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This place needs an enema
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
(I posted this wihin another discussion thread here on the Endurance forum, but didn't want it to get buried there. So here it is, slightly edited.)

People-

Just got done reading some of the blogs from the recent Arrowhead 135. And I'm a bit baffled at how many people got into serious trouble out there this year.

"So?" you're asking...

We all (hopefully) know a lot about our gear from researching it, fiddling with it, using it in the field, and finding ways to make it lighter or do without completely. And that's good--the more we know the safer we might be out there.

But one thing that seems to be missing is the knowledge of when to say 'when'. I say this because (in reading the blogs from the Arrowhead) it seems that many people had a 'short between the earphones' and decided to treat a 135-mile race at -30f like a 2 hour XC sprint. Which is to say that they made mistake after mistake after mistake, then instead of stopping and collecting themselves and realizing they had all the gear they needed to solve their own problems, they leaned (hard, in some cases) on others to bail them out.

And that's bullsh!t.

Relying on someone else to save your bacon is considered extremely bad form, and should be reserved for life-and-death situations. Literally. Sticking out your thumb because you're uncomfortable, chose poorly, or aren't thinking clearly is absolutely unacceptable in self-supported racing.

We're all adults. We go to the mountains and the backcountry to find challenges and to push ourselves. In so doing, we accept a certain level of risk. That's as it should be. The missing ingredient is the common sense to ease off the throttle and realize that we're getting in over our heads. Everyone has a limit, and staying WELL below that limit when we're our own safety net isn't just a good idea, it's mandatory.

Bottom line? You deliberately put yourself into this situation. You chose to be there. It follows that you should ride and think in such a way (proactively!) that you always (ALWAYS) have the ability to get yourself out of it.

Just some food for thought for those planning to participate in any of the upcoming backcountry events. Keep it safe--the life/fingers/toes you save may be your own.

MC
 

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.......................
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Two thoughts:

The stated "no outside support" allowed and the $100 entry fee seem at odds. Letter of the law aside, I think it likely that such a level of investment is going to buy an entitlement of some kind, be it only mental. The numerous reports of snowmachine support crews sweeping for racers seems to support this. Note, I am not questioning that these funds were put to good use.

"Expedition/wilderness racing" is an almost inherently problematic experience. Those with a racing background aren't going to understand how one tiny f&^% up can lead to your death so innocuously, wilderness types may not understand the depths to which you can sink when the tank is really and truly empty. The patience to figure out both is not a thing very intensely rewarded in our culture.

Don't die.
 

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Harmonius Wrench
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My Take

ionsmuse said:
"Expedition/wilderness racing" is an almost inherently problematic experience. Those with a racing background aren't going to understand how one tiny f&^% up can lead to your death so innocuously, wilderness types may not understand the depths to which you can sink when the tank is really and truly empty. The patience to figure out both is not a thing very intensely rewarded in our culture.

Don't die.
First of all, Mike I think you are coming from a place that alot of people don't have the priviledge of coming from. Your perspective is deep, your common sense seems to be one of your greatest assets in figuring out the ways to survive and thrive in less than ideal situations. In other words, it's a gift not many have.

I'm not giving excuses here, just saying that some people study hard and do well on the test, some don't have to study much and seem to do well on the test anyway, and some just won't pass the test whether they study or not. At least that's been my observation.

ionmuse has made a great point here and one that is salient to the Arrowhead experience this year in particular. That being how fast things can go from great to near death. The conditions demanded a level of competency that was alot higher than most could train for or expect. The price paid for this unpreparedness was high, and could have been higher.

I think what you are trying to point out and what ionmuse is also hinting at is that one needs to focus as much on when to pull the plug almost as much as one does to complete the event, and being able to do either well is to be celebrated. At least in terms of events of this nature. (sorry, no pun intended)

My feeling is that it takes alot of mental discipline and calmness to finish, to get yourself out of trouble and continue, or to bail out. Some might disagree with the bailing out, but in an event that demands the price of your digits, or even your life for one or two mistakes, I don't think that it's always easy to see when to take a bow. That was made obvious in the stories I read about the Arrowhead.
 

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I entered Iditasport twice, once in '96 (350 mile 'out to Little Su, up the river and back again') and the '97 (100miler). The only time I'd ever experienced -30 was in a frozen food warehouse where I spent a night during my training - just to make sure in my own mind that my kit was up to keeping me alive if I had to camp out.

I completely agree with Mike's (very experienced) comments, and have always been under the impression that on this sort of race you very much are on your own, with some vague hope of backup/at least someone looking out for you if you don't show who might come looking...

