Gretel, the tool for planning long-distance mountain races
Sergio Velasco||Artificial Intelligence|5 min read
What was Jorge looking for?
Jorge Vilanova is passionate about mountain races or what is internationally known as trail running. At the time, he noticed a problem that was not solved in the world of Trail and Ultra-trail (long distance), which had to do with the planning of races.
In a race over 50 km in the mountains, planning is key and not only makes the difference between a good finish time and a bad one, but can also have serious health consequences.. Along these lines, he noticed that most runners used to carry with them handwritten papers with paces, refreshment stations, the start of climbs, as well as strategy notes so that they could follow them and not improvise. This is the "state of the art" in the world of mountain running strategy.
He concluded that, if there was a technological tool that would facilitate these runners to generate this final race planning, it would be key to the effectiveness of the race strategy. A platform that would help them visualise the challenge they face, so that the planning would be based on a real idea of the difficulty and their forecasts would be fulfilled. That's why he started to think about what it would look like and what functionalities it would have to satisfy to meet the expectations of the most demanding and experienced professional runners. In this way, they could maximise their chances of success in mountain races.
The problem was that Jorge did not have the technological know-how to transform the idea in his head into an application that could be used by runners all over the world. As a result of different development and technological consultancy work that Exponentia had done with Jorge's advertising and marketing agency, he told us about the idea and we started to shape it together. That's how Gretel planner was born.
Wherever you go, no matter the destination, what matters is the journey and the company.
In this ideation phase, it is very important to have a reliable and experienced partner to provide a technological point of view and end-user usability to make the service successful. This partner must also be able to successfully solve the blockages and problems that always appear during the development and operation of the platform.
After the initial requirements and ideation, every two weeks we had demonstrations of the platform to see that we were in line with the deliverable and that Exponentia met the expectations. Jorge was an active part of the development phases and was always sensitive to the current status and what was still to be developed.
The obstacle is the path
During the development phase, problems arose when generating the planning. For example, the resulting planning file was a PDF containing the altitude map with points of interest and different information data (paces, refreshment points, pace times, etc...). What if the race distance was longer than what was in the PDF? How can the runner take that to the race? Well, after different meetings and iterations, we came up with a satisfactory solution which, in the end, was to have approximate 50km "chunks" of the race in each planning block, which could then be trimmed down and taken to the race. Another block was also the part of partnering with races and sending the plans to the organisation so that they were already directly in the runner's bag (nominative). Talking to several race providers, together we came up with a satisfactory solution also in the form of direct integration by sending a zip file.
The high point of the development of the project was when Jorge gave a demo to Val d'Aran by UTMB® which is an association of which the most prestigious Trail race on the planet is part. In this demo the development was not yet 100% finished, but, even so, they reached an agreement of sponsorship and inclusion of the tool in different international mountain races. This, without the combination of trust between client and technology partner, would not have been possible.
Trust and long term relationships
Currently, Jorge continues to add users to his platform and, from Exponentia, we are in contact with him so that the technological part is not a barrier. One of our differentiating values is that, in the post-development phase, we like to accompany the client, because in most cases, the post-development phase defines the success or failure of a project. It is key to have a trusted partner to whom you can consult any type of technological doubt or idea to improve the platform and improve the experience of the end user/client.
If you have a problem in your company or you have a business idea where you think technology can help, but you still don't know how, contact us. We are ready to help you and make that idea a reality or solve that problem, in the same way we helped Jorge.