Sunday, January 8, 2012

Overdue: Race Report for New Years Double, From the Race Director - Part 2, DAY

A friend suggested they'd like to see a race report from the actual race director. I thought it was a fun idea. So first I wrote about Why I Love Race Directing, and then I wrote Part 1 - EVE race. Today I tackle the joys of producing the same race TWO exhausting days in a row.

The Unexpected
After going to bed New Year's Eve about 11:30 pm, hubby Steve couldn't get to bed with our two dogs being a little wired up with the ruckus outside of people celebrating and little firecrackers. About 12:15 am, he heard a boom and it woke up the baby. He rushed upstairs to take care of her, raised a fist with a "hooligans", and I went to look out our bedroom window into the grassy area next to our house. I expected to see some kids being idiots, and I'd have to go outside and scatter them. Instead I peeked through the blinds and saw flames.

Panic! Evacuation! We got the kids, and the dogs, and evacuated the house within a minute and a half. Someone had shot a firework too low, and the mortar had exploded in the greenbelt, sparking the dead grass and catching it on fire.

High school kids having a party across the street and neighbors helped put the fire out. Had the wind blown the other way, we clearly would have lost the house. The fire came within 50 feet of the house. It was one of the scariest moments of my life.
That dark line on the left is the burned area, the house on the right, yeah, that's my house.
Learning to Ask for Help
This has been my lesson of the last 6 months. I act like I have everything under control, and I need to learn to ask for help when I'm in trouble. Steve and I got the kids back to sleep after the fire quickly, but we were twitchy, nervous wrecks. I kept looking outside for more fire. I couldn't help it. I posted on Facebook what had happened with a begging for help for the upcoming race day. We were already exhausted from a 19 hour work day making Day 1 happen.

1:30 am, dropped asleep until 4 am. Wow, let's do it all again after the scare of our lives and on 2 1/2 hours of sleep. This truly had turned into, as my friend Mike called it, the "ultra of race directing." At 5 am, I reposted, now to the New Years Double Facebook page, what had happened and asked again for help. It was hard to put myself out there and be so open and vulnerable with tired we were, but I've been learning that people really do want to help, they just need to know you need it! I didn't want to seem overly melodramatic, I mean we were all okay, the house was okay, the kids were okay, but it was the wear on me and Steve that needed to be addressed in the day ahead.

Another Day, Another Attempt at a Great Race
5:30 am. At the race site. Cold. Still shaken from the night. Happy to have asked for help, but still scared enough that I'm almost in tears any time someone brings it up.

6:00 am. Thankful for Ryan, who heeded the call for help and came to help my husband Steve set up all the aid stations. I met Ryan waiting for the airplane back to Dallas from the Hood To Coast Relay, and had only seen him one other time, at the Chupacabra 10K race. But runner friends come in all frequencies of contact! We're all still connected by our love for the sport!

6:30 am. The DJ has told me he has some changes to try with the sound system to help reduce the chance the neighbors call the police on us again. He sets up. Great job as usual, Jon, with your own Plan B, as we had NO calls New Year's Day morning from residents. We really want to be good neighbors and a good community event, so this made me really happy.

7:00 am. Volunteers are checking in and reporting for duty. I'm seeing how smooth it's all going when 70% of your runners have already done the previous day's race. They all already know what to do, what to expect. It's really nice.

8:15 am. The energy isn't quite as high today. Everyone looks kinda sore and tired. But the challenge of the double is too great to avoid.

8:30 am. Volunteers at the second aid station report that runners are saying an arrow on the course has disappeared. Steve runs out to that spot. He thinks it's hilarious how nice all the runners are, yelling out, "It's that one that's missing." and guiding him to the right spot. That's what happens on day 2. Looks like the wind had picked up and just taken that sign straight off the wire frame, or it was teenagers up to no good (happened last year to a couple signs on the old course)!

8:45 am. 5K finishers are coming in. I think everyone's going to mingle over their victory a little, visit with and cheer on finishing 5K friends, get some food, and make their way to the Challenge Plate table. I guessed that one TOTALLY wrong. Beeline of runners to the Challenge Plate table. Luckily, a great group of volunteers are over there. I run to the timing company and ask him to print a couple more copies of the previous day's race results for checking off the Challenge Plate eligibility. So appreciative he could jump aboard Plan B too! Get those back to the volunteeers, I man the megaphone, and start directing people to individual lines to move that line through faster. Luckily, while the volunteers and me are feeling rushed and panicky, the runners seem to be in good spirits. They're hanging out like I thought they would, but they're doing it in line.

Best Group of Runners I Could Ask For
The rest of the morning goes pretty swimmingly. This was really the greatest participants I could ask for. They used the trash boxes, which we helped along by having plenty and trying to make sure the aid stations knew to spread them out. They treated the volunteers immaculately, again helped along by pre-race notes on Facebook outlining the awesome groups that would be volunteering and reminding people to thank a volunteer. Calm, courteous, excited, you guys really rocked.

A Very Touching Moment at 2 PM
In my call to arms about the "almost fire", I had asked for help at teardown time of 2 pm. And help with picking up race signs. And a ton of people turned up. Sabrina brought her battery-operated moped to go out on the trail and pick up signs. Tanya has crutches and walked part of the park to pick up signs, and her friend Lydia picked more up. My sister Elaine ran the 5K to earn her day 2 medal and Challenge Plate and picked up the park perimeter signs as she ran. Elizabeth masterminded the start/finish for those still completing the race so I could help direct all these volunteers that showed up.  To Jeanne, Rachel, Susan, and many others I'm not sure I even got your names... thank you! Even hubby Steve was shocked at how quick the UHaul got loaded. I was so out of it and tired, I'm not sure I thanked everyone enough. I tried. I was also really emotional watching strangers come help. I can't tell you how often you look around at about 1 pm, and *zoom* all your volunteers have just disappeared. It's a lot of trash and hauling and work after that point, and I've been there multiple times where there's no one left to do those things. I took a moment and snapped a picture of this awesome crew of volunteers.

Again, Just Because the Course Closes...
...Doesn't mean the race is over. Back to the house. I'm posting race results, checking Facebook and Twitter, checking the email address for the race. Steve and my sister are washing out Gatorade coolers. Then the long trip to Irving to the storage unit (thanks to Heels and Hills for lending many pieces of the aid station equipment), unload everything, and back home. Day ended about 6 pm, at which point the kids were tired and frustrated. But thankful for my parents who let Steve and I go out to a short celebratory dinner, complete with our own glass of bubbly (Cava) to celebrate the new year, and two days where we felt like we changed lives.


  1. These two 5K races are at the top of my list for two of the most fun that I've ever done. I'm a 5K junky with 14 under her belt, so believe me, I know what I'm talking about! ☺ Everything was so well organized, the race site was gorgeous, and even though you can't control the weather, Libby, it worked in your favor! There was a certain camaraderie between the racers who ran both days... it was just fantastic. Thanks for all your hard work, and for this behind the scenes look. Happy New Year! Viva NYD!!

  2. You did an amazing job. Be proud of what you did, and know that we all really appreciate the effort you put into this weekend to make it a fun and memorable event. Thank you.

  3. I still can't believe you put on back-to-back races & had it so organized! These were two of the best races I've ever been to! Thank you for doing such an awesome job!

  4. So glad you put up these two posts and could read it from your perspective! It's always nice to constantly understand the behind the scenes part of running races. You are freaking amazing, Libby and we appreciate all that you did for this race weekend! So glad we could be apart of it!