Its been a few weeks since my weekend event, and I finally feel like I am recovered at this point. However, I’m not sure who’s happier that the race is over – me or my wife, Shannon. As we were driving home on Saturday afternoon, I turned to my wife and told her I was so looking forward to taking a nap. She told me in return, “I’m just looking forward to having my husband back.”
Working day in and day out with cancer patients, I live and thrive in an environment with stress – we’ll call it a baseline of DEFCON I. The main reason why I train and race triathlons is that exercise is my form of stress relief, and it is far more productive than drinking. In a way, Ironcology has allowed me to have another positive outlet where I can place some of my focus that is quite frankly not depressing. When I was originally contacted about the prospect of holding my own race, Shannon’s first and only reply was, “Sounds like a lot of work. Who’s going to do it, because you don’t have the time.” Now I could have taken that case-in-point, but I guess I interpreted it as a challenge, because it was no sooner than the next day that I was coordinating meetings with the staff at Spindletop Hall and the Horsepark to finalize dates – saying screw it, I can do it myself.
The beginning was fun. Pure brainstorming. In my mind, I was planning my perfect race. What would I want, where would we go, how would we do it. Making maps, and sketching together details about the hand-offs… That part is fun – like day-dreaming. It was about one week until Shannon’s statement really hit home to me – when we had to start contacting sponsors and trying to raise money in order to make the race even happen. I work a solid 7am to about 5pm every day at the hospital. I rarely have time for lunch. Most days if I eat, it’s standing up in the clinic or outside the treatment machines. It’s one thing to draw a map at 11:00 at night… But you can’t be calling potential sponsors at 11:00 at night – they want to be contacted during normal working hours. A time when I clearly have very title time to spare.
Between February and May, I continually had to recharge my phone twice per day because every spare second between patients I was on it calling someone. I tried to turf as much as I could to email, but ultimately, everyone likes to speak (and eventually meet) when they are planning on committing money, and at least for this year, I was the face for the event – therefore, I believed I needed to be making the calls and going to meet people. Fortunately, I had a few friends and team members helping me. Still, every one of us put long hours in trying to make this race happen. When I think back, I try not to count how many hours went into it.
I admit there were many ups and downs along the way. Without telling anyone at the time (including my wife), I sort of broke down twice – once in mid March and again in May, where I basically zoned out for a few days, completely ignoring everything about the race because I had convinced myself I couldn’t pull it off and that I didn’t have enough time. I tried to just focus on doing a few hours every day towards completing everything, and somehow, magically, I got it finished come race day.
During my medical training, I have worked many call shifts where I have been active all night long, and I really don’t think any of them compare to what transpired the night of the Survive the Night Triathlon. The constant work leading up the race (I hovered in a DEFCON II for April into May), combined with the stress of getting it started – we entered DEFCON III by early June. Then on race day, once the surprises started happening like the traffic in the park (which, by the way, who would of thought there would be so much traffic on the Friday night? I am still baffled… we were supposed to have the park to ourselves! Never did I imagine there would be drunk guys wandering through the park moving the cones and road barriers and driving on the course. I’m sorry.), and not to incriminate myself, but I believe I did set some land speed records in my rented University truck as I was flying through Scott and Fayette Counties at 1:30 in the morning trying to mark the run course before the speed demons on “The Donuts Team,” “FTP coaching,” “Stroke, Push, & Pound,” and the other top teams hit the run segment (That moment I was pushing DEFCON IV). I hope everyone noticed that I completely ran out of direction signs at about mile 20 of the run, so I just started putting up parking signs, generic triathlon signs, anything I could find with an arrow… I will say sorry at this point for any of those who got lost as a result, but if you turned at the parking signs at mile 21 and 25, then my strategy worked so smile! And, I also must have set a record for going through cans of spray chalk…So, I’ll say sorry to the homeowners in Scott and Northern Fayette counties for the incessant arrows drawn all over the intersections. I will have more signs next year :).
So, all in all, I found there were some very valuable lessons to be learned with my first event as being race director:
1. Being a race director is no joke – you will work your tail off.
2. Obtaining road permits is a pain in the neck. I applied for them on time, months in advance. Technically, we didn’t have all of them by the start of the race (one arrived 2 days later), but it was post-marked before the race so I guess that still counts.
3. I was told 2 weeks before the race, “The most successful leaders and directors delegate.” I’ve obviously not reached this status yet, because I desperately need to work on this one.
4. For a first year event, keep it simple. I didn’t even come close to achieving this, as I was planning an entire exercise festival. Like an Ironman relay wasn’t enough.
5. There is a very distinct point where too much work and responsibility will start to break you – I figured this out twice.
6. Seeing everyone at 2 am having fun, smiling, and enjoying themselves made the whole event and all the work worth it.
7. I will never forget this experience, especially the events during the night at the Horse Park.
8. Don’t leave the keys in the golf carts in the ON position. If anyone happened to still be hanging around the finish line on Saturday when the little boy jumped in one of the Clark golf carts and floored it in reverse nearly taking out a few people. Yep, that was my boy – his name is Ande!
9. We need more volunteers.
10. Next year is going to be so much better.
Eventhough the time leading up to the race has been one of the most stressful and trying 6 months of my life, I so enjoyed watching everyone through the night and eventually crossing the finish line. I truly believe this event is special and I am very excited for next year, as I know I can make this race better. I hope everyone had a good time, and I look forward to seeing everyone again. In the meantime, here are some of my favorite photos from the event (Big Thanks to JA Laub Photography for being there and capturing these memories):