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Discussion: USARA Letter to Racers

in: Adventure Racing; News

Oct 18, 2017 12:46 AM # 
So, for anyone who isn't up on the latest with U.S. adventure racing, there's been a big hullabaloo (mostly on Facebook) about the future of the sport, especially in relation to our governing bodies. It's an important discussion and I'm surprised it hasn't migrated to AttackPoint yet.

On Friday of last week, USARA Director Troy Farrar sent out an email to racers explaining the group's history, current management structure, and short- and long-term goals. The note seems to take into account some of the critiques the organization has recently received. It is published in full below.

My goal for posting this here is to firstly give APers who aren't on Facebook a chance to catch up and weigh in, and secondly, open up a discussion about the current state of the sport in the U.S., our expectations for what we want out of our governing body, and our hopes for the future of AR nationally. Without further ado -

Dear Adventure Racer,

We’ve fielded some questions lately about what the USARA is and what we do for the adventure racing community, so we want to take this opportunity to respond to the community at large and provide you with an overview of the United States Adventure Racing Association.

Looking Back
Our History
The USARA is in our 20th year and a lot has changed since our humble beginnings. In the early days, we were mostly focused on developing safety standards, providing event insurance & developing a working relationship with land managers to secure access for races.

The USARA Boards
We created a board made up of race directors who were also racers to make key decisions and formulate policies. The USARA later added a racer advisory board to serve as a conduit for racers to provide comments and suggestions to the USARA board, and to serve as a sounding board for issues to be addressed by the USARA board.

The USARA board communicates and votes by phone and e-mail on issues raised by racers and race directors many times throughout the year. We are continually reflecting and improving on USARA rules and standards as we learn from both mistakes and best practices we observe and have called to our attention. I have had the privilege of working alongside a lot of great board members over the years who have dedicated countless hours of their time and energy to serve the AR community and build the foundation on which the sport stands today.

Safety Standards & Risk Management
Over the years, we have collaborated with professionals to develop the USARA safety standards into the most comprehensive set of standards in the industry, which serves the important purpose of providing guidance to race directors to enhance racer safety during USARA sanctioned competitions. The USARA also provides affordable event insurance coverage that protects both race directors and adventure racers. We have been pleased to see the USARA insurance claims professionals respond quickly and efficiently in a manner that serves our members well.
The USARA Today
Free Consulting
Another service the USARA provides is unlimited free consulting for race directors. We guide race directors with everything from reviewing race plans to producing maps to providing sources for quality, affordable event t-shirts. By consulting with race directors before their event, we identify potential problems and recommend solutions, providing a level of quality control and avoiding bad experiences for both the racer and the race director.

USARA Adventure Race National Championship
The USARA Adventure Race National Championship and regional qualifying system just completed the 18th year and it has been a pleasure to watch teams push themselves to the limit as they compete for bragging rights as the USARA Adventure Race National Champions. We award over 250 regional champion jackets each year to racers who have worked hard and earned the title of Regional Champion.

Our philosophy at USARA Nationals has always been to celebrate all of the teams that attend, from the National Champions to the last team across the finish line. Our goal is to provide more than just a fun, challenging and exciting course. From the swag racers receive at check-in to the awards banquet at the end of the event, we work hard to ensure all teams have a unique experience worthy of a National Championship.

USARA National Ranking System
We also developed the USARA national ranking system that allows teams to earn ranking points and compete for the title of #1 ranked team in the nation. The national ranking system has played a big role in teams’ ability to seek and obtain local sponsorship, and it has been exciting to watch teams battle it out for the top spots each year.

License Fee
One common question we get is why do I have to pay an $8 single-day license fee to race in a USARA sanctioned event? The USARA license fee provides a percentage of the operating budget for the daily operations of the USARA, which provides the following services:

Free unlimited consulting for race directors

Development and management of race director resources, such as the event planning guidelines, sample rules, sample pre-race briefing, checkpoint selection guidelines, guidelines for success in securing permits, and the race supply discount packet

Development of the USARA Ecological Standards to aid race directors in securing event permits (Standards that were developed by the USARA in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, US Fish & Wildlife, US Army Corp of Engineers, Leave No Trace, Tread Lightly, International Mountain Bike Association, The Nature Conservancy, & American Recreation Coalition)

General liability insurance umbrella coverage for USARA events

Medical coverage for event participants

Development and management of the USARA minimum safety standards

Management of the USARA ranking system

Production of monthly top ten USARA ranking certificates, which are mailed to the top 10 teams

Production of yearly state champion USARA ranking certificates, which are mailed to the top team in each state

Management of the USARA Adventure Race National Championship qualifying system

Management and production of the USARA Adventure Race National Championship

Web development

Management of the USARA email database

Email database hosting

Creation of emails for race directors that are sent to the USARA email database

Management of the USARA Facebook account

Web hosting

Production of USARA member cards

Production of AR-related content for Adventure World Magazine

Attendance of trade shows and engagement with sponsors to provide swag and prizes for Reginal Qualifiers and the National Championship

Production and distribution of Regional Qualifier race banners

Telephone bill

Internet bill

Postage and shipping

Office supplies


Looking Forward
Better Communication
I realize from some of the questions we have recently received that the USARA has not been doing a good job of communicating all of our services to the AR community, and for that I apologize. Moving forward, we plan to produce a quarterly newsletter, as well as grow the USARA social media platform to help keep everyone better informed about what is happening and available through the USARA, as well as increase the reach of our sport.

Board Elections
The USARA board is planning to develop an election process that will enable USARA members to nominate & elect members to both the racer advisory board and the USARA board.

Social Media
Other exciting news for the near future is that after some initial testing, we are in the process of building a new social media plan for the USARA. This plan includes purchasing targeted Facebook ads for all USARA Regional Qualifiers, along with the development of a social media guide to help race directors build their own efficient and effective social media platforms. We made Facebook ad buys for five Regional Qualifiers as part of a test this year and are excited by the early results.

New Websites
A redesign of both the USARA Nationals and the USARA website are in the planning stage. The new websites will provide improved user interface & functionality and simplify race director post-event tasks.

Engage with the USARA
Finally, we would love your help if you have a special skill that can be utilized to serve the AR community please reach out to us. We have recently received some great suggestions for programs and encourage you to contact us with your own suggestions or comments to help the USARA better serve its members. While we may not be able to fulfill every request, we recognize that your feedback and support is our greatest resource.

It has been an honor to serve you and adventure racing for the past 20 years, and I look forward to serving the next generation of racers as they discover this incredible sport and embark on this amazing journey we call adventure racing.

Troy Farrar
Oct 18, 2017 1:03 AM # 
Mr Wonderful:
been a big hullabaloo (mostly on Facebook)

Thanks for mentioning it - I heard a rumor of the hullabaloo's existence and was wondering what the gist was, and hadn't quite typed up a thread to ask. Any summaries?

Somewhat related, I have been curious, but didn't want to ask in the midst of the athletes' accomplishments at the various events, what people thought of the championship events, if those were the events and event structure people wanted as championship events. I know my personal preference is point to point (fixed order) with live tracking, if it is to select the nation's best. Perhaps others feel differently.
Oct 18, 2017 1:37 PM # 
Any "real" championship event should be point to point, fixed order.

It kills me that this even needs to be mentioned. The any-order, optional-CP thing is a big part of what killed AR and keeps serious athletes from racing, or anyone from watching online. The Fear Fatctor, Mission Impossible element has been removed.

Perhaps races can offer this orienteering style format as an option for beginners or those with physical handicaps, and also offer a "pro" course for those wishing to compete.

Apparently USARA, and some other people disagree with that (remember the CPZero discussion from yrs ago?) and want AR to be like T-Ball for 7 year old girls where everyone gets participation ribbons, but nobody has a course story to share or compare. My personal preference is the true, original adventure racing point to point format. It is worth noting that I happen to have benefited from the cheesy orienteering (vs navigation) style, having won USARA nationals and another 2nd, plus a bunch of other wins from the 90s on.

Orienteering-ROGAINE format events are not Adventure Races. They are 'multi sport orienteering events". It is a completely different sport than Point to Point original AR. IMHO.

A championship race should be a RACE, not an orienteering meet.
Oct 18, 2017 3:30 PM # 
The two things I don't see any mention of.

1. Fixing the ranking system so east coast teams don't have a huge advantage.

2. Having Nationals in the west every so often so it does not favor east coast teams year after year.

I feel everyone will agree USARA greatly favors east coast teams. Which makes it harder for west coast/ midwest teams to obtain sponsorships and recognition without spending a lot more $$$ and time to race out east.
Oct 18, 2017 4:31 PM # 
Honest question: has any team ever been turned away from usara nationals? do the rankings have any meaning besides comped entry?

what would be the best way to turn this event into a race? into a true championship race? i’m not opposed to a *concurrent* entry level rogaine offroad multisport optional CP, get em in any order Fondo like it has been, but maybe an option for an actual Race - a point to point mandatory CP race - that only champion-caliber teams could finish could be an option.

Also, does anyone know what do they do in NZ? France?
Oct 18, 2017 4:43 PM # 
I feel the ranking can help with sponsorships, Saying you are ranked top 3 in the nation can be a huge benefit

I have seen many racers and teams from the midwest and west coast not attend Nationals because of the idea it is designed and favors east coast teams year after year.

I am in full agreement linear courses with lots of route choices are the way to go (2017 CBT was great). I am ok with a rogaine section in the middle but it bothers me greatly when no team can clear the course and teams are fighting for random optional points especially when the complete course is not known from the start.
Oct 18, 2017 5:12 PM # 
I live in Atlanta now, but was on the west coast or Boulder for the last 20yrs. It is true that a majority of racers west of the Rockies have no interest in racing -or spending much time- east of the rockies. It’s a different country. Too many options out there so it is tough to justify the cost. You don’t get the impression that most racers out west follow what usara -or NAARS- is doing.

Holding these Championship races in obscure parks in Eastern states doesn't help. One of the biggest draws to AR is the terrain...the chance to explore a legendary mountain range or desert in a beautiful corner of the world. Utah. Colorado. California. Bend. Western North Carolina. Vermont. Maine. N. Georgia.

But...Kentucky?? Indiana??!! (I am from Indiana). These are nice places, filled with great people, but they are not going to attract much interest outide their region. How are these places are chosen? Highest bidder?
Oct 18, 2017 6:08 PM # 
ARRaces, why do you feel western teams are at a disadvantage during an eastern race? Because of the fact that some of the teams may have raced in the area previously or just more familiarity with the type of terrain, or other factor(s)?
Oct 18, 2017 6:34 PM # 
Troy's rebuttal above to the concerns raised on FB feels like a grasp to keep his empire/pyramid scheme together.

The number one item everyone wants addressed is transparency and there is no mention of it. Everything listed is justification for an expense USARA currently makes (insurance, jackets) or something they put together 15 years ago that surely has been paid for by now (safety stds, race guidelines). What was the USARA's income and expenses this year? Does the USARA make money or lose money each year? I can't tell but I have a pretty good idea.

Where does the $$ paid to USARA go? Each racer pays an $8 ins. fee at each race on top of the race entry fee paid to the RD's. A portion of that goes to the USARA from the RD's to be on the schedule. What are we really getting for the $$ from USARA? Is it being used to draw in new people? If not, it should be. Given the results of Cy's survey the number one age group for participants is 40-50 yr olds. The second is the 50-60 age group. That is crazy and needs to change.

While I agree with Sean in that a linear course is much more enjoyable/challenging I don't think its keeping people from entering the sport. In fact, rogaine-style courses are probably easier to draw in new people as it may be a little less intimidating. A mix of both course designs is fine with me.

