Monday, March 03, 2014

Promoting - 2014 Ronde de Bethel

"We brought two monitors for you."
"Awesome. One should go to the finish line, one should be here at registration."

A short time later.

"The monitors aren't working."
"We need some kind of adapter."

I thought about the adapters on the cables for the two monitors I use with the laptops.

"Right. I forgot about them."

I'm not sure where to start as it's been a long couple days. I suppose it was Friday, or even Tuesday. See, this year I had this idea to use a few thousand pound registration tent, aka a trailer, and this meant a whole lot of learning.

Tuesday I went to pick up the trailer. That in itself was an adventure, but it was just the beginning. My initial plan was to pack up the trailer on Thursday, head down to my dad's on Friday night, go to Sweep Day Saturday morning, and then, after returning to my dad's for the night, head back to the course for Sunday's race.

It went a bit differently than that. It was tougher than prior years, so much so that I couldn't even think about getting to my dad's until later on Saturday.

Thursday I tried to get the trailer packing done but simply could not do it. I had to make a few things, including the platform for the officials and the camera, the base for the tent, some other stuff. I was working away in the garage until I couldn't think straight and started worrying about cutting off a finger or something. I was already bundled up, both for temperature as well as safety. Circular saws, drills, sanders, all inside the unheated and bone chilling garage, meant ear, eye, and nose protection.

Early in the evening when I went inside for something.

I went and got the Expedition + trailer, parked it on the street, and moved stuff into it. Then I moved it to our storage bay and repeated the process - this was super nerve wracking as it's a narrow curving lane to the bay and I had to back out of it. Finally I drove it to where I've been parking it and got the Jetta and drove back home.

I got the major pieces in there, like the platform for the camera, the pallets (for the officials' platform), tents, heaters, cones, leaf blowers, snow blower, tables, chairs, shovels, brooms, course stakes (like cyclocross ones), propane tanks, gasoline, some tools to finish up the platforms… you get the idea.

That closed Thursday, with all the electronics and paperwork still to get done.

Friday I sent out the print jobs for the releases. The BikeReg releases was straight forward - they're pre-filled with the pre-reg info. However the blank releases was different - I got a waiver off of USAC and was about to attach it to the email I send to Staples when I decided to double check the waiver. To my shock it had all my info in it, like I'd filled it out. 1000 copies of that wouldn't do anyone any good so I cleared it all, saved it, checked it again, and then sent it out.

(As the racers at Bethel know the releases were properly blank so it was okay.)

I had to pick up more things from the local True Value - more cones, more heater stuff, more propane, some nuts and bolts. I had to pick up the print jobs from Staples. I debated some other stuff but decided against it. A post office visit to send a letter to a land owner, then back home to pack the rest of the trailer.

By this time I knew I wouldn't have time to drive to my dad's, and in fact I had to leave the trailer a few miles away because there's no place to park it at our house. I packed the Jetta with the more precious stuff - camera, radios, race numbers, stuff like that.

After the Jetta was packed I still had my bike, gear bag, overnight bag, and a bunch of stuff to put in the already full car. I was too tired and too cold to figure it out so I called it a night.

Saturday I had to finish packing the Jetta - my brain worked better after a few hours of sleep, drove to the trailer, packed that stuff in the already full Expedition and trailer.

Here was my big shock regarding the rental trailer. Every trailer I've looked at had D-rings in the floor, meant to tie down cargo. The most dangerous thing to have in a trailer is an unsecured cargo, one that can move around. A tail heavy trailer is a guaranteed recipe for disaster.

The rental had no D-rings.

Therefore I bought, that morning, some eyelets, turned the platform upside down in the trailer (4'x8' platform), mounted the eyelets (drill hole then screw in eyelet), and used the eyelets as light duty D-rings. I managed to move a lot of heavy stuff out of the Expedition and into the trailer, but this took some time. I needed to leave at 8:15 at the latest to get to the course by 10:00 AM. I got to the trailer just before 8, due to the time factored in to pack the Jetta in the driveway.

I left at about 8:55.

However now I had much more stuff in the trailer, it was tied down, and I felt reasonably comfortable driving forward with the trailer. I got the grate covers in there (heavy!), tents (heavy!), tables, shovels, cones, gasoline, stuff like that, in addition to the 4'x8' platform (heavy), snow blower (heavy!), two leaf blowers (heavy!), blah blah blah. The Expedition inhaled all the stuff in the absolutely packed-to-the-gills Jetta.

In a minute or so of driving I realized that an unloaded trailer bounced around like an unloaded van (we used to have a 15 passenger van for Bethel stuff). With 1000 or more pounds of stuff in the trailer it seemed much more smooth, much less jerky.

On the other hand the total weight had to be about 10,000 pounds - 5500 pounds for the Expedition, 3000 for the trailer, about 1000 pounds in the trailer, a little less in the Expedition, maybe 300-400 pounds in there.

This meant I had to actually get into the slow lane on the hills. The Expedition struggled up the hills - I didn't want to put my foot on the floor for minutes at a time so I let the whole rig slow to the high 40s on the longer hills.

