Monday, September 24, 2012

Promoting - 2012 Aetna Silk City Cross (Sept 22 2012)

(Disclaimer: I am not the promoter, I just did the registration bit, but since I didn't race I couldn't put "Racing" like I did for White Plains or the CCNS Kermis; therefore I put "Promoting" since it has to do more with promoting.)

Note: after I wrote the post I went looking for the post from last year so I could link to the post. I made the same disclaimer at the beginning of that post. I didn't remember writing that but I guess my thought process is the same.

This race would be the third race in three weeks where I helped in running the race. The first was the CCNS Kermis, where I helped with the finish camera. The second was White Plains where I handled both registration as well as the finish camera. The third would be the Aetna Silk City Cross race where I had been tasked with handling registration.

I had a number of goals for myself for this race, four of them really.

First off, since I wasn't racing, I could focus solely on registration. Racing, I have to admit, came second in the other two events - I brought my bike, my gear, even spare wheels, but I went with the knowledge that at any moment my racing would have to be scrapped. That makes for a non-committal approach to racing which had led me to sitting up before the finish.

(As a side note I do the same at Bethel - although I contest the Cat 3-4 race I've almost never contested the P-1-2-3 race because I'm already thinking about all the post-race tasks in front of me.)

With the cross race it would be a bit different. Not only have I never done a cross race, I don't even own a cross bike. Therefore I was absolutely committed to staying at the registration desk the whole day.

So that was Goal One.

Another goal was to continue what I will call The Spreadsheet Evolution. Ever since we started using laptops at Bethel we've been using this ever evolving spreadsheet. It comes from weeks of saying "Oh, hey, we should have the spreadsheet do this next time" every year.

I feel lucky that I have the Bethel Spring Series. It gives me many weeks of race promotion practice. When people ask why it runs (relatively) smoothly I respond that I get a lot of practice. Most one-race clubs hold one race a year. They fumble through the day, relearn all the things they learned the year before, and by the time they get into their groove the day is over.

They're done.

Then next year it's the same story all over again.

At Bethel we also have our first week fumbles. But then we have five weeks to follow up, to improve, to fix, to modify. Then, at the end of the year, after five weeks of changes, everything goes into hibernation.

The following year, although we'll inevitably fumble something, it usually goes off pretty smoothly.

Multiply that by 20 years, maybe 120 races (for about 10 years we had 7 races a year, then 6, but we often had a race a year called due to snow/ice), and there's a lot of practice, a lot of refinement.

This year, with six Bethels, CCNS, and finally White Plains, I (and Expo's Aetna Silk City Cross race) would benefit from a lot of prior experience.

Every race for the last couple years I swear that I'm going to upload results to USAC before we pack up at the end of the day. Almost every race I can't do it for one reason or another. White Plains was close - I couldn't upload simply because I didn't have an internet connection but the file, generated by The Spreadsheet, was ready to go.

For Silk City I had the MiFi modem (thanks to the Missus, who located it shortly after White Plains), I had a spreadsheet that I knew would generate the upload file, and I finally felt like I could fulfill my "upload before we go home" goal.

A third goal, one that I've been semi-working on for several years, is to reduce the "race promotion package" to as small as possible. I used to fully load (overload?) a car to get to the races. I've been editing the bins with the Missus's help and I've found a lot of redundant or useless bins. I've managed to reduce the bin count to about four, maybe five, and require only a station wagon to get everything for registration to the races.

My list for registration includes two generators, gasoline, two tables, two chairs, printer, printing paper, power cords, computer stuff, tape, first aid bin, pens, releases, numbers, drawers for numbers/releases for day-of, the MiFi, a powered USB hub, and I'm sure some other stuff.

(Course maintenance is different - a dozen shovels and brooms, two wheeled leaf blowers, one hand held leaf blower, two Echo power brooms, about a dozen grate covers, another dozen cones, between 5 and 15 gallons of gasoline... that takes up most of a 15 passenger van. I still have a long way to go on this one.)

Finally, my fourth goal would be to reduce set up time to a minimum. Although I can get registration up and rolling in about 10 minutes I feel that's about 8 or 9 minutes too long. I feel like I should arrive at registration and be taking names and licenses in a minute or two. Although Silk City wouldn't be the first run of such a system I wanted to use the experience of setting up registration there to hone my needs for exactly that.

All this meant that my main work would start on Friday. Registration closed Thursday, giving me Thursday evening and Friday to work on the spreadsheet, think of procedures, pack things up, all that. Things looked good for Thursday except for one thing.

Junior got sick.

Now, okay, I have to say that Junior is our first, so we're a bit more responsive than someone with, say, a dozen kids. On top of that this was Junior's first cold so he seemed especially pitiful and helpless to us, with labored breathing through mucous filled breathing passages and such.

