Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The right thing to say is "Thank you"

Rob Loveman surely deserves some sort of recognition for outstanding achievement in grudge-holding.  His most recent blog post on the subject of race volunteers is truly unfortunate, asserting that if a volunteer is unwilling or unable to stay out on the trail for as long as it takes the last musher to complete the race, they aren't volunteers, they're spectators.

So, a few points:

  1. It is often extremely difficult for people to deal with uncertainty in their schedules.  They have families, jobs, and commitments outside the race.  Even small races run on volunteers and part of treating them well includes being able to tell them when and where they're needed
  2. Rob likes to remind us that he has a Ph.D. in physics.  Consequently I'm a little unclear on why he's not addressing extreme cases, limits, constraints, etc.  Presumably most would agree that it's not reasonable to keep a checkpoint open for six months.  If there are cases where it's not reasonable to keep a checkpoint open, there must be some sort of border between reasonable and unreasonable.  Is three weeks unreasonable?  Two weeks?  Eight weeks?  He doesn't say, so we're left with not being sure whether or not he does think there are limits
  3. Extrapolating from a local 300-mile race on the road system to 1000-mile races in the bush just doesn't work, not only because the former poses fewer logistical challenges over time and distance, but also because a really slow team in a mid-distance race may take an extra day.  A really slow team in a 1000-mile race may take an extra week.  These quantities are not comparable in terms of impacts
  4. Keeping checkpoints open costs money, particularly remote checkpoints with access only by air (or snow machine).  Keeping generators running, telecommunications, food, cooking fuel, etc.  Not sure where the money for that is going to come from.  
Volunteers make it possible to hold our races.  If someone can be there two weeks but not three, we not only should be grateful but most of us are grateful.  If someone can be there two weeks but not three, they're still an enormous help to the race organization.  If someone's willing to sit out at Eagle River for two weeks but not three, they're still a hero.  We need to say "Thank you" for whatever someone can give of themselves, and we need to respect their constraints and treat them well by being clear about what we're asking of them.

[edited to add: A highly competitive musher who'd prefer to stay anonymous commented "if a musher is not training hard enough and prepared to run with the race pack then they are a camper, not a racer. (directed specifically at Rob)." And we see a fair amount of that in the Iditarod, which always attracts more than its share of the top dog teams in distance racing, but which always also attracts bucket-listers, people who aren't necessarily mushers but want an adventure. Asking volunteers and the race organization to keep checkpoints open for campers seems wrong.]

1 comment:

  1. Excellent points. Most people have no clue as to the logistics involved to supply and staff checkpoints. There is a fine line between maintaining the race as a competetive event and allowing those who can't compete at that level to finish. I think the ITC does a pretty good job with that.