Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Promoting - Hours, or What It Takes

I recently answered a question about promoting, and one of the follow up questions was about the kind of hours I claimed to have put into putting on the Bethel Spring Series. I made a step-by-step list of hours, starting with the "before there's officially a race" to "now we have permission" to "just before the race" to "okay it's race time!"

I expanded on some of the thoughts and also included some pictures.

Keep in mind that other than some help setting up and breaking down, marshals, and officials, I did virtually everything myself. Not really ideal but this way I could only blame myself.

Carpe Diem Racing.
That's the name of the promoting company.
It started out as the club/team name back in 1990, with the name decided at my house between four proposed names in 1989. I suggested CDR, taking inspiration for the name from a trinket catalog which had a sweatshirt with the saying on it. It became a bit more well known when an Olympic team member was interviewed wearing a similar/same sweatshirt.

10-20 hours: My time would start in October when I started to piece together changes/improvements for the races the following year. Permission from the town (possibly attend meetings, talk on phone, etc). Lining up officials (my favorite officials lived close by, they were reliable, consistent, and helped create a good race environment so I'd book their time as early as possible). I'd rough out any registration spreadsheet changes, something that's evolved over about 10-12 years. It saves a ton of time/energy on race day but I keep breaking it when I try and improve it.
Running total: 10-20 hours

10-20 hours: December I was getting into the groove. Renew various legal entities (LLC, liability, workman's comp, debate doing it another year, etc). Start ordering stuff like numbers, set up infrastructure, etc.
Running total: 20-40 hours

20 hours: January would be mostly virtual work. BikeReg. Permits. Lining up volunteers, employees. For legal reasons I had to have employees because I was paying them and I was telling them what to do. With an accountant wife I had to play 100% by the rules, it's like a pro cyclist being married to a WADA person, no hint of anything possible. One year I had 9 or 10 employees, toward the end more like 6. I would spend time fixing stuff I broke on the spreadsheet. I have to finalize any changes with categories/classes, etc. There was always very vocal feedback on that stuff and I tried to accommodate the racing community (because I'm one of them).
Running total: 40-60 hours

The van was parked here over the winter of 2011-2012.

50? hours: February I was in full race promotion swing. I almost never trained much in February, there were some years where I'd ride 2-3 times during the whole month. I'd go to the venue at least once or twice to check on things. Sometimes I'd sweep or break up ice or what not. For a number of years I'd clear snow off areas for start/finish and portapotties; one year I dragged my quite-ill mom along so she could get out of the house. I think she sat in the car (running, with the heat on) for about 3 hours while I cleared what I could.

A February trip to get rid of snow on the inside/sprint line.
I seeded the snow/ice with lots of salt, in preparation for clearing it another day.

For Bethel, for many years, it was a 3.5-4 hour round trip just to get to the course. With the trailer it was more like 4.5-5 hours round trip. I'd go pick up trophies at some point (35-45 minutes from Bethel). Every now and then I'd train new staff, where I'd drive to their house, set up the camera and laptop, train them in the basics, go over stuff, break down, and return home. I'd check/test the equipment. Organize bib numbers. Order stuff I forgot to order or that got used up or that disappeared. Make lots of lists.

Pretty much every employer has allowed me to work on the race during the day. Even in a retail store I was probably working as much as 4-6 hours a day checking/answering emails. When I did IT I just dedicated one screen to race stuff, leaving two other screens for work. I'd crank through the race stuff, alt-tabbing between work and race as work allowed. For my running time I'm not counting that. I spent all my free time after work doing race stuff. I'd ride when I could because I had to, for my mental health.
Running total: 90-110 hours

March/April are race weeks. Killer. Thing though was that it was less trying to figure out how to do things at a theoretical level and much more "do this now". For example in January I'd be honing registration processes, trying to think through how things would work. At the first race the registration line was real and whatever I had to do I had to do. Things become very clear when it's "right now!"

My one escape was that I usually raced one race. Earlier in the life of the Series I'd do two races, because I didn't have to do results and such. Back then the officials handled all of that, and we didn't have to upload results because no one expected results to be online for a week or, before the internet wasn't just AOL, ever.

My bike at a 2014 Bethel. I'd race once that day, winning the field sprint behind a break.
The bleak weather probably meant a not-so-great day in terms of dollars/numbers.

60 hours, give or take, for the first week alone. First week is the hardest. 2-4 hours after registration closes Thursday (each week) organizing the registration spreadsheet, figuring out numbers, etc. I print releases at Staples because it's cheaper by a lot. For me I use $35 of toner plus paper if I print myself, it's about $25 if I have Staples do it. Plus they use nice paper. Drawback is that the Staples thing adds 1 hour of driving time to pick up the print job. 5-8 hours on Friday getting stuff packed/etc, 18 hours Sat 6 AM final pack and head down to the course for Sweep Day, and finish up at maybe 1 AM answering emails etc. Then 5 AM - 5 PM for the race. Another 2.5 hours to get home, unpack the most valuable stuff (laptop, etc), then upload results, make registration fixes, etc. With travel before, emails continuously, fix whatever I broke on the spreadsheet, upload results to my website, to USAC, work until maybe 11 PM (if not much later), call it 18 hours.
Running total: 150-170 hours

The trailer at one of the Bethels in 2014.

30-32 hours x 5-6 weeks, i.e. each week after that. 2-4 hours after registration. 2 hours emails every day (that's a very kind number), say 10 hours a week. 2 hours to break stuff down in house and pack. Race day is always about 18 hours (5 AM - 11 PM).

Bare trailer when I picked it up.

Trailer before I finished the inside, end of 2014 Bethel Spring Series.

After finishing the inside, before the shelf/hook/etc.
Brighter, which was my goal.

