Safety VS. Self-Support

Posted by on Feb 14, 2007 in Uncategorized | No Comments

An interesting discussion is happening over at Mike Curiak has called into question some of the decisions made by the people racing the Arrowhead 135. This year the temps were extremely low, and conditions rather dangerous at the race.

So, where do we draw the line? In what situation does personal safety trump personal accomplishment? When is the reward less than the risk? And what responsibility, if any, do random people out on the course have in helping us get to safety?

It is a dicey question, but one that needs discussion I think.

Part of my plan for last year’s KTR was a bail out option. My little brother was down there, and if I needed to, I could call him and arrange to meet him somewhere along the route. That way I would not be burdening any recreational riders or ATVers who I encountered on the trail. Thankfully I didn’t need to call him.

A situation arose early on in the race where one rider crashed hard and broke his collar-bone. Another racer sacrificed his own race to help him. They were in a bad spot, high up in the La Sal mountains. They found a camper, he drove them to a spot they could get cell phone reception and they phoned in for help. Under the circumstances it was an appropriate action to take.

I know from talking with the people involved, that the camper was not in the mood to help these bikers. It was about 3 AM. He was asleep, and was woken up by people intentionally putting themselves at risk. The racers were polite and were ready to move on, when he relented to their plight.

More important than having the best gear and fitness, is having an exit strategy. Ask President Bush “) I am far from an authority on this subject though.. But it has been on my mind lately. Mike’s argument is that to ask for help from people on the course defeats the spirit of being self-supported. I agree with him. His exceptions are when the situation is something that you cannot possible remedy on your own, as he says in his KTR description, “a broken leg or a broken frame.”

But the line can get grayed rather quickly. Is running out of water 15 miles from Westwater a life and death situation? Do you need to take water from an ATVer? or can you leg out the remaining miles to a water source? The answer is probably different for everyone.

It’s an interesting topic, and one that was inevitable. Hopefully we can keep this discussion pre-emptive, and not retro to an accident or other misfortune out on these remote routes.

Use your brain out there as well as your legs. Easier said than done in some cases.


  1. Guitar Ted
    February 15, 2007

    Yes, this is a necessary discussion and you are right, it’s a vague, gray area where you are seconds from being okay or near death.

    I think going in that if you are ready to accept the consequences of your decisions, then you are letting others off the hook for your safety, but how to communicate that effectively and when is your self government overidden due to your situation/condition?

    It’s easy to say, “you are responsible for yourself”, and quite another thing when someone in an event is in dire need,is seriously injured, or dies.

    I help promote and run Trans Iowa, and I can tell you that this is my worst nightmare. It’s the thing that would stop me, (and just might anyway, even if it doesn’t happen) from putting on this event again.

  2. Dave Byers
    February 15, 2007

    This is an interesting topic and definitely an intense thread on MTBR. Although a bit heated, I think many of the posters make good points.

    It has me thinking about the “correct” way to pull the plug if/when I realize that today is not my day and I need to abandon a self-supported race.

    This is where the “correct” way turns gray for me:

    #1 Getting my sorry carcass all the way back to my vehicle at the start line under my own power regardless of how long it takes
    #2 Getting myself off of the course and onto a main road where I accept a ride from a friend or family back to my vehicle
    #3 Being rescued by any passerby that comes along and offers help, but only if it is an emergency

    It seems that options 1 and 2 are somewhat acceptable but option 3 may be justified in the case of a real emergency. And that leaves us with defining an “emeergency”.

  3. StupidBike
    February 15, 2007

    If I quit a race and want to go home and get in the back of a truck to get me home and someone tells me that it is against the rules I’ll tell them to DQ me then and stay in the truck, eating a cheeseburger.

    This is a hobby, not a military situation.

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