Rules of interpretation?

One thing that BPR-CO prides itself on is preparation for any events - Chapter Events or otherwise. Just look at all the man-purses on Pit Boss's bike! If something breaks on the trail, I'm sure that he'll be able to fix it. Run out of water? Pit Boss usually has one if not two methods of treating water with him. Bonking? I'm always carrying way too much food and have been known to share on a few occasions. But to a limit - if someone has a flat tire, but was too much of a weight wienie to carry a tube, let alone a pump - the assistance might not be as forthcoming. We are always willing to help those who tried to help themselves. Someone who is unprepared for that they are facing? It's a little harder in that case. Obviously, I wouldn't want someone to get seriously hurt because I didn't give them a rice bar. At the same time, without that objective lesson of struggling home with no food, will that rider ever learn to prepare properly? Or will he head out the next time, carrying even less, because the "kindness of strangers" allowed him to succeed the first time?

It becomes even worse with racing. The minute a number plate is attached to the bike, common sense for most riders seems to go out the window, with the goal of only being light and fast. Pit Boss did help a rider with a mechanical at the Growler this year - a typical weight wienie who didn't even want to weight of the multi-tool he needed to slow him down. And after he'd offered the assistance to the rider? Pit Boss had to tell the rider to treat the tools with respect and not just chuck it back in the general direction of where he was standing. That's not how you respond to someone on the side of the road, willing to provide you assistance - with impatience and rudeness. Yet for some reason, that's how this rider was going the behave. Instead of wheeling his bike over to the van and fixing it away from the riders still on course, he was going to stand in the road, wait for Pit Boss to fetch him the tool and then toss it aside when finished. It's part of the reason why we are starting to do more big, limited support style races.

And then there are the rules of whatever race you are doing. I came from road running and triathlons. There was a racer meeting offered several times through the day before the race. Usually, I never learned anything as they just went over rules, common violations and allowed for time to ask questions. But I always went.  It was my responsibility as an athlete to attend the meeting. If I didn't go to the meeting and there was a change in the course or I didn't understand the drafting guidelines, it was my responsibility if I got a penalty or a DQ. Even in events as simple as a marathon, there were athlete meetings to go over course, athlete responsibilities and rules. Not knowing from not attending wasn't an excuse if I did something wrong. And if I did do something wrong, I accepted the penalty - and didn't climb on a soapbox protesting unfair treatment.

So where am I going with this? A racer was DQed from the Dirty Kanza this past weekend for taking support from a vehicle outside of the official checkpoints. Honestly, I wouldn't have even known about it despite watching DK closely this year if there hadn't been the resulting social media storm about the issue. Granted, I don't know both sides of the story - someone reading posts and articles will come away with an opinion, but it may not be completely based on all the facts. However, the rider initially admitted to being unprepared for the race,  that he hadn't attended the mandatory rider meeting, and that a friend/co-worker/teammate was driving a branded vehicle on course and had given him multiple bottle and food handups. Fine. Having a support vehicle on the course is strictly against the rules. Are some of the other top riders finding ways around that rule? Most likely. Are some of the back of the pack riders also getting help on course? Most likely. Do other top riders have full support staff at the checkpoints to help them? Yes they do - and that's completely legal. Do the back of the pack riders also have friends, family and random strangers helping them at checkpoints? Yes - it's a requirement of the race to have a support staff. It's also pretty clear that you need to roll out of the starting line and each of the checkpoints with everything that you would need to get to the next one about 50 miles later. This is a self supported event where the rider is responsible for the rider. When there is a finish rate of about 60%, the race organization cannot be everywhere at every time to pick up riders. Hence the need for a support crew and the instructions to look out for yourself as you are responsible for your safety and your actions.

But what really annoyed me, as an athlete, was that the rider then started condemning the race organization for the very thing that draws people to the event! Why do people attempt great challenges? Because there is the possibility of failure. Why do thousands flock to DK? Because it in it's very nature is an athlete against his mind, against his body and against nature. It is the challenge of preparing for something so unpredictable. To take that challenge and turn it into just another road event or triathlon because you didn't do your homework? A slap in the face of everyone who did - of every athlete that left the starting line with 150oz of water in a framebag or backpack, knowing the weight would slow them down, but that they would be able to finish. Water stations every 10 miles like in a triathlon? Where are you going to find the volunteers for 20 water stations, people who are willing to stand out in all kinds of weather for hours? And how will you keep them stocked and supplied? By driving vehicles on dusty roads, increasing the risk of accidents to participants? Last year the cyclists could barely get through the mud - and you want how many volunteers to risk getting stranded and destroying the roads? If you promise aid and then can't deliver because of conditions, then what happens? In all honesty, the bike water stations at the triathlons I've done were the scariest part of the race. Volunteers with no training on how to hand up bottles, riders more focused on speed then what they are doing and bottles scattered around like little land minds. To rail against the rules saying no support vehicles allowed on course - and then say that every person who took a drink from a hose or glass of lemonade was also guilty of violating the rules shows little regard for the history of the race and the support the locals have for the event. It also completely misses the beauty of trail magic in these self supported events. I've been racing for years - marathons, triathlons and mountain biking. At every race, there have been kids and family with un-official water stations set up on course. Maybe just a few Dixie cups of water, maybe something more. But they have always been there. Sometimes you take something, sometimes you don't. But those kids, the family - or in this case the farmer with his hose - are there for everyone. Even if the farmer goes inside, but leaves the hose out in plain sight - trail magic. The resources are available for everyone and it allows the residents who live along the course to become involved and feel like they are part of the event. Now, someone following me on their bike in the middle of a marathon, handing me water and gummy worms? That's a different story - and plenty of race winners have been DQ'ed for having that kind of outside support. How is that any different then a support van in the middle of a bike race? It's not. Both are clear violations of the rules - and much different then taking the gummy worms from a little kid on the side of the road.

People are always going to look for interpretations of the rules and to see the best way they can be bent to create advantages. It's just what we do in this society. Unfortunately, when we get caught now, instead of owning up to the mistakes, we air the dirty laundry of how "unfairly" we are being treated to social media, where the ego can be soothed by the condolences of "friends." Even worse, we decided that since we were treated "unfairly"  that the race needs to change. Not everything needs to be the homeogenic corporatized world of standards with little risk . A little challenge that requires preparation and going outside the expected is good. Don't take that away for the many who crave it and prepare for it just because you were unprepared and now unwilling to admit it.

Okay off my soapbox now!!


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