn't anyone notice that most of the MTB route was marked with either blue or red and white ribbons ? This was especially true during the second 100km bike section, one that had some interresting night orienteering. Did a team had a support crew marking the path for them ?
We actually mentionnned this to the RD when he sat at our table, and he had a very strange reaction which was : "Why would we have put marking on the terrain ? We had already so much to take care of". How do you interpret this ?


Nov 29, 2009 9:11 PM # 
Just wanted to add to what my teammate NicMac has added.

It does seem like the race was a nightmare to follow. From our point of view it was a great format, exciting and you always felt that you had a chance all the way to the finish. It was great that some intelligence and strategy actually came into play. Too many long races just seem to be meathead type formats with little or no thinking. Surely AR should be challenging the competitor in as many ways as possible ? AR has always been about lots of unique races not an industrialised format. It would be a shame if it went the same way as Triathlon.

The fact that the race wasn't decided until the last few hours speaks volumes of a good format. Once you got the hang of the format it was obvious that the race organisation had spent a lot of time trying to balance out check points and bonus points.

Like most teams we thought the course was going to get cleared and started off going for everything. A mistake and knowing what we do now we could of traded a BP or 2 for at least another 2 or 3 CP's.

I think the problems are more to do with communication of the format beforehand and maintenance of the website. I have to say I can't remember too many long races have had perfect web coverage !

It was amazing to cross the finish line where there was a carnival atmosphere. Winning the race in front of a crowd was a great experience - something you wouldn't of got with a traditional format.

I feel for the un-supported teams. Not a level playing field and we are so glad we sorted out a support crew (literally with 2 or 3 weeks to go). They should keep this the same for every team.

I think it would be great to see more different race styles, competitors should be challenging organisers to come up with new and exciting races to challenge us with. Let's get away from the "Just make it hard" which has been in vogue and drive for "Make it interesting and dare I say, fun"...

Nov 30, 2009 12:31 PM # 
This thread is better than Twilight.
Nov 30, 2009 3:55 PM # 
I've found this to be a very interesting thread.

I've come to believe that I would like to do a race under this format, now that I 'think' I understand it.

I also believe that it was quite fortunate that 'all' of the top teams were in the same predicament and as a result the world champs are deserving of the title.

For the good of the sport I hope RD's take notice of some of the racers concerns (that are not unique to this race). Clear communication is critical. Rules need to be clearly established and enforced. Support or no?.... Support crews need to have clear rules (and penalties) as well ... etc , etc.

I hope that AR does not go the way of Triathlon. However, if we want to keep the races unique and exciting, then racers have to be prepared to adapt and take it on the chin every now and then (hopefully not to the extent that some teams did in this race). I've been at this for a long time and some of the things that infuriated me at the time are now just great stories.

I can remember chasing a team who dropped out due to exhaustion and went to a hotel. Over 24 hours later, as we were about to hook up to a fixed rope on a glacier, a helicopter landed and out jumped the team and they were back in the race.. and they got the ropes first!!!! Seems it was importatnt for the TV coverage that they finish AND do well!! At the time I was not amused.

7 Days into a big race about 8 of the top teams (5th-12th) were held up at the final dark zone. This resulted in a crazy bike race to the finish. Five teams ingnored the rules and rode the main hi-way for about 50 km to the finish. (It made for some pretty dissapointed photographers when they saw us coming through the trails :-) ..). We were assured that those teams would be penalized or DQ'd... again, turns out that would have been bad for TV.

It's also 'fun' when you show up to a TA in an unsupported race and your gear is not there and you have to wait (wet and cold) for 10 hours AND the organizers somehow figure it is the teams fault (for moving too quickly??)... not even a time adjustment in our favour?.. c'est la vie...

The list goes on and on and often, when calmer minds prevail, the best thing is to just offer suggestions and move on. Hopefully it wil be better next time. I've had a lot of frustrations over the past 15 years, but they pale in comparison to the 1000's of hours of awesome adventures with some of the greatest team mates and competitors anyone could ever hope to meet.

It's been a few years since I've raced competitively, but I just want the sport to be healthy when my kids are ready to race in a few years... or my lottery numbers come in and I can start racing hard again!! :-)
Nov 30, 2009 4:30 PM # 
What a great addition to to thread, FB (Dave) . . . some really great perspective. If you're not racing in New England in Aug 2010 it sounds like you'd make terrific course consultant, and I'd love to tap into your experience, so get in touch if you're interested!

