Friday, March 13, 2020

What is a planner supposed to do when they can't plan?

These are incredible days we are in right now. It feels like every few hours the situation with COVID-19 is changing and impacting everyone's lives in a big way and huge impacts in the race world. I have been going through many different emotions and stages with this rapidly evolving situation. I have felt sucker punched. I have felt sadness and tears when I hear about whole race seasons canceled. I have felt fear and anxiety over where our income will come from and when. When planning future races into the summer and fall, I have felt mildly like the band playing on the Titanic deck as it is going down. Really, I am talking about what shirt colors we will have for our October race? I have felt sick to my stomach when hearing about layoffs in the industry already happening. I have felt panic. I have felt worried for all the businesses that we rely on to support our races, like the restaurants that donate food, the stores that host our packet pickups, the local shops that donate prizes and the nonprofits that we partner with. And mostly I feel like we have all been living in a scifi movie.

But the not knowing piece is the worst for a planner like myself. My job is to know and plan for all foreseeable situations. I have a plan for every possible contingency and a back up plan for those plans. But, how do I do my job when I have no idea when this will all end, how bad it will be, what will be the new normal, how deep the impacts will actually be? What is a planner to do when they can't plan. And, why did I not see this coming? I am a planner. But I cannot plan for this insane situation.

So far we have had 1 race we were hired to help with course set up cancel, one race where we were doing race photography cancel, and of our races, one postponement, one outright cancellation and another race still up in the air. I am so thankful that Leap Day happens on February 29th, right before the real madness set up and we we able to successfully pull off Extra Day 5K. That might be our last race for months. I definitely have done more dismantling work than planning work.

I just hope that as we all move through this together we can all be kind to each other and understanding that this is having an impact on everyone's lives. I am looking forward to the day we can all look back at this in the rearview mirror. Please, if you have the resources, sign up for races in the future, and sign up for races that have been postpones, and do it now while race companies are hurting.

And for the love of all things holy, is it 'Cancelled' or 'Canceled'!!!!?? I have written it both ways about 400 times in the last few weeks and still can't make up my mind which I like better. If you have strong thoughts on this matter please tell me what to do.

Also, I have spent a lot of time dismantling races this past week. Why is 'mantling' not a word?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Truly Running Scared at Run Scared

When I go to set up a course it is usually dark, it is usually cold, it is usually sort of scary. My biggest fear is hooligans, for lack of better term. Someone who is out late at night/early morning who is up to no good hanging out in a dark, abandoned park. I always have my wits about me, despite the lack of sleep on race mornings. I am hyper tuned to my surroundings and keep my ears and eyes open at all times. My weapon of choice is usually only some mace and all the large sticks and scissors I happen to be carrying. It is not safe, my mother and my husband always tell me that.

But, on the morning of Run Scared this past weekend I was feeling pretty good. There were no cars in the park. It is always nerve wracking to see lone cars parked in the lot at 3:00am. I mean, really, what are you doing there? It was dead quiet, the weather was perfect and I had my morning coffee. It was 3:30am. It was foggy, very very foggy.

There is a section of the course where a major turn happens and lots of signage is needed and the waterstop is also located there. It just so happens that it is blocked to all vehicles. This means I need to make multiple trips with a handcart or with my own two hands up and down that darn hill, many, many times.

So, beep, beep, beep...I am backing the truck down this giant hill, slowly and trying not to run into the barricades. I get as close as I can. Put it in park. Get my headlamp on and give myself a little pep talk. I can do this. It is my exercise for the day, perhaps the week.

The back door rolls up with a loud bang. But, what do I care, there is nobody around.

Now, I don't know if you are aware, but when you turn on a headlamp in the pitch black and its foggy and cold all you really see is your breath. Nothing more really comes through. But, that was ok, nobody was around and I knew where I was going.

I took my first load into my arms, a bunch of cones and some signs on large sticks. I looked down the hill to where I was going and all I see are two eyes staring back at me, eyes glowing from the reflection of my headlamp. Still, silent, spooky. I stop in my tracks. It is an animal, I know that much. But not much more. I am still, he is still. We stare at each other. I move forward. He stays put. I make a loud noise, he stays put. I start walking, he moves to the left and scampers up the hill. As I am walking down my headlamp stays with those eyes. As I get closer I can see that it is white. To me it looked like a giant owl. Then a flash of tail. It was coyote. Mean, nasty, beady eyes staring at me. I dump the stuff at the bottom of the hill, still looking at those eyes.

What it really looked like
In my mind what it looked like

I hightail it back up to the truck, safety! But, there is still the matter of the 10 other loads that need to go down there. I decide to unload it all right there, next to the warmth and the light of the truck. All the while scanning for those eyes. They have moved above to the top of the hill. Then disappear. I cannot find the eyes. Is this beast about to attack me? I have never heard of a coyote attacking a human. But, I am making quite a ruckus and interrupting his hunting time.

