Sunday, April 26, 2015

NorthFace100 Risk Management


Tarros ladders .Pic from Wild Runners

     Warning and Disclaimer
This event is for experienced trail runners only. Please ensure that you are sufficiently skilled to undertake the event. The course is a very tough, demanding course held in a remote location. There are very steep sections and sections that are rough under foot. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are fit enough to complete the event which make take you up to 28 hours to finish. Ensure that you are in good health and that you do not have any illness that will hinder your ability to complete the event. It is your responsibility to monitor your health and condition during the event and to withdraw from the event if you are no longer fit enough to continue
             In the Competitors Briefing Notes NorthFace100 2015


As part of the preparation for Northface , I have read as much as I can. There is a lot about the run and whilst it is a fairly recent event not quite 10 years old it is an Iconic Australian Ultra event.(started by AROC in 2008)

I never contemplated running an ultra but it did and has been a welcome change to my usual routine of triathlon training. I have enjoyed the change and the different demands. I can't say the training has been demanding and I have not put my body through a huge volume of hours or mileage and that may be why the body has stood up well .

Having said that the training and the race has opened up a new world,  that of ultra running/ adventure racing . A few months ago whilst reading Outside Magazine online (full of interesting articles and well before I signed up for Northface ) I came across an interesting piece called A Firsthand Account of an Adventure-Racing Tragedy by Rebecca Rusch .I read it with interest and didn't think much of it other than the story written from the perspective of someone in the race with the harrowing tragedy of a death and whether it was preventable .

Conversely, Nigel’s death had a polarizing effect. Many athletes, including me, felt that the peak was a bad place for a checkpoint and that the accident was preventable. Yes, adventure racing is dangerous, we didn’t expect a race director to keep us entirely safe, and being able to make navigational decisions is one of the appeals of adventure racing. However, placing a checkpoint on Illabot Peaks, with exposed loose rock and no clear option for descent, amounted to poor course design and unnecessary risk. The navigational challenge would have been the same if the checkpoint had been located in the saddle below the peak.

Rebecca Rusch
What became a very interesting coincidence for me was that in reading much about the NorthFace 100 I read about the organisers AROC who happen to be part of the ill fated race in 2004. Two of the team were part of the race team in 2004 . The race directors  Tom Landon-Smith and Alina McMaster are husband and wife and owners of AROC Sport and were part of the team called AROC  on the primal quest race in 2004.As their website indicates they are well traveled and elite athletes having competed for Australia in cross country skiing and then pursuing adventure racing and now running a number of events.There is even a link on AROC's website to a short piece written by D J Brooks who was the support crew for AROC in the Primal Quest event in 2004 , about the incident.

Whilst Adventure Racing is such a different sport , the analysis of the article indicates the importance of organizing an event and safety . Any form of activity has risk .Understanding that risk , identifying that risk and tailoring the risk to the correct participant are so crucial but in the risk adverse world Lessons can be learnt . Preparation by  organizers are crucial and participants owe it to themselves to be as prepared and aware of the environment they are in . Hence whether it is an Ironman event or an adventure race or an ultra-race ( see Parliamentary enquiry into Kimberly Ultrarun and Daily Mail article on event ) there is an inevitable degree of accountability by the organizer to make it as safe as possible understanding the participants they are inviting to undertake the event .Clearly  the participant  has responsibilities as well , to understand the terrain , the conditions and the distance and make every effort to have trained for it . NorthFace seems to cover this .The mandatory gear list and the clear instructions as to what is required in this race means the uninitiated will suffer if ill prepared.Fortunately whilst it is in difficult terrain it is not in absolute wilderness and hopefully the weather and the phone reception hold out .