For years everyone compared AR to triathlons. "Look at the growth in triathlons, how do we get that?" Now everyone has switched the comparison to obstacle course racing with the same lack of an answer. The one item both of those events have in common: Excellent media coverage and prize money. Yes, Regional race winners get a $400 'sponsorship' to Natls but that comes out of that particular RD's pocket, not from the USARA. If you're good enough to win Natls you win entries into next year's events on the calendar, again at the RD's expense, nothing apparently out of the USARA budget.

I would agree that the location of the Natl Champs race has been skewed to the east coast but I'm not sure its done entirely on purpose. If I had to guess I'd say its because the only race directors who have offered to put them on have been in the east. Of course if it was a transparent process we would see who proposed a location and how the decision to award it occurred.

Relative to the national point structure I think the Checkpoint Tracker system was much better. 7 races to score is too many for most teams. This is a good way to encourage higher participation levels but most teams probably look at 7 races as being too expensive and time consuming.
Oct 18, 2017 6:36 PM # 
MHtrailvet, agreed, I know at this year's national race many teams had done an O-course in the general area just a few weeks before. Obviously each year there will be teams with some advantage it just seems disheartening for it to be east coast teams every year.

Quick Google Search Find: It looks like nationals use to span the country

2018 Indiana TBD
2017 Pennsylvania Rootstock Racing
2016 Augusta, Georgia Adventure Medical Kits
2015 Pineville, Kentucky TECNU Adventure Racing
2014 McHenry, Maryland TECNU Adventure Racing
2013 Nashville, Indiana TECNU Adventure Racing
2012 Kerhonkson, New York Gear Junkie/WEDALI
2011 Cumberland Falls, Kentucky TeamSOG
2010 Hidden Valley, Pennsylvania WEDALI
2009 Pilot Point, Texas Team Granite AR
2008 Blue Ridge, Georgia DART-nuun
2007 Potosi, Missouri M.O.A.T.
2006 Santa Barbara, California Eastern Mountain Sports
2005 Tampa, Florida M.O.A.T
2004 Frenchlick, Indiana Hooked on the Outdoors
2003 Lakeshore, California Salomon USA
2002 Sapphire Valley, North Carolina Team Litespeed
2001 Leesville, Louisiana Team Traveler
2000 Kernville, California Team Traveler
Oct 18, 2017 6:54 PM # 
Lots more on Facebook today, starting with Doug from NAARS writing a long post below:

I want to start the conversation by saying that this isn't Doug Crytzer versus Troy Farrar, or even USARA versus #NAARS. This is for me and has always been, about for-profit versus not for profit! Adventure Racing is the only Sport in America where competitors, our very life's blood, purchase a License from a for-profit organization. There is currently zero value from the purchase of that license for either our clients, or the sport of adventure racing. It should really be called a tax, because that's what it is.
Imagine what a governing body with licensing fee's & membership due's could do for our sport!?
I think that it's perverse to take in $56,000.00+ in entry fee's for a Championship Race & NOT have a prize purse for elite teams. Maybe a better word would be greedy?
If this is your full time job,and you are making over $100,000.00 a year, why didn't you start the AR Discussion Group? Why didn't you create the ARTeammate finder? Why didn't you start the Hall of Fame?! Why isn't the National Championship televised? I simply don't see a value!
After giving it much consideration and discussing it with as many people as possible, I have come to the conclusion that the best way forward for the future of our sport would be to nominate a Board of Directors, have elections and have the BOD select a director. Then, this BOD can decide whats best for our future. I hope that those of you who answered Mark's poll are true to your word and take an active roll moving forward.
I am hopeful that such an organization could influence the future of our sport. And that if this organization wields that influence, everyone could benefit.
I have had such great experiences working with the Race Directors that supported the NAARS and with ALL the athletes that have competed in our events. I have sold American Adventure Sports and I am looking forward to partnering with fellow adventure racer J.j. Potasiewicz in building another great adventure based company.
I am excited that both the 2014 & 2016 Maya Mountain Adventure Challenge will be airing on beIN Sports Network in over 30 million homes in the US & am extremely excited to continue working with Face the Current magazine to grow our fan base and bring awareness to our great sport. The best endurance sport on the planet!
I will look forward to continuing to support our great sport in any way that I can, and look forward to seeing you all out on a race course in the near future.
Best & always, Doug Crytzer
Oct 18, 2017 6:55 PM # 
And a post from Mark Lattanzi, who created a racer survey a couple of weeks ago and now seems to be spearheading a new organization designed to promote AR:

Regarding the idea of creating a new, not-for-profit, national organization:
After many discussions, I have a proposal. It's not fully formed, but it's something. Here's a link to my summary of the previous survey and a synopsis of some conversations I've been having.
Please read it and respond if you're so inclined. There's a link at the bottom of the page to collect names/emails of interested parties in order to set up a vote for a board. If there's enough interest, then the next step will be to collect board nominations and vote.
“The future depends on what you do today.”
Mahatma Gandhi
Oct 18, 2017 7:56 PM # 
I think JayXC is right about the recent eastern trend for USARA Nats: it has probably just happened to shake out that way because of the scarcity of willing/able organizations to host the event (but who knows). I also support transparency.

The champion list above doesn't suggest a home turf advantage - lots of opposite coast winners. But, certainly, home turf could have a potential effect in the standings if a part of the course is being re-used. Which brings up the point: that's another big ask of a potential RD hosting Nationals: "make a 30 hr course without re-using previous lands". Add a linear, pt-to-pt requirement and its an even tougher design for an RD that is presumably getting very little (anyone know?) for their hosting efforts. Many race organizations who are experienced enough to host Nationals have already tapped into a lot of their local land resources over years of organizing their own events. AR has a highly impractical requirement for scarce undeveloped lands and we will have to continue to accept some imperfections, like sometimes rogaining in a patch of forest or racing in another team's backyard if we want someone to put on a 24hr + Nationals every year.
Oct 18, 2017 7:59 PM # 
Finishing an AR should be a big deal. Top teams might take 12-16 hours, slower teams 24+ in a 24hr point to point all mandatory CP Adventure Race.

These days with rogaine format only the top teams “finish”. At the end, there is no comparison or story to share over beers. Who would want to do that?. Besides shiny pants orienteerers?
Oct 18, 2017 8:17 PM # 
MHTrailVet good points about re-using courses. Moab is a great example. Some of us who have raced there many times feel like we know the course options/permutations.

If the course IS point to point, with challenging course design - nav decisions instead of orienteering, even local teams will have to take calculated risks with nav and what to carry, and gamble several times.

Fewer CPs and TAs, harder nav choices/gambles...allow slower teams to out-smart and out-nav fitter faster ones.

Personally I want everyone on the course RACING with a general sense of place when passing or getting passed. Also, online GPS leaderboards willl make sense to family friends - and maybe even fans.

If holding the hands of beginners is the goal, offer an easy short (P2P) course but challenge them with nav choices.
Oct 18, 2017 8:29 PM # 
For Clarification, I assume everyone is ok with P2P starting and ending in the same place or even doing a modified cloverleaf design. It is just the idea of eliminating large sections or the entire course being rogaine style.
Oct 18, 2017 9:12 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
I would argue that p2p is not a constraint! It lets you set up legs and reuse terrain for new and interesting route choice problems.

My only issue with Sean's posts is that I cannot figure out why he persists on referring to shiny pants orienteers in the context of rogaine format - IOF world and national champs are point to point! Aside from a few local events, you'll have 99% of orienteers comparing route choice on the same legs, not whether they went CW or CCW for the entirety of the race.
Oct 18, 2017 9:13 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
USARA $8 - where does it go??

Asking for a it easy to get race insurance for less than $8/head? If so, where? I'd always assumed that if the USARA fee wasn't there, race would cost something between $0 and $8 more for insurance. Perhaps I misunderstand.
Oct 18, 2017 9:21 PM # 
I’m not sure it’s even for insurance. The cost of it hasn’t changed in 16 years that I’m aware of. Surely insurance rates have increased in that time period or has the coverage decreased. Has anyone ever made a claim? At this point I’m sure most race companies have their own liability insurance.
Oct 18, 2017 9:39 PM # 
Troy’s letter clearly states it covers general liability insurance as well as medical coverage for racers. I can’t speak for all RDs, but there are some who certainly rely on either USARA or NAARS for their insurance. What that gets you should you need to use it, I have no idea.
Oct 18, 2017 9:53 PM # 
Little known fact...while they were relatively rare this year, any NAARS sanctioned races carried a $10 one day license fee (or annual license, unknown cost).
Oct 18, 2017 11:07 PM # 
When we started Rootstock, we went down a pretty deep rabbit hole, exploring insurance options. We've used other policies for some races, but for multisport events and/or those that include anything outside of daylight hours, we weren't able to find a broker who could give us a better price than USARA. Doug reached out and said that he would offer discounted insurance to RDs based on the number of participants at an event, but we were never able to get details on that.
Oct 18, 2017 11:10 PM # 
sorry for getting off-topic and inside orienteering jokes (I love orienteering, rogaine just not in AR).

What is the best way to get everyone on the same page moving forward wrt governing body, identifying needs/goals and crowd-sourcing critical (volunteer?) skill-sets?

What do we want from a governing body? What do we actually *need*? What should a true championship *race* course look like?

Some RDs get it right consistently, and racers will be loyal to these guys & gals...even if their courses are “predictable” (eg Gravity Play UT/CO)
Oct 18, 2017 11:20 PM # 
How many one day licenses were bought this year? How about annually since 2000?
Oct 18, 2017 11:28 PM # 
I'd be very interested to know what the national organizations are like in other countries/regions - if they exist at all. Are there any non-U.S.-based APers out there who can explain what the systems are like where they live?
Oct 18, 2017 11:38 PM # 
Great point!

Why not look to the OGs New Zealand & France, or even Australia, Sweden, Canada?
Oct 19, 2017 12:01 AM # 
Mr Wonderful:
For my money, Wilderness Traverse is the best example of a champs course. Pre-plotted point to point, not one more CP than is needed, and each of those CPs is on such a prominent, huge feature that there is zero ambiguity. Since there are so few, they are often manned. No one questions their placement after the race, and yet the navigation challenge is such that you could end up in another province if you screw up. Winning time consistently just around 19 hours, course open for 30. Ample route choice, go as hard as you can as fast, and if you don't get it all, you just bike a little more to the finish. All with live tracking. No passports, it's SI for timing (so futuristic!).

As far as vote with your wallets, WT sold out at 50 teams vs. ~60 some for USARAs, which has the cachet of a national champs. Toggle the title to WT and see if that swings the numbers. I encourage more US teams to take a crack in 2018. Competition is good - peak Kyle was ahead of the most frequent winner by about 45 minutes near the end when he tackled it.

Granted, they have the terrain for it (large areas with reduced trails), so maybe not everywhere in the US can quite support the exact same, but the principles could be mirrored, perhaps with a few more flags if absolutely necessary. Or combine the US and CAN and MEX and call it the North American champs.

