Monday, March 09, 2015

How To - Be A Good Racer

Although it's been a bit nutty and I haven't really been able to post much, the reason for the frantic stuff happening before the Aetna Nutmeg Spring Series has to do securing a venue, making sure it's usable, and trying to make things happen so that we can all race. I may share some of the trials and tribulations in a later post but for now I want to focus on one thing:

How to be a good racer.

I'm not talking about FTP and wattage and intervals and tactics and drafting.

I'm talking about your behavior as a racer.

As a racer, what can you do to help the race promoter? Not marshaling and stuff, but just in being a good racer.

This is a key aspect in grassroots racing. The biggest challenge for a promoter is to secure a venue. This means getting permission to use a course (aka "permission to break traffic laws like 'not racing on public roads'") and the related costs to that permission (permits, police, department of public works stuff, etc).

After that it's pretty straightforward to hold a race, if one can say that.

There are a few reasons races die off. One is the venue gets too busy such that the it's impossible to hold a race safely. This happened to the Bethel Spring Series with one business opening up that put literally hundreds of cars driving through the venue over the course of a day.

Another is the promoter decides to pull the plug, either for money reasons (typically associated with the costs of holding a race, aka the costs related to getting permission to hold the race). I know there were a few "classic" races I used to attend where the promoter was sinking $8k a year or more (in the 1980s!). After a few ten thousand dollars of money tossed into the black hole the promoters in question gave up.

There are related things, of course. Poorly attended or poorly managed events may disappear quickly. Off-time events may not survive - crits in January in Connecticut, for example, or roller races in July.

Typically a grassroots race promoter promotes a race for reasons other than money. It's a sense of duty, a sense of "I have to do it because no one else is doing it", or something similar to that.

Therefore the worst reason to lose a race is because the racers misbehaved. To me that's just incomprehensible, for racers to behave so poorly that the event gets banned.

This has happened in the area, with a road race in Massachusetts. The race got canceled not because of venue permissions, venue traffic, costs, promoter burn out, scheduling, any of that regular "promoter headache" stuff.

The race got canceled because so many racers were peeing on people's lawns, bushes, buildings, whatever.

That's it.

None of us want a race go go away, and for one to go away because of racer behavior is just a kick in the face to the promoter and the host venue/town/area.

I'm going to make a quick list of things a racer can do to help keep a race alive, barring the other non-racer factors.

Good racers do the following things:

1. Smile and say hi to everyone, locals and racers alike. Happy racers are friendly racers are good racers are a benefit of the race.

2. DON'T pee in public. Just don't. In my races someone that pees in public forfeits their entry, prize, points, everything. Use the portapotties. Promoters pay for them, you might as well use them. If there aren't enough then mention it to the promoter. Trust me, the promoter would much rather spring for another portapottie than risk losing the race.

3. Change discretely. Imagine an (stranger) 8 year old boy or girl standing in the vicinity when
you're changing. Is what you're doing appropriate to do in front of them? If not then make it so. Cover up, close a door, whatever it takes.

4. Buy your food/fuel in town and post it on Facebook or Twitter wherever. The host town is hoping that by allowing the race to happen that they get some people to spend money in town, Facebook stuff, all that. A tired but happy racer chowing down is a great image too, for your sponsors and friends.

5. DON'T swear, at least too loudly. It's against the rules and for a reason - dropping F-bombs and such doesn't go over well with parents trying to do right by their kids.

I figure five things is a nice, sweet list. Short and simple.

If we all work together we can grow the sport. Yeah, promoters have to do whatever to hold races, and I understand that many/most of us racers have no interest in promoting a race. That's fine - it's like asking a sprinter to climb or a climber to sprint, I think promoting is something people do or don't do.

However, all of us racers enjoy racing, and we can all help whoever promoter at their race. Let races stand or fall on its merits. It's our duty as racers to honor the promoters' efforts to bring us races.