Thursday, March 13, 2014

So, You Have Been Asked To Crew For An Endurance Racer....

 To be successful in long races one must have an awesome, kick ass support crew.  Meet Emma, volunteer extradorinaire and all around magnificent person.  She has been to two Dirty Kanza's as my support, both were successful finishes that I could not have done without her. Before you ask...SHE IS MINE, back off.  Of course I am bringing her to DK2014!  I  asked her to write this article to give you an idea of what it takes to be an excellent support person and how you, the rider, can make things better/easier for your support folks.
Emma has let me know she will happily provide answers to any questions in a follow-up blog, don't be shy, ask away.  Leave it in the comment section below.

Emma -total badass

When I was approached to write a blog post on how to be an effective, efficient ground crew, I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. I have crewed for several different people and events over the last few years, each with their own trials and logistics issues. I have crewed at the Dirty Kanza, the OGRE, the MR340, and have staffed several wilderness checkpoints for adventure races. I was on my way out of the country for a couple of weeks, to volunteer for an expedition adventure race in Belize with my team Orange Lederhosen, and didn’t know exactly what facilities I’d have access too. After much thinking, and much more rum, I decided to approach this as I would anything else, with great organization and planning. Coincidentally, that is the cornerstone of being a good crew. The organization, not the rum. But the rum does help…

The first thing you need to know to be a great crew is Communication. Say it with me, COM-MUN-I-CA-TION. Without it, you won’t make it out of the damn parking lot. I started with phone calls and emails shortly after registration to see about the riders goals and intentions. As I usually crew for 3-5 riders, I need to make sure that from the get-go all of the riders have similar expectations on time and pace. If I am unable to accommodate their goals, I am honest and tell them that they are better off getting a crew that can help them reach their goal. I continue to keep in touch with the riders to see how the training is going and to let them know how the others I am assisting are doing as well. If at anytime anything changes, I am first to communicate how that will affect the others and myself. This is an ongoing process.

Use large totes to stay organized

Second thing is organization. The first thing I tell my riders as they are loading my truck for the race/ride is if at any time any of their things ends up loose in my truck, I cannot guarantee the safety of that item. I have really pissed off a few folks with that, but I am not their mama. I am there to make sure they ride the best race they can, not to wipe asses and clean up messes. Each rider has a bin of their very own, labeled with their name for simplicity. In that bin, I expect there to be bags of food items/hydration mixes labeled with the TA they want that bag at, any clothing for mid-race changes (a mid-race chamois change cannot be understated for morale), and any other sundry items such as layers shed during the day as the temperature warms, unused food stuffs, and spare parts/tubes that have been used. I usually have a common items bin for all my riders to use that has a floor pump, chain lube, and a sprayer for cleaning off mud and crud. I also ask if they would like a chair to sit in at the TA, although that seems to slow the riders down and makes them laze around the TA longer than they should.

Third thing is water transport. Having so many riders to supply means having a lot of water to haul. I like to use the 5 gal orange gatorade style jugs with the push spigot for refilling bottles and bladders. I also carry between 5-10 gal of water in plastic jugs for refilling the big jug. I also put 1 bag of ice in in the morning, and one at the midway point, keeping the water cool, but not cold enough to upset stomachs in the heat of the day. Coolers with gatorade/hydration mixes, extra bladders that have been frozen, and an extra bag of ice are also good. I usually limit those to 1 cooler per 2 people. Space restrictions and all.

Fourth is the little things. Chamois butt’r, ice socks for jerseys, sunscreen, sandwiches, lip balm, and any other creature comforts the riders want. I’ve been known to slap, shake, grab ass, kiss, fondle and otherwise harass the riders to get them moving when they don’t want to go. I have also thrown things and turned into a bitch on wheels when I have been disrespected. I understand that things may not go your way, but I am not here to bear the brunt of your shortcomings in bike care or failure to train. If you get pissy with me, just remember it’s a looooong way out without any support. And I will drop your ass like a hot rock if you abuse me.

On the other hand, It isn’t all about what the crew can do for the rider. The rider has a responsibility to the crew as well. Be an effective communicator. Crew cannot read minds, contrary to popular belief. Don’t leave maintenance for the last minute. Stress is the enemy. If making a list for what you need ready at each transition area works for you, do it. It helps the crew also. Make sure your gear, be it bike, boat, pack, or bin, is together in a way that makes sense. Put your nutrition into bags and label them. Have a couple extra water bottles that they can pre-fill for you with water or gatorade type stuff so you don’t need to wait. If you want something at the first TA, don’t bury it in the bottom of the crate. Don’t have your shit thrown all over the place. If you complain that the crew is too slow trying to get something for you, while digging thru a box that looks like a landfill, it pretty much gives the crew a free punch to your junk, just because you are being an asshole.

Be excellent to your crew and they will be awesome to you. Remember, they are human too. They are out in the sun, heat, wind, rain, hail, and tornadoes just like you. They wait patiently, unknowing if you are ok or dead on course. They will drive like hell if you want a sandwich or some other small morale booster, and still make it to the next TA on time to set up and be ready for you to resupply. They are hauling water and food and bins all day, loading and unloading and reloading again. Just to keep you happy and on track for your goals. Remember their day will be just as long and difficult as yours. Respect them. Love them. But not too much, because then it will be awkward. And buy them a beer afterwards. They would do the same for you.

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