(I also love rogaining, but in rogaines.)
Oct 19, 2017 12:30 AM # 
WT sounds like a shining beacon for US RDs!
Oct 19, 2017 2:26 AM # 
Responding to the inquiry regarding whether the USARA insurance has ever been utilized by a racer, and whether it was any good: I've had racers make a claim under the med pay policy on three different occasions in my USARA-sanctioned races over the years. Once was for a snake bite that resulted in a multi-day hospitalization. Another time was for a bike wreck with a broken nose. A third time was for a bike wreck with a broken thumb. On each occasion, the incident report I was required to complete was short and simple; the claims representatives were efficient; and the process was easy. The med pay policy provides secondary coverage up to $25,000, with a $500 deductible. In other words, if you have other health insurance, this policy picks up where your primary policy leaves off. If you have no other health insurance, this policy covers you with the limits as stated. Since the ACA, most folks now have a primary policy, and so the coverage probably isn't invoked as often as it used to be. However, with policies these days being mostly high-deductible ($3,000, $5,000 - what's your deductible?), the very low $500 deductible on this policy is a really nice feature. For example, in the multi-day hospitalization for the snake-bite, the racer had a health insurance policy with a $5,000 deductible. Without the USARA policy, he would have been paying $5,000 out of pocket. Instead, he paid $500. It's really good coverage, for very little money. The med pay policy is different from the liability policy that covers the RD, the race organization, landowners, sponsors, etc. Purchase of that policy involves the RD filling out an online form that takes about 5 minutes and is AR-specific (unlike completing a permit application for the USFS, this isn't like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, because USARA has already educated the underwriters on what our sport is about); paying the premium, which is based in part on the length of the race and activities involved (this premium is paid directly to the carrier, and has increased throughout the years); and printing out the certificate of insurance. Multiple certificates can be printed, identifying landowners and sponsors as additional named insureds, which is required for federal and state permits. Super easy.
Oct 19, 2017 2:39 AM # 
As for why Nationals is on the East Coast, the answer is because that's where the vast majority of adventure racers and Regional Qualifiers are located. You can see from the historic data copied above that Nationals used to travel around the country in a more geographically representative fashion. When it was in regions other than the East Coast and Eastern-Midwest, numbers plummeted. Kentucky may not be a destination spot for a lot of people, but it's accessible and affordable, and racers were blown away by the beauty of Cumberland Falls, Big South Fork, and other sights they never would have seen otherwise. I can afford to travel to the Pacific Northwest for Nationals, and I think it would be awesome to have Nationals there, but I also think it's nice to have more than 18 teams at Nationals. Witness NAARS in Iowa this year.
Oct 19, 2017 4:27 AM # 
Warning, classic long winded, rambling, probably repetitive Broots here…Respect and love to anyone who actually reads it all. Understanding and empathy to those who don’t…

OK, I’m plunging into this, maybe just this one time as I feel like these discussions, while valuable, have become very tangential, often rather judgmental, and too often based in speculation. I am not pointing my finger at anybody in particular, and my feelings on the matter and my reaction to the conversations are based on several wide-ranging forums that I am either engaged in directly or observing: AP, Facebook (several different threads and angles there), private email chains, surveys, articles, etc.

Before I share my thoughts, I will be transparent up front for those who do not know my place in all of this. I do volunteer my time in several capacities for Troy and USARA. I manage/oversee their rankings (to make sure they are up to date and accurate) and I also serve as a racer rep and as a member of Troy’s board.

Before agreeing to serve in these various roles starting 3-4 years ago, I would say I was as dubious as many of you. That said, from my time working with Troy, I have changed my impression of him and USARA considerably. I will elaborate on some of that below, but I also want to make another important point.

Believe it or not, despite my role(s) with USARA, I agree with much of what has been said about these questions in a broad sense (not necessarily referring to this particular thread, but looking at all that has come out in the last month). I personally agree that a NFP model is ideal (Abiperk and I worked hard to establish Rootstock Racing as a 501(c)3 NFP, after all). I agree with an elected board, at least in part. I agree much more can and should be done to reach out to RDs and racers. I agree that this includes providing more useful materials and resources to those constituents. I agree better media, social media, and online presence would be helpful. I agree that better and more transparent communication would be useful. I agree that finances could be more transparent and maybe better used (though I don’t know the details well enough to really comment).

That said, I also KNOW that Troy has more insight into the sport of AR and directing races than most give him credit for. I KNOW that he isn’t sitting back and banking all this money that people think is going into his bank account. He is the only one who can truly answer those questions publically, but when you start to consider the expenses that do add up, you realize that much of what is coming in is going into operating his company not into a paycheck.

*Roughly ¼ of the nationals fees goes back to RDs. Not going to argue that maybe more should go back to RDs to run Nationals, but point is, he isn’t making 50,000 off Nationals.
*He puts a fair bit into prizes, awards, plaques, certificates, banquet, medals, etc. Is all that money perfectly spent? Maybe not, but again, it’s money that isn’t going home with him.
*As a for profit company, he has to pay taxes.
*He pays for operational fees. There’s a lot that goes on in regards to operating fees.
*He pays for things like sending a crew of USARA volunteers to Nationals every year.
*Troy treats this like his fulltime job. He puts the time in that almost no one else can or does because that’s his approach. But whereas most of us make comfortable livings in jobs and professions separate from AR and then scrape together time here and there, he is doing it as if it was his primary job. Thing is, he isn’t being compensated for it as such. I know he draws a small salary from the work. Maybe some have a problem with this, but this is completely normal and generally required to run successful large scale companies.

Again, noting that we researched quite a bit when incorporating ourselves, I can share the following:
We looked into public records for the NFP AR companies we could find. First of all, we found only a few (maybe 4-5) that actually are incorporated as NFP. We were surprised by this, expecting to find far, far more. In looking into records, all had salaried officials. One in particular had a salaried President making 50-60,000. Maybe more (I actually have a much bigger number in my head). My point is this: the focus and obsession on status is an interesting one to me.

Personally, while volunteers are critical to this sport, having some leadership who commits full time and who is accountable and responsible is generally a sound practice. It’s one thing to rely on volunteers for a weekend. It’s another to rely on them for a year. Simply coordinating those efforts demands a lot of time and effort.

Ultimately, the final point here is that Troy is NOT making the money of a full time employee, much less the president of the company. He isn’t expecting that or looking for it. But yes he is compensated to a lesser degree.

Personally, as I said, I would prefer a NFP model, and I am curious to see where Mark’s initiative takes the community. But I also think it’s important that people take the time to actually really learn about all of this. In regards to USARA, I’d like to share the following in response to all sorts of comments, on this thread and elsewhere, that suggest to me that people are either just not taking the time to read emails, read the website, or worse, are purposely holding grudges for reasons I can only imagine and then going out and stirring the pot with unconfirmed stories. I don’t share this trying to convince anyone to change minds, but this is all information that I hope at gives those with open minds a clearer sense of what USARA does. I also want to note that USARA is made up largely of volunteers. And good ones. Folks like Steph Ross, Brian Holzhausen, Scott Hudson, Mike Spiller, Shane Hagerman, Tim Buchholz, Emily Korsch, Susan Alderman. Some have complained that none of this is public. Go to the USARA website: scroll over the “Home” tab, select the drop down for “Boards and Committees”. It’s not hard to find.

Here is what I can share/enlighten on perhaps. Feel free to ask further questions.
If I can answer them, I will.
1) I would like to ACTUALLY start by making a simple and general request. As someone who loves this sport as a racer, RD, and spectator, I am disheartened that so much of the online talk tends toward the negative. It’s more about what others are doing wrong. It’s about exclamation points and grand statements. Too often it has been about personal attacks or hammering a common refrain over and over and over again without much and sometimes any effort to actually open up legitimate discourse. As an example, I have seen few people seek to genuinely understand USARA. I know Mark has worked hard to communicate with Troy, and I know a few isolated people have as well, but for the most part, it’s been a lot of noise without much if any foundation. I recognize that some of this is on the lack of clear or effective communication from USARA, but still. It would be nice to see more people approach this by conversing rather than simply complaining or even bashing. I do not refer to all. I know many people have remained silent on this. But I am sad to see so much negative discourse on the matter. I believe we as a community can do much better regardless of the outcome. I believe we need to do better if Mark’s efforts are going to amount to something. OK, onto specifics.

2) The question of insurance. I would LOVE to find more affordable insurance. As abiperk said, we reached out to all sorts of people in AR and to the companies they recommended. We tried to reach out to local brokers as some recommended to establish our own insurance. We never found a cheaper option. Not for a true AR. We were able to find some more affordable options for some of our smaller, single sport events. But not for AR. Still waiting to see that policy that everyone says they have. I don’t know if companies are giving me different quotes, but USARA has been more affordable than anyone else. Again, I’m talking about multi-sport AR style events (and I’m not saying I enjoy paying the fees).

3) “The fee”. I get it. 8$ mysteriously disappears, or 35$ if you care to buy a year license (which is actually a membership). My understanding is that this money is part of the operating budget. Despite some other misconceptions, this is the only money outside of Nationals that USARA actually makes off of racers and RDs. It does NOT cost money to sponsor an event with USARA. An RD can register an event, get on the calendar, and use their resources for no cost other than the cost of insurance (if the event is not a Nationals qualifier). Which is for insurance and goes to the insurance company. To designate a race as a National Qualifier, an RD commits 400$ to reward the winners in the elite division, which they send to USARA. Yes, this costs RDs more, but this is to support RACERS as well as USARA. So, the 8$ goes to USARA. Again, I get it, but organizations need income to maintain. Just because USARA has been around for a while doesn’t mean they now just bank money.

4) “The fee” part 2. No one seems bothered that NAARS charges MORE. Yes, the NFP charges more for their daily license fees than the FP. Also, I can’t find this online now, but I believe that entry into the event was the same as it is for USARA. Maybe Britty or someone can confirm or deny. Except USARA works with RDs to offset nearly 50% of entry for somewhere around 1/3 of the field. Yes, this is a financial burden on RDs (not USARA), but if we are talking about supporting and developing racers competing at a high level at Nationals, USARA has done a better job of fostering the sport. In addition, my understanding (you can hear this on Randy’s podcast from late spring or so with an RD working with NAARS to develop Iowa this year) is that the prize purse offered this year at NAARS was not from entry fees but from a private sponsor. FOR THE THIRD TIME, I WOULD PREFER THE NFP STATUS AND THE TRANSPARENCY THAT COMES WITH THAT, BUT…I also think the fixation on the matter has been such where it minimizes what USARA has actually done better than the NFP. Still could be better, but I think it’s important that we as a community recognize that running a National level organization well, and one that has resources, is going to require money. Doug realized that too. I guarantee that other National sporting NFP governing agencies are making tens of times more, probably more like hundreds or thousands more than any AR governing body ever will. It’s great to be a NFP, but if you have no operating budget, then you’re not going very far. And if you don’t have people who are committed and accountable, you’re not going to succeed.

5) As for Rankings and Nationals. Some people still think the rankings are just: race as much as you want. Not true. This was changed several years back in response to racer demand. And yet, people still don’t realize this. It’s printed on the website. It was communicated to team captains on multiple occasions when the change was made (this was prior to my serving on the board; I was one of the racers asking for revision, and USARA listened; I received the emails, I read them and know they came out over the course of two seasons). Teams may score points at a maximum of 7 events, including Nationals. I don’t know what ECARS, CP0 or NAARS (when it had rankings) capped it at, but it was a similar number. Would it be better to cap at 5 or 6? Maybe. But I know some want more than 7. Some want to go back to unlimited races. It used to be that you could score points if you just had one core team member racing. Changed that so that you must draw from a cohesive team of up to 8 racers. Again, these changes came after racers complained. Races ARE weighted. Some point out that other organizations did this better. But USARA does virtually the same thing. I don’t actually fully agree with some of the nuances of the weighting, but I can say that the decision came after listening to all sorts of points of views offered up by members of the community and looking for a middle ground. We can’t please all.

6) Nationals. Troy will tell you about this if you ask. It’s not going to satisfy all, but: his rationale rests on the simple fact that at least in recent history the majority of the AR community lies in the eastern third of the country. His goal is to put on a National Championship that brings in the most teams to best represent the majority of the AR community. He ran a race or two out west way back and his read (right or wrong) is that if he moved Nationals west, yes, he might make a few teams happy, but many, many more who would otherwise go would not. Most teams drive to Nationals, even if it’s a 15 hour drive (done that several times). There are far more organizations and qualifiers in the east, so far more teams who qualify. Someone asked the question: yes, you have to qualify. It’s not a wink, wink, nod, nod situation. Troy is firm on that. So, is it better to race in WA and pick up maybe 5-6 west coast teams if you potentially lose 30 east coast teams because of flight logistics and time? PERSONALLY: I would go to WA. I would personally vote for this to change even if it means once in a while the field is smaller. I would love to race out west. I would love to race in Wisconsin. I know many teams would agree. But I also think Troy is right and the event would be a smaller one, perhaps significantly smaller. There is reason behind this. It’s not some east coast conspiracy.

