Saturday, April 25, 2009

Race Changes for 2010

I meet with the Second Wind Running Club board of directors tomorrow to give them a report on the 2009 Clinton Lake ultra race. Basically I go over the budget, tell them how things went from my perspective, and suggest a few changes for the future. If you have run the race the first two years, you may have noticed that I didn't send a pre-race or post-race feedback survey to the runners. That was intentional. First, I pretty much gathered the feedback I needed those first two years. You all gave me great ideas before the races and nice feedback after each event. Second, I was fairly sure this would be my last year as race director. It took 2+ years to get this race off the ground, and I've now directed it for three years. That seemed like enough.

Parts of the race organization are getting to me. I didn't want to announce this was my last year because that may not have been true (and it seemed a little hokey). I wasn't sure I wanted to retire as RD. Leading up to the race, and for a few days afterward, I confided in a couple friends that "I was 99% sure I won't do this next year." The probability would vary from day-to-day. On good days I would say, "I'm 70% sure this is it for me" and on bad days I'd proclaim, "I'm 99.9% positive I'm done with this sucker!" I kept telling myself that I didn't need to make a decision until the board meeting. Well, the board meeting is around the corner. I'm fairly certain (90% confidence interval?) I will remain as race director. I have compiled a set of notes about what I'd like to change and what tasks I want to hand-off to another person. If the board agrees to the changes, I'm ready for another year!

Here are a few of my proposed changes for the 2010 race with my rationale:

1. Only online registration. This will save me lots of manual data entry and eliminate the possibility of bounced checks. It also takes care of me forwarding checks to the running club treasurer. And all of the liability waivers will be stored electronically. Less paper, less chances for mistakes and lost data.

2. No more "early start" option. Everyone starts at 7:30am and the race concludes at 4:30pm. This will simplify the finish line and results scoring. While the early start will be gone, the TOTAL race time has been expanded to accommodate a full 9 hour cut-off. Seems like the best of both worlds! My volunteers are usually around before and after the race anyway, now I'll just need a couple guaranteed to start early and stay late with me.

3. Hot food after race. I have wanted this every year, but it's tough with no running water and only a couple electrical outlets at the race site. Plus, we have no large shelter. This year we'll need to figure out a way to have some shelter, hot soup, chili, cocoa, coffee, etc. I'll need a couple volunteers committed to this new task, but that should be easy.

4. Grand Slam awards change. I am still tracking Illinois Trail Ultra Grand Slam points, but I need someone else to take care of awards. Adam Zimmerman has tentatively agree to do so. He assists Dave Tapp with the Farmdale race (and he completed the Slam last year) so I think he's a perfect fit.

5. Keep the cotton shirts. I always told myself that if I ran a race it would have the best & coolest tech shirts around. Well, the first 2 years I did like the Clinton Lake race shirts (nice technical fabric, simple design, no sponsors, etc)...unfortunately, those suckers are expensive! I couldn't afford to buy shirts for all of my volunteers. With good quality cotton shirts, I have greater flexibility in sizes, can give all vols t-shirts, and the screen printing design can be a bit more extravagant. We'll change it up each year (color and design) so you'll want to "collect 'em all." Plus, all the races are now giving tech shirts, I need a few more "lounge around the weekend" type shirts.

6. More attention to finish line. We have to separate the aid station and finish line crews. This year there was some confusion with a couple runners. We'll restructure the finish area (clock, chute, workers, etc) to make sure runners are tracked well and awards are given out right away. We'll actually pull bibs and have a manual back-up tick sheet. Wind, rain, or snow...we need a dedicated crew at the finish area that is not distracted by the aid station hub-bub.

7. More and better tents. We need shelter! If nothing else, we need an extra tent with side panels. I've thought about renting a huge enclosed tent for the day. We are a small race, so I'm not sure what is feasible. I just know my volunteers suffered this year. And I'd like the runners to stick around after finishing. Hard to do when it's cold, windy, and rainy.

8. Restate race policies and stick to them. I'm too easy. I try to be fair and hold everyone to the same rules, but I end up bending one here and another there. It causes me angst. So let me reiterate a few rules: no race bib transfers, no refunds, no rolled registration to next year, no mailed goodies, no pacers, no dogs, no drop bags. There is an unofficial wait-list, but only 1-2 runners each year get picked to join the race after it closes.

