Over the last eighteen months, as we have all been hoping and waiting for a return for normalcy, adventure racing has served as an anchor for so many of us. With the dissemination of vaccines and the encouraging numbers we’ve all experienced since the spring, we at USARA have been looking to the 2021 National Championship as an opportunity to bring together our community and celebrate our ability to do the thing that we all love, with the people we love doing it with.
We are still eagerly anticipating this year’s nationals in Cable, Wisconsin, but in light of the surge of the Delta variant in the US and the rapid return to more stringent regulations, we write now to share with you our plans to host a safe event and to mitigate the risk of exposure and spread of COVID-19 for the entire AR community: racers, volunteers, families, and the communities we’ll be visiting in our travels and on the course.
First, we are committed to following local, state, and federal guidelines. As we all remember from earlier stages of the pandemic, the landscape of these regulations, recommendations, and healthcare realities can change very rapidly, and we anticipate that the situation will look different in September than it does today. At this point, erring toward the likelihood of additional restrictions in six weeks rather than fewer, we are currently considering the following:
1. General Safety: We are returning to and reexamining the “COVID Best Practices” that we developed earlier in the pandemic.
2. Masking: Yesterday, the CDC recommended a return to indoor masking in regions of the country where COVID rates are above a certain threshold. Bayfield County, Wisconsin (where Cable is located) is in one of those areas, as are approximately two-thirds of the counties in the United States. Because we have racers traveling to Cable from across the country, including from areas that the CDC has deemed “surging,” we anticipate requiring CDC-compliant masks for all indoor race-related activities, for all volunteers, participants, and their families. As you will see on the gear list, now published on the nationals website, masks will be required gear for all racers.
3. Registration: Weather permitting, we will conduct as much of the race-related logistics as possible outside.
4. Checkpoints: We will be using e-punches for the event, which reduce direct physical contact between teams.
5. Post-race: We are currently exploring a variety of alternatives to our traditional post-race banquet. As much as we would love to bring everyone together for an extended celebration, indoor dining for three hundred people is not possible with the new, and likely evolving, guidelines. If the numbers start trending in a positive direction and we can all gather inside, we see that as a good problem to have, and we will respond accordingly. At this point, however, we are considering the following options:
6. Vaccines. Some racers have already asked about vaccination mandates, either for the race or the post-race banquet. At this point, we do not plan to enforce such a policy, because we want the event to be as inclusive as possible. However, it is plausible that new local, state, or federal guidelines may require us to do so by September.
7.Refunds. Racers have already shared with us that some employers are considering new travel restrictions. In the event that you are not able to come to nationals for COVID-related reasons, please reach out to us at email@example.com and we will work with you on accommodations.
As always, please take care of yourselves. Our priority, first and foremost, is our community’s health and the health and well-being of our friends and families. The race is secondary to that. That said, we are still incredible excited to see you all in Cable this fall, and we hope everyone will do everything possible to stay heathy and safe between now and then so that we can come together and enjoy what is shaping up to be an outstanding course. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask.
I know there have been some questions about qualification for the USARA national championship this year, so I wanted to reach out to share a status update on the qualification and registration process.
The new USARA leadership team decided early in our tenure to revise the qualification procedures to better reflect a team’s performance throughout an entire season, emphasizing their holistic performance rather than how they may do at any given race. Though we know that the new process will not make everyone happy, and that there may still be a few wrinkles to iron out, we believe that the updated plan will ensure that the National Championship brings together a geographically diverse field of the top teams across the nation, while also creating the space for one of the things that we all love about our sport: the ability for teams at all levels to line up at the start and commemorate the end of another season of adventuring together.
We also knew going into this year that the 2021 qualification standards would be complicated, because we would have to balance rollover entries for the abbreviated and uneven 2020 season with those teams qualifying via the new procedures that USARA established for 2021.
Qualification for the 2021 National ChampionshiP
To accommodate both of those groups - and the various nuances within each - we have divided the 100-team capacity the following ways:
Timeline for Invitations and Registration ProcesS
Here is where we stand now on qualifications and registrations, as of 7/13.
We anticipate having roughly eight discretionary slots available. If your team will not qualify based on the 2020 rollover or 2021 rankings and you believe that you should be at the 2021 National Championship for any reason, please reach out to me no later than July 23. In your email, please include your team name, anticipated Nationals roster, and the reason that you should earn a discretionary slot. The Nationals Committee will meet the following week to determine how to extend these discretionary invites, before open registration widely.
Facebook live Q&A
I recognize that this is a lot of information to distill and that there are a lot of new details to take in. I will be holding a Facebook Live Q&A, specifically on the Nationals qualification and registration process, on Wednesday, July 21 at 8:30pm EST. Please log onto the USARA facebook page then to participate. I will address any questions that come in by email there as well. The video will live on our facebook page and will be available to watch after the fact.
Thank you all for your patience and understanding as we transition to a new qualification structure while still contending with the residual effects of the challenging 2020 season. As always, I’m available to talk through any concerns you may have, about nationals, USARA, or adventure racing more broadly.