7) Personally, I do not agree with the idea that racing in the east coast is some advantage. I just competed in my tenth Nationals, ranging from NY to TX, from KY to MO. In these ten races, the only time I EVER raced on a course that I knew anything about it, it was, ironically, Doug Crytzer’s course in western PA. This year we raced less than two hours away from my house. I had never seen any of the course. This idea that we only have small dinky park out east and hence bad races or races that everyone has done is simply not true. I’m not saying that you don’t get people with local knowledge, but seriously, that’s part of the sport whether you are racing in NY, OR, or China. Well, maybe not China…unless you did the race the year before…I know that the Rev3 sponsored Nationals raised questions, and they were fair ones. But overall, these issues have been moot. There have been some great races over the years. Maybe we don’t have the grand mountains and canyons, and I get and respect why some just don’t have interest in racing out east, but the rest of this seems like a funny argument to me. (And as for this year, since it was brought up. Go look at the DVOA results for the mentioned O event that DID take place a week or two before Nationals. I count four racers. Four racers who competed at nationals went to that O meet. Two of them are navigators. Two of them raced on the same team. One raced with me, and I assure you she had no impact on my navigation of the race. The other was Joe B who probably has navved in that park 20 times. To say that a whole bunch of teams were out there in that race and benefitting from racing it? Not true. Joe’s team finished highest of those with someone who was there in 8th place. Otherwise the other teams were in the top 15, maybe worse).

8) Could all of this be communicated better? Yes. But I know that it all was communicated efficiently in emails (if not through cumbersome rule explanations online). I know as a racer rep, I almost never hear from anyone. I know RDs almost never proactively email or pick up the phone to call for ideas or input. Maybe some of this is due to lack of outreach. But some of it is on the community too for not reaching out and not taking ownership.

9) Rankings: returning to this. Rankings have nothing to do with entry to nationals. Nothing. Yes, for most, it’s a hollow victory. But as someone pointed out, others are able to use it to get sponsorship or prodeals. I get it. For purists and cynics, the rankings aren’t worth much. And it’s true, they don’t typically reflect the true pecking order of teams in the US. But seriously. It DOES help teams. It DOES help some teams benefit in a sport that has zero mainstream support or interest. The days of Eco are gone. Back then, midpack teams could land 10,000-20,000 to travel to Morocco for Eco. Not going to happen anymore. Even the best teams often can’t land full sponsorship. So, why so much animosity toward something that is a nice perk for teams? I’m not arguing this because my team won the rankings this year. We weren’t concerned with it until we realized it was a nice carrot for Nationals once the race rolled around. I’m bringing this up as the Rankings coordinator who has watched many, many local teams get excited about and use it as a goal which has made their experience in AR better. Would it be nice to have a true ranking? Perhaps. But I also think it’s unrealistic. Some of the best teams in the US (Bones for example) race 1-2 times a year and usually overseas. Frankly, that is mostly true with ALL the best teams. And I think we all know who the best teams are and roughly what order they fall in. I don’t care how radically you alter the rankings, said teams will still not be accurately represented. And as long as 99% of races are regional ones where you get MAYBE 3 truly strong teams competing, you’ll never get a fair ranking since no one races against each other unless its Nationals or an expedition.

10) Back to “The fee”. Forget 8$. How about 35. For 35$, no 8$ fees (remember, it’s a membership). FYI: US Orienteering charges 35$ for an annual membership as well. US track and field varies by state, but in NJ for example, it costs 30$ to be a member. US triathlon charges 50$. By the way, US tri charges 15$ for a one day license. Many organizations do the same thing. We insured a mountain bike race with US cycling. 70$ membership. And racers had to pay a per event fee (think it was 5$). Again point is: what USARA is doing is totally normal and natural. Most of these organizations are making vastly more than USARA, yes, they put vastly more back into the community, but they also pay officials and employees to make the whole thing work, and they are charging fees on par while bringing in vastly more numbers. If AR is ever going to progress, we need to acknowledge that a good central body is going to need to have resources to make it happen, whether people are getting paid or not.

11) I am sure I have 100 other things I could address, but I have to say, I respect Troy deeply, and I am baffled at how people seem to either just ignore some of this or again seem to be stirring the pot on purpose. I’m not defending the fact that he is a For Profit. But I also hope that people can step back and recognize some of the realities of the matter as well. It may be that a new version of NAARS works with Troy to form something better. It may be that said organization goes on to somehow absorb or replace USARA. That very well may be for the better. But I believe that for such an organization to be truly successful it is going to need significantly more than a handful of folks willing to volunteer a handful of hours a month or even every week to the cause. It will need clear leadership and leadership that is willing to put in many more hours than I think most people have or want to give. I may be wrong on this, but since we keep comparing ourselves to all of these other national bodies, let’s recognize that these are organizations with thousand, perhaps tens of thousands of members not to mention staffs of full time employees. I give both Doug and Troy a ton of credit for virtually running organizations by themselves with occasional help from volunteers or maybe one or two more dedicated folks. There’s only so much one (or a few people) can do.

12) Finally and tangentially: I am amazed that we continuously seem to devolve into discussions of race format. I get it. AR at its core is about P2P racing. Yes, I think it’s at its best when teams finish the whole thing. Yes, it takes out questions of luck in route choice or luck in going for one point versus another and is the purest way to assess teams against each other. But I personally believe this fixation is one (but only one of many) reason the sport has not seen much growth or progress. True old school AR events just are not accessible. Maybe it’s fun for the 20% who can finish the race, but it’s not for the 80% who can’t, and after failing time and again, those people will stop coming. Personally, I agree that courses should be designed so that more than 1-2 teams clear it. But I fundamentally disagree as both an RD and racer that P2P is in the sport’s best interest (at least not exclusively or a majority of the time). AMK and Yoga don’t pay the bills. The 80% of other teams do. I want people to leave a race wanting to come back. I know that for some folks failure will be enough. But I also believe few people will come back more than once or twice if they feel they have no chance. Why spend the money, time, vacation time, etc. if you know you are going to fail? Most people in the sport never will be able to race at that level. It’s one of the beautiful things about AR: rookies can rub shoulders with World Champions. Yes, there is a place for more extreme and traditional AR. XPDs can offer that. Some local races too. But 90% of the racing that is happening is not at that level. Those races should aim to challenge but also foster interest and excitement. Not continuously break people down. I know the purists will disagree. And I’m frankly not even sure why I am bothering writing this for the 134th time…
Oct 19, 2017 10:35 AM # 
Mr Wonderful:
re: p2p = failure. How do you figure? Plenty of short course options. How is a short course on p2p more of a failure than skipping a third of the optional CPs? As far as accessibility, this is for the national champs! The best teams in the country! Qualified! I don't mind if a local race has as many optional points with as much cp density lottery as it wants to increase accessibility.

I'm surprised people give a rip if Troy makes a few bucks (whether he does or not). I'd rather more people made more money. The hobbyist/side project AR rds in my state all quit, and now the only races, good ones, arguably the most successful in the country (400-500 people), are hosted by someone doing it as a full time job. I hope someone quits their regular job in my metro region and starts hosting for profit or at least for good pay for themselves races because it will mean more of them done well.
Oct 19, 2017 11:16 AM # 
This makes my heart happy that you put all of this info in one place Brent. To clarify, NAARS entry ran $250 per person, within a $300 scholarship going to teams from a qualifier win. I cannot be certain, but I believe NAARS absorbed the discount, rather than having the RD front the $300.

Re: West v East discussion. I may be biased because I live in the DC area, but I absolutely consider DC to be the current hub of AR in the US, based on both racer population density and number of RDs within a few hours of here. The argument that championships need to be spread out to be coasts makes no sense to me, just looking at it from a numbers and accessibility perspective, not to mention land use issues in general on the West coast. Also, Gold Rush just canceled their 30hr race due to low registration. If one of the main RDs can’t get local teams to come to their races, it is hard to justify catering the championship to west coast racers.
Oct 19, 2017 1:16 PM # 
Thanks for the explanation regarding insurance ($8-$35) Stephanie and Brent. It’s good to know there is actually a purpose behind it and people/RDs are taking advantage of it.

Relative to FP vs. NFP, I have no problem with RD’s or governing bodies making money for their efforts. In the case of governing bodies I think salaries and decisions should be public knowledge.
Oct 19, 2017 3:13 PM # 
Oct 19, 2017 3:34 PM # 
Two additional thoughts after a few hours of sleep.

1) I was sent an article confirming what I alluded to: Here's a bit about US Tri:

"USA Triathlon’s CEO Rob Urbach left his position on May 8, according to a statement released by USAT. Urbach spent six years at the helm, beginning his tenure in March of 2011. He was the ninth person to hold the position, and was one of the highest-paid executives in the triathlon industry, with an annual salary of $362,000. No members of USAT’s staff or board wished to comment on his departure. USAT did state that the search for the next CEO has begun and no additional information will be given until the position is filled."


2) you can find public records about nonprofits online. Here is a link to the 2015 return for US Orienteering, which is one of the most widely cited models in this discussion. Honestly, their return is more transparent than almost any other return I have seen, but even then one could ask about many of the numbers: why did they spend that much? On what exactly? Here's a link to their tax form:

Again, in my opinion, "transparency" is a funny word to some degree and only goes so far. Execution is huge. incorporating as a nonprofit, throwing out ideas and electing a board has little bearing on the success of an endeavor. Without a clear and detailed road-map and effective leadership that has the time to commit feet first, we're going to be having the same discussions of why AR is so niche and divided in five years.

That said, Jayxc, in a perfect world, I do agree, it would be nice to have more of it.

As for my personal stance on what to DO:
I believe USARA has a well established infrastructure with some real tangible assets: 1) a director who already is essentially full time and willing to work for less than market value (I would bet anything that Troy is laughing at thee idea of making a fraction of 350,000$). Troy has more institutional memory than most if not any RDs in the country. Also, I promise you that if you engage with him he is full of real and practical ideas and reasons for them. Doesn't mean he is right on all of that, but he really is more qualified than most to serve as President/coordinator. 2) an established National Championship. Would it be nice to race elsewhere? Yes. Could the event be even better? Perhaps. But overall it's the only race in the country that comes even close to drawing everyone together. And there are 17-18 years of legacy that comes with it. Throwing that aside seems like a mistake. 3) He has the insurance established. I maintain that for those who think it's as easy as just building a new policy or calling an insurance company, there is a different reality out there. 4) USARA has a platform established in regards to contacts, rankings, resources, etc. ALL of this can be improved, but it's there.

Personally, unless this sport becomes US tri and can afford to pay an executive 350,000 dollars, there is only so much a limited national organization can do. There just isn't the financial base to do what some of those other nonprofits do. BUT, I think a well coordinated and planned NFP partner as Mark is proposing CAN assist USARA where it falls short.

I know Troy is willing to work with anyone who is willing, able, and open to coordination. Together, using (and reforming) the resources that USARA has and building a new grassroots effort to compliment USARA, I think we can collectively help the sport evolve in a much more logical and effective way than simply burning it all down and starting from scratch. A few people have tried that, with good intention and passion, and from my perspective no one has come even close to matching what USARA has built. Again, doesn't mean that we can't make it a whole lot better if we work together...

Forgive me for the corny cliche. But isn't AR built on that sentiment in the first place?
Oct 19, 2017 4:42 PM # 
Kate here from Strong Machine // Portland, ME

Seems to me that part of the issue is differing views on the role of such a governing body. USARA's current role is poorly defined and communicated, in my view leading to much of the controversy. Many of the complaints I have read here and on the FB discussion page suggest that people are looking for a number of very reasonable things that USARA either purports to do but is missing the mark on or fails to cover. Here are two that stand out to me:

-Representation and communication - clearly racers and RDs are feeling left out of the process. Either elected members on a USARA or separate organization's board, or a more clear way for racers and RDs to communicate with board members (perhaps an online forum 2x a year or surveys?) seems appropriate. Mark's idea seems feasible to me - and doesn't necessarily mean USARA can't coexist amicably. Broots- I know we have discussed before that USARA makes efforts to communicate with racers but I do think there is room for improvement. This is evident in the degree to which the community doesn't feel heard.

