At first glance, the strategy for winning the Total Outdoorsman Challenge is obvious: do extremely well in every event. And, when it comes to the actual competition, yeah, that works. When practicing, though, forming a strategy is a bit harder. Do you spend time filling holes in their weaker disciplines? Or do you add to your strengths to ensure high placement in those events?
(For the uninitiated, the TOC scoring is like golf, the lowest score wins. Win an event and get one point, two for second place, and so on. Win all seven disciplines, and you end up with seven points.)
Before setting a practice schedule competitors must weigh a few factors: (A) there are seven disciplines to prepare for, all equally weighted, and with all seven designed to be as equally difficult. (B) A score of sixteen (dead last) in any one discipline will end any title hopes. (C) Some disciplines, like fly fishing and archery, historically have several really strong competitors. Other disciplines, such as ATV and endurance, historically have lacked dominant competitors.
So, which path should you take? Amp up your strengths to try to dominate those challenges? Spend equal amount of practice time on each event, gambling that you can stay near the top in every discipline? Dedicate a majority of practice time to become adequate in your weaker events, while your strengths get rusty? Glad I only design the courses, stuff like this would keep me awake at night.
Adding some recon work for the fishing disciplines, planning travel, and rigging up gear to that practice strategy, and the 65 days until the official practice session of the 2008 TOC finals seems a little shorter. Happy sleeping. --John Davis, Field & Stream Total Outdoorsman Challenge competition manager