On a related note, as an organizer I can say I've learned a lot from considerate feedback from racers -- where somebody throwing a fit and getting belligerent would have accomplished nothing. Case in point: we had a long wait at the rope skills testing the first year in New England (too few rope site guys for 150 racers) . . . it was frustrating for everyone. The Berlin Bike team calmly asked me over and suggested we distribute maps and race instructions to teams while they're waiting, so the back-log wasn't such a painful process. They did this quietly, respectfully, and we quickly made some organizational changes and implemented their suggestion right there. All the teams and race staff breathed a collective sigh of relief as the racers could use their time in line to study maps etc. Wish I would've thought of it, but I'm really glad at least somebody did and spoke up in such a constructive fashion. The event was better for it, and it wasn't the least bit confrontational.

The manner and tone of how greivances are voiced can lay the foundation for a civil and calm resolution. In some teams I see a penchant for hysterics and it can make interactions so painful; how does a team like that handle real adversity on a race course? I have a thick skin and so it washes off of me, but if that person was my teammate I think I'd strangle them when nobody was looking!

So yes, FB, when things go awry at a race (and they can go awry in so many ways) it's best when calmer minds prevail.
Nov 30, 2009 5:00 PM # 

I've been known to consult in exchange for beer.. :-)
Nov 30, 2009 7:06 PM # 
We do have lots of beer. Sweet, nourishing, Long Trail Ale!
Nov 30, 2009 7:37 PM # 
...which still isn't available North of the border. All the same, that's good pay dirt FB!
Dec 1, 2009 4:53 AM # 
Hi all,

On behalf of my companions who volunteer to organize this year ARWC I salute you.

What a discussion about "The Land of Light" epic Race, so many arguments, so many points of views, so much bitter, so much anger, so much passion .... for Adventure Racing.

Just enter the discussion to add three "small" contributions to the enlightenment of subject:

1. APCA (Portuguese Adventure Racing Association) who was the organizing body for this year World Champs is a Non profit Organization affiliated to the Portuguese Orienteering Federation and developed in the past the Framework of the current National League and Championship (which were his responsibility during the first Five seasons (2001-2006)) and the current program of teaching and certification for Staff, Race Organizers and Race Advisers.
In 2003, APCA organizes its first expedition length AR at the time called Algarve International Raid and invited some friends from Spain (Antonio de La Rosa) to join us for the first testing of a new format adapted from our 24H National League Races for Expedition Races. The results were surprisingly good with all teams finishing in the same time frame (in big and amusing party) and with all the teams designing in the terrain different solutions for their race route (in line with the characteristics we found in our smaller races). From there, in 2004 we moved into the International scene integrated in the ephemerous Expedition Racing League (ERL) organizing the first Portugal XPD Race Terras do grande Lago Alqueva and in 2007-2009 with the organization of two qualifiers - ARWS and the ARWC Estoril Portugal XPD Race.

All to say, that we are pure amateur organizers but we are not rookies and we knew very well what we were doing and what would be the competition outcome of this race (even we knew that in case we had rain and "fog" the race was to be decided by CP's due to the natural slowdown of team speed average - It was easy to understand that from the results of 2007 and 2008 (identical conditions) available to everybody during the whole year round) and how to control the race flow from the very beginning.

2. Lusitanea terrain is among the few in World proved to be one of the most challenging for any army to conquer. If you pay some attention to history of this Lands you will easily found that it took more than 200 years to the Roman Empire to conquer the territory and more recently, you would discover that in fact, Lusitanea was the place were Napoleon (The French Emperor) lost its first battle and that ultimately became its own "Vietnam's" during more than a decade of continues defeats.
This was also the reason why the Templar's built here their safe haven after the "renown" Friday, 13 (the date when the Pope decree their imprisonment, commandment not obied by the Portuguese King at the time, himself a former Templar Knight).

So, when we publish the global race distances and positive gains (race planner best option for the full route - all CP's and CP Bonus) and made the remarks about the characteristics and difficulties you would suspect that you would be facing the Challenge of Year. The GOOD NEWS was, it was up to you to decide whether or not to face it all and be the next Champion of the World or adapt it to your condition and be a successful finisher of YOUR OWN route (and for the first time in the ARWC history we had more than 40 successful finishers).

