Wednesday, June 24, 2020

We're baaaaak!

In case you just woke up from a CV-19-induced coma, the world as we knew it is not likely to return anytime soon.

Flattening the curve has occurred if you examine the national data. But there are outbursts in varying spots. And for as many states as there are, there are differing protocols.

In an attempt to salvage the season, this memo will describe how we’ll run Challenge events as safely as possible. Canceling the season was not an option.

What we know about the pandemic continues to morph; and yet, we still don’t know for certain a lot about this virus. Testing is not reliable and there’s no vaccine. Wearing a cloth mask of any sort has been determined to be the best and most effective method of avoiding contact along with social distancing.

People with co-morbidity (meaning other unrelated health issues like obesity, CAD, etc.) are at higher risk for contracting the virus, showing symptoms and death. Males seemingly are at greater risk. Kids not so much. Older individuals are at a much higher risk. Physical fitness comes with benefits.

The virus dies in sunlight. And infection outdoors is very unlikely. Close proximity is a risk factor as micro-drops of liquid from speech travel about three feet during normal conversation. Sneezing is the worst as it can propel droplets up to 25-feet.

Historically we have stringently adhered to NIOSH regulations for sanitization of the 3M | Scott Air-Pak. However, it was decided that to completely avoid any appearance of risk, we would wear the Air-Pak but not don the facepiece – until such time as the “All Clear” signal sounded.

In order to get our 15 events in during this calendar year, the finals will be pushed back. We can’t say when the season will end at this time. For individuals who wish their time to count for qualification as a member of the Lion’s Den, you must bring your own 3M | Scott Air-Pak. If you’re prone to falling down at the finish line, we might want to have your own catchers.

It is crucial that the Road Crew take all measures to avoid exposure; this means masks and shields during the event. Also, being compressed into small spaces during this blitzkrieg requires the observance of all of the rules for reducing exposure.

The logistical support for the minimalist tour precludes filling bottles. No merchandise will be sold on-site as well. Venues in most locations will be at fire academies and not open to the public. The economics of this season requires scaling costs way back. In consideration of the reduced overhead, registration fees have been also scaled back to $25 for individuals, $30 for tandems and $50 for relays and $75 for a full team.

The pace at the Challenge will be staggered to avoid the perception of gatherings with a requirement that competitors assist with resetting the course between runs. Times will count towards the GNC award category.

You may run your race without a mask. Clearly, attempting to move >250 liters per minute under heavy exercise while wearing any type of mask is a daunting task. The beauty of the Air-Pak is that it can deliver tidal volumes that support maximal exercise.

A few facts about the Air-Pak and our associated history with the product. Going waaaay back to my role as a backstep firefighter (and yes, we did ride on the tailboard), the cylinders were made of steel and weighed ≈45 pounds. (Yeah; we were real men back then- not). Rarely, these cylinders would explode during filing, sending shrapnel in all directions. Carbon-fiber reduced not only the blast risk but dramatically reduced weight.

But the biggest improvement came with positive pressure- in the mid-1970s. No longer did you have to suck the air out of the bottle; you were no longer “regulated” or “governed” to a submaximal work rate.

The weights of the Air-Pak have changed over time. The backpack frame and accessories have also morphed. What has not changed is the weight of the compressed air gases as a function of the PSI rating. But, more and more air has been compressed as the cylinders have been made more robust and stronger. Nominally, a full tank carries 3.6 pounds of air. Bigger competitors use more air but are out on the course a shorter period of time. Typically, in the 30-minute bottle, half of the air supply is exhausted.

All of this is to say, we have not controlled for, or attempted to standardize the Air-Pak weight over our more than 25 years of association with Scott. You’ll be running in the state-of-the-art system this season. The harness and associated parts will be slightly heavier. It is what it is.

Many of you elect to turn on the by-pass. Never a speed merchant myself, I’ve always felt that the regulator delivered what I needed. No one has run out of air during the six-minute requirement to finish.

I hope that this information is helpful. You’re welcome to ask questions in person, via email or giving me a phone call. I look forward to joining everyone in Florida for World Challenge Championship XXIX. The specifics of an exact date and venue are still in play. You’ll know when we know.

For obvious reasons, this news piece is longer and a lot more detailed than our typical post/email/blog. We’re attempting to predict the unpredictable. So, there may be changes based on new information, regulations, vaccines, testing, or whatever.

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