Is it true that the over-the-counter availability of performance snow equipment (Pugsley, etc) has led to people getting sucked into these sort of races where previously it was only possible to enter WITH the experience/fact finding/reality facing of old?

My training involved doing quite stupid things, in as hostile conditions as I could in the UK, including jumping into rivers, in the dark, and then changing my clothes and setting up camp for the night - to have the knowledge that if I had to, I could...

In the UK we're used to hearing about people who buy expensive 4x4's and then get them stuck on remote hill tracks, or even have them swept out to sea/sink in sand... is what we're seeing a wheeled version of this?
 

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I Know I'm Out...

Here's my 2¢ (in reality worth much less)

With me, anytime I hear "self supported" or "orienteering" I'm out. I mean I've done my share of big mileage backcountry rides both here in PA and places like Colorado. But ONLY when I know the routes well, have maps, folks know where I am, I know "bail out" points etc., etc.,

I admire the folks with the courage and talent to do the unsuppored stuff, and personally I feel that it's a two way street. The racer has to know what he/she is getting into and make sure they are prepared for any situation. And I feel the promoter has to make the folks aware that sh*t could happen. If it does, here are some reccomondations and here is plan of action.

Event when an event is low key and "promoting" is nothing more than saying a bunch of us are gonna race "X" loop, winner gets a case of beer" You have to know that folks of varrying abilities are going to show up. At the very least head counts need and a sweeper rider would be cool.

Supported races work best for me being that I'm marginal at best with a wrench and get lost on marked courses :eekster:

Racer know your limitations! It's supposed to be hard AND fun. Pushing one's self is part of the fun, but damn not worth ending up dead.

jm
 

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Hmmmm...

This is an interesting thread. Not sure if I should bite, but I think that the Arrowhead, and other races like it, should take notice.

I think there are a couple of important things to consider when commenting on this.

First, intended vs actual
Second, life vs death

There is an intended use for almost every product. There is also the actual use of a product. Sometimes they match and the product is used in the exact environment for the design. However, we all know that many products get used for "other" uses outside the ideal conditions. In this case, the event had extreme circumstances and even the most experienced riders were crushed. Yeah, some made it. Good for them. They are gifted, lucky to be alive and they can hang their hat on survival for the rest of their lives.

Regarding the conditions. While I agree that you need to be a big boy or girl and be prepared. Cold conditions do crazy things with your mind and the fine line between life and death is a thin one. I lived in northern MN for the first 18 years of my life. It is extreme. The extreme conditions of this event were in fact life threatening. It is easy to talk about you got into this, get yourself out...and yes Mike, you are a star and have worlds of experience. However, I think you should be careful as individuals and families involved put their own lives on the line to save some of these experienced riders.

Jason
 

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Wasn't there a post by someone reporting on the Arrowhead 135 that said that a competitor was in the hospital, and that his doctor told him, in regards to his feet, to "prepare for the worst and hope for the best"? To me, that sounded like he may be looking at a single or double amputation.

I knew this race was out of my league and didn't enter it. Others, for whom it was also out of their league, may not have known how unprepared they were and still entered. So what do you do with the unprepared? Let them freeze to death as a lesson? Use criteria such as white patchy skin or hard toes/fingers before allowing them a snowmobile tug back to their car?

This was an extreme race with extreme consequences. I say let Darwin sit on the sidelines on this one. Yes, the people who needed to bail out and lean on support in an unsupported race were foolish. But at least due to the kindness of the race volunteers they are fools with most of their digits left.
 

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This place needs an enema
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Salsa Cycles said:
The extreme conditions of this event were in fact life threatening. It is easy to talk about you got into this, get yourself out...and yes Mike, you are a star and have worlds of experience. However, I think you should be careful as individuals and families involved put their own lives on the line to save some of these experienced riders.
Jason
Jason-

Thanks for chiming in. I think that you and are I using slightly different words to say the same thing. The fact that non-racers had to put their lives on the line to save participants in a recreational event is what angers me. With a tiny bit of forethought and a lot less ego this was 100% preventable.

Thanks for helping me to clarify.

Cheers,

MC
 

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Really I am that slow
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I don't like it cold

So I'm probably never going to do any of this type of racing.....

Don't people have to apply for spots in addition to there entry fee? Doesn't mean your putting your life in the race organizers hands?

Don't do it if you don't have the knowledge or experience to do it. Maybe this is getting to popular with the outside magazine reading yuppie lawyers who don't really know what they are getting them selfs into.

