Race Weekend Review

Race ‘weekend’ for me started Wednesday the week of. While we only had about 8 miles of trail to prepare, there were multiple unique sections that had to be arrowed and taped off. At the same time, since sections in chutes and ladders were fairly close to one another, they had to be really well taped off so riders wouldn’t get confused. This process encompassed me and others walking with full packs of arrows, tape, and associated equipment 25 to 30,000 steps a day!

On Wednesday, I found out quickly that many of our arrows were simply missing! The arrows we used apparently dissolve quickly in rain and are also very tempting for squirrels to eat! This meant we had to go over all the areas we had already arrowed and redo them! Good lesson for next year to say the least!

Chris McKelvey starting his hot lap (PC Nicole Jacobsen)

Additionally, because we needed to tape off a number of sections, we had to have a LOT of stakes. I thought we had enough after purchasing 150. It soon became obvious we were going to be short. Luckily, Menard’s carried a lot and we were able to procure another 50 stakes to ensure we were set up.

Saturday

On Saturday, things started to take shape. The gates opened and we started to get our event staff on site. We had to finish the final section for arrows and tape as it took much longer to redo sections we thought we had already completed. With our sweep crew on site, I was able to finally get on the bike and provide them an overview of their section and what changes needed to take place for each race. This year, we were running ‘bare bones’, but our sweep crew was very experienced and they quickly picked up what needed to happen and went from there.

We didn’t get to really spend a lot of time on the trail as I had to get to registration to help get it going. Jess (my wife) is fully capable, but doing registration, getting numbers all set, selling shirts, and collecting money is way too much for a single person. Add to the fact that our NFC tags got mixed up made for a very hectic beginning of registration! Patsy Davis and Young Tucker Miller helped out and got them organized while we got riders their numbers. Next year, we will be sticking the NFC tags onto the numbers before the event! Once we got situated we had a good flow and everyone was able to get through registration quickly and painlessly.

I was rather surprised how many shirts sold. We wanted to ensure we got as many sold as possible so we didn’t have any sitting around after the event. At the same time, we’re not trying to make any money with the event so we sold the shirts to cover our costs. Next year we may have to get a few more as some people who wanted one didn’t get the chance to buy one.

The final thing for the day was to review scoring with the crew. We used LiveLaps’ NFC scoring system, which utilizes your phone for scoring. Pretty simple and we found that the Pixel 1 phones have a very good NFC receiver. Much better than my Pixel 3XL surprisingly! We purchased 3 additional Pixel 1 phones to conduct scoring. I would be using my personal phone for the start, Jess’ phone plus 1 Pixel phone for the finish, then 2 Pixel phones for the checkpoint during race 2 and 3. The biggest thing to remember when using the phone system for scoring is to be deliberate when scanning the tag and ensuring you’re on the correct race in the app.

We decided to get a hotel for the night to get a good night’s rest and a shower before the craziness that race day would bring.

Brad Swailes rockin’ the Iowan Hard Enduro Graphics (PC Nicole Jacobsen)

Sunday

It was a cold, windy, and misty morning the day of the race. It lightly rained overnight, which made things a bit slick. Luckily it didn’t rain too much otherwise this place gets extremely hard to get around! We got back to the race site at 5:30AM Sunday morning. First thing was to set up canopies for registration/scoring, starting area, and the checkpoint. At 6:30AM our sweep riders took off to review their sections and fix anything that needed fixed prior to the hotlap start at 8AM. We did a final review of scoring and then I took off to do the rider’s meeting.

After talking loudly for the prior 2 days my voice was already getting raspy. Note that my normal job does not entail me talking loudly at all! Combine that with the weather conditions, and I’m surprised anyone heard me at the rider’s meeting. Lesson learned and I already have a blue tooth microphone in my cart to purchase for next year’s event! That will also be really helpful for trophy presentation as well. I don’t know if anyone else has this issue, but when I try to talk loudly I stammer much more than I usually do! It was a bit annoying as I often have to talk in front of large audiences for work and don’t have that issue. Again – lesson learned for next year!

Shortly after rider’s meeting we ensured the sweepers were ready and our finish crew was showing up to their designated areas. Riders were definitely ready to go as they were already lining up on their designated row. The first row left exactly on time at 8:00AM and by 8:30AM all of the riders were on their way (or finished by then) with their hot lap.

The first issue was with Jess’ primary scoring phone. It unexpectedly turned off and would not allow her to score. Luckily we had the backups going and could correct the riders that were missed. Jess got her backup phone (Pixel 1) going and was then able to scan rider’s without issue.

We got a few reports of people blowing through ribbon, but our sweepers were able to identify and correct those places as quickly as possible. We also got a few reports of people cutting the course, but no evidence or formal protests were every brought up. By and large, it seemed like the people that would cut were the ones that were not going to finish or place. Still unfortunate, but not earth-shattering.

