Saturday, July 23, 2011

Beat the Heat

Tonight is the area's hottest (literally) twilight 5K, the Crystal City Twilighter.  Sure, you expect some heat when you put on a race in the middle of summer but "heatpocolypse" in the "heat dome" is something well, we could have done without.

However, never to fear- Pacers and our friends at the Arlington County Fire Department are prepped for the evening temps with multiple water stops, sponges at halfway, over 1200 lbs of ice, water, water, and more water.  McDonald's is stopping by with frozen strawberry lemonade (yum) and our friends at Muscle Milk and VitaCoco will also be onsite to pass out some goodies. And yes, cold beer.

Remember to hydrate today and come prepped to have a good time at tonight's race!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Countdown to Shutdown

Waiting for the end to come
Wishing I had strength to stand
This is not what I had planned
It's out of my control.

As a relatively young race director in this rather tenured industry, I know the greatest challenges still lay ahead of me. Sure, at my first Parkway Classic I had a guy drop at the finish line with a heart attack (he survived and needed a quadruple bypass). Remember Snowmaggedon? I do too. Pushed the first Love the Run back two weeks. Yeah, last year's Twilighter was 98 degrees at the start. How about my first marathon/half event in DC/MD where the sign company got lost and was held up by police while putting out mile marks (I jumped in a sprinter van, got all 30+ marks out and on point, and was back before the gun went off). Add in several other debacles I won't share in print (but might over a beer) and I have a few war stories . . .

I've seen quite a bit- not all, but enough that I feel I've earned a set of wings- maybe not like a real captain, but the plastic ones they hand out to the kids so they will be quiet on your flight. 

But a government shutdown? Come again?

I had been watching the situation since early March and keeping tabs on other large events in the area. I know they were aware and starting to think contingency, but then Congress passed another Continuing Resolution on March 15, a week before their umpteenth CR ran out, and two to three weeks before other major races in the area. This new CR ran out midnight, April 8, 2011, exactly 32 hours before the gun for the Parkway Classic. Thirty-two hours.

This couldn't be happening, really? The last government shutdown happened before I was old enough to vote. No chance. Right?

Circa 1995-1996; me with a bunch of "probably" drunk high school kids. I think that guy was my homecoming date and yes, I found this on Facebook.

Changing Gears
When I say we have great partners, I mean it. It's close to impossible to get a rain date, especially when you are working with multiple jurisdictions, and we got one. It might have been my pitiful face as I walked into the NPS offices early March 30 but whatever it was, we got a rain date of May 1.  NPS reissued the permit and late afternoon on March 31 I received confirmation from NPS, USPP, and the City of Alexandria and their various departments that we were on for May 1 if the government shut down. 

That afternoon we also contacted our vendors and volunteer groups- two bus companies, two tent companies, timers, sign and drayage, F&B, sound and electricians, photographers, five water stop groups, 60+ staff, charity groups, trash removal, barricade companies, coning, toilets, medical staff, trucks, park operations, you name it. They were all in for May 1. We also retained a registration management consultant to help with the anticipated fall out from the date change. 

Friday the week prior, we received approval for extended cancellation insurance; we had exactly 15 minutes to review and approve the near five-figure rider. The kicker? We were not confident, nor was our broker, that the policy would adequately cover our exposure. But at least we had something. My mom could sleep now. 

We were as ready as we could be.

Think we might frame this one.

Contingency Planning 101
I've been told by a number of people that the first time they realized the government shutdown could impact their lives (e.g. running) was the note we sent out late March 31 detailing our contingency plan for a government shut down. 

Most people were shrugging off Congress' latest CR and assumed a resolution would be reached relatively soon. Some thought Congress would go to the deadline. Many thought the other side wouldn't blink and our friends in the District would be sitting on top of trash piles right now. All I know was the climate had shifted and I wasn't taking any chances and if I was registered for this race, I'd want to know what was going on. So, we went out with a plan late March 31 once all our approvals were in. 

Link to contingency letter here.

One of my favorite blog postings about the race and shutdown; "Taper Tantrum" . . . still cracks me up.

Mixed Messages
The week of April 4 was a flurry of e-mails, phone calls, hill visits, NPS/USPP meetings, media interviews, and a lot of time on 

April 1, we called a friend at Park Police who was adamant the race would go on since officers were essential personnel.  Also, we were 100% cost recovery to the US Government and we were paid in advance in full. It just didn't make sense. 

I contacted Vicki Hallett, one half of the WaPo MisFits, and pitched her the story Friday afternoon, April 1. It ran in the Tuesday, April 5 Express. Jane Watrel of NBC4 called later that afternoon to schedule an interview; she and her girlfriends were registered for the race.

