Category Archives: OCR Ideas

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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Getting OCR into the Olympics

Spartan head person Joe De Sena quite famously has a goal of getting obstacle course racing into the Summer Olympics.

Personally, I’m completely indifferent to this goal. I’m unlikely to ever compete Olympically, and while I recognize that growth in the industry is likely to have positive impacts on the availability and quality of races I have the opportunity to participate in, I have no idea whether seeking Olympichood is the most effective method of achieving that growth.

Nevertheless, I do love a good theoretical puzzle, so I’ve been wondering about what needs to happen to get OCR into the Olympics. And, while I can’t claim to be an expert on getting sports into the Olympics, I do have a few ideas that range from amusing to legitimate to completely-stupid-but-also-kind-of-thought-provoking-in-that-Ig-Nobel-Prize way.* And here they are:

Fantasy OCR: Let me start by saying that fantasy sports are something I don’t understand, in the sense that they don’t appeal to me and I can’t fathom anything that would lead me to join such a league. However, I have asked a friend who plays in multiple fantasy football leagues why he does so. According to him, fantasy football is great, because—and this is a direct quote—“Because it forces me to be excited about games that I don’t care about.”

One could certainly debate the moral gelatinousness of being forced to care about things you don’t care about, but that’s not important for this discussion. What is important is the fact that a sport with legions of fans is more likely to be added to the Olympic roster than one that has obsessive participants but whose only fans are people who know those participants personally and that one creepy guy on the internet.** And if millions of people don’t necessarily enjoy it but they start feeling compelled to obsess about every week’s results, well, that’s as good as fandom to the Olympic committee.***

Synchronized OCR: It worked for swimming. And diving. And biathlon. (It’s a shame synchronized biathlon**** doesn’t make the broadcast that often.) And none of this Team Ninja Warrior shit, where (as far as I can tell without owning a TV) it’s just a head-to-head race—to be Olympic-worthy, the synchronicity has to be judged, and it has to be judged separately from the performance, so it’s okay to perform absolutely shittily, as long as you perform absolutely shittily in synchronicity with your teammate. That’s what viewers want.

All the human interest stories: Olympic broadcasts, these days, are about 12% sport and 388% human interest. (Are there four channels of Olympic broadcasts these days? I know there was the Triplecast fiasco a while ago, but now there’s eight billion cable channels and there’s a limit to how many times the tapes of Wings can be played before they’ll disintegrate, so there’s probably more now.)

Anyhow, to be television-ready, every competitor should prepare a 3-5 minute multimedia package about their biggest failure, their greatest tragedy, and the childhood hero who changed their life. They should also prepare 3-5 backups for each in case their first choice is duplicated by a more prominent athlete. They also need to provide good B-roll footage of training (preferably including that shot where you clap freshly chalked hands together and the chalk flies everywhere), crying, and interacting with actors portraying an inspirationally disabled relative.

Americanization: We could pretend that the Olympics are about sport, or we could grow the fuck up and realize they’re about cash. I assume that the bulk of revenues from the Olympics come from TV deals, and that the U.S. is the most lucrative TV market there is (since we’re the ones with the wherewithal to watch at least 306 hours of television apiece over two weeks.)

Now, the Olympics do require sports to be played in a reasonably large number of countries before they’ll be considered. But Americans want to watch Americans win medals. We don’t give no fucks ‘bout foreigners, stealing our medals and impregnating our wimmins. So anyone with a legitimate shot at gold should defect. Except that a Canadian can win occasionally, as long as their top rival that year is Russian.

Mud Girls: Sex sells, so lots of sports have incorporated eye candy into their culture, in the form of ladies whose work is absolutely critical to the functioning of the match, while purely coincidentally having large breasts. There’s the Oakland Raiderettes, the Chicago Blackhawks Ice Crew, MMA Ring Girls, and, hottest of all, the Phillie Phanatic.

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Kickline

That last paragraph wasn’t entirely correct. In addition to having very large breasts, they also wear extremely small shorts. Public domain image by Big Cowboy Kev via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dallas_Cowboys_cheerleaders_Kick_Line.jpg

Now, OCR likes to think that it’s above that, and as far as I know, most participants are.***** But much as how the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders don’t actually have much of an impact on whether Dez Bryant catches that pass, the mud girls wouldn’t be there for the participants, but for the spectators. Anything for eyeballs!

