Friday, November 30, 2007

Racing - 2008 Bethel Spring Series Prelim

When there is an event, perhaps a race, which seems to be a fixture in the sport, it's easy to forget that there are individuals behind it. The Bethel Spring Series is one such event. I recently found fliers from 1993, and based on the info on the fliers, it might have been 1992 that the Series first started. I'm not sure, actually, and it bugs me a bit not knowing for sure. Regardless, except for the first year (when I simply helped out), the Bethel Spring Series has been one of my annual personal focal points. Every year, every spring, I know that there will be hundreds of racers looking to get off the trainer and onto the road. The Bethel Spring Series allows them to do this.

And I feel responsible to make it happen.

However, because the race relies on a couple individuals, there are human-type factors which affect the race. For many years I dreaded the first four months of the year because I felt obligated to hold the Series. I persevered because, well, it's like bike racing. When you're groveling in the field and things don't look too good, you don't just sit up and say "I'm done with it."

Actually, you might, but then that's a sign that perhaps you should take a break.

Usually, we'll grovel either until we finally get sawed off the back or the bell rings and signals just a few more minutes of hurt. Of course for me, the bell infuses my body with new found reserves, but that's a different topic altogether. After the race we cool down, change, go home, and try and figure out a way to reduce the hurt for the next race.

The Series groveling (promoting it, not the bike bit) stopped a few years ago. The bike bit still hurts and I haven't been able to finish a Pro-1-2-3 race in what seems like forever. But from the promoting side I've somehow regained a sense of purpose and motivation. It's not clear why but it just happened. Like when you're groveling and suddenly your legs start coming around, suddenly I've become more motivated to do the Series.

That's not to say that it was an easy process, even in the last seven months when, technically, the Series was done for the year. Since the 2007 Bethel Series ended, a lot of things have happened in my life.

2007 was the year I got married. In and of itself that's not a big factor since the missus is supportive of the Series, but the process took some energy - planning, ceremony, etc. The most significant thing relating to the Series is that I used a lot of my annual vacation time to do wedding and honeymoon stuff. I just checked and my normal 15-17 vacation days of training time in Jan and Feb have been reduced to just 8 days. That doesn't give me a lot of time to do massive hours in those two months leading up to the Series.

We also live about 90 minutes away from the course, and we used to live about 30 minutes away. We used to have all our stuff ready to go at our house - that's no longer the case. Because the weather may be completely different where we live, we don't want to risk parking the van here and then not being able to get to the race. This means we have to park the van local to the Series location and leave it there during the week.

Finally, even as the 2007 Series happened, we were in the process of prepping our house for sale. It went to a very nice couple in late August, we moved up north, and now we're in the process of finding a house for ourselves. Again, another thing to disrupt what used to be a relatively static and predictable schedule (as a side note, I lived in my previous house for over 14 years - so moving was a big shock for me).

Nonetheless, "it's about that time of year again", as Wendy says at the Bethel Selectman's office. We've started the process for holding the Series in 2008.

We'll be going for the Sundays in March, minus March 23 Easter, and two, if not three Sundays in April.

Our categories will remain the same - Cat 5s (two races), Cat 4s, M40/Jr, Women, Cat 3-4s, and Pro-1-2-3s.

We'll be giving out prizes like normal. Last year was $8000 in cash - this year we'll be doing something similar. The prizes start at about $1000 per week, grow to at least $1500 per week, and we give something like $1500 for the best overall racers.

A significant change the racers will see is the start times published for each race, a huge break from tradition. We've almost never done that, but since it's the #1 reason for calls and emails, I've decided to implement start times. Now everyone can call and email to see if we're on time.

Any other changes will be aimed at making it easier to set up and break down the race stuff. Ideally I'd like to have a better way of sweeping the course since that takes a ton of time and energy. I'm working on that, but if anyone has any suggestions, please let me know!

The single biggest change in 2008 though should be invisible to the racers. I've decided that after volunteering my time and energy for 15 years that, in 2008, I'll be earning money from the Series. Not any prize money I might win but an actual "promoter's" fee if you will. I talked about this with a few people and as one pointed out, "Everyone thinks you make money from the race so you might as well."

I promise I won't rape the Series of its normal prize money, its reasonable entry fees, or its generosity to those that help out (marshals, sweepers, registration folk). I have taken a step to stop sponsoring an unrelated team in a different state - over the years we've given them a lot of money, probably enough to pay for an entry level Pro racing for a local Pro team.

Since I live so far away I've already started planning logistics for the travel - a primary and backup place to park the van, equipment storage, etc. And the promotion process will now include a three or even four hour drive on Saturday - pick up two guys who help out with the race, then drive them to the Series area Saturday afternoon/evening. And after the race on Sunday, we'll drive the van back to one of our parking spots, switch to a car, and drive home. Our helpers will get rides back from others in case you were wondering.

Related to the driving logistics, I also hope to have an air card (broadband Internet access) at Bethel, allowing us to make almost-live updates as the day progresses. This will benefit the racers because we'll be able to update the race results immediately. It will also save me from three to five hours of work updating the site - with the long drive ahead of us each Sunday afternoon, it would be better to have all the updates virtually done before we even left the course. I've been unwilling to change the format of the results page prior to this, but if I can upload pages directly out of our spreadsheet based results page, I'll sacrifice the integrity of the page design and do it.

I've finally made good on my promise of buying a couple UPSs (uninterruptible power supply) for both registration and the finishline camera. If our generator goes offline for a bit we'll still be able to work as normal. I'm also working on getting better finish line results so we can go deeper into each field. I'm not sure if it'll work out but I'd like to offer that to the racers.

The co-promoter Gene P will be working behind the scenes as normal for 2008. In fact we've already started making arrangements for the upcoming races. And the missus will be there too, helping out when possible. Since she's in the accounting world, tax season is her peak year - and the Series happens to take place in the seven weeks before the annual April 15 deadline.

So with this, I hope that you're all out there planning your assault on the 2008 racing season. And I hope that you'll make the Bethel Spring Series a part of that plan.


Rebecca H. said...

You definitely deserve to earn some money for all the work you do! Thank you so much for doing it!

I'll be at Bethel again, although what shape I'll be in I don't know ...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all your work over the years.

I plan on being there this year, excuse me I have to get on the Computrainer...........


Anonymous said...

I agree--you deserve the pay! The Bethel Series is one of the smoothest running races I've ever seen, so your obvious hard work pays off. I'm already thinking about racing in the typical cold, wet, windy weather, and rode today (my water bottles froze!) to help toughen me up. I'll be there in March for the sweep day, broom in hand.

Aki said...

Thanks for all the nice comments. I am hoping to improve the experience this year and am really looking forward to (hopefully) pulling that off. Of course that's easy to say right now, a little more difficult on the evening before the first race.