This is a tale of three races.
It kind of starts off like a bad joke.
A mountain bike race, an adventure race, and an epic ride all walk into a bar.
So the bartender says, “What is this, some kinda joke?”
Tip your waiter!
No, in this tale, all three of these races happen on the same day.
However, what happens to these races by the end of the day is very different.
A Racer’s Perspective
First, we need to see these races from your customer’s point of view.
If you’re a racer that loves all three disciplines and wanted to race in all three events, this is a tough day for you.
Unfortunately, your choices are decided for you early on.
The mountain bike relay race had sold out months ago, so there is no chance of getting into that race.
Your team isn’t all that motivated to go race the adventure race, meaning you’ll have to race it solo.
That can be a real bummer.
Meanwhile, the epic mountain bike ride is right next to your house, and it supports a great cause.
With all that data considered, you decide to sign up for the epic ride and prepare yourself for a long day of long distance riding.
Then bad weather arrives in the form of heavy rain.
Because the epic ride is located at a special venue, rain is certainly a show stopper.
With only hours before the first riders are supposed to begin the 50-mile course, the epic ride director announces that the event has been canceled.
Now the real bummer sets in as you unload your bike, and take a spot on your couch.
With no races to fall back on, you’re left with sitting at home to watch the rain fall.
A Promoter’s Perspective
Each of these three race promoters had to deal with this bad weather.
With some rain the night before, and more expected later that morning, the trails were already soft.
He didn’t want to shift the ride to his rain day, but he knew the property manager — sensitive to the status of the trails — would appreciate this decision.
So the epic ride promoter did what he needed to do to protect the trail.
He reached out to all those who had pre-registered, informed them of his decision to cancel, and how the event would be rescheduled at a later date.
Meanwhile, bad weather did not sway the other two race promoters.
The mountain bike race promoter pressed forward with his event.
He knew the course he was using was tough, full of rocks, and use to dealing with a little rain.
The adventure race promoter also continued according to plan.
No rain had fallen yet, and both race promoters acted as if it would not become a problem.
However, right in the middle of both events, the rain started to fall.
And it didn’t stop.
The mountain bike promoter pushed through it for 7-hours into a 12-hour relay race, before the mud made riding next to impossible.
Erring on the side of caution, he decided to call the race early.
The adventure racing promoter didn’t see rain as a deterrent.
It’s adventure racing after all, and rain and mud are part of the experience, right?
Fortunately, despite the horrific rain all day until dark, no one was impacted by it.
The end result was a race that ended without incident
Are There Benefits to Misfortune?
Three races, three different outcomes.
The first doesn’t even start to prevent any damage to the trails.
The second stops half way through after the mud takes hold.
The third sees the weather as a feature of the experience.
This should give you pause to think about the issues associated with each of these decisions.
What can you learn from all of this?
1. Refunds vs. Revenue
Canceling an event means having to regroup, replan, and start again.
There is no guarantee that all your pre-registered riders will attend your rain day.
You’re going to have to give some refunds if you want to practice good customer service.
On the bright side, you a rain day give you a chance to market your event again.
A few more weeks will bring in new riders.
Your goal should be to bring in at least the same number that asked for refunds.
2. Risks vs. Revenue
The mountain bike race pressed forward instead of canceling.
Canceling an event half way through can have an impact on your bottom line.
Maybe not right away, but it could cause racers to consider other events in following years.
Why is that?
Plenty of mountain bike riders are trail sensitive and nobody wants to be part of damaging a good trail.
Even if you have a trail repair plan in place, your reluctance to stop the race could turn some of these riders off to your next event.
Racing on a wet trail that includes rocks and mud can also be a potential accident waiting to happen.
Is keeping the revenue you already made from registration worth the insurance payout from hurting or killing a rider?
Fortunately, the mud created by the rain made this race come to a screeching halt.
In a way, the mud forced the promoter’s hand, especially when the racers started to complain about the inability to ride the trials.
If the mud hadn’t been so bad, would the race have continued?
The choice to risk your rider’s safety has to be carefully weighed.
Revenue is not worth hurting someone.
That being said, not all trails are built the same.
This trail, in particular, is not very difficult to ride, and despite the rocks and roots, is devoid of any serious technical features.
It is possible that riding certain trails in the rain may only result in rutted trails that the promoter will have to fix later.
The choice is yours.
3. Resolve vs. Revenue
Some races are built for bad weather.
In adventure racing, racing in bad weather has become a badge of courage.
In fact, an adventure race that takes place in horrific rainfall, unseasonal cold snaps, or super hot humidity, are the most memorable races experienced.
Bad weather is a feature in adventure racing — to a point.
Just like with wet trails, you need to balance your need to give your racers a great experience with looking out for their best interests.
However, just because bad weather is in the forecast, be careful not to swing too far into the protection column.
Sometimes, bad weather happens.
Sometimes, it does not.
Not every cloudburst or shower is a race stopper.
Most areas in the United States can take a Spring or Summer shower and be find an hour later.
Knee-jerk reactions because is COULD rain may not do you any favors.
If the rain had never fallen, the race promoter for the epic ride would have looked silly.
Be careful not to overreact when it comes to trail resilience.
Don’t cancel your race because someone dropped a snow cone on the trails and now they’re wet.
Trails can take a lot of abuse — it is dirt and rock after all.
It is VOLUME of traffic on a soaking wet trail that does the damage.
An epic ride and a mountain bike relay race is very high volume.
Racing 30 teams across 100 square miles are not.
If you are hosting a race at a venue that forces you to cancel after a little rain, consider another venue.
Build in some bad weather resolve by knowing what your trails can and cannot take, and make your race day decisions easier on everyone.
Consider Race Day Refugees
Races and events get canceled for all sorts of reasons.
However, rain is the primary tool of Mr. Murphy and will always make race promoters think twice.
Consider this next time you see rain in the forecast.
Can your race save any space for race day refugees?
If a fellow race promoter cancels a race, it might present an opportunity for you to capitalize on those disappointed racers.
You could work with the canceling race promoter to help promote your event.
You could even give those race day refugees a discount if they show you their pre-registration for the race that was canceled.
Another way you can benefit from other race promoters misfortune is to shift your schedule around.
Include a shorter course or event in your plans that doesn’t start until later in the day.
This way you can capture some of those race day refuge dollars by presenting them with another racing option.
Think about all the disappointed racers that are just sitting around.
If you have something ready for them to jump on to, you could become the savior of their race day free time.
And now you know.