Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Max Muscle Vancouver Triathlon/Duathlon Race Report

This race report is from the race director!! I would really have loved to participate in this event, but I had too many duties as the race organizer!

I swear, time really gets away from me and before I knew it, this event was on top of us. So much goes into an event like this and much of it happens at the last minute, you just can't do some things ahead of time.

We had been preparing for this event for a while, but the last week things kick into high gear. There are always little crisis items that arise and must be dealt with. This event was no exception.
In the last two weeks, our entries sky rocketed. We were up around 150, which was almost twice what we had last year.

The event is USA Triathlon sanctioned, meaning there are rules we need to follow. That is also how we get our event insurance. Part of the sanction requires water quality testing. Last year, Parks and Recs had the water tested every week over the summer and I had access to those results. I expected it would be the same this year. We pay close to $1000 to use the park and for participant parking fees. This is a bone of contention for me, but there isn't much we can do about it.

I had emailed my contact at the parks over a week earlier and asked for water quality results. Wednesday night before the event, I got an email back from him saying that due to budget cuts, the water testing was discontinued. Uhh.....this is a pretty big deal, our insurance would be void if we didn't have that water quality test. I emailed him back asking how I could get that water tested in time. Since I knew his response time was slow and he has been historically unhelpful, I took it upon myself to find someone to help me. I found a contact from the health department who was responsible for testing other waters in the county. I emailed him and left him a voice mail explaining my predicament. The next morning, he called me back and said he had contacted the lab and they would rush the results for me. He was going out to take samples. It was going to cost us $150, but it had to be done. Later in the day, I got an email from my guy at the parks and rec telling me that there was no way to get the water tested in time. I emailed back to let him know that the health department guy was helping me. The parks guy said "I wonder how he got the lab to get results in time". Guess what dude, its called he asked. That really made me angry.

Friday morning came and I got the call from the health department - the lab had done the wrong test and so he was going back out to take more samples and have them rush the results. I wouldn't have them until Saturday morning. Okay, now we are cutting it a little close. I was having chest pain all day Thursday and Friday, probably because of this. When I finally emailed my swim director this info, he said "Holy shit....that's a big deal....we have to test results".

We did the packet pick up on Friday and Saturday. For the first time at any of our events, I called in help for packet pick up. It is extremely difficult for me to delegate. I trust no one. In the interest of my sanity, I needed to let go. And I did. You know what....it was GREAT!!! I was so much more relaxed having someone else do all those things. I was able to work on other last minute details instead of stressing about the packets. Oh and good news, I got the call Saturday morning from the health department and the water was totally safe!!

Saturday night is when the rubber really meets the road. We had to get all our set up ready to go early on Sunday morning. Trevor went down to the park and met with our set up crew. About 5 volunteers who would be there Sunday morning at 5 am to set up the transition area and start/finish. The amount of shit needed to put on a triathlon is really ridiculous. We were fortunate to have a friend from another event company loan us alot of things we needed like fencing and coolers. That made it much easier.

The weather was supposed to be in the upper 90s on Sunday. I was really concerned about that. I wanted to be sure we had enough water and ice. The biggest logistical issue was one of the water stations on the run course. It is 1.5 miles down a closed park path. I was able to use my car to get the water down there at 5 am, but if we needed more during the event, it would have to be carried down there.

Saturday night while Trevor was down going over transition with the guys, I was making numbers for the bike racks, printing out a final parking list and loading the car. We went to bed around 9:30 and every hour were awakened by a barking Asha. I got no sleep. When the alarm went off at 3:45, I was already awake. I both love and hate this time on event day. I hate it because I don't want to get up at 3:45. I love it because it means the wheels are in motion and stuff is getting done. Plus it will be over soon.

My job on race day is course marking and set up. I drive around and put out cones and chalk mark the ground to tell participants where to go. This is my favorite part of the day - its so calm and quite out there and its time to myself before the craziness of the day. This day, however, it was stressful. I got a late start and then had to run a key back to Trevor, so I was hauling ass to get it done in time. I was putting out one cone at a dark country road corner and I heard some jingling. I look over and there was cow, looking over a fence at me about 3 feet away. I said "cow, you are going to see some action today".

I made it back to the park around 6:30. Registration was going to open at 7 and I needed to get that all set up. The guys were making quick work of the transition area and it was all coming together nicely. The sun was just coming up over the pond. Again, very peaceful among all the activity. This is when time starts to fly. It was 6:30 and before I knew it, the park would be full of people waiting to start their event.

I was feeling pretty good about things, we had lots more help this year than we did last year and things were moving along without issue.

Participants started showing up and you could feel the energy and excitement in the air. There were a lot of beginners at this event and I could sense their anxiety. I know that feeling all too well! I tried to greet everyone and make them feel comfortable, all the while, running around with the last minute changes and details.

Our friend Doug was the swim director and that took about 1000 pounds of worry off my shoulders. I loved that I didn't have to think about that at all. He had it covered.

We had 5 different events going on - 3 distances of triathlons and 2 distances of duathlons (bike/run - no swim). Start times were staggered and it was important that we coordinated and ran it all smoothly.

Start time for the first race was 8:30. At 8:15, I grabbed the microphone to do a briefing - giving details about the race. About half way through my talk, the microphone died. What to do now? I couldn't find my timing guy - he was the one in charge of the mic. What to do? One of the race participants picked up a big orange cone and said "use this". So I did. You have to improvise, right? I yelled through the cone like a megaphone. I was almost done and the timing guy came over and was like "why aren't you using the microphone?" He changed the batteries and it was working again. Whew. I finished the briefing and got that first group over to the water to start.

After this, its really just a whirlwind. The three races started, people headed out for their bike rides, came back and went for their runs. I was announcing the finish line, that's always my job. I try to say something personal about as many people as I can - things I found out about them during packet pick up or customers I know. I really like the feeling of connection when they come across the finish line. It makes me feel a part of their success.

It was really starting to get hot out. I was worried we wouldn't have enough water. Sure enough, I got a text from one of our water stations that they didn't think they would have enough water. Looking at our finish area, I didn't think we'd have enough water either. So begins the scramble....we sent people to get water and then had to get it the 1.5 miles out on the path. We had some great volunteers who ran that distance with three gallon jugs of water and with cases of water. After the bit of panic, we got it all covered and every participant had water when they went past an aid station. We did not run out.

We had just over 130 participants cross the finish line. Some were first timers, some were seasoned veterans - Ironman finishers. The group is so diverse, its fun to watch. So many familiar faces and many more new ones that we'll see over and over in future years.

In the week before an event, I always ask myself why we do this. There is so much to do, so much to deal with, so many sleepless nights, anxiety attacks, unexpected bumps. At those times it does not seem worth it. Like when the event shirts end up costing three times what we expected. We say "we won't do this again next year". Then the starting gun goes off and that all changes. By the end of the day I find myself saying "I love this. I can't wait for next year". That's what I said on Sunday.

After that's all done, the work continues. The last finisher crossed the line about 12:30. It took several hours to break things down and get them home. We tried to relax on the couch for a bit, but Asha wasn't having that. We took the dogs for a walk around 8:30 and I was literally falling asleep while we walked. Now its over and onto the next thing. I'd say it was a success. That's a good feeling.

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