-Quality control / improvement - here is where I see USARA's greatest shortcoming. A USARA "sanctioned" event means nothing in terms of quality or even definition of the event. People are talking a lot about growing the sport - and sure, marketing is an important part of that, but the biggest part is designing a race experience (from sign up to the course itself to the after party) that draws in new and repeat racers. I think it's crucial to the integrity of the sport that the future governing body provide more support to RDs. This could include hands on help like aiding in course design and in-person vetting, but it could also be less time- and $-intensive. As a new RD with 2 races under my belt, I can say that it would have been very helpful to get data from previous races to help determine time estimates for faster vs. slower teams. As a veteran of 30+ races all over the country of varying lengths, I can add that many RDs could use help with map design, logistical support (including website design, online sign up, etc), and general discussion of what makes a good race (e.g., course flow, balancing the needs of more vs. less experienced racers). I can think of many resources that a future AR governing body could provide that would help to elevate the sport for those already involved and for those adventurers out there who have not yet joined.

Frankly, the NFP / FP discussion seems pointless to me. In many ways it is just a tax and legal distinction, and being NFP in no way guarantees the benevolence of the organization.
Oct 19, 2017 5:34 PM # 
Thank you broots for your very very very thorough explanation of your thoughts and facts; I am one 'those' that actually read the whole thing!! That's right, top to bottom, haha. I certainly appreciate it, as I can also be long winded about topics near and dear to my soul; in this case it's definitely worth the explanation.
I happen to very much share,I'm guessing at the end of the day, most AR racer's sentiments. At the end of the day, racers want to race. I absolutely love being out there. We want to go explore our outdoors. AR core definition for me - being in the woods with friends, and where bad decisions make for great stories! Racing is the challenge we as racers choose to engage in, to maximize our experience. For others it's the adventure of it all. I know I'm singing to the choir here, but AR is so different than nearly every other sport; although we should try to learn from and improve from others, we need to be judicious in our approach to comparing what other organizations are doing, and mimicking results. That is not going to happen, it's comparing oranges to apples, and will set the sport up for failure. AR is unique and we need to focus on developing our sport as such. We can certainly sit back and be critical of the current organizations and their short comings. IMHO, USARA has done a fine job keeping the sport alive, organized and improved it in many ways. I can testify that they are responsive to racer demands (within reason) and personally, since I've been involved in AR (14 yrs),I feel they generally do have the sports best interest in mind even if I do/don't agree with every little idea, policy, rule, or cost. For those not to sure about this, I would encourage them to find an opportunity to contact Troy, talk to him, ask your questions fairly and respectfully, and you would be hard pressed to disagree. Healthy competition is good for our sport, and I don't have as much experience with NAARS, however they are looking to do better; good on them! Talk to Doug and his passion for the sport is very evident and he's got some great and fresh ideas. We can complain about nuances and how we don't like this or that, but remember where we came from, and how far we have come. AR teams are far more competitive than they have ever been, a result of progress somewhere, no? No system is perfect and not everyone can be 100% happy.

my 2 cents on race format: I prefer a healthy mix of AR styles in general; rogaine style vs P2P. I like both styles as long as course design is good. Both have their pros and cons. Without getting as long winded as broots (haha sorry had to poke a bit :-), if we take to much of the rogaine/nav/orienteering and strategy out of AR, we run the danger(again imho) of making it closer to an off-road triathlon whilst occasionally looking at a map. IMHO, course strategy, which makes our sport very unique, should remain a part of AR, including championships. A good course design of either format or hybrid format, ensures that the best team wins.

my 2 cents on usara/naars race fees: usara - As a part of the medical community in my other life, 8 bucks for a one day medical insurance policy ALONE, is stupid cheap. Pay it and be glad the rates have not gone up.
Oct 19, 2017 11:53 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
if we take to much of the rogaine/nav/orienteering and strategy out of AR

I assure you that I want all of the navigation in AR. When I did USARAs, the rogaine nature meant several trek sections devolved into trail or linear feature following with bump outs to collect points. Compare to this point to point paddle section example, and see if one could put the map away as in an off road triathlon:

Oct 20, 2017 2:04 AM # 
I posted this on facebook. For the sake of discussion among multiple forums, I'll post it here too:

"Brent, masquerading as Abby. My favorite online pastime…

To respond to the further comparison to US triathlon and such: Here are the returns for US Track and Field. Yes, they are NFP. I share it and the following random excerpts for a reason. Look at the numbers first.

42 million dollars in assets.
1.7 million dollars in sanctioning fees
1.5 million in membership fees
1.5 million in “event rights, entries”
Nearly 400,00 in investment income
“Miscellaneous revenue”: 156,000 (what is this?! I would love 156,000 in miscellaneous revenue)
Total revenue: 30 million dollars
CEO gets paid over 1 million dollars
8 more officers earn 100,000-300,000 dollars
Total salaries: ~3.5 million dollars
Another 1.5 million for pensions and other employee benefits
If I’m reading it right, looks like they somehow are MAKING 19 million through some sort of marketing partnership…or something. Transparent, but not…
60,000 income from “royalties”
Nearly 1 million spent on information technology
500+ thousand on marketing
7 million dollars spent on travel
850+ thousand on insurance

More amazing details here:

OK, so I partly share this simply because some might find it interesting to actually see numbers from an organization that many suggest we model ourselves on.

Curiosity aside, I just think that we are comparing apples and oranges, though I hope we can all rationally look at this and see it’s more like comparing apples and steak.

As I have said clearly: I AGREE that a NFP model is ideal. But, I also think that most of the discourse is hollow and wrapped up in emotions and idealism rather than concrete, workable, or realistic goals. I agree with Jon and I think everyone: AR needs more racers. BUT, personally I think that limited growth is the realistic goal. I could devolve into all of the sociological, historical, and economic reasons why AR will never be comparable to any of these other organizations we keep comparing to (in regards to numbers and participation). But I also think that as a racer and an RD, I don’t WANT races that are full of 500-1000 people. I think the sport has been watered down enough, and as an RD, safety management becomes an ever bigger issue with bigger fields. There is only so much adventure one race can handle.

Ultimately, my point is this: I believe we need a really clear and firm plan to move forward. If Mark's call for action is going to turn into anything substantive and long-lasting, I believe we need a very strong plan/vision. Abby and I were discussing this…all day…and one idea that came to mind was the following: we know everyone wants to jump in, elect a board, make a list of what they think is best, and then see it all done. But we're just not sure that is practical, efficient, or productive. The surveys that have gone around are a good start and have offered some solid data. If people want to move forward with exploring what a new (ancillary to USARA or otherwise) organization might look like, we need to think about how to do that judiciously and deliberately. Rather than focusing on what a ranking system would look like, or how many board members we elect, we would suggest that a provisional board be selected. This board would take its time to actually develop a mission statement and plan. We imagine such a board would reach out to folks far and wide to really gather detailed, nuanced information and data to figure out how such an organization would best serve the community. Once a base plan and vision are crafted, a true election could then take place.

And this plan has to be realistic for OUR sport. Not based on another organization’s plan that is vastly different in every possible sense. AR is unique. It’s why we all love it so much. A unique sport calls for unique planning to face the unique challenges it faces. Simply slapping 501c3 on a company is not going to make a difference. It’s not going to make a company successful. It’s not going to earn that company a spot alongside US Orienteering much less US Tri or US Track and Field, or US anything-nonprofit.

Abby and I WANT to see what comes of the evolution of what is/was NAARS, and I think it has a lot of potential, especially if it works with established voices in the community who have the experience. Our primary concern at the moment is that all of this feels so rushed and directionless. We appreciate the efforts many people are making, and the ideas are great, but as has been true since CP0 mounted the first challenge to USARA, we don’t see the cohesive, well developed vision that we want to see. And we're both concerned that this direction of just leaping to a vote for a board doesn't provide effective direction or set a potential organization up for success.
Oct 20, 2017 2:24 AM # 
Mr Wonderful:
USATF's $19M a year sounds like their half billion deal with Nike
Oct 20, 2017 2:38 PM # 
Thanks Broots. I have said before that the niche status of AR is one of its appeals for me. I completely understand the need to 'grow the sport' in order to sustain it beyond the 35-55 year old current core of participants. I also completely see the desire of some RDs to grow the sport to increase sub-target race attendance, in return for the effort they put into organizing. As a racer, I actually enjoy a smallish field of teams and seeing mostly familiar faces. I feel, in most years, that there are ample races to choose from (in eastern NA). I do not believe that the absence of money in the sport is a significant deterrent to anything positive about AR. Maybe I would feel different if I had come to the sport in the Eco-Challenge era.

So, I would agree with Broots that major growth is not a realistic expectation and, from my perspective, not clearly desirable.
Oct 20, 2017 3:22 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
I also think that as a racer and an RD, I don’t WANT races that are full of 500-1000 people

As a racer, I'm not sure you'd notice! By CP1 or 2, by virtue of having posted on AP, I wager you'll be so far ahead it will just be you and your usual suspects like in a normal race (works that way for me, and I don't even run much in the race), except for the benefits of:

* better prize potential
* much better marketing (one wonders if you need 400 people at 6-10 hr to get enough interested to make a financially viable 24..and maybe more than that to support a financially viable expedition race)
* financially sustainable RD'ing = long term race availability

If you can't get the $$ for prizes and marketing via entry fees (JayXC's example of OCR and Tri having better prizing and marketing also charge higher fees than typical AR), then make it up in volume.

Granted, parking is worse.

As a race could quit your day job!

Qualifier: The 500 count races I have participated in often have a short and long version, with the long being more 75-150 while the short has the rest, effectively using the short to subsidize the long.
Oct 20, 2017 4:05 PM # 
To be clear, I don't want races with 500-1000 racers in it either. I'm more concerned about finding the 25-35 yr olds to replace the folks who decide they don't want to race for 24 hrs+ once they're 65-70 yrs old.
Oct 20, 2017 5:08 PM # 
Another post on FB that's worth reposting here, I think:

(posted by Bill Gibbons of GOALS):

So, I've been listening to much of the conversation on how to grow the sport of adventure racing. The answer is simple, implementation is not. Go recruit more racers! Go to where they are! Join and train with running clubs, cycling clubs, mountain biking clubs, triathlon clubs. I would drive an hour, each way, to participate in training rides and runs. Sometimes, back to back at different locations. Join a crossfit gym, that's where Spartans and Tough Mudders are recruiting.
Buy booth space at expos. Every marathon, half marathon, triathlon has an expo. Pay for a booth. Print up postcards and flyers. Put together a display that will draw people in. Talk to them.
Go to every running store and bike shop, personally, and put your flyers there. Go talk at local outdoors retailers, gyms, and schools. Hold training clinics that you advertise through the running stores and bicycle shops. Put in sweat equity!
Race with newbies! Train with newbies! Prior to medical school, and soon to be returning, I could hold my own with anyone and have had podium finishes. But, the majority of my racing has been with newbies. I always trained as the alternate for the GOALS-ARA team and was prepared in case of last minute injury or illness. However, I saw my role to support our team by organizing great events and recruiting new racers.
Shortly, because my residency training is finishing, I'll rejoin and train with a couple of running clubs, bicycling clubs, and gyms.
If you haven't done all of those things, then you haven't done your part. Leaders lead. The tone that I'm hearing is the classic, "Who moved my cheese?" "Moses has to go to the mountain." If you're not getting the number of racers you want, then Go Get Them! And, if you start to point fingers or make excuses, then you don't want it bad enough.
Don't worry about where an $8 day use fee goes. Build it into your registration and be done with it. If you believe that USARA is not doing enough in a particular area, advertising, etc. Then volunteer for USARA to send out more social media content or provide content worth sending out.
Those are all things that you can do today to help grow the sport! Well, maybe in the morning.
Oct 20, 2017 5:13 PM # 
JayXC, I agree with you entirely. This is the growth I feel is most important too.

