Thursday, March 07, 2013

Promoting - 2013 Ronde de Bethel

I don't know where to start so I'll back track a little bit.

It all started falling apart back in January or so, when I asked the town to confirm that it would be okay to hold the races. I'd sent them a letter a while back but it got lost in the shuffle and never made it to the town's board. Instead of getting ready for the races I decided to wait until I got permission. I figured if I started to prepare then they would say no and I didn't want to tempt karma.

Because, you know, karma's a b...  well you know.

This set me back by a month since I had to wait for the next meeting.

And from there it just went down hill.

I was pretty sick for a while, which is okay, but then my back went out. Instead of building my bike and preparing for the Bethel Spring Series I was laid out, unable to move much, barely able to look after Junior.

Write off another couple weeks.

I wanted to have a meeting with our regular permanent staff, the people that the races probably recognize as "part of the race". I planned the meeting for a certain Saturday. Because I've moved since the Series started it would be a 90 minute drive, minimum, to get to the meeting.

Then my brother asked if we could babysit their kids that evening. I figured it would be tight but I could do it. Then it snowed that day, the worst snowstorm in recent memory.

Push the meeting back a week.

I met with the folks on Turn One. They put $15,000 buying sod for their lawn. They wanted people to stay off of it. I promised them we'd keep them off the grass.

In return they allowed us to use their driveway to route bakery customers and volleyball participants (there's a volleyball tournament place at the other end of the registration building). This was good except I needed three more marshals now.

I met with the bakery folks. They had painstakingly built a regular Sunday business over the last year and they didn't want to lose it. This meant I couldn't use the front door area of their dining area for registration - I needed to find a different place for registration. I steeled myself and the staff for a return to the bone chilling outdoors for registration. I mentally told myself to remember the heaters and the propane tanks.

Then someone called someone who called someone else. Word filtered through the grapevine that we may be able to do registration indoors a few doors down from the bakery. We'd have power, a bit of space, and heat. It'd be a limited space but hey, that's better than outside.

I headed down there one day to check it out. It seemed like it'd work fine. It was larger than I expected, it was heated, and it even had a power outlet in the wall. The location was a retail lab of sorts so it had to be pristine when we left it. In the past the racers absolutely trashed the bakery, damaging fixtures in the bathroom, ruining the finish on the floor, etc. We couldn't have this happen in this new location.

After the meeting I waited word from the higher ups. Ultimately the powers that be approved us using the new location.


Suddenly it was time, the last week before the Series. I had to get things done now, no excuses. It didn't matter that I had the worst sinus infection of my life - coughing so hard I was yakking, coughing so hard I couldn't sleep, ultimately giving in and going to the doctor. Junior had something similar, snot and spit up everywhere, then had a round of pink eye when it seemed like he was finally getting better.

Inevitably things fell through the cracks.

For example, in the past we would drive the van down a week early, loaded up with all sorts of street sweeping accouterments. This year, due to me being sick, Junior being sick, and even the Missus getting sick (she never gets sick), each time we planned on driving the van down we had to cancel. It finally got to the point where we wouldn't be able to drive it down before Sweep Day.

This meant I had to carry the sweep stuff and the race stuff in the van.

Now, in the past I've carried some extra stuff in the van, extra finish line cameras, an old printer, and all sorts of stuff we never used. I'd bring it "just in case". This year, to streamline things, I took all that stuff out - when I started loading the van it was virtually empty.

Yet when I tried to get everything in there that I needed for Sweep and for the race... it didn't fit. I started putting non-essentials into the Missus's car, one that she would drive down Saturday afternoon.

The van, a huge 15 passenger size van, was packed to the gills. My bike ended up sort of wedged up against the ceiling of the van.

With Junior in the picture we needed a sitter for Saturday morning. Luckily we had one but this was a new thing for us - the Missus working and me driving a vehicle that wouldn't hold a baby seat, going to a place where I couldn't really take him. Junior had to wait at home, and to do that we needed someone to look after him.

I made it to Sweep okay, we cleared a lot of the course, and I even rode for about 20 minutes until my back went out. Apparently it wasn't as good as I thought.

Then I headed over to my dad's and printed stuff, set up the radios, set up the registration spreadsheet, started adding this person and that person, and finally fell asleep exhausted.

Sunday I hoped things would go better.

It started poorly. I mean we didn't even get into Sunday and Junior was up twice, coughing like mad, doing his projectile vomiting he does so well. The Missus had me sleep in the family room so I could sleep really hard instead of sleeping while sort of listening for Junior.

