Saturday, May 3, 2014

Race Announcing The 11th Annual CB&I TRI - The Woodlands Triathlon

It is always a lot of fun to announce at the annual CB&I TRI - The Woodlands Triathlon.

Many, many thanks to co-race directors Kelly Dietrich and Angel Nicks and their management, Chris Nunes and John Powers, for allowing me to represent The Woodlands Township at their events, which include the annual Muddy Trails Bash each April.

It is a great community race that has the best of the best involved, including Finish Strong Coaching's Dana Lyons, TxTri's Sandra Sutherland and Team Strive's Kimberly Mac Namee (yes, I know Kim is on Dana's staff now, but she'll always be Team Strive to me) and top USAT officials (including Andrea Chan), coming together.

I covered the race for a couple of years while I was writing weekly running and triathlon columns for The Courier and then got the chance to do finish line announcing in 2010 while Willie Fowlkes was the race director.

I didn't announce in 2012 (nor attend the event) because of some personal issues involving a few competitors, but drew the bead in 2013 - for all announcing - when the event's regular race announcer was unable to make it.

This year, it appeared as if he wasn't going to be able make it again, but by mid-Monday I knew that I would be at the finish line -- and doing the awards.

The way that North Shore Park and the finish line is setup -- and the hour that it takes to go through all 13 waves -- two race announcers have become necessary to 1.) get athletes to the swim start, into the water and waves started and 2.) try to appropriately recognize a great effort at the conclusion of the race.

Without having to worry about making announcements at 6:00 a.m. -- which is my one hour before race start rule of thumb, I was able to spend the time mentally preparing on how to be at the top of my game at the bottom of the bridge.

At CB&I, I normally start talking as soon as the first elite runner hits the westbound lane of traffic on Lake Woodlands Drive.  I had some notes on every elite athlete in the field -- and was able to speak to a little what they've all done here recently.  (Many of them had competed a month ago at Ironman 70.3 Texas and I had their times there.)

The only thing that I ended up fretting is that when Lars Finanger, the winner, came down the bridge to the finish is that I didn't identify him correctly on the way out as he was in the lead from the get go.

I've known of Lars, but have never seem him compete.

He was in our elite half marathon field at The Woodlands Marathon, but his number "7" looked more like Benjamin Baxter's #1.  Oops!

I did get the ladies identified correctly, including his wife, Emily's incredibly impressive background.  (What I recall now in a post-race report is that I didn't see eventual winner Sarah Hankla, who is coming back from an injury that sidelined her late in the 2013 season.)

So as all of the elite racers begin making their way to the finish, I started to realize that the timer's reader mat -- wasn't reading.  Nice.

Luckily I did have a printed backup -- with 1,200 racer's names (and not the relay teams), but I chose not to laminate them all (six double-sided) because I had seen this timer do well at some races in the central Texas area, which is where they're based out of.

Note to self:  With a race this large and with this timer, laminate them.

It is easy to get many of the names right when you're trying to identify them old school -- and they're all in the same wave start, but when athletes from multiple waves become mixed it really was a challenge to try and catch everyone.

After a little bit of complaining on my part, the owner finally did something to make it read.  However, there was a catch.

It only displayed FIRST names.

I could imagine me saying, "Way to go, BOB!"  Would that be "Bob from Accounttemps" then?

I wasn't acting prima-donna -- because anybody that knows me knows that I don't have a big ego when I do this, but athletes enjoy having their name called out to cap off a great race or effort, depending on how their day went.

And when things aren't working as you expect, it is hard to try and get the crowd engaged today more than what they normally are when you're also trying to make sure that you're thanking the sponsors and volunteers continuously when there aren't runners heading down the bridge.

At about 9:20 a.m., the regular race announcer, who's done the event since its inception, took over for me at the finish line so that I could handle the awards.

So why wouldn't you let him handle the awards?

Two reasons.

I know (or know of) many of the athletes in the area - and am armed with information about them, but I also am available to vet the awards because I've been at the finish line watching the athletes cross.

We had a couple of issues today.

The first print didn't have the age groups in the last wave, which included 20-24 and 25-29 females.

Also, the overall amateur male had a ridiculous and impossible time of 38 minutes and change.  Well, this belonged to a chip that the timer was using as a test.

Once they were removed, it adjusted the men's results as the fastest non-elite male was in the 15-19 age group.

We also didn't have the one competitor in the women's 65-and-over category, 50 States Marathon finisher Geri Henry.

Robby Sabban will tell you that I've saved a day or two in these situations, even though he has a very good and meticulous timer in Richard Campbell.

Because the Woodlands Township is a public entity, certain services that they contract for have to go out to public bid.  Race timing is one of them.

The firm that won the bid this year was the first that we've worked with them.

I warned them when I did a 10K on a Saturday in Bandera that they had Muddy Trails to get the kinks worked out with this size of an event before CB&I.

From a timing perspective, I thought they did a pretty good job.

I think when you try and get fancy with printing results from a kiosk, etc., and wireless and all, while technologically cool, you run the risk of taking away from your core goal -- getting an accurate and properly recorded time.

This timer did that, but I heard a rumble or two about the whiz-bang things that they were doing.

It is part of the unique skill-set that I've been blessed enough to be given - and to continue to work on and develop (thanks to race directors that have engaged my services).

I want things to be the best for the athletes involved (who have dropped their disposable income on) -- and for the event to be presented in the most-positive light.

Each and every compliment is well-received and appreciated, but it isn't why I do what I do.

The moral of the story on a day like today -- when the reader/announcer mat situation didn't work the way that it normally does (or I expect it to) -- though is:  it pays to know the announcer (to get your name called at the finish).

Looking forward to working Texas10 Plano next Saturday and then I have some decisions to make.

Thanks for all of your support.  I really appreciate it.

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