I got to the course at about 10:35 AM, so better than I expected, but it was still later than I wanted. We worked on the course for a while, a good team of people sweeping, chopping, and shoveling.

The sand blowing team.

Ice chopping team.

SOC and I went to get some ice melt. We could only rock salt - the good stuff, the calcium chloride, has been gone for a while. The rock salt didn't do much but I dumped much of it on the ice on the road.

I had to print out start lists and some other stuff so I optimistically set up a mini office in a parking lot. I got everything going and then realized that I was too cold and too tired to think. I packed it up and went to park the trailer.

Mini office, Saturday late afternoon.

Of course to park the trailer I had to clear a spot in the snow as well as back the thing up. I kept forgetting this or that - I couldn't remember where I put the padlocks, my keys, the chocks, I actually almost ran over one of the generators… I was a mess. Finally, the trailer totally crooked in the spot, I decided that since I hadn't broken anything I didn't want to push it any further.

I headed to my dad's.

I wasn't much better there. I'd spent about 7:30 to almost 9 AM outside, then 10:30 to almost 6 PM outside again, and this only added on my Thursday and Tuesday stuff.

I had a cool little thing, negotiating my three nephews' sleeping arrangements. After a few reports of so-and-so bothering so-and-so I could sort of sense a pattern. I suggested a minor change in the arrangements (meaning switch two of the nephews) and they were asleep shortly after. I was out not much later.

At 3:45 AM I woke up with a start. I thought about what I might have forgotten. I knew I forgot the monitors at this point (I don't remember when I realized it). I worked on the spreadsheet - I added the sweep folks in BikeReg but hadn't added them into our spreadsheet. I left when I realized that I was actually late - I spent almost two hours working on the spreadsheet.

Race day went well. There are a whole slew of new people working with me, we had two police officers instead of one, we had one less business to handle (the volleyball place is gone), and one really busy new one (Skyzone, an indoor trampoline place).

I parked the trailer about where we used to have registration on the first turn, but later we realized I'll need to move it down a bit. Outdoor Sports Center set up their tent next to us, and they let us put the table with the releases a little bit under their tent.

With a couple extra marshals things went pretty smoothly on the course. I carried a marshal radio with me during the race, just in case something happened. From it I could hear chatter the whole way around the course, marshals calling out cars, bikes, and all that.

Registration, once I got a printer switched out (the original one wasn't printing so we did a quick change to the back up), was fine also. The rental trailer was a bit cramped but it was still much better than the tent set up we had before. With four dedicated registration people things went really smoothly.

The camera went great this year. I had concerns going into the race, with a new guy Mike doing the camera work. I met with him earlier in the week, we went over things, and then we (or rather, he) did three test runs during the Cat 5 clinic and race. Those went well, the numbers were good, and by the time the finish came up he worked the camera like a seasoned pro. All the races got scored accurately and in a reasonable amount of time. With such pressure to have a flawless finish line camera set up this was a huge relief for me.

Cat 5 clinic

The Bethel Spring Series almost didn't happen this year because of tenant complaints. I tried to make it clear where riders should not go, even making a really crude map to drive home the point.

Red striped area is off limits

One surprising incident involved a rider not only riding his bike into the off limits area but then stopping to pee said same off limits area. When the official ejected him he complained that he "did it all the time and no one ever says anything."


The Sterling RR in Massachusetts is gone for one reason - racers peeing on peoples' properties. There's no other reason, it's not budget, it's not the course, it's not the promoter, it's not even the municipality. The reason it's no longer on is because the town's people made it clear that they will not tolerate rude and impolite strangers rolling up to their yards or houses and peeing on them.

Our rider went into the upper red striped zone and took a leak. So that racer was tossed out of both races he entered.

(To be clear the driveway in the lower section is okay to stand in, and anything downhill of the finish line is okay, but the red striped areas are simply off limits to cyclists, bikes, etc. The only thing we had to do was to set up the wheel pit along the left side of the road between the driveway and Turn One.)

Overall, though, things went surprisingly well. I think the low turnout helped. It was like a trial run for us. I follow F1 and the situation this year reminds me, in a very distant way, of the massive changes in F1 for 2014. See, in F1, they have a twin hybrid drivetrain now - a smaller V-6 (instead of the V-8 from last year), an inline electric motor (sort of like a hybrid on the street), and, the biggest thing, a new hybrid turbo. They also have rear wheel electric generating brakes, new for this year. All this complexity has meant a lot of work and a lot of teething problems. The champions for four years in a row, in their last test, couldn't get their car to do a lap, and in the last run literally couldn't even make it to the end of the pit lane.

Those are some bad teething problems.

With us, going to the outdoor registration, using the trailer (with no D-rings for now), packing the trailer, with more businesses in the park, more traffic… things were a little rough. Not "car broke down at the end of pit lane" rough but more like "not quite there" rough.

I have stuff to do this week. I need to troubleshoot the printer, or buy another back up. I have to figure out the two new heaters (neither worked). I also need to think of some better arrangements for the trailer and better packing protocol. With just one race under my belt with the Expedition/Trailer combo I haven't come close to figuring out the best ways to pack either.

It's a long list but I'll get working on it.

I know where I'll start - remember the monitors.

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