Monday AM we met with our NPS and USPP contacts; our officer told us a memo was circulating that would allow the race and the parade to go on and supported an exemption to hold the events (we would later find out this memo was not adopted by the Department of Interior).  We had hope that the race would go on but our lobbying friends, including our friends at BAE Systems, continued to make calls and our legislative partners leaned on the Department of Interior to include these events as exempted to the contingency plan. 

Tuesday I get a note from my USPP contact that it "doesn't look good" for an exemption. We push harder knowing there is a meeting on Wednesday afternoon where a decision was going to be made, and hopefully in our favor. Moran's office and Warner's office are continuing to make contact. I get called by the LA Times and Chicago Tribune. Now it really doesn't look good.

Thursday AM the interim guidance is forwarded to us from Moran's office . . . no exemption. It's up to Congress at this point.  I start planning my Shutdown Shenanigans party for Saturday night- wear your bib and race tee, I tell my friends, and I'll let you buy me a drink. 

Invite to the party that never happened.

The Ominous Call
You know when your phone rings and you know there is only bad news on the other end. . . . my phone buzzes at 3:00pm Friday, April 8 and my trusty 8th iPhone displays "National Park Service" on the screen. 

NPS warned me that if they thought it was heading for a shutdown they would call me regarding the cancellation of the race. This was the call; a "courtesy call" she called it. No joke. Reminding me what I already knew- if there was no resolution at midnight this race was canned. I politely thanked her (she had bigger problems than me) and turned to Lisa, who just shook her head.

At this point of the day, it didn't look good. I had numerous phone calls back and forth with our lobbyist (thanks for the pro bono work, Ben). He still had enough hope to pick up his packet that day but wasn't his usual chipper self when I called to let him know about the call from NPS. 

At this point, I felt the shutdown was like watching and waiting for a distant, elderly, and at this point, senile, great aunt dying- yeah, it was sad but the family just needed some resolution and to move on. However, like most of the women in my family, she wasn't going down without a fight. And neither was I.

12:01AM: Rainy Night & Some Beers with Friends
Friday afternoon my staff was preparing for the second of our 5K Fridays, a drizzly nasty day, even for a run. During set up, I sat in a nearby Starbucks with Marc (our web/comm mgr) finalizing the e-blast for a shutdown and prepping web pages for a cancellation (note: not until later that evening did it occur to me to have a note ready in case the government didn't shut down- I scurried to do that later in the evening). 

A few hours before our evening 5K, after several calls with our USPP contact, we updated the site . . . if the government shuts down at 12:01am and comes to a resolution later in the morning/day, we are still canceled. That 12:01am deadline was our cut off, baring any government intervention. The permit was the permit and people needed to get on with their day and our set up was already 50% complete at this point.

After the 5K, it was impossible to sit at home so I met up with staff to watch the coverage. Unfortunately, our bartender thought the golf game was more important and he switched over late- around 10:00pm.  We still were on our iPads and phones looking for details and getting calls in from Ben and numerous friends and colleagues. At 11:00pm, we knew we had it. But we still had the 12:01am deadline.

While things were looking up for a House vote, things were not looking good for our 12:01am cut off. However, at 12:01am OMB guidance was released under obscure federal rulemaking instructing agencies to continue normal operations. At 12:20am, there were enough votes for passage in the House. I was, at this point, exhausted and made my final FB update at around 1:00am. At 6:00am I contact our USPP representative, already working the parade, to make sure we are a go . . .

Kathy: "How about that for a nail biter; see you Sunday"
Sgt: "We will see you there; just made it!"

And with that, we confirmed the race was a go at 6:06am; 26 hours before the gun.

Beautiful Day
This year's Parkway was the best run race I've ever been associated with and was a bit of a rite of passage for me and my staff. I can't begin to thank everyone for their support and help so I'll just leave it at thank you so not to leave anyone out. 

I hope you had a good time, and I'll see you May 1 with our friend and survivor, BethAnn Telford, at the Race for Hope.

P.S. interested in what our plan was if we were forced to May 1? You can see it here

One hour before race start at Mt. Vernon; you can see the emotion in Lisa's shoulders as we took a moment to reflect on the past 10 days. The best #2 a gal could ask for.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gobble Gobble.

Turkey trot mania is officially over!  It was a fun season and our crew was split between Centreville, Arlington, and Laurel.  All in all we had 13 staff out there today making sure everyone had a good trot). Thanks to everyone, including Andre with somniorunning, for coming out and managing the chute in Centreville.

Word on the street is that Pacers Racing Team member Sean Graham won the Alexandria 5 Miler this AM.  Also, according to a tweet by the Alexandria News he also brought riceroni and peanut butter as a donation. Isn't he a sweet guy?!

