Saturday, January 7, 2012

Overdue: Race Report for New Years Double, From the Race Director - Part 1, EVE

A friend suggested I should write my own race report about the New Years Double, from my point of view as a race director. Well, first attempt turned into a general, gushy "Why I Love Race Directing." So now that I've gotten that out of my system, on with MY New Years Double race report...  (This is DAY 1, the EVE race. Click here for the Part 2, for the New Year's DAY race)

Packet Pickup
I could not believe how many people showed up an hour before packet pickup even opened on Thursday afternoon! Picking packet pickup hours are always tough. You want to balance the best use of the volunteers' time with the right hours that people will want to pick up their packets. Too many packet pickup hours and it'll be hard to get enough volunteers, and your volunteers won't feel very useful if they are all just standing around and fill only a handful of packets in an hour. But too few hours, and it's going to be crowded.

So Thursday was CRAZY. It's really hard to train a whole bunch of volunteers while people are standing in line an hour early. It was really stressful for them - I've gotten used to it, but they were feeling the pressure! And even the volunteers expressed surprise at people who couldn't understand why their packet couldn't be filled early. Do you not see the stack of shirt boxes here and the unorganized bibs? Do we look ready to do packets early? But I get it, it seems really easy and obvious until you try to do 2,000 bibs and shirts and packets in a compressed small area with a handful of volunteers.
Awesome volunteers doing an amazing job at packet pickup
I guess everyone had off Thursday afternoon based on the lines. Looks like we need longer hours on Thursday next time! Meanwhile, Friday was much quieter. But those Friday hours seemed appropriate, with a steady flow of runners.

Friday at the Race Site
Tents went up midmorning. Managing and unloading a race site while having packet pickup across town? Tricky. Happy for return volunteers that I could trust to get it done. Friday night, Elizabeth helped me put out race signs in the dark. Over 100 race signs but I had them organized by section, so it went quickly, which means just a couple hours.

Saturday, EVE Race
4 am wakeup. At the race site by 5:15 am. Packet pickup was a smooth process, and it was evident a lot of people had chosen to pick up ahead of time. There was so much energy in the air. It was incredible.

7:00 am. A lot more volunteers show up. Happy for the help of my sister Elaine, who is my Volunteer Lead for the day.
Alicia, left, sponsor for the National Honor Society students who were volunteering, and Elaine, left, my sister and  Volunteer Lead for the race

7:10 am. One aid station has not shown up at the dropoff time for supplies. Hubby Steve, who's in charge of all aid stations and the big UHaul truck of supplies, has to move on to the next aid station and will come back to see if they show. Sister Elaine (Volunteer Lead) and I prep for the possibility of rerouting some of our volunteers to this aid station. Luckily, they are there and going when Steve gets back.

7:20 am. I see Suann of Team Wheaties Fuel and remember I need a pic to show the Wheaties people that the samples they gave us (courtesy of team member Judy E.) made it to the race site to be handed out. So we pose!

7:55 am. The police show up. Oh goodness. Neighbors had called in to complain about the noise from the sound system. The police officer was very nice - he didn't think it was too bad - but we abided and turned it down.
Frunners (Runner friends!)

8:15 am. Time to start the first race. Ready to see how this corral system works in practice.

Choosing the size of each corral and seeing how moving each corral with each wave start is a complete guessing game. It's not like we all have a race director's manual that says, "200 people in Corral B? Give that corral 40 feet of room for gathering." Wouldn't that be nice. It was really cool to see the front runners in each corral. They seemed to enjoy feeling truly elite for the day. And they're all off! As a race director, it's the moment of truth - how many people will fit on this trail? Would my guess be totally off?

8:25 am. Same start process with the 5K. Let's get this party started. Sigh of relief once they've all gone. What's done is done.

Time to get ready for 5Kers to finish. Prep the food, get the medals ready, and prep the aid station for the first loop finishes of the half and full marathoners. The calm before the storm.

When the 5K runners start coming in, the next check for crisis... is the timing system capturing everyone? Yes? Great!

5K finishers are loving their medals, makes me so happy to roam around and see the reactions. How many 5Ks give you a finisher medal AND a tech shirt? And how can you not be inspired to perhaps take on a longer distance watching these fast half marathoners and marathoners come through the end of their first loop?!?

