Monday, December 14, 2015

2015 Race Announcing Year in Review

Wow.  What a year it has been ... but I'm looking forward to a little bit of a break.

After finish line announcing yesterday's 28th annual Fort Bend Kia 30K, produced by Andy Stewart and Finish Line Sports, I thought it was more but it was my 32nd race to announce in 2015.

This doesn't count the two track and three cross country meets or the "Some Like It Hot" run course water station at Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas in The Woodlands.

So call it 37 official events for the year.

There are other guys in the business - like San Antonio's Mark Purnell and Austin's Logan Delaware and perhaps others - who do more each year.

Whether I get to do one or 37, I'm always very, very thankful of the trust and respect that I have earned from the race directors that I've been fortunate enough to work with this year.

I had two 2-day events (Seabrook Lucky Trail Marathon and the Sylvan Beach Duathlon and Triathlon) and four weekends where I announced two races.

I worked six races for Willie Fowlkes, five races for Robby Sabban, four races each for Andy Stewart and Bill Gardner, four events for Juris Green and The Woodlands HS track and field and cross country program and three races for Richard and Amie James.

I also had the opportunity to work with a few new race directors this year:

+  Danielle Jackson with Run For A Nurse 5K in Nassau Bay (on a referral from Chuck Bach).

+  Mana Vautier with Yuri's Night 5K, also in Nassau Bay.  Mana had heard me work Robby's races, but approached me at the Run For A Nurse 5K race.

+  Graham Schooley for Green 6.2 and Monster Mash.  Willie brought me in to work Green 6.2 as part of some other services he provided Graham, but RA Sports engaged me directly for Monster Mash.  I was invited to do the LinksRun Series, but was unable to be at three of the six first-year events.  (Therefore, I ran two of them and will probably do some of the ones this spring.)

+  Kelly Ramey and Azita Erfani with the Run One Series.

+  David Self with Sam Houston State University when I did the UIL Region III cross country meet (on a referral from Juris Green, but also as a result of Bearkat assistant cross country coach Tyler Sunwall hearing me at Nike South in the past).

I also want to thank Roxanne Davis, Lars Finanger, Angie Parker and Lauren Smith (the event producer, not the fast runner) for reaching out to me this past year to ask me to do a specific event or inquire about my availability.

My greatest joy out of doing what I get to do - besides the friendships that have developed as a result of it - is when things go well (i.e. an event starts on-time or flows smoothly as the result of excellent communication) and people are encouraged.

I had always gleaned my direction from the verse in Ephesians 4 that speaks about edification, but upon further study realized that this might have been in error.

What I do at a finish line - besides thanking sponsors and instructing athletes what they need to do or where they need to go - is more along the lines of exhortation or the "gift of encouragement".

Something I read stated the following:  "The Greek word for this gift is Parakaleo.  It means to beseech, exhort, call upon, to encourage and to strengthen."

Besides a lot of preparation for every event that I work (anywhere from three to six hours per race) and an incredible ability to recall a lot of information quickly, I believe making the finish line experience personally special - when possible (meaning sometimes I miss people) -- is a God-given ability that I'm very thankful to have.

The best moment of 2015?  Easy.  That was when I got to announce the finish at the Seabrook Lucky Trail Saturday Half Marathon of my daughter, Waverly.  What really got me emotional was while doing the awards and announcing her third place age group finish!

I also got to call her finish at the Baytown Bud Heat Wave this Fourth of July.

The most cool thing this year?  Definitely getting to interview Mary Cain before the Awards Ceremony at the Nike Cross South Regionals in The Woodlands.  A distant second was to call the pass in the water station as Matt Hanson took the lead on the second loop of the run course in going on to win this year's Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas.

Most flawless execution all year?  No doubt, the inaugural Run One Series race in downtown Houston in late August.  With wave starts, a different start and finish line and no timing mat at the start line, requesting for Jack McClintic to bring his digital clock for the start and ensuring that we started each wave exactly when the clock turned a precise time was probably my best execution in 2015.  Another distant second were Texas 10 Series races in Plano and Conroe when we started as the pre-race countdown clock hit zero.  (We might have done this at the Toughest 10K Kemah too.)