We got to the race and we unloaded the registration stuff from the van. It was less than I wanted. I'd left behind little things in some of those "unnecessary" bins, things like tape, paper (I borrowed some from my brother), binder clips, some pre-made signs on number placement, stuff like that.

Early in the day someone came up to me and pointed out the release forms didn't have a spot for a team or for the race entered. I had printed out a combination competitive and non-competitive form, not the standard competitive release form.

1200 copies. Of the wrong thing.


The camera... what a fiasco. It was set to 1080i, not 1080p, so the images weren't clear. Then it focused on the people across the street. It auto adjusted the shutter speed due to the overcast conditions, blurring the numbers.

Finally, by the women's race, we had it all set. 1/10,000 manual shutter speed, manual focus, 1080p at 60 frames per second. For the 5s and 4s it was too late, we had incomplete results.

It had to be terribly frustrating. One racer complained twice to me in person, then emailed me, then called me, complaining about the results. Someone posted a negative comment on a YouTube clip. I got three hang up calls, and although they were hang ups (well it was just breathing) I never got them before so I'm assuming they had to do with the lack of results in the 5s and 4s. Heck I couldn't say anything because the camera didn't work right for those two races. Going forward for the rest of the Series and beyond it'll be fine, but that doesn't help the racers in those first two races.

I was short marshals, even with a huge number of volunteers. I had some very hard working volunteers around that Turn One building, on the hill, and out around the course.

I entered the 3-4 race but with two weeks of basically no riding I got shelled. (I rode 30 min Friday, 18 minutes Saturday, and about 20 minutes during the clinic, and before that it was 2 weeks of no riding). Somehow that seemed appropriate based on the way the day had gone.

The Missus had taken her one day off that week to help with registration. When things finally started to quiet down she went and retrieved Junior from my dad's place and brought him back. Seeing him put a smile on my face after a long and difficult day.

Other things worked well. The radios, more powerful than last year's, worked fine from Turn Two. I even had the channels set up properly. I got the numbers okay. There were enough pins. We had enough pens. We had some extra primes donated to us. We have new grate covers. The stakes and yellow tape worked well on Turn One, and I have snow fencing in reserve. We didn't need the area rugs for registration.

I need to do more though.

This coming week I have more reinforcements. The Missus said she'd return to help at registration - this meant lining up my brother and his wife to look after Junior. We have two more staff people showing up, two that were unable to make the first week (another will return on the third week and yet another will return on the fourth week). Our camera is working. I packed away enough binder clips for a decade. We have tape.

Personally my back is okay - I'm not walking weird, I can pick up Junior, but it's still a challenge to unload the dishwasher. I'm not that sick now - I finished my prescription stuff last week, I just blow green stuff out of my nose regularly. Junior is a bit better too, sleeping a bit better during the night, no recent projectile vomiting.

Friday I need to pick up the print job (the release forms) and organize the binders and the numbers. The Missus told me she'd help with that - she wanted everything ready to go on Saturday so I wouldn't have to work on stuff when I got to my dad's.

I'll head down Saturday afternoon after the Missus gets home from work - we'll do a Junior handoff and then I'll head south. I need to do three things at the course. First, check the course and do any major sweeping necessary. Second, stake out and mark the Turn One grass area. Third, patch any real bad potholes and smooth out any of the jarring dips I can find.

After that I'll head over to my dad's to meet up with the Missus and Junior. And, hopefully, Sunday we'll have a much smoother race.


Unknown said...

Dude, please don't let the Angry Few get to you. I raced the 4s and the Ronde was a great race day, as Bethel always is. I understand and appreciate you weren't happy with it and want to improve, and I think that's what helps make your races a great experience. Believe it or not, there are promoters out there who simply don't give a $@*& (and I might add, racers put up with them usually w/o much complaint, because they're used to it!).

Bottom line is that most of us have a sense of how much you care, and even an "off" day at Bethel is tons of fun and completely enjoyable. Unless you have a biiiiig stick up your a$$ ;)

Aki said...

Thanks for the kind words. Obviously I was really disappointed in myself as a promoter last Sunday. I've done a lot to resolve the problems we had then but until we have another race I won't know if they all worked or not. I guess it's like racing - sometimes things go well and other times things just seem to crumble.

Of course all this snow is a different thing altogether. Trying to think of what I may need to do and how to do it, to have the course clear for Sunday.