In the name of equality, there probably should be mud boys as well. But while ladies would appreciate it, all of my cultural knowledge says that women get more turned on by emotion than visual stimulation. And thus, to serve them, there needs to also be…

OCR Erotica: Written-word porn is a powerful thing. 50 Shades of Grey—that bit of Twilight fanfiction gone horribly, horribly wrong—has been cited as one of the factors that helped Great Britain emerge from recession in 2012. (By a comedian, but cited nonetheless!)

So if someone turns OCR into a good popular porn romance series, then OCR’s burgeoning economic power would sweep it into the Olympics in a heartbeat. Seems like it’s time to figure out how spears, cargo nets, and monkey bars can produce female orgasms.


* As an aside, is it appropriate to award myself “The Ig Nobel Prize of OCR?” Because I like to think I could pull that off. If nothing else, that will be my Olympic dream.

** Not me. I’m that other creepy guy on the internet.

*** And nearly as good as a hefty, hefty bribe.

**** Biathlon is actually my closest Olympic connection, because when my brother was a kid and I was a much younger kid, he was on a swim team with Olympic biathlete Joan Guetschow. I mean, she wasn’t an Olympic biathlete at the time, but she eventually became one.

***** That’s a potentially huge bag of worms, so let me rephrase slightly: The culture of OCR seems to be one of respecting people, both men and women, for their accomplishments rather than creepily stalking them and turning them into sexual objects for their appearance. At least I have not seen or experienced any form of sexual harassment. But then again, to sexually harass me someone would have to be blind, stupid, racist, indifferent to humanity, suffering from acute appendicitis, and blind again. So I’m not a terribly valid authority on the subject. If it is an issue, then I hope that it can be discussed and eliminated. Now, back to hypothetical objectification for comedic purposes!

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Filed under Commentary, Funny, Obstacle Course Racing, OCR Ideas, OCR in culture

God’s OCR (or, Let’s Have Fun Poking the Bear that Is Religion!)

a bearNot long ago, I learned about a new OCR in the works. Specifically, an event that combines obstacle course racing with… the Word of God.

It’s called the Mighty Warrior Challenge, and, well, I’m really not planning to mock it much.

I mean, I’m an atheist, and I’m disgusted by the evil that religion has been used to justify. But I’m inclined to think that’s more the nature of groups in general, rather than religion in particular; they can be swayed to tremendous evil or tremendous good.

Without a lot more information, it’s impossible to know whether Mighty Warrior’s religion is of the “love thy neighbor” or the “condemn all outsiders to hell” variety, but outside that information I’m inclined to give the benefit of the doubt that the race’s intent is to do good.

From my nonreligious standpoint, I think the really important takeaway is that there’s an actual idea behind the race. Most OCRs really don’t differentiate themselves well: their stated reason for existing is to be MOAR EPIKZ (and, usually, something military). Even Warrior Dash, widely understood (and sometimes decried, though why this is inherently negative is beyond me) as an entry-level race, describes its obstacles as “world-class”—a phrase that doesn’t actually mean anything but is certainly calculated to suggest awesomeness.

Mighty Warrior, to what I think is its great credit, is focusing on its theme to differentiate itself. And while an overarching design theme isn’t the only way to go*, it is something different.

So, now, the bad news. If I had to bet on whether the Mighty Warrior OCR will actually happen, I’d bet against. The website is still pretty minimal, a WordPress blog with just three posts. The Facebook and Twitter pages are more active, but populated by fairly generic fitness or inspirational posts, rather than information about the race’s development.

I could, of course, be wrong. The website says that the race will be launching a crowdfunding campaign in January, so the organizers may be focusing their preparation on then. Hell, (Oooh!) I’m not privvy to any of their plans or information, so while my impression may be logical, it isn’t based on any actual fact and shouldn’t be considered to be.

Ultimately, I hope they do good and well. It’s not likely I’d attend—Kansas City is a bit of a haul, and the religious angle isn’t one that would bridge that physical distance—but good things happening in OCR make OCR gooder.

*I wouldn’t mind seeing some races that have tighter focus in their obstacles—the lumberjack-themed Jack Axe Games come to mind, though I wasn’t able to attend so I have no idea how well that turned out in practice; OCRs that focus heavily on hauling heavy things or climbing or balance challenges might also be intriguing.

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Blinding OCR with Science!

Something that has been happening this year has been the Spartan Combine. I remember a podcast (my apologies for not remembering precisely which one—if anyone can point me to it I’ll gladly link) in which Joe De Sena said that it’s both a competition but he was also interested in comparing various athlete’s attributes with their performance in obstacle course racing to see what physical characteristics make an ideal racer.

SCIENCE! from memyselfaneye and the good folks at Pixabay (https://pixabay.com/p-389438/?no_redirect)

SCIENCE! from memyselfaneye and the good folks at Pixabay.

