by Rob Howard http://www.sleepmonsters.com
Cowboy Tough bringing the AR World Championships to Wyoming is the culmination of a 5 year plan for Mark and Margo Harris and their company Adventure Enablers. It’s been a long journey, both in terms of developing the support and skilled staff to deliver the race here, and in reality … because the company is based in Virginia. That is 2000 miles away and a 2.5 day drive!
Mark explained how the relationship with Wyoming came about. “The state wanted to promote itself for the amazing opportunities it has for adventure, travel, tourism and historic sites,” he said. “With the support of Governor Mead they opted to establish an adventure race and our proposal to do it won. It was for a 5 year plan, visiting and starting in different parts of the state each year, and by the 5th year staging a bigger 7 to 10 day race across the whole state.
“For the first couple of years we started with stage races with 20 to 30 U.S. teams, then joined the AR World Series and attracted some more international teams. The plan changed to staging the World Champs in the 5th year as it fitted in well with our long term goal and here we are!”
Over the years the race has gradually changed in structure and format. “When the plan to stage the World Champs was agreed we had to move towards a more linear, non-stop course. In the earlier races we had orienteering style stages with optional CP’s and dark zones each night, but this race there won’t be either. It will be a point to point journey, and our goal in the planning was always to have teams moving forward, from East to West, start to finish. This is why we ended up with the long bike ride we have – we could have put in other stages along the way to break it up, but that is the only purpose they would have served.”
For the upcoming race the start will be in Jackson Hole, and it will finish in Casper, as it always has done. “Casper has always offered great support for us,” said Harris. The town certainly seems to offer everything the race needs, with most of the teams staying in the race Hotel, just across the road from the race HQ and staging area.
“We could never have staged the races without so much support in Wyoming,” he added. “We have the backing of the Governor and strong support from the State Parks, National Forest and BLM (Bureau of Land Management). Between them they manage huge areas and allow us to visit the natural wonders of the State, and mean we are not working with lots of private landowners. We’ve now had 5 years of developing working relationships here and that allows us to put on this World Championships with confidence. ”
The decision to start in Jackson Hole was a natural one, it’s the best known visitor attraction in Wyoming (along with Yellowstone) and in many ways this determined the outline of the course, which will only be fully revealed to the teams on the bus ride to the start, when the maps are given out. “In some ways it makes it easier to have constraints when planning the course,” Harris explained.
I asked him what teams can expect from Wyoming, and what the key factors in the race might be. “I tell every team that the wind will be a big factor,” he said. “It always is in Wyoming and although we can factor in local knowledge it can still be unpredictable. It can save your day or ruin it! You can be biking with it at 25 miles per hour or against it at 5 miles per hour. It rises on the lakes and rivers in the afternoon so when teams are paddling and which way it’s blowing will affect their progress as much as anything. There may be big electrical storms in the afternoons too, and there is some rain in the forecast.
“The state is culturally different, it really is cowboy country, and teams should have some wildlife sightings. There are moose and bear and teams who have already been exploring have already seen bear with cubs. The night sky here always amazes me too and it will be even more spectacular on the 12th as there is a big meteor shower.
“The terrain is not like some of the others they’ve experienced, and it won’t slow them down so much. There is no dense undergrowth, no hike-a-bike, and even on the treks its mostly open ground. I’m pretty confident in my timing predictions but they are very aggressive and don’t take account of any sleep, transitions or the weather, particularly the wind.”
(He has a fastest predicted time of 67 hours for a 605km course and teams have been wondering how on earth they could go that fast!)
“We want the teams to have an amazing time here in Wyoming,” he concluded, “but we know we can only do so much. We can provide the information and support, but what they make of the race is down to their own unique interactions, within their team, with other teams and with the people and landscape around them. They will all make their own race experience, and it’s why we changed our company name to Adventure Enablers … because that is what we do.”
Written By Rob Howard http://www.sleepmonsters.com