9. Shorter early packet pick-up. Who needs packet pick up to last 6 hours? I thought people would come over lunch. A few did. Those folks will now have to come after work. I'm proposing a shorter, but later, packet pick-up period. We'll go from 3:30-6:30pm. This should allow out-of-towners to get their packets as they arrive in town. And it's less work and down-time for me and my volunteers.

10. Assign a goodie bag coordinator. I hate gathering all the goodies for the bags. I hate filling out the bibs. And I especially hate stuffing those darn bags with the shirts, bibs, and goodies. I'm not a big fan of hauling those suckers to early packet pick-up and race day pick up either. This whole set of tasks needs to be assigned to another person.

11. Find more sponsors. This isn't really needed, but I'd love to have one cash sponsor and one more product sponsor. Maybe Exelon Corporation (they own the land and the Clinton power plant) would be a sponsor? Maybe Zombie Runner would provide some goodies? I say "bring on the extra goodies"...I'm not stuffing them anymore! I have excellent current sponsors, so this is simply a wish for more. I'm not too greedy. If this happens, great. If not, that's cool too.

What made me change my mind about race directing? The runners! You can be a pain leading up to race day (lots of special requests), but on race-day and after, you are the best! I enjoy seeing everyone trying to achieve their running goals. I really love most of the race directing duties. So, this coming year, I have decided to off-load the tasks that I hate (goodie bag & bib assembly and pick-up). This should allow me to focus on other tasks that I enjoy. A happy race director makes for a happy race experience for the runners! Wish me well.

PLEASE DON'T FORGET: Feel free to click on my personal ASPCA fund raising page to donate whatever you feel comfortable with--it's all for a good cause and it is tax deductible. Help me help the animals via the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

UPDATE...I am staying on as race director for 2010. Look forward to implementing most, if not all, of the ideas above. I appreciate the board's approval and support. TENTATIVE race date for next year is Saturday, March 27, 2010.


Jerry Davison said...

Chris ... I'm glad to hear you're staying on as RD. I think you do a great job ... all your proposed changes make good sense and I agree with all of them, except starting at 7:30 a.m., but I've never been a morning person! I have one suggestion ... put a spot on your registration page for a donation to ASPCA or your local shelter.

Chris Ⓥ said...

I like the registration page suggestion for donations. I feel a little weird soliciting contributions as part of the official race (especially since it's a club event). Of course, it's not a requirement to donate, just a link to a good cause!

Anonymous said...

Yes, I'm in for the awards, as it get's closer to the end I will make my final decision on what it is.
But it will probably be made my me and I think I will require a shoe from each finisher to "finish" off the award. It can be an old shoe, or it can be one from the final race and I will finish it while you wait.
Is there a special award for the male/female winner? Having never been in that position I don't know?

As for your changes they all look great to me, because if you're the RD it's YOUR decision(IMO).
All the best,

Chris Ⓥ said...

Yes, there is an additional award for the overall male & female winners (last year was a big rock with special engraving indicating they were champions of the slam--similar to Farmdale awards). It can be anything we want this year.

I'm sure we can get a shoe from the continuing Slammers. Like the idea of building the award.

510joe said...

I'm glad to see you are continuing with the cotton shirts. I realize I might be odd man out here. I thought the design this year (didn't see 2008) was a great design. Also, it's getting to the point where the moisture wicking shirts are more common place. I'm to the point where I have far more running clothes than everyday clothes. I could use more cotton race shirts. Keep up the great job of the Clinton Lake ultra.

Chris Ⓥ said...

Thanks. I agree about cotton versus technical fabric shirts--I need more cotton race shirts (assuming they are a nice design). I was a bit surprised that you and I were not alone--only one or two complaints and dozens of compliments on the cotton shirt this year. At least for next year, we are sticking with cotton...and I'll make sure we get another good design for the front/back of the shirt.

Anonymous said...


I would be willing to help with the packet stuffing pre-race. That is a great job for those of us who also like to run.


PS Loved the shirt this year and get lots of compliments on it.

Chris Ⓥ said...

Thanks Ellen. Brian said the same thing at the board meeting. I'm sure we'll figure something out for goody bag stuffing (and packet pick-up). Jeff Riddle also offered to help (but I want to keep him free to do all the other stuff he does).