Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Dark Corners of a Race Director's Brain

AR Course Design: Where to Start?

Designing an adventure race course might seem as easy as picking some check points and putting them on a map. Though this method may work, more than likely you will have a race that is out of control. From a race director's point of view, producing an adventure race is managing controlled chaos; hence, the common cry of a race director, "It's much easier to race than it is to manage a race!" To prevent the control from becoming uncontrolled, starting out right is the key.

When designing a course, the first decision is how much time you want the race to take. Will it be a 4-, 8-, 12-, 24-hour course, or longer? Remember that when you double the amount of time for a race, the work quadruples. Assume the slowest possible steady and constant speed when picking the duration. So what does that mean? We have found that teams at the back of the pack actually move about 1.6 times more slowly than the top teams on a course, assuming the likes of Tobin or Kloser aren't in your field. This holds true for races up 30 hours with short races tending towards a little less variation. Depending on the level of racing in your area this factor may differ some.

For instance, when preparing for an 18-hour race, the winning team should finish in 11 to 12 hours. By doing this you, can expect 70% to 80% of the teams to finish a well designed course. Why is this important? First of all, it is critical in managing the controlled chaos. The easiest way to keep track of teams is for them to continue moving through the course. You eat up a lot of resources when you're uncertain where over half of your teams are or when you have to recover a lot of teams. Secondly, and possibly more important, the middle- to the back-of-the-pack teams are your bread and butter. You don't get rich putting on adventure races. At best you hope to break even or make enough money to support your own racing habit. If the bread and butter teams are happy, usually everyone is happy!

This is only the first step. Check back every other Thursday as we empty our minds on AR course design. Next Thursday, WeCeFAR race director and course designer Shawn Dietrich weighs in.

Jerry Lyons and Dave Kauffman
Planet Adventure

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