Thursday night he got up every 60-90 minutes, staying up for about 10-30 minutes before drifting off to a fitful sleep. Since I've been a stay-at-home dad by default, and by choice, I take the overnight shift. This meant I was up constantly with Junior, not really sleeping much.

Friday morning the Missus found me asleep on the couch, Junior in my lap, both of us bundled up against the overnight chill in the house.

Friday I couldn't work on anything pretty much the whole day. Junior was fussing constantly, very unlike him, and although he must have been exhausted he couldn't really take a prolonged nap. His mucous kept him from breathing freely and this kept him from napping. I managed to get one thing done - having Staples print out the releases and then go and pick them up.

Tip: when I printed out the releases before I'd download the whole release and print them out on our printer at home. We went through a $70 toner in a week and change. I considered printing out blank releases then downloading just the data (i.e. what we fill in when we register for a race) but I found a better solution - have Staples print out the releases. They'll print out the pdf on three hole paper in a day and charge maybe $20 for a race's worth of pre-reg. Add $25 for a couple hundred blank releases and you're done for all the release forms for race day.

The Missus came to the rescue Friday evening. As soon as she got back from work she took Junior out of my arms, cooked dinner, and basically did everything we needed to get done around the house. This freed me up to work on the spreadsheet for a race now just an overnight away.

At midnight I finally called it a night. I had the spreadsheet optimized, added the four thousand categories (as compared to White Plains) and the brain-addling mods that entailed in the look ups and such, thought of some more improvements I'd make for the next version (and made notes of the same), and populated the data from BikeReg.

As almost an afterthought  I stuck most everything in the car, set the alarm for a 6 AM wake up, and fell asleep.

Saturday came all too quickly but I felt like I had a handle on things. I got out of the house pretty much on time, stopped for breakfast on the way, and arrived at the venue at about 7 AM. I wanted to be set up by 8 AM, when we wanted registration to open, but I had to do assign numbers, print out start lists, and such.

Oh and I had to set up my "more than a minute or two" registration set up.

Where my car sat for the whole day - everything fit in it, easily. Front passenger seat was empty.
Another food truck behind the car.

We had an initial inundation of the table, with riders asking if I was ready as early as 7:20 AM. By 8 there was a big line and only with the help of four Expo folks we got the line into a somewhat manageable size. (Note to self: Cross racers want pre-reg divided by category, not by name; this may be the case with regular crit racers too).

After that first rush things calmed down, SOC arrived to help, and the day went well. I hooked up the MiFi and had a good internet signal throughout the day. I thought about uploading each race's results to USAC as we got them but then decided that I'd wait and do them all at once at the end of the day.

We dealt with the miscellaneous questions that always come up, usually by deferring to Boss Jon, the man in charge.

The Missus brought a much-better looking Junior to the race. We got to hang out a bit as the day-of registration rate dropped to a trickle.

At some point one of the food vendors (there were a couple) asked me for some gasoline. I thought it was an unprepared racer or something. I didn't realize who it was until he pointed to the truck (whose menu I'd been eying for a while) in the middle of our conversation.

"Wait, you're the waffle guy?"
"Oh, well, then take what you need."

He tried to offer some money (at $4/gallon gas ain't free) but I declined. It's part of the whole gig, plus I'd have to use up that gas somehow in the next few months.

Juniors U15 race. Waffle truck behind them, registration tent to the right.

As last year the cleanup went quickly. I handled putting away the registration stuff with SOC. I admitted I was jonesing for a hot dog.

"You should ask the guy for one. You gave him gas, right?"
"Yeah, but..."

The waffle guy happened to be walking by. SOC kind of flagged him down.

"Hey, can you give him a hot dog?"

He walked over to me. I wasn't sure about this.

"You don't mind?"
"No, not at all."
"Okay, then, a Nathan's dog then."
"What do you want? Ketchup? Mustard? Sauerkraut?"
"How about sauerkraut? And mustard."
"Spicy or yellow."
"You got it."

SOC broke in here, asking me a critical question.

"You want your buns toasted?"

A minute or three later I was munching on a delicious Nathan's dog. Yum yum.

We all chatted for a bit. Something I said last year came up in conversation. Someone was thinking out loud that, wow, we had a lot of helpers at the race this year. Another guy said that, yeah, that's what it seems like. And he basically quoted what I said last year - Expo, it seems, is made up of those people that singly get things done in other clubs. In other words most clubs have one or two people that get things done. Expo is made up of those people - everyone gets things done.

With that we hung out and chatted. I caught up with an Expo teammate that, get this, was an RA in my dorm back in my UCONN days. That was a blast. As my back started to twinge (I've learned it does this when I stand or walk on uneven surfaces) the Missus called. She'd left earlier with Junior and was wondering when I'd be back for dinner.

I remembered that the GPS told me it'd take 33 minutes to get to the venue from the house.

"I'm leaving now, I'll be back in half an hour."

Half an hour later I was at home.

Junior and me at registration. His cap says "born to ride".
No pressure.

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