Wednesday, June 3, 2009


The Classic is a race for the hardy. It's a test of willpower among the toughest of the tough. Subterfuge is a time-honored tradition in the Classic. It catches many novices unaware who don't think that there could be another level of competition other than merely finishing this grueling race. When the best compete against the best though, there is bound to be psychological trickery involved.

Consider the following true story: many years ago, an accomplished and well known Alaskan runner was competing in the Honolulu Marathon. He had trained relentlessly for it and was hoping to finish high in the overall standings. Even though the race started early in the day, at about mile 20, the temperature was searing. As he was struggling to not hit "the wall", a pair of runners slowly came from behind and pulled even with him.

He glanced over and saw that his competition was wearing full Ninja regalia and was dressed from head to toe in black. Despite the suffocating heat, even their faces were covered except for eye slits. As he marveled at their stamina, he also saw they were running in traditional wooden shoes. Their feet were bloody and they left tracks of blood on the pavement as they ran. As he studied them, he realized they showed no signs of being in pain at all. In the face of such willpower, our hero's concentration cracked, he fell off the pace and never regained his stride. He finished the race quite a bit slower than his goal time.

You can use similar psychological tactics against your competitors in the Classic and other adventure races. All of the following strategies have been successfully used in the Classic.
Start the race off running. Whether or not other racers think you're crazy, you'll be ahead of them when everyone is reduced to walking in a few hours.

If you happen to make a fire, put it out completely and leave it cold. If other racers see it still smoking and feel how warm it is, they'll know you are close and will speed up to catch you.
Leave tracks going the wrong direction. I fell for this trick my first race and my group dropped from a strong second place to a distant fourth after losing several hours in a box canyon that led nowhere. There are many other psychologically devastating tricks to play on other racers. Just keep it "above board" and use your imagination.

In a similar vein, imagine if you could add weight to other racer's packs to slow them down. This is exactly what the eventual race winner did in 2004 when he pulled a cooler full of cold beer into the starting arena only minutes before the race began.

After spending months paring down the weight of their packs, many people eagerly put one or two in their pack for later in the day.

Despite all this talk of deception and chicanery, helping other racers is common. There's an instant commradarie in coming across other racers in the middle of nowhere and sharing their experiences and close calls.

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