9:00 am. Word comes that a handful of runners have completely blown through some volunteers, cones, and signs and had to be called back onto the course. Amazing to me how much some runners can zone out. Steve heads out to the site and they move around some signs and add some more cones. Life must be different when you run as fast as some of these speedy people, but I don't really zone out to the level that I could miss signs, cones, AND volunteers directing you. So always surprises me.

Half Marathoners Come In - How Is The Course?
10:00 am. Half marathon runners start finishing their race. And how does everyone feel? Do they hate me for giving them a multi-loop course? I feel good that at least the course was well-communicated: you know what to expect. It's 2 loops for the half marathon and 4 loops for the full marathon, and it was documented that it was city-paved concrete trail since everyone's feet handle distance on terrain differently.

So the reaction from runners: they're happy! They aren't mad at me! In fact, the volunteers are so awesome, the energy is so high, that the course is just one big runner party! People are high-fiving, chatting, encouraging each other. They feel like the time passes quickly since they are often looking for oncoming runners to spot their friends. And they love that they get to see their friends often, regardless of their pace. It's exactly what I hoped for. It's a big race (because 1000 each day IS big) that feels like a small race. Even my husband Steve says that each time he visits an aid station, he's surprised how many runners he recognizes seeing again and again.
This race had the best spectators!
They love Marci's awesome handmade neon-colored signs. They love their volunteers. They love the spectators. It's a touching moment for me because I feel like I put a lot of heart into events I help produce, and today feels like a day that the volunteers felt that and reflected that towards the runners, the runners felt that and reflected it back to the volunteers. :-)

What a big sigh of relief!

10:45 am. Short dance party and love fest in the middle of some friends, where I can really jump up and down and feel happy for what's happened today.

11:00 am. Half marathon awards time. People seem to enjoy the awards. Like last year's smaller day-only half marathon, the awards are champagne flutes with the race logo and the word WINNER on them. 1 for half and 5K and relay age group winners, 2 for overall and masters winners in every distance. And 2 for top winners in the marathon. So if you can place both days, you'll get 2 or 4 flutes - you can get a full set. These are cost effective because they are all the same for both days and for overall versus age group winners. I expect annoyance from some top winners at the awards not being specific or special enough, but I don't get it from anyone. That's a good sign!

Does everything end at the course time limit?
Never! Pack up some things, clean up others. Go home to post links to race results, answer any pressing questions across all the platforms (email, Facebook, Twitter). Wash out all the Gatorade coolers so they won't be sticky/ucky for day 2. Load up the truck and take 2nd day medals and Challenge Plates to the race site. Steve and I review all the numbers for aid stations and adjust for the next day based on how day 1 had gone. We then realize that not all the finish line water was delivered, and we're short 12 cases. So a run to the Walmart to stock up, especially in case it's hot. Always better to have too much than not enough. Bedtime at 11:30 pm.

Next... the details of Day 2, the DAY race in Part 2 HERE


  1. Awesome! I love this recap from your perspective. That "Don't Poop Your Pants" sign is the husband of one of the Racing It Off girls, Sabrina. LOVED that sign. ;-) Had an amazing time and the whole crew is already planning and contemplating distances for next year!

  2. It's cool hearing things from the point of view of the race director! I really cannot say enough good things about this race. It was evident how much effort you put into it!*

  3. Great article. I loved the race and my friends and I cannot wait until next year. You did a great job!!

  4. I signed up for a couple of full marathon races and they turned out to be running parties!! Running into (pun intended) so many frunners (friends who are runners) participating in various races, on a multi-loop course, made it very enjoyable. So many smiles, hi-fives, and greetings not only from runners, but also from volunteers made for a memorable experience. The volunteers were enjoying themselves. Libby, all of this is a reflection of your caring, hard work and thoughtfulness that a great race director, like yourself, and a good group of volunteers can accomplish. Congratulations to all!!

  5. Awesome Job Libby! My First 5K Race and I KNOW I have been spoiled by the awesomeness of your pre-planning! Looking forward to the 2011-2012 race! There WILL be one - right???

  6. You have a race directing gift! Since there's no manuel for RD why don't you do one?!? I think you could do it best!! Luv u lady!

  7. Sounds crazy but so much fun! I'd love to work on a race some day. Congrats on the successful race!

  8. Thank you for all you do to put on an awesome race! You're a rockstar!!! I love hearing it from your perspective...