And stay tuned for exciting information about the 2022 national championship!
USARA Executive Director
By Brent Freedland
Picking an event, especially as a less experienced adventure racer, can be a bit daunting. Because adventure races rely on navigation, details about individual races are often kept secret by race directors until a week or so before the start, and much of the course information is not revealed until racers are at check-in or even out on the course. While this dearth of information can be difficult to adapt to, there are several ways racers can learn about a given race, a specific race director (RD), or what to expect out on the course.
First and foremost, understand that when you pick a race, you are really picking an RD. Unlike sports such as marathons and triathlons, there is very little standardization in the sport of adventure racing, and races reflect the personal philosophies, passions, preferences, and creativity of the RD. Some RDs focus on biking, others on foot travel. Some design races that only require basic or intermediate navigation, others challenge the best navigators in the sport. Some set out to serve up the most physically challenging courses they can while others focus on creativity and strategy.
Even then, many RDs are forced to adapt to land conditions or what local land managers will allow, so races can feel very different year to year, especially if a race organization involves different course designers. Additionally, a particular race organization may approach each of their events very differently, depending on their target audience. Considering all of this, newer racers who are not familiar with the different styles and reputations of a given RD may want to do a bit more research before picking the event that is right for them or, more importantly, the event that is right for their team. Here are some thoughts to get you started:
TOP 7 TIPS FOR PICKING THE RIGHT ADVENTURE RACE FOR YOU
On Wednesday, May 19 at 8:00 PM ET/5:00 PM PT, USARA will host a public discussion on equity in, and access to, adventure racing. With this, we aim to begin a community-wide conversation about the current state of inclusion in the sport, and where we can go from here.
This discussion will be facilitated by diversity and inclusion educator Yi Shun Lai, and will bring together Kevin Hodder, race director for Eco-Challenge; Clifton Lyles, captain of Team Onyx and chair of the USARA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force; and Stephanie Ross, founder of the Women in Adventure Racing campaign.
We invite you to join us — to listen, to learn, to ask questions, and to offer feedback. We invite you to come together to ensure that our beloved sport is a welcoming space for everyone who wants to take part, and that it continues to grow.
Part of the great appeal of adventure racing is its intimacy and the ways in which it allows us to gather around shared experiences. These experiences are precious moments; they become the best stories, keep us coming back for more, and ultimately provide an escape from the “real world.”
But as much as AR is an escape, it also exists within the social, political, and economic challenges facing our nation and the world around us. Our membership is not immune to these challenges.
The tragic shootings in Georgia last week only underscore the need for all of us to look more closely at the part we can play in alleviating the pain that inequity can cause. USARA also takes this moment to affirm our commitment to fighting the entrenched systemic racism, xenophobia, and misogyny that creates inequitable systems.
Adventure racers relish the discomfort we face in training and racing. We are a community well equipped for embracing the challenge of addressing the structural barriers to access and entry to our sport. Ultimately, this work will ensure its growth and sustainability for generations of racers to come.
By Brent Freedland
It’s race week! You've put in the hard work and training. You've built your team or found one to join. You’ve done your homework, dusted off your navigation skills, filled in holes in your gear inventory, and learned some new skills on the bike and in the boat. Now, you need to get to the start line, which experienced racers often joke is the hardest part of the event. When competing in a multi-day international expedition race, this does ring true, but for a short race, just focus on getting some rest, basic logistics, and paying attention to your email.
Bottom line: On race morning, look around. I guarantee you will see other racers and teams spending tens of minutes organizing gear, repacking food, or floundering with a disorganized pile of gear and food. This isn’t a criticism, and sometimes even the most experienced teams will lose time with these sorts of concerns. But if you show up on race day organized and prepared, you’ll have more time to work with your maps, strategize, warm up, and perhaps even relax.
OK, hopefully, you live close enough to roll out of bed and hit the road at a reasonable hour, but do know that many racers end up camping or crashing in a cheap hotel the night before a race, since many ARs (especially races twelve hours or longer) require travel to more remote locations. Either way, set your clock early enough to give yourself time to wake up, grab some food, finish loading up the car if you didn’t pack it the night before, and get to registration on time. It always takes longer than you think it will, so maybe set the alarm fifteen minutes earlier than you want to!
On that note: if an RD tells you that pre-race is open from 6AM to 8AM, show up at 6AM. Maybe even 5:45AM. Too many new racers roll in late during registration. The race may not start until 8:30AM, but that extra time before the gun goes off is crucial to maximizing your prep time. If you care about competition, a team with an extra hour to study maps, plot routes, strategize, and dial in their gear will have a massive advantage over a team with only fifteen minutes to complete an hour or prep. If you don’t care about competition, you are considerably more likely to have a smooth and enjoyable race if you maximize your planning time. Starting the race unsure of where the start line is, where your food is stored, or whether you have the right gear in your pack will probably result in a disastrous moment or three that might really impact your ability to enjoy or even finish the race.
What do pre-race events typically look like?
A few other tips for pre-race:
Other Articles in the New to AR Series:
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