In other words, it’s an Act of Science! (THUNDERCLAP!)

I didn’t take much note of it at the time, because it’s not really of particular interest to me. Not that I’m opposed to increased knowledge, but increased knowledge focused on the top athletes doesn’t particularly affect me.

More recently, however, I’ve been thinking about some research that I would be interested in.

I should preface this: I’m not a scientist, but I work adjacent to science. In other words, I have a really dangerous level of knowledge. All of these projects are ones that I think would be interesting… but I’m not sure if the proposals are feasible or if they would produce valid results or anything like that. But I’ll propose them here; perhaps someone can take them up and conduct them with necessary scientific rigor.* I’d be thrilled to assist if I can, but I probably shouldn’t take the lead.

So here are some research projects that would improve OCRs for schlubs like me:

Traffic Management

Lines at obstacles are one of the things that can really hurt an OCR experience. You know what else sucks? Lines at traffic lights or gridlock on the highway. And there’s quite a lot of work being done there, using sophisticated simulations and real-world tests to evaluate how changes to traffic signal timing, highway ramp meters, lane configurations, or a jillion other things will affect traffic flow. (Or safety, or traffic patterns, or a bunch of other things, but let’s keep it simple.)

So, can this type of modeling/simulation/testing be done to determine schemes that will reduce the number of backups at obstacles? Well, I don’t know. I suspect yes, although I don’t have any good sense of how to set up an experiment, or how much the conditions on a given day would affect it, or even what variables should be tested. Several options include what wave sizes lead to big backups, if there’s a significant difference between the mass wave at outdoor Spartans versus the 15-person mini-waves at stadium races, or if the order or spacing of obstacles has an impact.

I don’t know exactly how it would best be done, but I’d be interested to see the results.

Course conditions over time

This is another tricky one, although I’ve got a bit more in the way of concrete ideas about it. How exactly do course conditions change from the first wave of the day to the last, and how does that impact runners?

For purely selfish reasons—the two outdoor OCRs I’ve run have had extremely slick courses, to the point that “running” them wasn’t actually feasible—the condition I’d be interested in studying is how much less friction the course has at the end of the day than at the start. I’ve got sort of an idea how to do it, even. (Remember my disclaimer: I know enough to be really dangerous.) A couple years ago, there was an attempt to develop a friction measurement system for snowy pavements. The sensor worked, although the physical construction of the device failed. But there’s a chance that some adaptation might be able to be developed to test the friction of the trail.

Again: Would it work? I don’t know; I’m not sure if the same principle for a flat, smooth surface would apply for the bumps of nature, nor if a handheld adaptation would work, nor if simply measuring friction is a good stand-in for measuring runability. Practicality, too, is a topic I haven’t considered. But I’d be interested in it anyhow.

There are certainly other conditions that affect races, like air temperature, precipitation, or obstacle conditions. Ground slickness is my big bugaboo, but finding out the impacts of other things would be interesting as well.

 

Effect of Group Membership

There are a lot of OCR groups/teams, but there are also solo runners. I’m curious whether getting involved in a team—or a small group, or running alone—affects how much a person enjoys the OCR experience, and whether it affects whether they continue participating. Or, perhaps, vice versa—if how much a person enjoys their initial OCR experience affects whether or not they join a team. And whether internet groups who primarily only meet on race day have the same impact as groups of people who live near to each other and see each other regularly.

I suspect this one would be relatively easier than the other two—it could probably be not much more complicated than a survey. It’s not something of burning interest to me (although I am intrigued), but if I were running a race series, it might have practical impact: If, say, 80% of solo runners only do one race but 80% of people who run in a group come back, that would inform a wise race series’ efforts to nurture team development and connect people to teams.

 

Prevalence of Cheating

I don’t care much about this one at all… but there’s been some digital ink spilled recently about cheating in OCR elite waves. (Again, I don’t have the link handy, because I’m a terrible person.) How prevalent is cheating, really?

This could be pretty easily tested, although it might need a bit of gear and a lot of time: Train some video cameras on obstacles that are likely to have failures in the elite waves, as well as the burpee zones of these obstacles, and see what happens.

These would probably need to be hidden and not announced in order to avoid changing behavior by their presence. And it would take a while to go through them all. But it would give pretty solid evidence about how prevalent cheating or cutting corners in a race actually is.

* Who exactly would that be? It’s tricky… maybe a civil engineering grad student who runs OCRs on the side and who’s looking for a thesis topic. Does such a person exist? If so, feel free to adopt these ideas as your own.

