Dope on a Rope = Teamwork at Its Finest

Op de site van Salomon Running vond ik onderstaand artikel.



Dope on a Rope = Teamwork at Its Finest


“The day people tow me is the day I’m in a coffin!  I don’t want to be towed around lie a dog on a string!”


            — Kathy Lynch, Team PureNZ.com and Olympic Mountain Biker from New Zealand, in response to an inquiry about her suffering from drinking tainted water on her team’s way to a second place finish of the Discovery Channel World Championships Adventure Race in Zermatt, Swizterland, September 7, 2001.


It is known as towing, tethering, short roping, or whatever else the practice of having one or more team member assist another who, for one reason or another, is not as fast as the person doing the pulling.  Mechanically, it is accomplished through about a meter's length of elastic cord that can be anything from a bungee, a bike inner tube or surgical tubing that is tied or attached by way of carabineers from the tower’s waist or pack to the towee’s waist or sternum backpack strap. 


The practice of towing separates adventure racing from solo running and other non-team endurance sports.  With it’s umbilical-cord-like qualities, towing is a definitive characteristic adventure racing’s team sport essence.  It has also become quite prevalant at the TransRockies Run.  Yet it remains somewhat baffling to those who are not immersed in the world of adventure racing and trail runners don't quite get it right away.


The cliché: “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” echoes in the head of many an adventure racer, especially when one teammate is not faring as well as the rest of the team.  In adventure racing and team running, where the whole team must cross the finish line together, the fact that a team may only go as fast as its slowest member has the potential to haunt faster members, especially those who are unwilling to share their speed for the benefit of the whole.  That is why picking race mates is perhaps the most important aspect of both endeavors.  Even more important than choosing fast members for a relay race or being on a top-notch squad for semi-team sports like track and field, gymnastics, or wrestling, in adventure racing and team running there are no personal victories unless everyone on the team contributes to the same success.


Liz Caldwell and Barry Siff, authors of Adventure Racing: The Ultimate Guide and experienced adventure racers, are proponents of towing.  “In adventure racing other team members can, and often do, tow or push the other person.  This is an effective means of maintaining the team’s overall rate of progress . . .  Even the top adventure racing teams do this — sometimes right from the start of a race.” 


Although towing is helpful for sheer speed in shorter events like sprint adventure races, its importance is amplified in longer, expedition-style adventure races or the TransRockies Run.  In single-day races, where cummulative fatigue is less of a factor, team members are able to race at a sustained, fast pace throughout the event.  By contrast, multi-day races and the stresses they impose on the human body and mind are apt to wreak havoc on different teammates at any given time.  Towing, along with carrying an ailing member’s pack or at least redistributing some of the weight of their load and helping to keep up morale, are ways of getting through tough places and, in some cases, can be crucial to a team’s survival, much less finishing or winning.


And yet there is something unsettling about the practice.  From the individual “I can do it myself” perspective it smacks of cheating.  Towing conjures up images of Sandy Pittman being short roped up Mt. Everest by Neal Beidleman.  Wouldn’t it be convenient to be harnessed to Jonathan Wyatt up Mt. Washington? 


Is it demoralizing to be towed?  At the start of the Salomon Winter Adventure Race one racer was hooked up to her two teammates for a running leg and the scene gave cause for another team to remark that the tethered team looked like a horse-drawn sleigh.  It may look a bit odd to the inexperienced, but most weathered adventure racers appreciate that there are always times when any one member will struggle.  Knowing that you could very well be the person being yanked around on a rope inspires a great deal of humility.


Is towing a gender issue?  Ask Danelle Ballengee or Karen Lungren, who have towed many a male teammate in their day.  Some women who have had to haul the men on their teams around have even been heard to lament that they just “want to be the chick on the team.”  That is, they want to be towed or the one who would otherwise slow down the team’s progress.


Adventure racing shares many similarities with other endurance and multi-sport endeavors such as trail running, du- and triathlons.  Die-hard soloists in these related sports see adventure races and can envision themselves participating.  But they can’t quite come to grips with the towing and they certainly can’t imagine being towed.


That is why those interested in using towing — or runners who want a harder trail running workout or simply wish to run with a slower running partner — should consider integrating towing into their training runs.  Towing should be practiced before a race, especially by the person most likely to be towed.  Imagine running at a clip that is about 30 seconds per mile faster than you are normally capable of running, bounding down a steep stretch of sketchy, rocky singletrack with only about two feet of visible ground separating you and the person pulling you. 


The teammates who are more likely to be doing the towing should also consider pre-race pulling because it dramatically increases the exertion level and may strain muscle tissue.  It is not uncommon for a person doing the pulling to over tax a hamstring or adductor or to simply become exhausted early in a race.  Such strain can have devastating effects over a long course and will be especially deleterious if the runner being towed has to rely increasingly on the tow.  Practicing towing and working pulling-specific muscles will help to stave off such strains or exhaustion.

18:57 Gepost door Belgium Adventure Race Team in Trailrunning | Permalink | Commentaren (0) |  Facebook |

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