Adventures in race directing

I’ve taken on a lot of new things this year. Ironman, ultramarathon (more on that in my next post), learning to bunny-hop a bicycle with platform pedals. I’ve been mildly insecure about my inability to do the last one for a long time, because I never learned as a child. But as of this morning, I can say with confidence that I have it down. Yes!

Anyway, with all these new things, probably my most difficult new endeavor this summer was race directing. Specifically, triathlon race directing. While training for an Ironman. And an ultramarathon. I never said it was a good idea, but I took it on nonetheless.

It all came about when Dean McGovern, the race director extraordinaire of the Garden City Triathlon, decided to skip town for a job in Utah. After some consideration, I decided to step in in his place in order to ensure that the race would still happen.

The Garden City Triathlon, since Dean took it over (six?) years ago, has been run by Montana Campus Compact, which is essentially an organization that promotes and coordinates student volunteerism and community involvement throughout the state. They are a great group of folks, and continued their involvement in the race this year by helping with the organizational aspect of things. While the Compact staff is very organized, they admittedly know very little about triathlon, which was where I, and Team Stampede came in.

A huge thanks to these folks for all the volunteer hours and for being an awesome team to race with.
A huge thanks to these folks for all the volunteer hours and for being an awesome team to race with.

I could go through a whole description of how it all went, but I think a list of the things I learned from the experience will be description enough:

  1. Volunteers are awesome.
    I always knew this, but they are more awesome than I ever thought. There is no such thing as too many volunteers. You simply can’t put on a race without them. With this in mind, I encourage everyone to go volunteer at a race, or a bunch of races. It’s super duper rewarding. I even had a few people who raced AND volunteered. You know who you are, and you rock.
  2. Delegation is key
    No question, this area contains my most room for improvement. I can be a bit of a control freak, and putting things in someone else’s hands can be tough. But one person simply cannot do everything when it comes to putting on a race. When you try to do so, it results in very little sleep, a whole lot of stress, and reduced quality of the event in general. Next time, my first priority will be to start recruiting the right people for the right jobs early on, to make sure everything goes smoothly.
  3. Swim bouys take a long time to inflate
    The small portable compressor was not a good solution, and the backup plan compressor ended up being broken. The backup backup plan resulted in setting up the swim course half an hour before the race. Luckily, we did manage to get it set up on time, but due to lack of time for measurement, everyone swam an extra 150 meters or so. I suppose it could have been worse.
  4. Racing your own race is hard
    There is a huge mental and physical toll to putting on a race, and I can say for sure that, while I did race, and I did have fun, my head certainly wasn’t in it. I managed to pull through with a 5th place finish, but next time, I think I’ll leave the racing to everyone else, unless my delegation plan goes much better than expected.
  5. Take some time to sort out finishing times and age group places
    The awards ceremony was a borderline disaster, due to the printout of the results being sorted in a much more confusing manner than I had anticipated. A little more time and care would have made everything much easier. Shoulda, coulda, woulda, will do next time.
  6. Did I mention you should go volunteer at a race?
    Seriously, do it! Find a local 5k, triathlon, bike race, swim meet, whatever your thing is, and help out. Everyone will love you for it, even if they look like they are about to vomit.

I am very happy with some of the changes that we made to the race for 2014. Namely:

-Adding a cash prize purse. With some money raised from race sponsors Subway and Caffe Dolce, as well as part of Team Stampede‘s proceeds from the race, we were able to offer a $1500 prize purse, which upped the level of competition at the higher end. This always increases the general quality of the race.

-Increased quality of medals. We put a little more time and energy into the medals this year, and I think they turned out great.

-Post-race food. A huge thank you is due to Subway and The Good Food Store for making the post race spread what it was. I had at least three folks tell me it was the best post-race spread they had seen.

I am excited to take some of these improvements to the next level in the years to come, but that takes participation. I would like to see the numbers grow, so mark your calendar for September 5th, for the 2015 Garden City Triathlon. It’s going to be a great event!

Stay tuned for my next post, when I have more time (ha!). It will be about what should have been the most difficult race I have ever done. In the meantime, Kona training continues! 25 days and counting!

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