Mr. Wonderful: I'm not entirely sure I'm reading between the lines right, but if I am:

OK, true. The strongest teams might not notice. What's the difference if 50 or 500 people are behind them. And yes, those same teams (and they always are the same teams) would then win nice prize purses. And yes, RDs could play in the woods fulltime and quit their day jobs.

But that's not how I'm looking at this. I think that the discussions that happen about this sport are dominated and perhaps exclusively so by experienced, savvy, racers. The question about to P2P is another example of this: I know that the fastest teams want P2P for understandable reasons. But this really doesn't show any concern for the masses. It suggests that the elite racers experience is clearly more valuable than the 60-80% of the field who pay the bills, who allow the RDs to direct. Who pay for the prize money.

Problem is, in my opinion, too much of the conversation about directing races and now this debate about USARA/NAARS, etc. is about the top of the field and their experiences. In reality, a few teams might get to run around out front like they always do, but for the other 450-500 people, they will be falling over each other, hike-a-biking, following the highway through the woods or literally just running (or walking) in a line, waiting for 20 minutes to get their canoe to shore. This would not be a good experience for most teams, at least not compared to the top teams. Maybe they have some fun, but as an RD I would feel that they aren't getting the experience they deserve nor the one I WANT them to have.

From folks I know that DID compete in some big sprint races back when Balance Bar and others were running, they all have reported that those events were crazy and fun, but it really was just glorfied xterra, or it was follow the leader. Or it was walking your bike because you couldn't ride.

So I disagree. I understand the value you see in big numbers, but I think the sacrifices that come with that change the very nature of the sport for the majority of people.

As an RD, I also will maintain that safety and management is hard enough with 50-100 people. I'm not suggesting that others don't run a bigger event because I'm not comfortable with it (and I am comfortable with more than that number, but the thought of massive numbers is not appealing), but personally, I think the best races are ones that offer experiences that wouldn't even work with 500-1000 people (exploring a cave, climbing around a ruin, a fun zipline, an epic trek where navigation is critical where you don't see other teams for extended periods of time, a fun stretch of smooth single track). None of that is as much fun, some of it is impossible if you have fields of that size. Again, I respect those RDs who run races with hundreds and hundreds of people, but I also think most of these races are much, much more watered down and sanitized in part out of necessity because of how many people there are.

I'm not saying it can't be done. We ran an event with nearly 300 kids and parents, and it was great (but we weren't trying to design a true AR either). So, it's important to qualify what kinds of events we are talking about. True Adventure Races or events that wet people's appetites and are only a bit different than a fun run or an obstacle course with a bit of map reading thrown in?

When looking at AR in a purer sense, there is a reason that XPD races tend to cap at say 30-40 teams. Logistics become prohibitive and unsafe with much more than that. A 24 hour race can handle more people and teams, but the race better be expertly designed. I have done plenty of great events that have far fewer than the numbers we are throwing around that have been great for the first handful of teams but then devolve for everyone else. Too often teams get bottle-necked which adds up, sometimes changing the entire nature of the race for everyone beyond those first handful of teams.
Oct 20, 2017 5:59 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
too much of the conversation about directing races and now this debate about USARA/NAARS, etc. is about the top of the field and their experiences

There are some topics intermingled. To be clear for my position:

I do not care how much rogaining a local or regional race has to have to get new blood. I suppose I do care a little - I'd prefer to race the strong local teams heads up, but I can deal with winning or losing checkpoint density random lotteries, if it brings more people to the sport.

For a champs race, it should be heads up. I don't want a champs Top Ten settled by who skipped the first too-long point 30 minutes into the race so they could hit a surprisingly juicy section 28 hours later, from glancing at maps that may or may not exist yet during plotting. I also like four person teams and pre-plotted maps and TAs with gear bins, so I recognize I'm not with everyone on everything.

The other argument for p2p + short course versus rogaine density guessing is that p2p short course levels the field - everyone races as hard as they can as long as they can until TA staff points them back to the finish. In the rogaine format, the top...2? 5? teams are racing as hard as they can as long as they can, and from some arbitrary spot in the placings, it switches to: what should I skip? When should I skip? How much of the course should I not bother trying? Did that team ahead of me skip 2 or 4 in that section? Do I run them down or let them go, since I don't know if I'm even racing them anymore?

Do races bottleneck much if they omit ropes? I think I might have stumbled onto something here....
Oct 22, 2017 3:36 AM # 
I'm prepared to back whomever actually takes action. To Broots' point above, these grand ideas and committees and desired end states are wonderful, but they're all pie in the sky until they're executed. I'll support the association that executes a 50% solution over the association that promotes a 100% solution but executes 25%. The fact that the first 'AR summit' is being held by Mark and Adventure Enablers, a (mostly) regional race company and not USARA or NAARS is case-in-point from my point of view. Neither side is executing to the degree necessary to actually be the leadership the sport needs and the gaps are being filled by a patch-quilt of folks. I don't really care about P2P vs. Rogaine, scoring, regions, etc. because, in my opinion, none of that can even matter unless there's a base system to effectively build and execute the whole thing, which we don't have.
Oct 23, 2017 2:49 PM # 
For the record, I agree with arhub and broots. As a community, we need to come together and figure out the bigger picture of how we want our sport to be organized before we start getting bogged down in details like race size, rogaine vs. p2p, etc.

Troy Farrar called me on Friday as part of his outreach efforts, and he sounded really sincere in his willingness to listen and respond to criticism (so long as it's constructive). He acknowledged some of USARA's current shortcomings, but I found out it is only himself and another part-time person working at USARA. I think he'd be happy if volunteers took on more of the work that needs to be done, whether that's directly through USARA or working with Mark Lattanzi's newly created USARC.

The first big change that USARA is making in response to criticism is the elimination of the requirement that racers in ARs under five hours have to pay for USARA memberships. Troy also talked about the launch of a quarterly newsletter (which I volunteered to help with).

After sitting on the sidelines for a bit and watching this whole debate unfold, I've come to the conclusion that if you're aggravated with the way things have been in AR over the past few years, it's your obligation to be proactive. Get in touch with Mark or Troy and volunteer your time to help the cause.
Oct 24, 2017 1:46 PM # 
Two points:

1. Orienteering at the championship level is point to point courses (see the sister site on the "orienteering" tab of attackpoint for more details on this)

2. I used to do more AR, but haven't for at least 10 years (did Raid the North and other races in Canada when those were around). The things I found annoying were a) the checkpoints were never guaranteed to be in the actual spots they were supposed to be in, and b) the maps sucked, didn't show all the trails and relevant navigation features which meant that finding the checkpoints, even if they were in the right spots, which they often weren't, was more of a treasure hunt than an actual test of navigational skill. This made it annoying because you could train all you wanted physically and technically but the results often came down to luck. This changed at all in the last decade?

And the reason why there are no young people (less than 40) is because it's too damned expensive. If you are 30 years old, you probably recently have kids, you have a mortgage on a tiny house that barely fits you let alone all the crap you need for AR, that you can barely pay for on top of your student loan debt, your salary and amount of vacation that you get every year at most jobs is near the bottom of the scale.

So, make cheaper better child care, less expensive housing, and raise the salary and vacation time of young people and you might get more young people participating in an expensive and time consuming sport.
Oct 24, 2017 5:36 PM # 
So where do we go from here? USARA 2.0?

Create a checklist for people to help out with?
Reg for Non-Profit?
Website Must Haves?
Website design?
Logo Design?
Outreach Info?
Race Organizer info?
Insurance stuff?
Board Elections?
Chairman Elections?
Quarterly Business review with financials?

Or do we just volunteer our effort to Troy to help with his For-Profit model and hope he implements the ideas and changes of the community?

How would we go about doing that?
Oct 25, 2017 12:10 AM # 
Mr Wonderful:
Those details all sounds great, but I kind of lost it in the thread...what did you want to accomplish again with Checkpoint Tracker NAARS USARC/USARA 2.0?

I saw conflicting messages of:

Growth....with races no bigger
Prizes...with fees no bigger
No existing race formats

Which NAARS gave everyone and not many went to, so do people really have a problem with the existing system?
Oct 25, 2017 2:32 AM # 
I have been talking extensively with Troy over the last month regarding these questions. I have been doing so in two capacities: one as a board member for USARA and one as an outside racer who agrees significant reform is needed.

I have been honest with Troy that I personally agree with much of the criticism. He knows I feel that way and he appreciates the conversation.

As I have said, he is open to change. He WANTS more participation. He wants more people to chime in. I know he has been reaching out to USARA RDs for the past few weeks to discuss questions and the issues.

Expect some immediate changes. He is all for restructuring the board as will soon be announced. He is interested in making adjustments and improvements across the board. Some of this work began before all of this discussion commenced. Those that give him a chance and speak with him will see this, I think.

I think it's important to stress a couple of things:
1) a lot of these changes are going to take time. They won't be immediate, and even once new resources are developed, they will be a work in progress.

2) reform will require buy in from some sort of critical mass of racers and directors. I truly understand that some will not want to work with Troy, and that is their prerogative. Can't convince everyone, but there is a real opportunity to build on what is already a sound foundation. I recognize that for some folks the fact that USARA is a FP organization is a non-starter, and I respect that. That said, for those willing to work with that, I think USARA can achieve most of the tangible things people want: increased participation. Better resources for RDs, better resources for racers, more quality control, better marketing, better website, etc. Remember, despite the fact that it is for profit, Troy is virtually a one man show. The fact that USARA has a lot of shortcomings is partly due to this fact. Improving USARA, NAARS or starting a new organization from scratch all hinge on the community getting involved, regardless of corporate structure. To date, I don't think any national organization has had much more than one man a couple of volunteers helping out. Again, comparing such efforts to other nonprofits like O-USA or US Tri is a bit odd since those organizations have paid staffs and dozens if not hundreds of employees and volunteers.

3) ARRaces brings up, once more, the question of FP vs. NFP. As I have said several times in public and to Troy personally, I believe and agree with the sentiment that NFP is and would be ideal. I also recognize that it's Troy call. In addition, my understanding from both Troy but also objective third parties with legal knowledge is that converting USARA after nearly two decades of operating as a FP model would be prohibitive at best logistically and financially and perhaps completely impractical. I don't get the sense from Troy that his resistance to this is first and foremost because he doesn't care or that he wouldn't consider the option if he was starting all over again. I get the sense it's largely from a practical point of view at this point. Again, I wish USARA was a NFP for various reasons, and I completely respect those that can't and won't accept the fact that it is a FP. That's your choice. For those on the fence, I would suggest an open mind at least. I think at the end of the day almost everything people have been talking about is still achievable through USARA.

Ultimately, Troy will be announcing shortly the intentions to work toward making USARA a more democratic, open, and evolving organization. There will be opportunities for people to participate if they are open to committing to supporting USARA. This does not mean one couldn't also support another organization (just as dozens of RDs have been supporting both USARA and NAARS or CP0 for many years).

In the meantime, I encourage you to call Troy directly if you wish to chat; he is always willing and happy to throw around ideas. Just because he's not the most tech savvy guy doesn't mean he won't chat on the phone for half an hour. You can contact racer reps or board members. We may not be able to answer all of your questions, but I am sure we are all happy to chat further. Or just hang tight. More will be coming out shortly!
Oct 25, 2017 1:22 PM # 
**Caution! Course Design, Tracking and Marketing Post!

