The Journey to Race Directing
We didn’t know what we were getting into when we created Fraser Valley Trail Races with Matt Holbrook. We knew we wanted to have a race series that was ours in every way, that showcased our favourite trails in the valley, had a fun vibe, and didn’t take itself too seriously. As racers ourselves, we wanted a race that highlighted all the things we love about racing and smash them into one. Like every flavour potato chips, if they had been done right. Or maybe more like that swamp mix pop your grandparents use to make to use up all the different flavours, ya…like that!
Bear Mountain in Mission seemed like the perfect place to start. It had everything - a beautiful course that we knew well, a great central location for people living in the Fraser Valley, and a proper staging area. Not everything fell perfectly into line, but just like running would we do these things if it was too easy? No, but we managed to figure things out with our stubbornness and investigative skills.
We are writing this post to share our journey with you, but also because we felt like until creating our own experience, little might be known to the general racer about RD’ing (race directing).
The Permit Waiting Game
Despite a little pushback and many naysayers, getting the permits to host a race in Mission was feasible. We started the permit process just over a year before race day by emailing the Forestry Department and the city. Quickly, we were able to compile a list and figure out what needed to be paid for and who to talk to. What we didn’t expect was the puzzle of who had to do what in order to get this signed before that. Catch that? Haha, we had trouble at first too. But essentially we’re saying that in order to get everything signed and finished with, we had to get some ducks in a row, but we didn’t know where they were until we found them.
What we learned and continue to learn is that our top priority every day (getting this race ready to share) is something that is not top of mind for everyone, seems obvious, but we felt persistence was key and reaching out in every way possible (calling/texting/emailing…stalking?) needed to be done so that our dream could happen!
Exciting right? But parking is so important! We were able to convince many racers to carpool, provide volunteer parking at a nearby lot, and secure parking along a forest service road. We want to say a huge thank you to those who assisted with this process.
We got access to this forest service road by calling the owners, and actually, they were our last and final option. Originally, we thought parking along the shoulder would be ok - it’s not.
We thought parking at a local business would be ok - they were working.
We thought parking at the gun club might be an option - ARE WE CRAZY? Yes. Also not ok.
We then also thought we could arrange a shuttle - but the closest lot only holds 50 cars. We had a few more than 50 people to park! (30 volunteers, 220 racers, vendors…math isn’t our favourite but this one we got right away).
So, we found a random road with a random phone number and met a Unicorn who said we could use her road. Sometimes you just get lucky but again, persistence….and unicorns.
We heard from a lot of people that they loved the food spread. Awesome! Because there was originally supposed to be a food truck. Two days before the race our secured food truck ducked out and so, we had to find another option. Save on Foods in Mission had already agreed to sponsor our bananas, oranges, and some other fruit so we thought “Why not get fresh sandwiches” (not even kidding, we thought PB&J would be fine at first we were so distraught) but we wanted more appetizing options! And we’re so glad this worked out because two days before race day we swore a lot. :)
None of us are designers, but Katrina likes to play around with things and figured this out. Our Caltopo maps, printed map descriptions and any other stuff like this was done by her. So if you think something looks weird and like an amateur did it….well, you’re right ;) And if you think it looks like a pro did it, then ignore this section and hire Katrina for millions of dollars so she can live her dream of running wild with Bernese Mountain Dogs….ahem…
Course Marking and Flagging
This was the fun part. We designed this course because it’s our favourite. We followed trails that highlighted the best of what Bear and Red had to offer. A lot of these trails are where we got to know each other as friends and are places we’ve had some of our most deep and meaningful conversations! This course is important to us.
To showcase these trails properly, we flagged it like crazy. If you got lost, we’re sorry, and we’ll definitely add more course marshals and arrows next year, but we think it was marked in a pretty thorough manner. There were 1200 pink flags on course, many arrows, and signs that said WRONG WAY! We had so much fun putting these out.
The days leading up to the race we spent countless (thanks to Strava though, roughly 16 hours) on each course. We marked, remarked, and then ran and double (or is it triple now?), checked. Like an overexcited dog in a new park, we marked these trails. We really wanted to mark them ourselves and with a little help from friends who were amazing for our energy during these hours on the trails, we got it done!
But seriously, thank you Annemarie, Kara B, and our first place 21 km finisher Jordanne! <3
Start/Finish Line Vibes
We wanted good music, good food, the best beer, and a chill vibe. We wanted it to feel like a backyard party with friends and we think this ended up being awesome. We expected rain the entire week and we think that even a sprinkle couldn’t have thrown off our happy groove. We also wanted to hug and high five every single one of you, our screams of excitement and our frantic dancing was our celebration of your time spent training and our pure joy and love for days like this.
Becoming a Team
Before 2018, we had never met Matt (Race Manager) and Kara (Operations Manager) before. We had no idea what their work ethic was like or if they were going to add value to hosting a crazy event like trail racing. Honestly, we were skeptical, because trail family happens fast so once you’re in, you’re really in.
BUT HOLY SMOKES THESE TWO PEOPLE ARE SUPER HUMANS!
The race would not have been such a success without their intense attention to detail and amazing team spirit. They both work so hard and we really came together as a team. What we noticed right away was how things seemed to work smoother when we could split the work to be the two of as race directors covering the actual running part of things: course design, course marking, finding and contacting permit people, making maps, and interacting with racers. We did a lot of other stuff too, but Matt and Kara took care of the EVENT side of things, like set up and supply design, much of the overall “look”, sponsors, food, clothing, emailing, etc (there’s a LOT of stuff in that etc.).
As we continued growing our family, we wanted to add a social media person and volunteer coordinator. We immediately thought of our friend Annemarie and so, we ended up being a group of 5. And a happy group at that. We didn’t get a photo of the five of us because we were all over the place! 3 out of 5 isn’t bad right?
With the success of our Bear Mountain race, we are confident that we will be able to give you another amazing trail running experience on even more of our favourite trails.
We also currently have an ultra in the works for 2020. We can’t elaborate on it yet before we get the go-ahead for permitting (see above, haha) but we’re trying hard to bring you our ultimate dream, which is to host an ultra that is so freaking beautiful that you won’t care how challenging it is, because well, it’ll be plenty of both if we do it right.
Thank you for your support and allowing us to hold such a special place in your running journey! We’re still learning but we love every second of it!
xx Katrina and Jenny