Runnerup to this might have been the plan that was put together as part of Running Alliance Sport to host the RRCA Southern Region 10K Championship in September at the Toughest 10K Kemah.  We were rewarded with being able to host the championship again in 2016.  (We're waiting on Texas state championship designations for 2016 currently.)

Most challenging race to work?  Pleasure Island Bridge Half Marathon in Port Arthur in November.  First, mosquitos that were of a different breed and then a torrential downpour with absolutely no cover.  (Working on acquiring a first-rate tent is an early season 2016 goal for me.)

I certainly wouldn't be able to do what I do well without the assistance of a number of different timers.

They've included this year (in alphabetical order):

Brad Davison, Lone Star Timing (Austin, TX)
Chuck Campbell and Rafael Iniguez, IAAP (San Antonio)
David O'Conor and Mike Takaha, Flash Results Texas (Houston) at UIL Region III XC Meet
Gary Mulvihill with Run Wild Sports Timing (Houston)
Jack McClintic, Greg Zarate and Patrick Zarate with Run Houston Timing (Houston)
Megan Cary, Cadence Sports (Austin) at CB&I Triathlon
Mike Hutcheson, Justin Smith and JJ Kick, No Limits Timing (Shreveport / Dallas)
Raul and Meghan Najera, RunFar Timing (Mansfield, TX)
Richard Campbell, Campbell Timing Systems (League City, TX)
Scott Wood, Athlete Guild (New Braunfels) at Muddy Trails

In a lot of places where I'm positioned at, I don't necessarily have access to power.  (Some places where we do, like Boerne for Texas10 Boerne, we aren't allowed to use it.)  I really appreciate Robby Sabban allowing me to use regularly - because I also use it for his five events - a Honda generator on a year-round basis.

The biggest change for me this past year was the acquisition of another sound setup in April, with some guidance from Steve Curry with SkyGod Productions in The Woodlands.

Basically, it is just two 1,500-watt JBL speakers and a Shure wireless microphone system.

I believe I've made some improvements in my delivery this past year simply because my microphone isn't tethered to a speaker any more.

I've tried to do more interviewing of people in and around the finish line - winners, sponsors, vendors, etc. - to mix up what you hear up a little bit.  (My next technical mission is to figure out how to incorporate two wireless microphones as I had a lot of fun working with Lars at Sylvan Beach Duathlon and Triathlon doing some "play by play" and "commentary" as racers were exiting transition from the swim to the bike.  I can only do that well with an expert like Lars.)

For the pros out there, all of this is routine stuff for them I guess.  For me, I learn and get better.

Some of these things will prepare me for some opportunities that may surface in 2017.

I think the one thing, though, if anything, that sets me apart is my preparation.

I can't recall everything, but I try to get everything that I think that I'm going to need to know down on "laminated cards" -- and do this as close to race time the night before to get any changes that the race director may throw at me.

So what are some of the reasons you might not hear your name called at the finish line?

1.)  If the race isn't using a reader or advance mat, I print the bib list and try to spot your bib number on there as you're running right at me.  (That is, if I don't know you already.)   If you're coming in with three or more, you're probably out of luck.  And when the race is more than about 500 registrants, then I'm trying to juggle three laminated cards.  My percentage goes down really, really fast.  And believe me, I'm disappointed that I miss recognizing you.

2.)  If you registered on race day.  Some timers are able to get them in the reader file.  Most can't.  And honestly, I understand all of the reasons why you might register on race day, but my only concern is making sure - with the timer - that you are in their timing file if you show up blank on the reader.  It is just one of the downsides of race day registration, you may not be audibly recognized.

There are some other minor reasons, but I've gone on long enough.

Thank you this past year if you raced a race that I announced.

I don't get a chance to hone my skills if you haven't put down your hard-earned discretionary income to race with the event producer that I'm working for.

If there's something you think I can do better, please approach me privately and let me know.  I would value your input.

If you're comfortable using me for a race that you produce and I'm available, please reach out to me.  Or if you're comfortable referring me, pass along my name and website --

Best wishes for a happy holiday season and a prosperous New Year in 2016.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,


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