I start moving faster, throwing things out of the truck. Someone else on my crew can deal with this later, in the daylight when all they have to worry about it hooligans.

I escape with my life, unscathed and truly running scared at Run Scared!

Monday, August 14, 2017

The power of adrenaline

You hear stories of mothers lifting cars off of their children or a hiker surviving for days in the woods or some such tale of super human feats when the body is shot with adrenaline. I experienced my own very small version of that this weekend at the Lake Union 10K.

While we were setting up the night before the race we were unpacking a truck, when out comes tumbling what looked like a very light piece of the blow up arch we used for our finish line. It was not our equipment, but our timing company's so I felt the need for extra efforts. So, I dove for it, trying to save it. Well, it was heavier than it looked and it was more awkward than it looked thus was falling at a very strange angle. You can see where this is going right? The piece of equipment did not break, probably because the fall was broken by my pinkie finger.

Now I always get bumps and bruises. It is just inevitable. But, this was searing hot pain, immediately. The only solution was to stick it in a fountain (the only version of ice we had in the park) and tape it up with duct tape and carry on.

We set up for another hour or so. Went home and iced, kept the duct tape on and then showed up and directed the full event. Packed up and unloaded the truck including tables, tents, know, heavy, big items.

I was ignoring my finger.

My body usually runs only on adrenaline on race mornings. I find it hard to eat on race mornings, I usually never get much sleep the night before and little coffee (I always get a coffee but then I always set it down somewhere and never get to finish). So that adrenaline just carries me until I can collapse on the couch.

It worked again this time. What else was I to do other than pull off a great event!?

By the time I was able to get to the doctor this morning it was throbbing, bruised and very swollen. Now that the adrenaline has worn off it started to hurt. X-rays and an exam proved I have a fractured pinkie. I am amazing more damage was not done by all the lifting. A finger wrap for the next two weeks and some icing a couple of times a day and I should be good to go.

The power of adrenaline is truly amazing.

Monday, April 10, 2017

A day in the life of a race director

This is what I feel like after a race

We had a great first race of the season on Saturday, a fun one to open with, The Seattle Magazine Brunch Run at Magnuson Park. 

I guess my body is not used to race days, this being our first race in a few months. The first one of the season is always hard which is why I thought I would run you through a typical race day experience from my perspective, a brief recap so you can see why I just slept for 13 hours. 

Alarm clock at 0'dark:30 - Force myself out of the warm bed. Try not to wake up my husband or the neighbors as a start the Uhaul in the middle of the night on our very suburban, quiet street. I always whisper an apology to them. 

Grab a coffee at the 24 hour coffee drive through (thank god for those baristas).

Arrive in the park and start doing parking signs, course set up, waterstop set up. Pray that there are no hooligans about to ruin the peace and quiet. Wait for my crew to arrive so I am not wandering the park at 3:00am by myself. 

Set up the course

Start setting up festival area with tents, tables, signs....

Check in vendors, volunteers, make sure set up is happening

Do a registration orientation

Meet the porto-potties guy, tell him where to set up. 

Make sure music/DJ/announcements are starting

Set up race start and finish line

Check on registration lines and bathroom lines

Get course volunteers out onto the course

Get everyone to the start line

Make sure everyone is excited and having a good time

Last minute check in with course staff to make sure everyone is in place

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 - GO! 

Hope and pray that the bike lead remembers the course and the signs are still up and the course monitors are still in place and that nobody gets lost or hurt. 

Wait for the first finisher, usually pacing back and forth.

High five the first finishers. 

Break down registration, turn it into results.

Make sure food and water is ready to go.



Clean up course.

Clean up festival area.

Pack up truck.

Unload truck at our storage unit.

Return truck.

Eat. (True story - I once cried after a race because the only thing getting me through that particular race day was the thought of eggs benedict and after the race we were too late, our usual place was not serving breakfast anymore and I stood on the sidewalk and I cried!). 

Go home. This is the tricky bit. I really want to enjoy that shower, I earned that right, but I am usually so tired by this point that I can barely stand to stand. So, usually its a quick one. 

Then, the ultimate best part - sinking down on that couch, putting my feet up, taking a deep breath and then no movement, at all, not even a little bit for at least a couple of hours. Try to rehydrate. Relax. Try to stay awake to watch bad television. Usually fall asleep on the couch. 

But, no rest for the weary. The post-race emails have to go out and results have to be posted in the various places. Jump on the computer and start working again. 

Must. Make. It to 9:00pm. Do. Not. Sleep. Now! 

This particular weekend saw me in bed by 8:00pm and I did not wake up for another 13 hours. I woke up, had some coffee and food, checked email and about an hour later I was back in bed for a nap. 