Whats the saying plan for the worse, hope for the best

I've kept most of my cold riding to were I know the trail super well and have places to bail if needed. I don't think I have the knowledge to to this type of racing. So i'm planning to stay away until I have alot more miles under my belt. Even doing things like the Colorado trail, gdr, ktr, ect Be very very careful understanding what your getting your self into.

This is a very good thread we do need to reflect on the mistakes our own and others...

Mikesee have you needed to be bailed out ever? Or felt you were way over your head?
 

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I was there...the race went off great, everyone helped, it was as it should be...next thing you guyz will be talking about who to sue....Only in America
 

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CharlieFarrow said:
I was there...the race went off great, everyone helped, it was as it should be...next thing you guyz will be talking about who to sue....Only in America
Everyone helping is not self-supported. I think that is what Mike has an issue with. Maybe some of these races need to take a look at whether or not they want to be truly self-supported. In some cases, it might just not be practical to do it.

It goes against the self-supported spirit to rely on Joe the snowmobile guy to haul you out, or Bill the ATVer having fun in Rabbit Valley to fill your pack and fix your tire.

In Mike's own words, from his KTR rules:

And (here's the important part) while there are other people out there riding, 4-wheeling, camping, etc... the spirit of the race is to not lean on these people for assistance unless you're in a bad situation that can't be solved on your own. That means a broken leg or a broken frame. Just because you decided to skip filtering water at the last creek does not mean that someone else should come to rescue your dehydrated carcass. If you bring a CO2 inflator instead of a pump, and it malfunctions or you run out of cartridges, don't ask someone else to save your ass. Start hoofing it and, as you walk, think about the error of your ways.
I think part of having a good race plan, is knowing how to bail. It is easier said than done.
 

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mikesee said:
Jason-

Thanks for chiming in. I think that you and are I using slightly different words to say the same thing. The fact that non-racers had to put their lives on the line to save participants in a recreational event is what angers me. With a tiny bit of forethought and a lot less ego this was 100% preventable.

Thanks for helping me to clarify.

Cheers,

MC
As I understand it, you entered and failed to complete Trans Iowa V1, correct? I tried and failed at Trans Iowa V2, so I am in the same boat. My wife came out and rescued me. If my facts are right, someone had to have come out and rescued you. Maybe it was your wife, maybe someone else, but someone picked you up. In other words, in some sense you were underprepared. JUST LIKE THESE PEOPLE. Now add -30 degree temperatures to the scenario, and you have what these people in the Arrowhead 135 were dealing with. The ONLY difference between you and them is that they failed where no-rescue by volunteers would have meant death. You failed where no rescue would have meant having to have a taxi drive out to some obscure dirt road to pick you up.

So unless my facts are completely wrong and you weren't on the roster for TI V1, and unless you never needed help from anyone for any self-supported race that you ever participated in, you are preaching from hypocrisy.
 

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"Anger?"

Academic theoretical discourse on the meaning of "support" is fine, maybe even worthwhile for those with the time. The 1st amendment allows Mike See to feel and express his "anger" or empathy or whatever for those that he dramatically proclaims 'layed their lives on the line" by riding their snowmachines over on a DNR Snowmobile trail to help out with some of the racers, a trail, by the way, that parallels a major highway some four or five mile away....I just want everyone to know that the Arrowhead 135 is a great event, put on by dedicated, harworking, wonderful folks...The event was well organized, conceived, and planned. As a community we need to support these kinds people. Races like the Arrowhead carry inherent risk...so what? If you don't want risk stay home...play video games, or ride the big super events like the 12 hours @ 9 mile where you are never w/o immediate support.
Charlie
 

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This place needs an enema
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Morlahach said:
As I understand it, you entered and failed to complete Trans Iowa V1, correct? I tried and failed at Trans Iowa V2, so I am in the same boat. My wife came out and rescued me. If my facts are right, someone had to have come out and rescued you. Maybe it was your wife, maybe someone else, but someone picked you up. In other words, in some sense you were underprepared. JUST LIKE THESE PEOPLE. Now add -30 degree temperatures to the scenario, and you have what these people in the Arrowhead 135 were dealing with. The ONLY difference between you and them is that they failed where no-rescue by volunteers would have meant death. You failed where no rescue would have meant having to have a taxi drive out to some obscure dirt road to pick you up.

So unless my facts are completely wrong and you weren't on the roster for TI V1, and unless you never needed help from anyone for any self-supported race that you ever participated in, you are preaching from hypocrisy.
Your facts are wrong. At TI I injured myself but made it to the next big town before pulling the plug.

My rant above was intended to provoke discussion on this subject. It was not intended to be a finger-pointing or blame laying session--in any direction. That's counterproductive to the original point.

