-by Norm Zurawski
One thing I wanted to do this year was sit down and give the readers a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to promote a bike race. I’ll be honest – I don’t know what the end-result is for doing this. Several people told me it might be an interesting exercise to give others an idea of what we do. Since it’s raining outside right now, on top of the snow already on the ground, now is as good a time as ever to sit down and do that.
Since the next race on the plate was the March short track series, the 2nd of which was supposed to happen today as I sit here and write this, I’ll make it a view of how things play out when you try to plan a race through the snow season of New Jersey. As it turns out, well, none of the first 3 races happened as planned. At this stage, this is our 5th, 6th, and 7th straight short track cancellation, and it’s becoming more and more obvious that bike racing in New Jersey in March is a thing of the past.
With the reality of weather, it brings a new view on the current short track season and instead of forcing the race, instead of cancelling the race, we decided to take a step back and see how to play this from a broader perspective. Here goes a step-by-step walkthrough of what this ended up turning into.
One: Present things to the team, and be realistic.
One of the things I always want to do as the ringleader of MTBNJ is to have these decisions be something we discus together. After getting a trail report on the day of the first race, then a few days after the weekend, it was obvious this was a long-shot, at best. Even if we got some snow melt, it would be a total mess in the camp. Once we started making these races kid-friendly, we had to be more cognizant of what conditions we hold the races in. This more or less means no ice-track races, no mud fests, no snowmobile trails.
Two. Come up with a new plan.
Someone on the team suggested we put our eggs in the one basket of the last Sunday in March, the 31st. I previously agreed to lead a Sterling ride that day, but this trumps that plan. I thought it was a great idea, and after getting the green light from the BSA, we decided that was the direction we would take. Having a plan is the first step in executing it.
Three. MTBNJ announcement on the board. The link can be found below. I also take some time to explain some of the reasoning behind what & why I decided what I did. Link here:
2019 Short Track Date Change – One Race to Rule them All on March 31st
Four. Send an email to the BikeReg mailing list, informing everyone of the new plan. This is basically a shorter version of the link above on the message board. I would copy & paste it here but it’s nothing of note.
Five. Email BikeReg support to ask them to make some changes on the series. You’re not allowed to change the date on an event on your own. You need to work with support to do this. While this adds a step to the plate, I agree this is a better process because it prevents promoters from moving the days randomly and having users come to hate BikeReg for this.
Six. Email the insurance org to ask for a refund on the first 2 races, and to move the 3rd race to the 31st. This is a huge ask, because a massive cost-chunk of these races is tied up here. If they refuse to refund us, we possibly take a total loss on the series. We currently have 3 races insured, and there’s a minimum charge on each one. So this is a triple cost in terms of insurance. Last year they refunded most of the money but you never know what they’ll say.
Seven. The Facebook meme-announcement. Joy did this and it may be my favorite meme she has done yet.
Eight. Move all the BikeReg users from 1 & 2 to 3. BikeReg support got back to me and I worked with them to export all registered users from the first 2 races and put them in the 3rd race. This ended up causing some doubles, which I told them not to worry about.
Nine. I then confirmed with BikeReg support to move the date on #3 to 3/31. If you’re wondering where that link is, you can find it here:
Dave’s Not Here – MTBNJ’s Short Track Eggs in One Basket
Ten. Call Tim O’Shea.
Who is Tim? It turns out I met Tim when I was down in Kentucky for the Cyclocross National Championship week. I was talking to Sean & Frank O’Reilly in the bike wash line and he introduced himself. I’d forgotten this moment until he reminded me when I called him back the other day. He left 2 messages the previous week, and I never managed to answer his call or get back to him. I wanted to let him know I was listening, and I had gotten his call but I just wasn’t able to return it.
I like to think this is what makes good user experience. But then, we cancelled the race. So…
Eleven. Expand the class limits on the BikeReg page, and reopen the closed classes. There were 4 classes closed due to all the races being put together, so I raised the field limits on all of these and opened up all the fields. I have to imagine some number of people won’t be able to make it on the 31st, so the higher field limits shouldn’t be a problem. I may need to consider spreading out the start times once we get a better handle on how many people will race that day.
Twelve. Remove as many of the double entries as BikeReg would allow. For some reason it doesn’t let you remove some users. I’m not overly concerned about this. We’ll have plenty of people racing that day.
Thirteen. Respond to the insurance request to prove we cancelled the race. They agreed to refund us the first 2 races, less a $50 fee, which I’m perfectly ok paying. This makes the race far easier to pull off, and we should be able to put a little more into swag, prizes, and maybe some coffee, donuts, hot chocolate, etc.
Fourteen. I forgot this one. I had to work out the details with our food vendor, who is still able to make it, which is great. This was going to be a new addition to the race and it would have sucked if we lost that due to the snow. Thankfully Mike can still make the 31st.
Fifteen. Start re-promoting the race. I haven’t really done anything yet, other than writing this article. We’ll need to get more of the word out, see how we can make the race a bit better, and go from there. Hopefully this can be closer to a full-fledged XC race than a no-frills winter race.
I admit I briefly considered trying to get this into the H2H series but I quickly spiked that idea. I’m not doing 40 classes for a Short Track race.
Sixteen. Book an Airbnb for next weekend to ski Belleayre. One door closes, another opens. If it’s going to snow I’m going to make the most of it. We’re going to the Catskills to enjoy a weekend of skiing with some friends.
See you on the 31st for the one short track race to rule them all! BYO eggs.