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My OCR Origins (Plus Another Questionable OCR Idea)

There is a weird thread that connects my late teens to my late 30s. In a sense, I was an obstacle course racer back then, even though I was not serious about fitness and the term didn’t exist. (Does that make me OG or OPP or OTT or OTOH or another term that I’m vaguely familiar with but not cool enough to understand?)

And no, before you ask, I wasn’t a Double Dare contestant. So I’m not taking the basic cable technicality.*

My high school obstacle course experience was through something called dog agility. As you might expect that involves dogs, and even though I wasn’t one at the time,** humans get to play along as the handler.

Agility course

Agility course image by Ellen Finch, via http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AgilityFieldLeft.jpg and available under Creative Commons.

Agility pops up on TV now and then, but if you haven’t seen it, here is an overview. The dog runs through a course of about 12 to 20 obstacles, directed by the handler. There are really only a few kinds of obstacles: jumps, tunnels (which are a lot like the ones kids play with, only a lot sturdier), ramps that the dog has to walk over, and weave poles (which are just a series of poles that the dog has to weave through). The dog can get faults if they don’t do an obstacle correctly, like if they knock down a pole in one of the jumps or if they don’t touch the yellow contact zone at the start and finish of each ramp, or by exceeding the courts time for the run. Fewest faults wins, with fastest time as a tiebreaker, although in general people are more concerned about having a qualifying run than their placement. Qualifying is difficult—in most of the agility organizations (there are many), any fault of any kind is renders a run non-qualifying—but qualifying runs lead to titles that let you move up to higher classes with harder courses.

Much like OCR, agility is a lot of fun. If you’ve got a dog and you think you might be interested, I’d encourage you to check it out—it’s open to all types of dogs (they all use the same obstacles, although the height of the dog determines how high the jumps are set at), and I recall representatives of most dog shapes participating successfully, with the possible exception of some of the more massive working breeds. (When I was very young, my family had a St. Bernard; agility might not have been ideal for him, due to all the jumping, but something German Shepherdy would probably be ok. And Wikipedia has a picture of a St. Bernard doing agility, so obviously they can.) The dogs seem to enjoy it, and generally I think doing things with pets will enrich their lives. (Of course, I have no pets now and haven’t in 20 years, but I still think the statement is valid.) The one concern I would have is the tendency of humans to ascribe competitive importance to things, which may not be fair to the dog, although I suspect it’s possible for most people to separate the two to an appropriate degree.

One other thing about agility that’s worth noting from an OCR perspective. In addition to the standard course run for titles and qualification, there were several games. These were mostly for fun, although at higher levels you had to earn qualifying scores in them to earn titles. The typical games were:

  • Pairs, a two-dog relay (occasionally expanded to a larger team relay).
  • Jumpers, a slightly misnamed game that consists of a course made up mostly of jumps, but tunnels and weave poles were included too.
  • Gamblers, a two-part game. In part 1, obstacles were set up around the course, and you can do them in any order. Every one completed successfully earns points, based on how long the obstacle typically takes and how far from the “gamble” it is. After a set amount of time on the course, a whistle blows and you go to said gamble, which is a series of obstacles that the dog has to do properly. The real tricky part is that the handler is restricted in where he or she can go and has to direct the dog from a distance. If the dog does it within the time limit, they get a sizable point bonus. (In the early days, the gamble was optional and carried a penalty for failure, thus the name of the class, but that had pretty much stopped by the time I was involved.)
  • Snooker: An asinine concept that was fun. It translates the pool table game to agility. There are three 1 point obstacles, and then other obstacles spread around the course from 2 to 7 points. First, you do a 1 point obstacle, then any of the other obstacles, then one of the other 1-point obstacles, then any other obstacle, then the last 1-pointer and any of the others. Then, you do the 2- through 7- point obstacles in order, for as long as you can until time runs out. Most points wins.

I’m not sure if any of this has applicability to OCR, but it might. The title concept might be an alternative to the age-group-swimming-based ranking system I pitched a few weeks ago. The relay format with specialization turned out to be true the next day, because I am both psychic and awesome. The gamble concept could be implemented by having optional obstacles that could be completed for a time bonus, although logistically that would be a nightmare.

The asinine OCR Snooker concept is, horrifyingly enough, the most intriguing. It’s not something that would work for general crowds, but as a televisable event it might. It would be a test of both physical ability and strategy, and it’s not hard to imagine that there would be a lot of variety in what courses different racers choose.