Is anyone following the huge attention to Courtney Dauwalter's Moab 240 ultra win? She won by a huge margin. Joe Rogan followed the race, which had live tracking. He Tweeted throughout the race, initially about his buddy Cam Haynes. After CD won the 240 by a huge margin, Joe had her on his JRE podcast for a 2hr interview.

As of September, Joe hs 66 million podcast downloads per month, and another 20 million YouTube viewers (videos of his podcasts).

This got millions, maybe eventually 10s of millions, of unfamiliar eyeballs on the event, the story, the concept of ultra-endurance racing. All because of the STORY. Joe is friends with professional bow-hunter and ultra runner, TV host Cam Haynes, who was also racing. Cam has been on other ultrarunning podcasts and with his wide crossover appeal may be luring new blood into ultra.

"Leaderboarding" and following tracking from home -or iPhone- gets people excited about the sport, and gets people sharing with friends and others who might be interested. Can you imagine trying to watch a rogaine-style event online? Or sharing that tracking with a newbie who might otherwise be interested in AR, and explaining to them that this is actually a "race"? No. Not likely.

Conversely, even a dozen + years ago, pre-Twitter, pre-Podcast, pre-Google Earth era, folks following PQ online would share links to live tracking and updates, leaderboards with their circles. They followed the compelling story, the struggle. The PATH. "NO! Don't go that way!" or "Where are they going?". Today with Google Earth, a RD can provide the fastest or optimal track online for viewers to follow and compare to their team's tracking.

It's all about the STORY.
Oct 25, 2017 11:52 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
I had some trouble riding my carbon fiber full suspension mountain bike today. It seems my underpants bunched up at the thought of anyone making any money in AR. Fortunately, I was able to clear my head by using my carbon fiber paddle in my kevlar canoe.
Oct 26, 2017 2:10 AM # 

A couple concerns based on these recent actions of USARA and the comments I'm reading. I'm glad to see there are some passionate defenses of USARA from folks like you, as that means they are truly engaged and trying to do their best, and don't deserve the sharp criticism that we're seeing from some corners (or not as sharp, at least). However...

1) It worries me that were are seeing all these changes (which I support and think it's great to see) driven in large part by the groundswell of criticism that has occurred lately and not from an organic growth-mindset that a for-profit company should have in order to stay afloat, let alone thrive. I'm glad to see that change and believe you that some of these changes were underway prior to the recent conversations initiated by Mark, but I don't know if I can fully trust an organization with the future of our sport when they are reactionary. None of these criticisms are new, they have been routinely mentioned in open discussions. Just because they've recently gotten louder shouldn't be the impetus for USARA getting moving on reforms.

2) It further concerns me how I've seen multiple people say "just reach out to Troy". I've never met or spoken to the man, so I hope this doesn't come off as an ad-hominem attack on someone who clearly loves the sport of AR like I do, but if he is to hold a defacto leadership position in our sport, that carries with it the responsibility to frequently communicate his vision, his organizations' work, and evangelise for the sport as a whole. I'm sure he does a lot of this already, as proven by USARA's continuous presence in the sport, but it's hard for me to support an organization whose leader remains distant or aloof. I can barely find evidence of him online, he's never been on the TA1 podcast, and frankly, my own site is picking up some of the slack by producing reporting and services that his organization should be doing. The excuse "not the most tech savvy" just can't work in this day and age - not for USARA, and not for the sport of AR. I hear that phrase way too often from folks who use it as an excuse to not learn about the parts of the business surrounding AR that is just as critical to survival (let alone success) as setting a kickass course. It's October 2017 and USARA just realized they should probably start publishing a quarterly email newsletter. Really? You've said he's open to people approaching him, but shouldn't it be the other way around? This just doesn't sit right with me.

3) I could care less about the FP vs. NFP (heck, I wrote a whole article about it 2 weeks ago in favor of FP). Good on USARA if they can find a way to generate a paycheck to support themselves and deliver quality products and services on behalf of AR. However, they can't have it both ways - they can't say that if folks want to help improve the USARA organization, they should reach out and volunteer their time. Especially when some folks are already giving away high-quality products for free like the marketing advice coming from Mark Vantongeren of Michigan AR or Kristin Horowitz of All Out Adventures.

Sorry if any of this reads as an attack on Troy or yourself as the messenger, I tried to make sure my tone wasn't overly critical but still expressing my reservations. Nothing but love to any adventure racer who's trying to help the sport.
Oct 26, 2017 3:30 PM # 
Hi Cy,

Maybe I can help answer some of your questions.

1) I agree that USARA is being reactionary to the suddenly cacophonous sound of criticism coming from the AR world. But I'd rather have the organization be reactionary rather than completely deaf to concerns.

2) Given the fact that USARA has pretty much zero presence in the PNW (other than the really nice and generous RDs who decide to have their races be regional qualifiers, despite the fact that it probably doesn't do much good for them), I'm not surprised you haven't ever had any interactions with Troy. Being in Maine ourselves, Kate and I know the feeling of being "out in the wilderness" and not getting much benefit from USARA's current system. Moving forward, I think Troy and those tied to USARA need to do a much better job of stretching the organization so that it is truly a national body, whether that's doing nationals outside of the Southeast/Mid-Atlantic or even just doing a better job communicating with the entire AR community. Meanwhile, folks like yourself, who don't feel a connection to USARA/Troy, might consider working with Mark Lattanzi on building up the new group (USARC?), filling in the gaps where USARA falls short and pushing USARA to do better from outside the organization. For example, your newsletter is great. I think it would be awesome for you to create a variation of it to send out to all USARA members, either through USARA or through USARC. After speaking with him, my opinion is that Troy is open to these kind of ideas or proposals - he's more flexible than I previously thought. But I think it really is up to people like you, me and anyone else reading this message to bring ideas to him, if we're passionate about them (or alternately working with Mark/USARC).

3) I personally don't have a problem working for USARA for free, even if it is a for-profit corporation. The way I see it, USARA is the best organization available for improving and growing the sport (though I'm cheering for and open to helping USARC as well), and by working with it, I can better shape it to serve racers, race directors, and anyone else involved in the sport.

Long story short, I hear you and those who are making similar statements. I just don't see any other viable way you?
Oct 26, 2017 3:44 PM # 
ARhub, I appreciate everything you are saying. I know and believe that your intention is not to be overly critical, and reservations are fine. I and we totally know that for some people we will never change their mind. I get that. That said, here are my thoughts and responses to your points. As always, I’m sorry to take so much of your free time:)

1) Here's my/our reality. USARA had been contemplating SOME reform (largely focused on better communication and social media use) before Mark's initial facebook post back in September. While I recognize that some will not pay attention to this, I can tell you one thing with 100% conviction: those of us serving on the board at the current moment are not gaining a thing from doing it other than feeling committed to working to make the sport of AR better. I think Steph and I both have said publically and also spoken for Troy through social media to make the point that we all recognize that USARA can do better and could have done more in the past. I think I personally have made it clear that I agree 200% on almost everything that has been voiced publically. Again, I’m saying this publically. Troy knows I feel this way. I know other board members agree that much of this needs to be addressed. Troy himself agrees with many of the sentiments, not necessarily on all the details of the solutions, but he acknowledges the problems and wants to make USARA better. Not sure what more I or we can say to shohw that we are genuine about this all.

We actually went back and forth a lot on whether to move ahead with changes one month after Nationals. To be honest, I probably was the leading voice saying “GO”. Troy was the leading voice saying, “I’m concerned people will see this a reactive”. My (and ultimately our) rationale as a board is this: you can’t please everyone. Some will question USARA regardless of what it does or when it does it. That’s your right to do so, and we understand that some will raise those questions. But when would be the proper time? If USARA waits until next year to begin reforming, then it will be harder to address change. We have the benefit of the “off-season” right now. I personally believe USARA has a lot of work to do and that will take a lot of time to do right; I have made it clear why I am standing by USARA at the present moment, but I personally want and to some degree would say demand to see large scale changes as well; if I didn’t feel like the potential was there for USARA, I’d jump ship right now.

It will take time to address these issues. I suspect some things will take months and months to build/revise. If we wait six months people will have less time since race directing and racing begins. For USARA, managing the in-season responsibilities it has will limit time and resources for building. And personally, I think people will still complain. Also, if USARA waits, others will complain saying they waited too long. And some clearly will simply not give USARA a chance regardless of what action is taken, whether this is for good reason or not. So, my personal opinion here is that we can’t please everyone, and I simply want to dig in, get people involved. As an advocate for growth and improvement, I involved myself in AR a couple years back with Troy. In getting to know him, I came to respect him as a person and his knowledge both of the sport but also for business. Does the current influence increase pressure to change? Sure. How can it not? But isn’t that how change often works?

You may not agree with this, but I don’t actually think the fact that a handful of people have voiced concerns and criticism every six months in message boards or comments on facebook constitutes clear or effective criticism/protest/communication/whatever you want to call it. As I have said, this is a two way street, and I think grumbling informally isn’t that constructive. Should USARA have been more proactive over the last 20 years to evolve and improve? Yes. I agree completely. They (and recently we) should have. BUT, I also will say that Troy’s model and vision was that the community needed to buy in and communicate as well. I believe there needs to be more outreach, and I think we are reforming to move in that direction to communicate better and bring in new voices democratically, but I also know for a fact that Troy and all of us (as board members, racer reps, etc.) have often had trouble getting RDs and team captains to respond to the communications that DO go out.

So, in short, I personally am committed to pushing USARA to improve. I know that there have been years of opportunity to change, but just because those years were perhaps stale (or seemed it), that doesn’t mean things cannot change. I think everyone involved with USARA at the board level is excited about change for the love of the sport, not to save some perceived empire for one man. I think that the criticism has empowered all of us to consider change more actively. For those of us who are board members and relatively new ones, I think it opens a door for us to be more proactive within USARA. Troy is not a top down guy. Almost everything that has been changed over the years (and there has in fact been a lot of it) has come from racers and RDs, and then the solutions have been hashed out by all those on the board. So, Troy is more collaborative than people know. I promise. Anyway, I for one feel like those volunteers who work with Troy are working hard to push USARA forward. And Troy is a completely willing and eager participant in the process.

2) Your comments on Troy himself. Look, I hear you. Again, I agree that communication has not been adequate. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be better, nor does it mean Troy can’t be better. As a racer and RD, not as volunteer for USARA, I’m personally focused on what is practical and possible in regards to moving forward. I don’t think things have been said to excuse Troy but more to help the public better understand the guy. We all have our strengths and weaknesses as people and in this sense as members of this community. Those who put themselves out there invite a heavy dose of criticism. Troy is the first to admit that he is not good at some of these issues you are highlighting once again. But others can help too, or at least make the effort to learn before passing judgment on him as a person.

Also, remember, he has essentially been a one man show despite the appearance. The boards are meant to help form bridges for the community. I know everyone wants USARA to be more proactive and in some ways (newsletters, board communications, etc.) it absolutely can be. But unless a lot more money comes in and USARA can start staffing fulltime beyond Troy, there really are limitations on what he/”we” can do. Naturally, one is going to probably focus on what their strengths are. Not saying that’s right, but I do think that’s a reality. I know I have my strengths and weakness at Rootstock. I know that despite my awareness of the weaknesses, I only have so much time to do it all and I end up focusing on what I can do more effectively (I of course run RR jointly with abipekr; I’m simply referring to my part in the org. not saying I do it all…:)). I would love to have help running all facets of the company more effectively. But alas.

Point is, you’re right. He isn’t good at some of the communication things. Historically speaking, the Board has filled a role that has been more advisory and review based rather than bring proactive agents of change within the sport or the organization. If it’s not clear, I hope people can see that we are becoming become more vocal and proactive, and I hope it’s clear that our motives are grounded in the welfare of the sport not because we have any stake in USARA. We don’t.

