As we are all aware there are basically two types of stage races. Those that are supported with all your gear being transported to the next camp site for you and those that are self-supported where you carry your kit with you the entire time. Part of the underlying ethos of a self-supported race is that you are also self-sufficient. In fact, these two terms are regularly used interchangeably. Having participated in various self-supported/self-sufficient races I am beginning to see differences in how “self-sufficiency” is defined.
Being more of an absolutist, my views of self-sufficiency are stark. Ask yourself; how self-sufficient am I? Could you complete the event totally on my own if there was just water drops instead of a check points and a lone tent at the daily finish line? Do I require constant cheering to carry on? Do you plan on having someone at the end of the day tend to your battered feet? It means a great deal to complete a stage race. It means even more if you do it totally on your own.
There are three areas in the logistics area that are trending away from self-sufficiency. The first is food. It is becoming more prevalent that some are planning on the benevolence of their fellow racers to feed them. Not in an emergency situation but almost on a daily basis. This is mulling plain and simple and is basically illegal. You are not self-sufficient if you are scrounging food from others.
The second is with regards to medical supplies. Too many are dependent upon race medical supplies to tend to their needs. This includes tape, electrolytes, anti-nausea medications for upset tummies and other basics that should always be in your pack. While they are available to all, many do carry what the need to finish and you should too! Plan ahead and be sure to have what you need to get by. Do not rely on the medical staff to dispense you pills for your ills.
The final area (and one that I relent on) is that of hot water. Almost every stage race provides hot water for competitors in camp. While this is not true self-sufficiency I concede that it would be a bad idea to have every competitor trying to boil water with the real probability of someone burning down the camp!
This is a big area that many racers are not totally self-sufficient in. The obvious one here is foot care. Many do not know how (or are too lazy) to manage their own foot care. They just head over to medical tent at the end of the stage and pop their feet up for a tape-o-cure (with supplies provided by the medics). If you can not manage your own feet how can you ever expect to complete a self-sufficient event? Yes, if you have a nasty infection get over there ASAP. If you got a blister on your little toe, deal with it.
Other areas in the physical support realm include provide message/physio support. I even saw one post on Facebook for an upcoming race asking if foam rollers were going to be supplied at the end of each day! I suspect the individual was new to stage racing.
Stage races can go from fun to miserable in a matter of hours. Be ready for it. There can be so much drama and emotions since everyone is pushed to their limits. For most these bad feelings are overshadowed by the good, you just have to be emotionally strong enough to get through these low spots.
Having some contact with the outside world does help and getting emails of encouragement is always uplifting. These one-way communiques are somewhat reminiscent of old fashion hand written letters. The issue arises when there is a need to be in constant contact with outside world. Many are so addicted to there mobile phones, selfies and social media they can not seem to carry on without them and the never ending barrage of likes and encouragement provided. This is not too much of an issue if there is no cell coverage but when there is, many can not resist the urge to seek this fulfillment. It begs the question could they finish if their battery died? Would it not be better to seek this kind of support from fellow competitors if needed? Would you be able to carry on if your mate dropped?
In conclusion, some races are beginning to provide more support than was provided in the past. This includes basic first aid/foot care plus supplies, physios/masseuses, satellite phones and other amenities. Some racers are beginning to expect these luxuries. Perhaps it is just a newer crowd that has discovered stage racing and they do not understand the roots of this sport. It would be informative for them to go back and look at what some of the original MDS events were like especially the 1994 edition and the tale of Mauro Prosperi!