The drawbacks? It’s really not a head to head competition, since only 1 person could be on course at a time. There’s also a fairness issue, since there’s a huge benefit to going last—both to get a sense of how much time it takes to get from obstacle to obstacle and do each obstacle, and to know what score you need to win. And, just like in the dog world, it does seem a bit cutesy.

Still, if anyone’s in the mood to try to take a shot at it, feel free.

*apropos of nothing, one of the best Halloween costumes I ever saw was a pair of friends who went as Double Dare contestants. It was the perfect costume. They’d Assembled it themselves, with me pads and those plastic cups with lines on them on their heads, but it was cheap and easy and everyone on the bus knew that they had one Halloween forever. Unfortunately two stops later another pair of double dare contestants got on completely unrelated and really ruined the magic of it.

**I mean, I was ugly, and still am, but species-wise, I’m not a canis anythingus.

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OCR Innovations—Possibly Bad Ones

The news about Red Bull’s aquatic obstacle course race got me thinking: What other new wrinkles could obstacle course racing incorporate? And so, I offer some possibilities here. I haven’t actually thought through these possibilities, so no guarantee that they’re “good” or “feasible” or “not offensive to the human spirit.” But if they can inspire an OCR designer to create something cool, then my work is a success.

The idea: OCR Pursuit

I know certain parties in OCR are quite keen to make races televised galas. The problem is that obstacle course races are fundamentally long-distance races, which aren’t generally terribly telegenic. OCR pursuit adapts the pursuit races from track cycling: Competitors begin on opposite sides of a track, each traveling the same direction, and the race ends when one person catches up to the other.

Benefits: It’s all in one place, so spectators can see everything that’s happening throughout the race. This format would play up the head-to-head aspect.

Drawbacks: First off, pursuit races generally don’t end with one competitor catching the other—they go to a predetermined distance instead. Keeping an entire OCR on an arena floor or stadium field would limit the number and variety of obstacles. It would fundamentally shift the obstacle-to-running balance that obstacle course races currently have—making it much closer to Ninja Warrior. There would be a severe limit to the number of runners who could participate.

The idea: Weight gamble

Some intrepid OCR runners like to run the course with weighted vests or other forms of weight. Why not make that a formal thing? Runners could, if they choose, run completely unencumbered, or they could add any of several amounts of weight in exchange for a time bonus. Add 10 pounds? Take 2:30 off your time. 50 pounds? Cut a cool 10 minutes. Fastest adjusted time wins.

Benefits: It offers a new challenge to train for, and rewards an accurate assessment of one’s own abilities. It may provide a path to victory for athletes whose strengths are power rather than speed.

Drawbacks: The whole system would be a bit fiddly. How exactly could race directors determine a fair time value for an extra 10 pounds on your back? There’s the possibility runners would abandon their weights mid-run.

The idea: Medley relays

Basically, an OCR that’s divided into sections—maybe Speed, Power, and Balance & Agility. Instead of a solo runner completing the course, runners form teams and each runner completes one section.

Benefits: Provides opportunities for success for more specialized athletes. Runners will be able to meet new people. New obstacle course runners may be able to have a less-intimidating entry point by being able to participate on a course that focuses on their strengths.

Drawbacks: This type of specialization goes against much of the current ethic in OCR that runners should (and for the most part want to) prepare for anything. For competitive racers, is it possible to keep the sections truly even in importance?

The idea: Weight penalties

You run a course. Fail an obstacle? Add a couple pounds to your pack (or ankle weights, or whatever). Keep it on for the whole course. Fail another obstacle? Add a couple more pounds. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Benefits: It’s a new approach to penalties, with probably a more variable impact. It would increase the amount of on-course swearing by, like, 1,200 percent.

Drawbacks: It would require a lot of equipment. Enforcement would be a challenge. Probably terrible for beginning obstacle course racers, who would probably suffer the worst effects of accumulating penalties—which could turn what should be a joyous experience into a miserable one. It would increase the amount of on-course swearing by, like, 1,200 percent.

The idea: Advancement opportunities

Many sports offer some sort of grading system that participants can advance through, even if they’re not at the elite level. For example, the age group swimming model I grew up with had A, B, and C times for each event for each sex and age group. Swim an A time, and you can go to A-level meets, B times go to B-level meets, and so on.

Benefits: It provides an institutionalized goal to reach for that is achievable for racers who aren’t going to be competing for the podium. Time ratings would provide a way to compare times at different races.

Drawbacks: Developing comparable time standards for different races would be more or less impossible. Maintaining and publicizing standards would be a burden for whoever takes it on. Probably unnecessary for grown-ups, as we should have the ability to form our own goals.

Do you have other ideas? No matter how far-fetched, they’re welcome in the comments.

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