Self-Supported Adventures/Events vs. Full Crewing Racing

Posted on 25 June 2014

race-accross-americaWith the rising costs of race entries being driven by higher expenses for organizers, profit initiatives of the race organizers to manage events as a business and increased athlete demand, there have been more and more self supported adventures occurring all over the globe. Individuals with various backgrounds, differing financial status, many leaving their jobs (sabbaticals) allhave the similar goals for experiencing lifetime adventures. Interestingly, like everything else we purchase, prices have increased to the point of various “spending more”syndromes to hope for enhanced performance improvements and in many cases it’s had very little effect on finisher rates.

As I look to several recent events, RAAM and Ultraman triathlon vs. the self-supported Trans Am Bike race, World Cycle Race, there are pro’s and con’s of each depending upon your perspective. I remember watching RAAM on TV over 20 years ago when athletes had one vehicle, one bike and minimal crew, bare minimum budgets to todays races which athletes may have 3 bikes, vans, traveling mobile homes, large crews and spend $40,000 or more to attempt to finish the event.RAAM

Nothing wrong with spending money if you have it for your epic race, but in many cases it will always come down to a few things for a finish: Mental toughness, solid crew (crew races) and some luck thrown in for very long events.

Personally, I build a detailed budget for key long races/events and recommend using a similar practice to get a handle on how much an event costs from beginning to end and see what you can eliminate, etc. I remember reviewing a budget of an European athlete/friend racing Badwater many years ago and it was amazing to see how quickly everything adds up and his budget was $16,000 10 years ago!

We are beginning to see more and more athletes taking on these challenges with the self supported approach or minimal support with lasting memories and more money left in their bank account (many for fund raising) after the event. Does it matter to you that your journey is not a sanctioned race?  We can all debate that over and over.

Last weekend I participated in a point-to-point ultra running event in England, which had specific requirements to be self-supported. Minimum athlete carrying requirements for first aid kits, liquids, food, etc. provided a completely different perspective on racing for me.

These self-supported events have been around for years, but this was the first ultra running race I have done in many years that was apoint-to-point long run, (carrying a larger pack on the back with a few checkpoints over 70 miles) and the experience was over the top. I know it was not full minimalistic principals common with vagabonding but the race offered a uniqueness that sometimes is lost with full support events of being on your own.

There is a completely different feeling of racing long without continuous support and being on your own. It’s a refreshing change!

A recent personal challenge example is the incredible effort by Norma Bastidas who recently completed a 3,672 mile non-race triathlon.

Of course during the recession a few years ago, these lower cost alternative adventures continued to blossom and the guess is that they will continue to expand to multiple challenges across the globe.   Many examples would include personal cycling challenge or run across a country journey to racing long events with full support.

There will always be a race/journey to fit every budget.

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