OCR Idea: The Additive OCR

A while back, I came up with some ideas for tweaks to the OCR race format. Here’s another one: the additive OCR.

Most competitive OCRs punish failures either by imposing penalty burpees/laps/whatnot, or by making competitors try again until success or be disqualified. Instead of that model, what about something more positive, where competitors score points for the obstacles they do complete?

On its own, that’s pretty lame. But there’s another twist: Each obstacle has several options, with more difficult ones being worth more. So, climbing a 6-foot wall might be worth one point, while a 7-foot wall could be 2, and 8 feet worth 3. (Or perhaps more; I haven’t worked out an economy for this.) Herc hoist could have varying weights; monkey bars could have varying lengths, lengths between bars, angled bars, or options to do the whole thing backwards; and the spear throw could have unlimited throws, scoring one point for each hit—but if you miss, your score for the obstacle goes down to zero. And so on, and so on.

One more detail: Every obstacle is one shot. You select the option you’re going for, and you get one shot. Complete it successfully and you score; fail and you get zero points but no other penalty.

The obvious disadvantages:

  • It requires more infrastructure; a race set up like this would need to have each of the obstacle options in place. It wouldn’t necessarily need an exponential increase in obstacles—instead of, say, 4 lanes of one obstacle, you’d need one lane of 4 versions of that obstacle. But you’d actually probably need more than that, since the competitive heats would probably cluster at the harder versions, while the general heats would likely cluster at the less hard versions.
  • It requires an “economy” of achievement valuations to be developed. That’s a daunting task, if for no other reason than it would be trying to compare things that aren’t directly comparable, but it’s also a finite task that wouldn’t need a huge amount of continuing work.
  • It complicates refereeing and scoring. I’m not sure that it would be much worse than where OCR is heading, though—OCRs kind of already require monitoring for completion at every obstacle to ensure fairness, so noting a score at the same time, particularly if the obstacles are monitored by video wouldn’t be that difficult. I can at least sort of envision how it would work—probably with cameras trained on every obstacle feeding video to a central location with a few judges monitoring and keeping score. Like golf.
  • While I think scoring would be feasible for the elite heats, it would be more or less impossible for the rest of us. We’d have to keep track ourselves. Which would make relative rankings impossible.
  • It diminishes the “race” aspect—at least a bit. Although races could create a value for race completion time and factor that in as they choose.

I think the advantages are kind of interesting, though. They include:

  • Exceptional ability can be rewarded. Races like to call their obstacles EPIC!!!, but a race where none of the obstacles can be completed by anyone other than a world-class athlete is probably not going to be much fun to run unless you are a world-class athlete. This approach would allow an option for harder options—9- or 10-foot walls, massive heavy-thing carries, and so on—without clearly declaring to the rest of us how worthless we are.
  • There would be an easier progression for the rest of us. Some obstacles are far enough above my ability that completing them is impossible to even visualize. This would create smaller steps to make progress a lot more feasible.
  • It could reduce the importance of running speed in competitive rankings. Exceptional ability at various obstacles would provide a path to competitiveness. As it stands now, for example, being able to scale a 9-foot wall has no advantage over being able to scale an 8-foot wall. This would reward exceptional climbers, rather than setting a level that is “good enough” and punishing anyone who falls short.
  • It may improve the TV spectatability of OCR. Outside of dedicated fans, long races (of any type) aren’t particularly exciting on TV—the action is generally pretty steady-state, and at any given point one competitor’s standing relative to another’s isn’t likely to change much. OCR has this problem too: On most obstacles, elite racers will not be much different from one another. In this model, every obstacle (if designed properly) would have an impact on the final results, as racers pick different options and just about every obstacle has the potential for failure if the racer chooses over-ambitiously.



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Filed under Obstacle Course Racing, OCR Ideas

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