3. The Concertina Race format (Rob Howard and I use this definition a lot) is based in the CHALLENGE BY CHOICE concept, very much used in the Experiential Education and in the Corporate Outdoor Trainning. In fact, this concept was present at the very beginning of AR in Portugal back in 1991 with the start of the Challenger Trophy which was the annual corporate Outdoor competition. That's the reason why when we brougth from France in 1997 the rules of the Pyrinnee Outdoor Challenge (the testing race for the renown Salomon X-Mountain Series) and tried to implement it in Portugal it did not work well because the racers were used to choose their own strategy/ route to win the competitions, not a single route imposed by the organizers. Then we started a long 4 years trial and error process to find the best AR format too suit our goals; - fairness in the race results and balance between the physical and the mental.
To be honest we still are looking to new improvements in this race model that is unique but is not yet finalized. Because of that, your present reflexion, is of utmost importance to us in order to extract from your opinions the constructive views that can help our goal. A word of caution to say that we consider very risky to try to implement our rules directly to your races or to your territories, you must always adapt and try it before any serious move.

In Portugal, this rules are used in all the official races for the award of the National and International Titles (we have annually a common race with SPAIN, the Iberian Championship) which are recognised by the Portuguese State (even the ARWC was recognized as an Official Title by a decree of Public National Sports Interest).

Two final notes: the first to say to the fans and to the vast audience that followed the ARWC so intensely that we were sorry but we failed in our attempt to communicate the race at a higher level (money shortage and bad luck were two factors we were not able to overcome totally and caused a lot of frustration to you and to us).

Second note to the newcomers of Estoril Portugal XPD 2009, its true we did not manage to anticipate all of your difficulties and provide the best guidance and help possible, we regret that but again lack of funding and some lack of communication did not produce the best outcome to everybody involved.

Nevertheless, we always considered a Teams responsibility to account for a proper preparation of their participation in the Championship but we now realized that some of them did not a proper Homework, which in all cases causes serious consequences in their ability to race properly (for ex: Mike Kloser and I exchange more than 15 long emails in the past few months and they did a World Class Race).

Again, many thanks for your patience in reading this loooong post and from all of us in APCA a very friendly goodbye,

Dec 1, 2009 6:51 AM # 
Discussing rules and their "flexibility" when applied, reminds me of this article:

Prof. Stoll's research has measured the moral compass of 90,000 athletes ranging from those in high school to the pros, and she says ethics in sports is at a historic low. A drive to win, combined with what she calls the twin “demons in the corner” – strategy and deception – have created a competitive culture where bending the rules has become the norm, she said.

And sports that require officiating, she added, tend to be the worst. “Many times [athletes] see their actions as acceptable because they see themselves competing not only against their opponent, but against the official,” she said. “It affects their moral reasoning over time, where they say, ‘That's just a part of the game.' ” As a result, athletes are loath to admit to infractions if officials don't catch them, said Los Angeles-based sports ethicist Michael Josephson. “Had [Mr. Henry] reported it, two things would have happened: one, his own teammates would have wanted to kill him, and two, it would have been worldwide news because it would have been so exceptional,” he said.
Dec 1, 2009 10:48 AM # 
Alexandre: we now realized that some Teams did not a proper Homework, which in all cases causes serious consequences in their ability to race properly (for ex: Mike Kloser and I exchange more than 15 long emails in the past few months and they did a World Class Race).

That's a brave thing to write in a thread that began with..

it sometimes took ATP/Salomon weeks to get answers to questions that they sent by e-mail, and there was considerable confusion about gear, rules and disciplines.

Incoming! (plus kudos to HH for winning without 15 long emails :-) ),
Dec 1, 2009 2:24 PM # 
..actually, the thread began with "I could be a moron..." :-)
Dec 1, 2009 7:34 PM # 
Brave thing to write indeed! Stating that teams did not do “proper homework” implies that information and resources were made available to us pre-race - and this simply was not the case. My “constructive views that can help your goal” Alexandre, is to seriously consider taking the time and effort to prepare a comprehensive racer information package next time – a singular reference source which summarizes all of the key details that were seriously lacking at this year’s event (including a complete overview of the race format, which as this thread clearly illustrates - was definitely not clear). By “singular reference source,” I mean something that is:

NOT a list of answers to FAQ’s posted in the final weeks before Race Day (obviously in response to a barrage of questions from confused teams)

NOT a bunch of random Facebook posts

NOT an unorganized array of newsletters/documents posted to various locations on your website

Preparing this type of document requires a tremendous amount of time, effort, collaboration and thought, but as both a racer and race organizer, I can virtually guarantee you that had such a document existed in the months leading up to the race - the 100 posts in this thread would not.
Dec 1, 2009 9:43 PM # 
Holy Cow FB you have had some serious sh*t to deal with over the years! Probably why you have completed so many (correct me if you have completed them all) of the races you have competed in.

I have to agree with Storm here. I hate sounding bitter and of course we have all had to overcome obstacles in races but what would have made this so much easier for the racers and the staff (they wouldn't have to respond to so many long e-mails from individual teams) is the information package that Storm is referring to. We usually get updates along the way leading up to a race with all of the pertinent info. and it allows us to prepare properly.

