Friday, August 26, 2011

What does it take to organize an Advanced event?

After talking to Roman last Sunday, I thought, it'd be good to put it all down on paper. What does it take to organize an Advanced event? How long does it take? What kind of time commitment is needed? What are the preparation steps and how difficult are they?

Surprisingly, it is not hard at all to put up such event - pretty much anyone who is comfortable with running advanced courses could do it! Time commitment is rather small, it's fun and a great training exercise. In fact, this is THE BEST way to quickly and drastically improve your map reading skills.

Sounds like a shameless advertisement already, but yes, if you are reading it, I want to ask you to seriously consider organizing one of those event in 2012! You won't regret it.

So what's involved?

Step 1 (designing the courses)
Time required: 2 hours (if you do it for the first time), ~30 mins if you've done it before
This might be challenging if you do it for the first time: you would need to download and install Condes (special software we use), download maps, spend some time getting familiar with the software and actually design the courses. It's much easier to do for an advanced event, though, because you'll be basically designing just one course - Red. Green and Brown will be subsets of Red. There are instructions on the BOK site on how to design the course, I won't go into details here. Remember though, that many people (me including) will be happy to review your design and suggest improvements. It can be done via email and the whole process should not take more than 2 hours of your time throughout several days. Of course this step can (and in case of Umstead should) be done 1-2 months before the event.

Step 2 (get the park approval)
Time required: 30 mins
Different parks have different requirements, but for the most parks a simple call or email would suffice. You'd need to talk to a person in charge there and see if they are OK with our date and whether they have a preference for a start location. In some cases, you'd need to reserve a shelter as well. Umstead has the toughest requirements - they actually want to review the courses, so you'd need to send them the courses in JPG format at least 1 month before the event for review and approval. You might have to go through a few iterations with them as well. BOK site has all the contact information and requirements for all the parks we use (Joseph or Mihai would need to provide you access to that page). If you feel uncomfortable with this step, I am sure, you could get help. I remember Joseph getting all the approvals for the first few events I did (thank you!).

Step 3 (announce the event on the BOK site)
Time required: 15 mins
You could do it yourself or ask someone else to put an announcement up, doesn't matter.

Step 4 (get equipment)
Time required: 1 hour
You would need to pick up all the equipment from the last event director or from Joseph's house. It's just a driving time.

Step 5 (set ribbons)
Time required: 3-5 hours
This is the most important part and a great training exercise for you. The idea is to find all the spots where controls should be, check and double-check them from several attack points, see if all the important features around the control are indeed on the map (if not, consider moving the control a bit), and, of course, hang an orange ribbon with "BOK - date" mark on it.
It is done 1 week before the event. I used to split it between Saturday and Sunday. Now I do it during one 3 hours hike. I don't run when setting ribbons. Basically it is a long thoughtful hike and you get a chance to enjoy the forest and explore the map in great details, like you never could during a normal run.

Step 6 (adjust and cleanup the courses/controls)
Time required: 15-45 mins
After all the ribbons are set, you usually would need to move a few controls on the map a bit. You would also need to play a bit more with Condes: clean up control circles, set numbers right and position the legend. Again, someone could help you with that kind of cleanup - in that case this step will not take more than 15 mins of your time.

Step 7 (print the maps)
Time required: 1 hour
This is done on Friday before the event.
If Joseph is in town, you can ask him to print the maps. Otherwise, use Fedex/Kinkos print online service. It's pretty easy and self explanatory. You would need to export map with courses into PDF file to do that (PrimoPDF freeware is used for that).
Then you would need to pick the printed maps up. So some driving time will be required here.

Step 8 (hang the controls)
Time required: 1.5-2 hours
One day before the event you would need to go and hang the controls (taking off the ribbons). This is an easy job, because you will already know the area intimately after setting ribbons. You can run if you wish - I prefer to walk and enjoy the forest. Some people prefer to hang the controls in the morning right before the event, but if you don't like rushing things up, just set them on Saturday.

Step 9 (download sign-up spreadsheet)
Time required: 5 mins
Every person who registeired for the event will appear in the "registration" spreadsheet on the BOK site (Mihai or Joseph can give you access to it). Ideally, everybody should register before noon on Friday, so you would know how many maps to print. In reality there are always a few people who register late, so it's better to print the spreadsheet at the last possible moment. You will use this spreadsheet during the event for marking start/finish times - much easier comparing to regular events.

Step 10 (run the event)
Time required: 5 hours
Come 30 mins early, set parking signs, set the start place. During the advanced event you won't have to deal with registration or money, as everybody is pre-registered and everything is paid for already (members go free), so it's all very easy and relaxing.

Step 11 (post the results)
This is pretty challenging from technical stand point. Someone will have to show you how to do it, so for the first time I would suggest that you ask someone else to do this step.

So in total you'd be looking at something like 16 hours of various activities, with 11 of those being "preparation" time spread over 1-2 month before the event.

Think about it :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ribbons at Schenck

Set the ribbons for the Aug 21 advanced event yesterday - took me three hours of very careful walking - but the knee held out. Got some pain at the end, but it's clearly getting stronger. Yay!

Didn't have to move any controls, but will need to update the map a bit - a trail disappeared, a gully went in wrong direction (well, it was always plotted wrongly, we just never used it...) - this kind of things. I won't be updating areas where the forest was cut down though... Remembering Artem's warning I didn't put any controls close to the Reedy Creek road, so the courses were fine, but I'd say we lost about 10% of the forest due to the cutting and logging. I hope that area will be seeded with new trees, but who knows.

There is another area where trees were cut down - in the north-west corner, right behind the fence. I guess technically it's not the park - looks like this area was cut down for some kind of housing or business development. Oh well...

Also get ready for some mud walking - looks like the lake went bust a few days ago - a large area along the creek is all covered with a thick layer of mud (including the trail).

The courses look good though, I really like how they came out.

See you on Sunday!