Finally, I cannot say this for a fact about your specified point regarding a newsletter. But here’s an interesting thing that I have found about Troy. As a racer rep, as an independent racer and RD, or as a board member, I’ve asked him many critical questions over the years. He often has good answers for them. Not always, but he often HAS done the very things people want him to do without the results people think will come. Again, I’m not saying he did this with the bulletin, but my point is simply: I DO think talking to Troy is important; he often has valuable first hand knowledge others don’t from years of experimenting and trial and error. I still think people are judging him as this aloof guy who is out of touch. He deserves criticism for not being better at communicating, but this doesn’t mean he doesn’t have good ideas, good knowledge. I have been around the block at this point more than once. I have been involved in this sport for well over a decade now at most levels and wearing many hats. Honestly, I’m not sure I have ever talked to an RD level type who I have respected as much as Troy. I’m not saying this to earn him loyalty from others or to say that I agree with him on everything. I’m simply saying that he is a great resource for the community, and I’m hard pressed to name anyone else who has the actual insight from experience as he does from his days as a local RD in Texas to his work with USARA. I agree he needs to communicate more, and I want him to because I think his voice is more valuable than some think it is. To cast him aside because of an 8$ license fee, because he is FP (I know you don’t care that much, ARhub, but some do), or because he tends toward the quiet side seems very shortsighted to me.

3) I don’t know what more to say to this. As I’ve said repeatedly, I agree it would be better for him to be NFP. But he isn’t. I also know that this idea of him having tons of money is silly. So a bit of a stalemate here. Just because he is FP doesn’t mean he has resources to pay people for X, Y, and Z. Doesn’t mean he is obligated to. Several communications ago I noted that when abiperk and I started Rootstock we did a pretty exhaustive search of public records to learn about incorporating and to see what all of our brothers and sisters in RDing have done. We were shocked to find that almost none of the known names are NFP. Do these organizations pay people? Maybe some do (I know some do) but I know others rely on volunteers or do the work for far, far less value than the work demands.

I know that a number of very respectable people in the sport have volunteered time over the years, willingly and happily. I know there are many who would be willing to do so regardless of his status. I respect that others simply can’t get past it and think it’s unfair of a FP to ask for and expect people to volunteer their time.

Personally, I believe we are stuck. We want our sport to have a governing body that can do what other types of governing agencies do, but we don’t want to pay said organization money to have the resources to accomplish these goals. This is compounded by the fact that we don’t have the numbers to support such an organization to that extent regardless of how much we are willing to pay to be members, or to race in a sanctioned event, or compete in Nationals. I just don’t see these goals and ambitions lining up, at least not in the foreseeable future. So whether we are supporting a NFP or a FP, I just don’t see how USARA/NAARS/_________ accomplishes what we want them to WITHOUT volunteer and community buy in and work. Expecting Troy by himself or Doug by himself or even an elected board of 5-10 people to just get out there and solve all of this seems like an unrealistic goal and expectation. So much goes into the simplest of decisions when it comes to directing a race for example. To then run a national organization who is supposed to be expert at ad marketing, providing top notch support and quality control for RDs from Oregon to Maine to Florida, to running a national championship, to working with sponsors, to “growing the sport”. You need a small army to actually do that justice.

So, this leaves me where I started whenever I first chimed in. I am looking at this independently from my relationship with Troy. I want to figure out what makes the most sense for the community. I think USARA offers several foundational pieces which are worth keeping and building on and which are superior to the alternatives, at least in potential. I believe that for USARA to do this (or ANY other organization), more people NEED to be involved at a much deeper level than anyone ever has been outside of the two men who have tried to lead from the top (Troy and Doug). Without that support, I think it’s an unfair expectation to demand either one of these people (or anyone that tries to start a new organization) to just make it all better by themselves. There isn’t enough time in the day.

I believe USARA has the firmest foundation currently. I believe reforming USARA from the inside and out has the most potential for success. I personally think anyone willing to work with/partner with USARA for genuine growth would be welcome, whether that’s NAARS ( I don’t see that as realistic, but it could be if said parties could sort that out) or a new organization. I don’t think it all has to be done under the banner of USARA. Ultimately, I think starting from scratch would be a last effort. One that might prove necessary, but I don’t think things are so dire especially when one party has a strong base and is so open to attempting reform. I just don’t think this is as easy as people think. If USARA is not able to begin to genuinely improve over the next year or so (again, I think this all will take time and patience to do and do right, and that’s why I believe reforms need to start ASAP) then I am all for a new model. But I’m not there yet.

Finally: my personal belief is that for USARA to begin genuine reform, this needs to be guided by a restructured board. It does no good to move forward with other things first in my opinion (other than to begin communicating more clearly, which is all we have done to date; the board decision that was announced had nothing to do with the hoopla; we just decided that one thing we could begin immediately was to be more transparent about board decisions; this issue, as is true of almost all issues, was brought to USARA by an RD). Troy is open to reforming board structure, and I believe that is the real first step to change. Again, I know some will simply perceive this as reactionary, but again, why in the world would waiting for some arbitrary amount of time be a better solution? If changes happen, they happen. And as I’ve said, understand that much of the discussion internally is guided by people who have no investment in USARA or in Troy other than the fact that we love the sport and we respect Troy enough to volunteer our time to work with him.
Oct 27, 2017 2:01 PM # 
excellent points from both of you gents, and I love the Socratic discussion we're having on this post vs. some of the more inflammatory stuff on the FB groups. I really don't have any rebuttals - you're both right that AR is what we make it, and luckily, with the sport being so small, a single motivated individual can have a positive influence on the entire community. My earlier response was in part me just venting my frustrations of USARA. I have the same amount of frustrations with NAARS, just over different issues. It's been well documented that both organizations have fallen short in key areas, so no need to rehash all that. But believe me, broots, I have similar stories trying to enact change in NAARS, since I'm on its "board", and getting frustrated by not seeing the change you wanted.

Final question - you mentioned that if you don't see a significant change in another year, that'd be your cut off date for moving away from USARA. Do you think we need to try and solidify that across a large number of engaged racers and RDs to make sure both organizations have a timeline/goal to work towards actually getting all these changes done? Otherwise, my concerns it the perpetual kicking the can down the road. I'm afraid we really don't have much time left and would support a deadline to help ensure a sense of urgency across the board.
Oct 30, 2017 2:05 AM # 
ARhub, A fair question, and I don't have an easy answer for you in that it is a bit subjective. I'm not sure that everyone's level of satisfaction is the same here. My main goal for the next year would personally be:

I'd like to see a board with a new structure established. I know that is in the works. I'm sure some people will still be unhappy because it's USARA and I'm sure people will have different ideas on how it should be constructed (we are discussing that question right now, and again, can't please everyone). But I think step 1 is restructuring it. I am confident that will happen.

Step 2 in my mind is to see that new board look at the big picture and start to lay out a roadmap for how to make USARA better. Troy has already been working on improving social media plans with some outside folks. I don't know much about that firsthand other than I know he is working on that with someone more savvy than him, and I know USARA has been more active in recent months online. I believe the board can look at that and help with it or take it further. I also know Troy has at least started thinking about a website redesign.

I think the board will also need to look at some other key issues. Some examples in my mind: outreach, quality control, website, further developing communication, etc.

That said, I think that to do any or all of this well, it's going to take time. I don't expect the board by itself will be able to handle all of this. So, I think it will be interesting to see who else gets involved with things like writing newsletters (for example).

So, again, hard for me to say exactly what I want to see in place by Nationals next fall. But to me I think a clear restructuring, increased and regular communication, and at least a clear plan for taking on some of the biggest issues that are practical for USARA to take on are the foundational issues I want to see. I know people want to see a complete and immediate overhaul, but I'm not sure that's all the practical. I think to do it right will be about steady forward progress. Not jumping to immediate conclusions.

I don't know what is going on with NAARS. I know Mark is still considering something on his own or with them, not sure. I think it is also important to see what evolves there. I have no illusions that Troy and Doug will work together, but I am curious to see what comes of Mark's ideas. Depending on how that unfolds, I think that could guide what USARA does...or not...
Nov 1, 2017 4:55 PM # 
So we wait.

Question, Why does Troy not chime in anywhere.

Seems Attackpoint or FB are pretty user-friendly to sign up and contribute.
Nov 1, 2017 5:10 PM # 
Perhaps he should start tweeting. ; )
Nov 1, 2017 5:22 PM # 
I can't say for sure. I don't get the sense that he is much of a fan. I also think he believes communication is best had over the phone, through direct email, or in person. I for one don't know that he is wrong. Too often I think these social media discussions (and this is true of so much more than AR) get hijacked. Too many questions in my mind regarding tone, interpretation, etc. That is my feeling, I'm not speaking for Troy.

It's one thing for a company to post an ad, or promote something. But to get caught up in social media debates which, again in my opinion, don't always accurately represent the community is not necessarily productive and so much can be taken out of context.

I'm not saying there aren't valuable comments or points that get made, but look at this conversation. It was intended to be about organizational structure and leadership and for a while it became a fight over P2P vs. rogaine. I'd say a fair bit of the conversation also devolves into finger pointing and name calling at best and at worst the conversation becomes aggressive, unprofessional, and destructive. So, again, I am surmising to a degree from comments Troy has made and also from my general sense of social media, but I don't think he sees informal communication through social media as the most professional way to communicate.

Not saying that is right or there isn't more room for such communication.
Nov 1, 2017 8:17 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
>for a while it became a fight over P2P vs. rogaine

all too briefly!
Nov 9, 2017 3:56 PM # 
Hey Broots, How is the USARA ranking calculated?
Nov 9, 2017 4:35 PM # 
JayXC: If you have results which show up as a zero it’s because you raced that race with a racer outside of your declared 8. I like the rule but to be truthful I had no idea it was implemented.
Nov 9, 2017 8:06 PM # 
Teams are assigned points as laid out in the link JayXC shared, which is my less long-winded summary below with some background.

There has been a TON of back and forth on how to best divide up the points in past years: i.e. value of a sprint vs. adventure race vs. expedition. Tons of discussion on what the length of each race should be. Does a sprint constitute 6 hours or less? 10? Does an expedition count as anything longer than 24 hours? 36? 48?

USARA has consistently adjusted this in response to racer complaints. This began before my formal involvement though I was one of the voices engaged with the matter. This has continued since I came on board with USARA more officially. The short answer (as always): you can't make everyone happy. People focusing on sprints want sprints to count for more. Those racing expeditions want them to be worth a LOT more. Most racers who seem to care about rankings fall in the middle, and hence the policy settled where it did. Honestly, this was what first brought me into contact with Troy. I felt the old system was incredibly flawed (more below on that); as a team captain, I reached out with my reasoning, and I found him VERY open and understanding and willing to change.

In the past: Teams were 6 people. The old rules allowed teams to score points for as many races as they raced. No restrictions. Additionally, to score points, teams only had to have ONE of their six people racing at a given event. So, some teams ( a couple in particular) racked up points because their "teams" were composed of 25-30 people. And they would race 25 times. It was insane and obviously not fair. It was really a race between networks of people and often, though not always, came down to who was able to physically race the most as a "team".

Changes began YEARS ago (though I know some people still think old versions of the rules apply). I honestly don't remember, but I'd say at least five years ago. Again, there was a lot of discussion. Troy and the board at that time polled the racer reps and various other people. There was a lot of brainstorming. Again, no solution was perfect for all, but changes were implemented and then amended over the course of 2-3 years until we got to where we are now which is, in summary:

-Teams can have up to 7 racers.
-All racers at a given race MUST come from those 7 designated racers.
-Teams can change their roster during the year, but if they remove someone who raced at a past event, they forfeit the points for said event.
-Teams can score points from a MAXIMUM of 7 events INCLUDING Nationals.
-So, best seven races.
-And then there is the weighting of the races.

This all was communicated to team captains when these changes were implemented.

This discussion thread is closed.