I loved the terrain in Portugal and I thought the racecourse was beautiful and I feel sorry for the course setter, they must have done a tonne of work and here we are talking about prerace communications. In a race with 82 maps it would have also been nice to get them the day before. That might have even given us a chance to figure the format out on our own (not that I think we should have had to do that).

We absolutely had a very difficult time getting info. from the race and they were no doubt busy but that's what the info. package is for.

As for Nike being able to run a great race I think that maybe the fact that they are so damn fast might have had something to do with it (and of course their ability to adapt) but we have to remember that teams like Nike and those who have free entries (of which we were one in this race but rarely ever are) don't pay the bills so the concerns of the mid and back of the packers are pretty important for the longevity of the sport.

Okay I think I am finally getting sick of talking about this race.
Dec 1, 2009 10:17 PM # 
While I appreciate those points of view supporting this race format, I have remained since we crossed the finish line that even if the actual rules of the race had been well communicated beforehand, I still don't agree that this is a format worthy of an expedition-length race. Please note the below described scenario is hypothetical (no judgement on any team in this race). With the amount of time we had with the 84 maps and the huge number of flags on the course, there was no way to analyze the route and optimize which controls to drop based the team's collective abilities. This being the case, luck enters the equation. As no one was capable of clearing the course, a team exercising good strategy may drop a control early. They may later find out that early controls were easier to visit (navigationally easier, faster terrain to travel over, closer together, less elevation gain, etc.) and exercising good strategy early actually would act to the team's detriment. A team not realizing this early and not exercising good strategy would then be lucky to have neglected to drop early controls. Having luck enter into the equation to the extent that it could have with acceptable pre-race communication in this format is unaccaptable. You can never completely eliminate luck (timing of extreme weather, tire punctures, wildlife interference, etc.), but it can be minimized which this format does not do.

This format could be fun for shorter races, but certainly not for a 6-day world championship course.

Alix: I am not sure how you expect have "15 long e-mail" conversations with each of the 59 registered teams leading up to the race. The e-mails sent from our team were not able to extend beyond the basic logistics of getting to the start line due to extreme delays in response time. We already noted during the competition that supported teams received preferential treatment, now you're implying that you also offered preferential treatment to some teams in terms of responding to pre-race inquiries? Don't get me wrong: Nike would have beaten us no matter what information you told them, but so would have other teams that finished behind us as they also didn't receive sufficient pre-race info and were "unlucky" with their understanding.

I hate to kick a dead horse here, but my biggest concern is the credibility of our sport. Every other sport makes large efforts to make the world championships as fair as possible. New comers or experienced racers looking to move ahead in the sport will not be inspired to do so if we are not capable of holding a world championship with at least an approximate level playing field. Could you imagine if an olympic triathlete finished the swim to find his/her bike missing? Could you imagine if a referee blew the whistle to end a rugby match halfway through as both teams were told that the match would be different durations?
Dec 10, 2009 4:28 AM # 
ARWC 2009 was my first ARWC so my points of view come from a relative newbie to the sport.

I thought the format was excellent because it forced (or should have) the teams to strategise more than it normally would in 'traditional' point-to-point ARWC's. It should have forced teams to consider which CPs to drop in addition to sleep strategy.

However the downfall occurred in the communication. Perhaps the organisers 'assumed' that the world's AR contingent would understand the format as that (it seems) is common in Portugal. Therefore the organisers didn't pass on information to the competitors because they deemed it blatantly obvious to them. However this wasn't the case.

Two of my team mates raced in last year's Portugal XPD so we had a rough idea of what to expect but it was of course made harder this year particularly the amount of ascent and descent. This didn't mean that we succeeded in strategising earlier than we should have.

There were too many potential sources of information e.g. the XPD website, Facebook and Twitter. It would have been better to contain all the Q & A's in one site i.e. the XPD website. Something similar to the UntamedNE's Q&A page would have been good.

Other reasons might be the language barrier and the number of people asking questions during the opening meeting.

I thought that there were too many people asking questions during and after the opening meeting. The organisers should have asked only the team captains to remain in the room if they had any questions.

Some people have expressed their discontent at the organisation, logistics, communication etc but to be fair to Alex and the team, an XPD race is far harder to organise than a straight point-to-point race. As a result of this there were some things which could be improved. This with the additional pressures of finances and resources affected the race.

So let's not throw away the XPD format as a failed experiment. Many teams enjoyed it as it was indeed more of an adventure. However there are things that can be improved.

Score: C+ (could do better).

This discussion thread is closed.