Results are either up or will be up online at  For a collection of videos and pics we took at the races, see our twitter stream.  

Until next race, -K

Lisa, Pacers Events Director, at Arlington Turkey Trot with her new best friend.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Better late. . .

Well, it's only been about nine months since I last updated this blog. I guess a lot has happened but better yet - a lot more is happening in the coming days and months.

We (well, really Jeremy and Erik) are prepping for Turkey Trots tomorrow. We'll be at three trots tomorrow (Arlington, VA Run, and Laurel).  All but one is sold out and has been sold out for days.  

I'm often heard saying that timers on Thanksgiving are like finding babysitters on New Year's - book early.  Since I last blogged, I am happy to say that our good friends Jeremy Lowry and Erik Kean (Pacers Alumni) have returned from their travels (Ohio and Wyoming - well Pacers Fairfax really- respectively) and are now timing full time.  We are calling this timing outfit RaceDC timing  . . . look out for some cool stuff we'll be doing in the near future with RaceDC.

So, right now Jeremy and Erik are knee deep in timing, as is Jeremy's brother, Jared, who will be timing the Laurel race. You'll see me at VA Run taking orders from Erik (sometimes it feels so good NOT to be in charge).

Considering the popularity of Turkey Trots, we are currently in talks with Falls Church to host a trot next November.  It'll run from Cherry Hill Park and in and around the quaint neighborhoods of Falls Church.  Turkey Trots to me have always been about community and neighbors and what better place to have a trot than the adorable City of Falls Church?  The ink isn't signed yet and there is still a lot of work to be done and approvals to obtain but we have some great partners with the Falls Church Education Foundation and the police department. So, anyone excited for a possible trot in Falls Church?

Our wake call is at 4:45am tomorrow so I'm going to sign off. Eat up, enjoy your AM run (wherever that might be) and have a great Thanksgiving. 


Jeremy & our friend, Paul from Bazu Sports, timing the MoCo County XC Champs

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wow. It's April. Kind of.

Well, it's been more than a few weeks since I last posted anything to our blog.  A lot has happened and a lot is happening in the next few weeks.

So, for the recap: 
We are coming off of a successful Four Courts Four, our inaugural St. Patty's Day four mile race.  Four Courts = four miles.  Makes sense to us. 

However, if your closest Irish relatives were born in the 1800s AND your ability to decipher foreign accents is limited to post-Evita interview snippets of Madonna AND you find yourself in planning meetings with three very Irish native sons (where they are drinking their native brew) . . . well, I can tell you practically NOTHING makes sense and you find yourself nodding like an idiot and trying to google on your iPhone the correct spelling for leprechaun.  And for the record, it was Robbie, Jimmy, and Dave's idea to have a leprechaun at an Irish race.  So, you folks at the Irish Embassy can lay off now with the cultural insensitivity.  My mom's maiden name is McDonald, my boy Robbie is from Waterford, and for God's sakes who DOESN'T like Billy Elliot? 

But I digress . . .

Most of you thought we were probably drinking when we designed the course but you all can blame the big runner upstairs for the rolling hills of Arlington County.  Or you can blame Four Courts for perching their pub at the top of Wilson Boulevard.  I blame Jimmy Faggen, Owner of Four Courts (not Irish, right?), and think he should give us all free Guinness as penance for his transgressions against us runners (wait, he did give us free Guinness . . .) 

To all who braved the rain, congrats.  To the 4C4 ladies who were still at the bar hours after the race (present company included, of course), you deserve a toast and maybe even one of those fancy mugs they have on the wall at Four Courts. For the record, here is a picture of the ladies in question.  I hope I see you at many a race because you ladies are downright fun. Thanks for the hug.

So, on to April and the Crystal Run 5K Fridays.  These races are so much fun I can hardly wait.  The crew at the Crystal City BID sure like to party (have you BEEN to the wine festival?!) and 5K Fridays are no different.  Don't forget your ID because in true Pacers fashion there will be adult beverages a-flowing after the race.  

And the leprechaun will be at the race again but dressed in his Pacers Racing Team blues. Feel free to play some tricks on him. 

Enjoy the weather and we'll see you at the races.

Your humble RD,
Kathy O'Dalby

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Love the Run from Mumbai

Well, congrats to the "crew" (our term of endearment for the Pacers Events staff) on a job well run . . . I mean done.  Sorry, bad pun. 

I was actually in India during the race . . . Jaipur to be exact . . . while you 1300+ lovely runners were braving the cold at the Love the Run You're With 5K. 