Dig?

MC
 

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This place needs an enema
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
ionsmuse said:
The stated "no outside support" allowed and the $100 entry fee seem at odds. Letter of the law aside, I think it likely that such a level of investment is going to buy an entitlement of some kind, be it only mental. The numerous reports of snowmachine support crews sweeping for racers seems to support this. Note, I am not questioning that these funds were put to good use.
Good point. The problem becomes (especially as less experienced people dip their toes in the water) that the expectation will almost always be greater than what the promoter can provide. No contingency plan can cover 135 miles of trail, with racers spread out over dozens of miles on it. That's not a knock on any promoter, merely a mandate that racers be prepared for anything and everything.


ionsmuse said:
"Expedition/wilderness racing" is an almost inherently problematic experience. Those with a racing background aren't going to understand how one tiny f&^% up can lead to your death so innocuously, wilderness types may not understand the depths to which you can sink when the tank is really and truly empty. The patience to figure out both is not a thing very intensely rewarded in our culture.
Really well put, Dave. That patience is possibly the highest reward from this type of racing.


Guitar Ted said:
First of all, Mike I think you are coming from a place that alot of people don't have the priviledge of coming from. Your perspective is deep, your common sense seems to be one of your greatest assets in figuring out the ways to survive and thrive in less than ideal situations. In other words, it's a gift not many have.
If it is indeed a gift, it's one that's come at the expense of years of suffering and making mistakes while way the hell out there.


I'm not giving excuses here, just saying that some people study hard and do well on the test, some don't have to study much and seem to do well on the test anyway, and some just won't pass the test whether they study or not. At least that's been my observation.
I mostly agree. If your implication is that this comes easy for me, you're mistaken. I've been doing this sort of thing for ~13 years competitively, and my whole life recreationally. I've made boatloads of mistakes and had lots of opportunity to learn from them.


I think what you are trying to point out and what ionmuse is also hinting at is that one needs to focus as much on when to pull the plug almost as much as one does to complete the event, and being able to do either well is to be celebrated.
Bang! Nail on head. And not just pulling the plug, but (read Bill Shand's story) sometimes just reassessing where you are and easing back on the throttle to simply finish, regardless of time/placing.

My feeling is that it takes alot of mental discipline and calmness to finish, to get yourself out of trouble and continue, or to bail out.
Zackly. And some (inexperienced) people can't/don't/won't stop to think for a second about what they're doing, where they are, and what the consequences of their decisions are. They just push blindly forward as though in an xc race. With consequences like life and limb on the line, this is pretty significant. I have way more respect for those that bailed early than those that blindly pushed forward and dug themselves holes that required outside assistance to be extricated from.

Thanks for chiming in.

MC
 

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This place needs an enema
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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
CharlieFarrow said:
Academic theoretical discourse on the meaning of "support" is fine, maybe even worthwhile for those with the time. The 1st amendment allows Mike See to feel and express his "anger" or empathy or whatever for those that he dramatically proclaims 'layed their lives on the line" by riding their snowmachines over on a DNR Snowmobile trail to help out with some of the racers, a trail, by the way, that parallels a major highway some four or five mile away....I just want everyone to know that the Arrowhead 135 is a great event, put on by dedicated, harworking, wonderful folks...The event was well organized, conceived, and planned. As a community we need to support these kinds people. Races like the Arrowhead carry inherent risk...so what? If you don't want risk stay home...play video games, or ride the big super events like the 12 hours @ 9 mile where you are never w/o immediate support.
Charlie
Charlie-

Racers interested in events like the A135 actively seek risk. This is good. I just want them to realize that it's not a video game, the consequences are real and you need to prepare for them or accept them. Preparation for said consequences does not include hailing cabs, but it does include knowing when to pull out the sleeping bag and bivy, or stop to build a fire, or to backtrack to the nearest road and get yourself outta there.

MC
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
CharlieFarrow said:
I was there...the race went off great, everyone helped, it was as it should be...next thing you guyz will be talking about who to sue....Only in America
I think you've missed the point.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
alizbee said:
Everyone helping is not self-supported. I think that is what Mike has an issue with. Maybe some of these races need to take a look at whether or not they want to be truly self-supported. In some cases, it might just not be practical to do it.

It goes against the self-supported spirit to rely on Joe the snowmobile guy to haul you out, or Bill the ATVer having fun in Rabbit Valley to fill your pack and fix your tire.

In Mike's own words, from his KTR rules:



I think part of having a good race plan, is knowing how to bail. It is easier said than done.
Zackly.
 
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