Trailer during a quiet bit of registration at the club's cross race in 2015.
There are plexiglass shields for the windows for cold/wet weather, built in tables, storage stuff on walls, shelf up front, drawers, heaters, microwave, even a fridge.

Not counting any emergency sweep days although I've spent 8-16-24 hours a week clearing courses some years (3-5 hours per trip, plus drive time, multiple trips some years). Also emergency meetings with angry tenants, meeting with town, etc. Not counting any of that.

Birthing room, 2012. Round table under window has registration laptop for Bethel stuff.
Yes I worked on registration on and off during the whole process.

When my son was born it was the 2nd week of Bethel in 2012. Went to the hospital Thursday evening. Was answering questions about registration and Cat 5 stuff on the way to the hospital. Set up laptop, wireless modem, and cranked through emails and calls while wife was induced. Nothing happened (we went through this the prior week as well, before the first week of racing). Went home Friday evening. Fri night her water broke. Went to hospital. I tried to answer some emails/questions but I was exhausted because we were up from 11 PM until my son was born at 9:33 AM. Wonder and joy and all that. Then back to the laptop. 3 PM wife kicked me out, told me I had to leave to get ready for the races because everyone was depending on me. I was really tired the next day.
Running total: 300 - 360 hours

Conservatively speaking I'll say that I put in 300-350 hours annually for the Bethel Spring Series.

Addendum time

The thing is that my number is pretty conservative. A busy year I'm guessing another 100 hours minimum, if I counted all the various stuff that I don't count because it doesn't happen every year, like making proposals and attending meetings to secure a venue. For example I secured 3 venues in 2015, used only two, made 3? 4? site visits, all for a venue we never used.

When I was searching for new venues, between 2014 and 2015, I probably spent 20-30 hours on that alone, during the summer. 4-5 hours at a time, couple times a month. Some emails, calls, stuff like that, tracking down legal land owners, then asking about holding events there.

I do payroll in there somewhere. Well technically the Missus does that, but I write the checks and pay the people that work for the race. I have to buy misc stuff, heaters for example, or get propane tanks filled for said heaters. Then replacements for heaters that broke or don't work. Adapters to use big propane tanks on little heaters. Fans. Fabricate some stuff like lap card stuff or tables or platforms. I've bought two wheeled leaf blowers. 5 or 6 generators. I've had to go get extension cords, cones of various sizes, bins, binder clips, pends, drawers, chairs, tables, tents (and fix tents), etc etc. I'm not counting the time to buy any of that stuff.

Website stuff is nutty. I did it all by hand early on, before stuff like Wordpress existed. Now I use Wordpress with the help of one of the guys that does the races. I can get lost for 4-5 hours when I start doing site stuff. Getting the sites up and running took a bit of time and effort. Not counting any of that.

The last week of the Series there are more things for me to do but generally within the same time frame. In other words I do more stuff, like doing podium pictures, but since those are between races it's just part of the day. I usually put off unpacking stuff for a month or three, usually until I have to clear out the trailer (or the van before that). Unpacking is usually quick, just a few hours once I drive everything home. I once left my van at the venue for 3 months, returning in late July to drive it home. Admittedly I made a day of it, rode 5 hours there, did the Wed night crit, then drove the van away.

Unpacking the van in September (Labor Day) one year.

I was totally burnt out on race promotion stuff by the time mid-April showed up.

Each year it seems like I spend 3-5 full days working on stuff for the trailer. I'd disappear for an entire Saturday and/or Sunday, 8-10 hours each day, to fix things up.

I also spent considerable time figuring out camera stuff. I'm on our 5th or 6th camera, each one requiring some learning, set up, testing, etc.

Still from a 1080p@30fps camera test. Car was going 35 mph.

I spend time organizing stuff in our storage bay (we rent it to store stuff for the races) or my basement (we have to keep release forms for 10 years now, plus I have all sorts of delicate/weather sensitive promoting stuff down there) or the garage (most of the gas powered stuff like leaf blowers, generators, etc). Nowadays I have to keep track of the trailer which is not parked at home and the tow vehicle which is parked in the storage bay. I pull out the tow vehicle every now because the year I didn't drive it from April until sometime deep in the winter the battery was dead and it just wasn't happy. At first we put just 1000 miles annually on the tow vehicle. The van also - one year I think I put about 450 miles on it. For the entire year! I got rid of it because it started having random problems, probably due the fact that I almost never drove it and it was never indoors (doesn't fit in a garage).

So that's it.

I tell racers to go thank the promoters whenever they race. Thank the marshals, registration people, everyone involved. I don't think I'm unique in the kind of effort I put into a race. Every promoter ends up living the race for a while, way beyond anything they expected when they first got into it. I was lucky in that I could ease my way into it. In the "old days" promoting was a bit less formal, a bit less structured. Now it's pretty tough to start up a race, and for someone actually closing blocks of roads in a city or doing a rolling closure for a road race... yeah, I can't imagine doing that.


Anonymous said...

Amazing. Thank you for your many years of dedication.

Aki said...

As I posted in the other place and mentioned in my own post, I think that all race promoters go through this. My numbers are a bit higher because of the nature of doing a Series, versus one day. One day races I think are harder because the promoter doesn't get into a rhythm and there's no return on all the course prep/etc done prior to the one day of racing. A Series is nice because the promoter gets to take advantage of the course prep multiple times, the staff/volunteers get comfortable with their duties, etc. Doing 5-7 races a year taught me a lot more than doing just one race a year.

Obviously I put in the time, and I was okay with it when I did it. I get a bit worried when long time promoters start to pull out, wondering where the next batch of races will come from, but then I see some younger promoters with new events and it makes me feel better about the health of the racing scene.