 I had a vacation planned for the end of February and with the date change there was not much I could do other than lose my ticket and much needed vacation . . . can you hear the guilt in my post . . . I was kept abreast by a string of text messages from various people along the course so I felt like I was there (but obviously, in MUCH nicer weather).

I will say I did "run" virtually along with several of your fellow competitors.  And run is a very loose term since there really is no place to "run" in Jaipur. So, I counted my time on my feet touring the Pink City.  This was after we spent time taking pictures with 60+ elephants painted and dressed for the Holi festival. And this was also before maybe one or two or . . . hum . . .Kingfisher beers by the pool.  Hey- I told you I was on vacation!

As you can probably tell (oops, and already told you), I have a little bit of guilt about missing the event. Well, maybe not guilt but more bummed I missed the party. I'd reckon this is how an absentee-but-well-intentioned father feels . . . ok, probably not as bad.  And I really don't know how that would feel because a) I'm not a dad and b) my dad has worked at practically every Pacers Event (parents = cheap labor). 

Talking about dads, my dad is the guy at the turn around.  If you've noticed, our turnarounds are engineered to a tee which makes sense since my dad is, well, an engineer.  He puts a lot of thought into it and I am convinced he stays up at night drafting CAD drawings, mapping GPS coordinates, and whatever else engineers do to determine where his coveted 10 cones will be placed.  

So, a pair of Feetures! socks to the first person who comments on this blog post and can tell me what Mr. Dalby's first name is (hint: it rhymes with Harry). And if you've given a high five to Mr. D while you are out on the course then you are a good person in my book.

So, while this post is a little late (I am waiting for my connection in Amsterdam) I'd love to know how you think it went.  A huge shout out again to our crew- stand in race director Lisa, our staff coordinator Kristen, my love- Chris, my mom- Mrs. D (a pair of socks if you can tell me her name), Jamie and Don our course peeps, Marc,  Kristen's crew, the Farley Srs., the crew from PR, Mr. D, Chris, Erik, Sheena, Terry, Dionna, Andre, Heather, Robbie, Katie, JENNA (the monkey), Randy, Brian Knight, Arlington County, Sandy, the boys from Albany, our friends from AU and our favorite assistant coach, Bridget, and of course our awesome AMBASSADORS.

 And for anyone I've missed- my apologies.  I blame it on the Kingfisher.


Next race: Four Courts Four.  Sell out imminent. 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

To Medal or Not to Medal?

There has been some buzz about the medals for the Vancouver Olympics . . . I personally find them to be pretty awesome looking.  The design is pretty cool although it does remind me of a serving platter or a candle holder you can pick up at Crate & Barrel.  Truth be known, if I had an Olympic medal- bronze, silver, or gold- you know I'd wear it everywhere. Grocery store? Yup. 20 mile run? Of course! METRO trip into town? Obv. Shower? Well, you get my drift. 

But other medals? Not so sure.

To be totally honest, I've never been a medal junkie (my mom may disagree since she is still trying to unload my grade school plastic soccer trophies on me).  But, as an adult, I've received I think four medals . . . three marathons (Detroit, Boston, Chicago) and one from the George Washington University when I graduated with my MPH.  I have no idea why they gave out medals but I'm sure it had something to do with GPAs (my medal was most likely a bronze). They passed them out during our graduation ceremony that I didn't want to go to; however, my friend, Ben Klein, who probably is the reason I can blow the dust off my diploma, twisted my arm and made me go to commencement so he had someone to sit next to (much to our horror,they sat us alphabetically and "D" is not immediately proceeded by "K" so Ben- you still owe me).

Anyway, I don't get the medal thing.  My staff are medal junkies though- they ran the Goofy Challenge because "we get three medals!".  As I am listening intently about their suffering, I'm thinking there is a 100% better chance of me running an ultra event if there are three beers at the end rather than three medals. Now a belt buckle? That's another story.

However, I fell victim to the medal hype and we are trying something new this year: we are offering medals to people who complete certain Pacers Events challenges this year. 

I posted the designs on our FB/Twitter page and was curious if I was just being unduly influenced by my staff.  I had a few posts that were "awesome! these are cool" to my favorite "do people really like this stuff? I don't" (I had to kind of silently agree but again, I am but one runner and one opinion; and I might have lost my staff in the interim).  

After my marathons, I'm sure I wore the medal out of the finish chute and might have even worn it to lunch . . . but more because I thought I might get a free sundae from a sympathetic waitress. I also might be guilty of wearing a medal out to the bars the night of the race but probably did so b/c "everyone was doing it" and maybe because it matched my shoes.

Now, I'm not trying to be "too cool for school" but I am trying to understand the medal deal. So, what's your opinion? To medal or not to medal? 

Michael Phelps, the ultimate medal junkie