Hello and welcome to the first edition of Adventure Race Hub’s newsletter. Today I have with me Cory Sytsma, the Race Director (RD) for Krank Adventure Races. In true adventure racing fashion, I choose the shortest route possible, and thus interviewed a RD that lives about 10 minutes from my house. In today’s interview, Cory and I discuss the origins of Krank Adventure Races, the benefits of its unique format, the long term sustainability of Krank’s races, and the potential for growth. Enjoy the read!
ARHub: Cory, Krank Adventure Races is such a unique format, I honestly don’t know of another race series in the US that follows the same system. You put on 4 races, all about 2-3 hours long, on WEEKDAYS! How on earth did you come up with this idea?
Cory: Well, first off, I didn’t think of this format, I stole it. There used to be a race series called B.E.A.S.T. that essentially did the same. When the RD for BEAST decided to stop the series, I took the concept from him and moved the race to the Seattle area . I had been competing and helping BEAST’s RD over the years, so I was familiar with the races. On top of that, I had been running snow shoe races up in the Cascades for a few years, so adding summer time adventure races just made sense, in a seasonal balancing act sort of way.
ARHub: That’s awesome. It’s always good to see volunteers decide to step up to the big leagues and help continue a race after the initial RDs bow out. So what’s the benefit of the weekday race format instead of your standard 4, 12, and 24 hour long races spread across a summer?
Cory: Well, a couple of reasons, both personal and professional
- I’ve got kids. As every parent knows, there usually isn’t much free time for personal passions.
- My weekends are precious. That’s when I get away from work and get to spend time with the family doing things we love. I know that’s true for everyone, and I try to respect that by offering an adventure racing experience that doesn’t interfere with that time.
- Less conflict with other adventure races. Up here in the Pacific Northwest, there aren’t many other AR, but even then, not holding our races on the weekends means we aren’t a competitor, but rather an enabler and enhancer for the other races. This also allows us to escape the busy weekends of the summer time, with every obstacle course race, Ragnar, Rock N Roll half marathons, etc. that competes for athlete’s time and money
- Minimal barrier to entry – By putting the races on weekdays, I have to make them simple and easy. This makes them perfect for beginners and limits the gear needed.
ARHub: I see what you’re talking about. By maintaining such a simple race structure, it’s easy for people to show up with their bike and some running shoes and just race! And it serves as a great “on ramp” for people who are nervous about navigation and multisport races. Not to mention it helps us adventure racers scratch our AR itch. So let’s talk sustainability and growth. So many races tend to fall off after a couple of years due to lack of interest. How do you plan to ensure Krank doesn’t suffer the same fate?
Cory: Well, I have a couple factors in my favor. As you said, the simple formula for Krank races means my time commitment prior to the race is minimal. A week before the race, I set out the checkpoints (I use simple streamers, so they don’t stand out to regular park goers). Besides that, it’s some easy coordination with the park(s) involved, maybe reserving a gazebo to serve as the HQ. The minimal footprint doesn’t cost much, so my overhead is real low. This allows me to turn a profit on the races, paying for my time and keeping the races sustainable.
ARHub: It’s a great formula, for sure. Obviously, it doesn’t replace traditional ARs, but like you said, serves as an enhancer. Maybe other race series can throw in a few week night races, so long as they’re in a major population area. So what about the traditional ARs? I know you put on a 12/24 hour race last year, but not one this year. Does Krank have an expansion plan?
Cory: Well, the long races are super time consuming, as every RD out there will tell you. We’ll see if I want to do another long one.
ARHub: So the main reason I started AdventureRaceHub.com was to help reduce one of the major pain points I saw the sport having – there wasn’t a reliable source for all races in North America. I got sick of searching old websites with data that hadn’t been updated in years. What do you think of the various issues facing adventure races and RD? Any suggestions for improving the sport?
Cory: Well, for me, one of the biggest heartaches was maps. So I built my own solution. I use Open Street Maps and combine it with Tile Mill for rendering. I’m super proud of the end result, I think they’re some of the very best maps you’ll find in adventure racing. In fact, a neighboring AR series is using me to help build better maps for their races. So if an RD is looking for help with maps, I’m available….
ARHub: Ha! Fantastic! I’m all in favor of every adventure racer helping the support in their own little way. Everyone has a skillset that can contribute to the health of the support. Any closing remarks?
Cory: Well, I recommend to our RDs out there to focus on what you’re good at . If you like designing courses, do that. If you like marketing races, do that. But don’t waste time struggling with what you’re NOT good at – ask for help. Don’t let yourself get burnt out trying to solve problems that are way outside your scope. The AR community is fantastic and no one should feel afraid to reach out and ask others for help. If you need map help, give me a call, don’t waste hours that you could use doing something you’re better at. Reduce your pain points! Outsource!
ARHub: Well Cory, it was great talking to you. I look forward to seeing you in September, as I’ll be taking my wife to her very first race! Wish me luck!