The big issue we experienced was when I got the finish phone back to scoring and sync’d it with the server. I found that all of the scores sync’d but no times were being populated to the site. I have used LiveLaps for a number of years and this was the first time I have seen such an issue. Then it hit me that the wrong race was selected on the finish phone. This meant that all of the scores had to be manually entered into the system! Our scorer owned the mistake and we moved forward and I bet they never make that mistake again! Unfortunately, that messed up the schedule for the remainder of the day.

Our sweepers made the necessary changes for race 2 and we finally got the results out so we were able to determine the start positions for race 2. That was when I realized I had made my big mistake in planning! I forgot to delegate staging riders to someone! A very dumb mistake, but Tara stepped up and started getting riders in their rows then Chris McKelvey also stepped up and helped as well. A HUGE thank you to them for helping when we needed them!

We started the 2nd race about 30min late. Nothing horrible, but something I would have rather avoided! In addition to starting a little late, nerves were a bit frayed from fixing things from race 1! The start went well, and our finish crew was operating perfectly in tune with one another. This gave me the opportunity to go to other parts of the trail to check with the other teams. Unfortunately, we had some hiccups at the checkpoint. Fortunately, we were able to capture many of those issues as it took riders quite some time to get the checkpoint! Still, it made for a very tricky puzzle for results!

Race 2 is where the real hard enduro started and you could tell! You could see the struggle at multiple parts of the trail. We intended for the trail to start easier and then get progressively harder as you worked your way through the trail. For the most part this seemed to work out well. We, unfortunately did receive ad-hoc reports of people cutting the trail and in some cases blatantly removing or moving tape as they, themselves, deemed the trail too difficult. This was later confirmed during clean up and one entire section of tape was removed and stashed away. I hope we can mitigate such actions next year with the addition of ‘course minders’. More on that to come. Regardless, we didn’t receive any actual protests from riders so we moved forward.

The final was altered slightly based upon rider feedback. We decided to make it a 2hr hard cut off time and the riders would do as many laps as they could within that time frame. At the same time, instead of a 25 person row and two rows we did rows of 10 riders with a minute between rows. This made sense both for a safety aspect and rewarding the riders that did well in race 2. Most of the riders liked these two changes, but you will never make everyone happy. This, being our first year, I am happy with the changes we made to ensure a competitive and fun event.

Rock Biter – pro section (PC Nicole Jacobsen)

We know that race 2 was darned hard as we only had 37 riders show up for the final. If the riders thought race 2 was hard, they were in for a world of hurt in race 3 with the addition of 4 additional ‘pro’ sections. At this point both our finish scoring crew as well as our checkpoint scoring crew was operating smoothly and efficiently. During that entire final only a single scan was missed, which was quickly fixed after the race.

After all was said and done, 3 riders were able to complete 3 laps in 2hrs and only 6 riders in total were able to finish the original goal of 2 laps! If anyone was worried about Iowa delivering a true hard enduro, they no longer had to worry!

Tobin Miller tackling Mossy Mahem in the final (PC Nicole Jacobsen)

After a very long 5 days of final prep and racing, the Iowan Hard Enduro was a wrap. We had some of the best riders in the US come out and race and we were able to show the rider community the capabilities we have going into the future. Below you’ll find some of the quick positives and negatives that we want to highlight to remember ourselves for next year’s event!

Positives:

  • Trail layout was very well received. Keep a good flow of difficult sections.
  • Continue with hot lap to determine start positions.
  • Keep enduro start minutes to mitigate bottlenecks as much as possible

Negatives/Opportunities:

  • Scoring created some raised nerves. I take the blame for this on training and plan to conduct a ‘dry run’ with scoring to ensure everyone is more than comfortable.
  • Trail cutting seemed to be an issue in pockets. With only 3 sweeps its impossible for them to catch everything in their section. Next year, we’ll keep 3 sweeps, but also implement ‘course minders’ that will be stationed along specific areas of the trail to correct any bad behavior and provide faster fixes.
  • I also saw instances of outside assistance in race 3. I asked a group to help at a slick log over a gap in the rocks. Unfortunately, this expanded to other parts of the trail. Again, no formal protests were put forth, but we want to avoid that option all together.
  • 1 to 2 people for staging.

Summary

For our first year putting on a race such as this, I believe it was a great success. There will always be areas of improvement for next year, but that is the case for every race I have ever been involved with. Even if we meet all of our goals and fixes shown above next year, we’ll see other aspects to improve or correct.

Talking with multiple people that traveled from all over the country confirmed that people really enjoyed the event and plan to come out and give it their best next year as well!

This event would never be possible unless it were for all the volunteers we had this year. A HUGE thank you to all those who helped make this event a possibility this year!

Now we’ll take a break from the endless planning and prepping. We’ll get back to enjoying riding and racing!

See you next year!

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