Some requests from the common racers: An open letter to race organizers

“For those of us in later waves, how long before our wave do we need to show up?”

My question seemed to stun the race director. He replied, “Well, we thought you would all want to be here first thing in the morning to watch the elites. There are going to be some very close, exciting finishes…”

I smiled and nodded and let it go at that. Here is what I did not say:

“Of course I want to see the elites dominate the course. But I have been in a car for 14 hours straight, after only getting 4 hours of sleep. Everything I have gotten to eat today was selected primarily because I could eat it behind the wheel. It is 9:30 at night and I still need to locate my hotel and scrounge up dinner. While I want to watch the elites, I also want to enter the starting corral properly rested and fed. At this point, logistics dictate that I need to choose between the two.”

Many of us common racers have many races similar to this. We put in extra hours to get everything that needs done before Monday done, drive as far as we have to to get to the start line, and do our best to grab a bite to eat and a little sleep when and wherever we can. Work and family responsibilities take priority, and we are often able to get to the starting line by the slimmest of margins.

In this light, we ask a few things to make our lives easier:

Only have night-before mandatory packet pick up if absolutely necessary.

If the race starts at 5 in the morning, we get it, we need to get packets the night before. But if we are racing in the afternoon, there is no reason for that. Giving us another 12 hours to get there can mean the difference between dragging ourselves through the course and being well-rested enough to crush it.

Make sure all mandatory meetings are useful and needed.

If your athlete briefing can be replaced by an email or facebook post, do it electronically. The people that wouldn’t have read the email were not paying attention at the meeting either.

Make sure your volunteers can keep time.

When you tell us that packet pick up is open until 8, it is demoralizing to show up at 7:45 to find that the volunteers have already packed up and left.

Give benefit of the doubt as far as what it took to get us here.

When you look at a racer, they may have just driven across town to be there, or they may have driven halfway across the continent. Think of what you would want to help you compete on your worst possible day, and give us as close to that as you can.

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