1 down, 11 to go!! 

Friday, February 24, 2017


It has been awhile since I have posted. Sorry about that. I guess I just got wrapped up in the actual planning of these events and finalizing our race schedule, which is awesome by the way. Check it out on our website.

Part of my busy schedule has been tax prep, the dreaded season of paperwork, spreadsheets and numbers. Lots and lots of numbers. I am not a numbers person. Numbers to me generally do not have any meaning, I mean what is the difference between 2 numbers, really!? I sometimes can't even remember how old I am.

It got me to thinking about numbers as it relates to races. Sure, there are the normal numbers that you think of 5K, 3.1, 10K, 6.2, 13.1.... But then there are the numbers that I guarantee any race director anywhere would know off the top of his/her head, ingrained in their DNA.  Even me, who does not understand numbers.

The first is a list of dates of their races. I could recite my calendar in my sleep. April 8, April 21, April 30 and so on. But, that can be applied to any business where events or deadlines take place. Not that unusual.

Here are some race related numbers that keep popping up in my head or daily life:

1440 - how many of you know what that number is? Ask any race director and they will know. That is the number of safety pins in a standard size 1 box. 1440, why don't you know that!?

128 - there are 128 ounces in a gallon. Standard water jugs are 5 gallons, standard serving cup at an aid station is filled to 3 ounces that leaves about 200 servings of water, give or take 13 or so cups. There are 450 cups in a Costco package. Also, there are 40 bottles in a Costco container of water bottles. Did you know that?

5280 - off the top of your head? Nope? That's how many feet in a mile. I know this intimately as I have spent a lot of time with my trusty wheel measure, wheeling and marking every 5280 feet.

18 inch - nope, not what you are thinking! 18 inch is the standard smaller sized cones. 28 inches - that is the bigger size cone.

What numbers are ingrained in you? Maybe your PR for a 5K? Maybe the dates of your kid's birthdays? Maybe your head is devoid of numbers all together? 1440! Number of safety pins in a box. I don't think I can ever erase that knowledge!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Cloudy with a chance of energy bars!

Quick - dodge that bar!

I was just sitting on my computer, doing some prep work for this weekend's Lake Union 10K and here comes my friendly Fedex guy who delivers a huge case of granola bars. I did not order them, I do not know who sent them. They just appear, out of nowhere. This is not the first time this has happened. In fact KIND Bars is officially on our access list to our storage unit and make frequent deliveries.

I think its awesome that food in massive quantity just gets delivered here at race headquarters. I feel like I am in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Only in my case its mostly energy bars, electrolyte drinks and other random samples. I just wish that it was more like ice cream or mac and cheese. But, hey, I guess I will take it and our participants sure appreciate all the free goodies too.

Plus, Lake Union 10K is catered by Portage Bay Cafe with french toast and a big bowl of whipped cream and berries. Now, that is something I can get behind and after all the work that goes into producing this race I feel as if I earn a swim inside that bowl of whipped cream! If it would only rain down some syrup.

See you on Sunday!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

What I learned from my trip to Costco

For someone who doesn't like bananas, not even a little bit, I sure do buy a ton of them! In my humble opinion the banana is a slimy, nasty, smelly, sweet mushy mess in a peel. No thank you. Be that as it may it is still a popular item to eat after finishing a race. It is a cheap source of nutrition and easily distributed. So, I found myself at Costco yesterday buying bananas for the upcoming Move Mmore 5K on Sunday. I might as well buy the water bottles too, right? One thing I have learned from dealing in large quantities of bananas from Costco, they are almost always way too green when you get them in the store and you must purchase them days in advance or else you will be serving rock hard slimy, nasty, sweet piles of bananas. 

I have learned at Costco that folks are friendly and think they are really funny. It is always a game for me, how many comments can I get on my loaded down cart of bananas, water, huge quantities of pretzels and maybe some muffins for volunteers? Yesterday, three comments. Amongst the usual: 

"I guess you are thirsty!"
"Preparing for the zombie apocalypse?" 
"That's a lot of smoothies!"
"Throwing a party?" 

I usually respond with an overly sarcastic remark. Usual replies: 

"Nope, just watering the garden today"
"They are coming, don't you know?"
"Just feeding my pet gorilla!"
"Nope, just house fire protection." 

However, as I was using every bit of strength to get my very heavy cart up the slight hill towards my vehicle a couple approached and asked, "Which race are you putting on this weekend?" I almost hugged them! That was the first time someone had actually asked me the appropriate question. Turns out they were race directors too and had done this same slog at this very location before and answered the same inane questions above. 

Another thing I learned from my trip to Costco is that exactly 16 cases of Costco water will fit into a Kia. Anything heavier will rub against the tires. Please note for future zombie outbreaks!