The OutGames Western Cup sport tournament wrapped up this weekend along with the Outfest component of OutGames. From what I've seen and heard, everyone is ecstatic about the success of the Games, and that our little GLBT community here in Calgary was able to pull off such a feat. I can now reflect on the Running event that I was Race Director for as being very successful. Of course, like any other event that you're planning, not everything goes as it was intended but you have to roll with the punches.
My friend Harri, who organized the Different Strokes swim meet gave me some great words of advice this weekend. I think his points are very poignant especially in light that both swimming and running were making their debut at Western Cup this year. We had absolutely no benchmarks to base our decisions on, while many of the other sports have had many years to establish themselves as mainstays for this weekend.
Swimming Officials at Talisman Centre
His words of advice for planning an event were:
"(Being a first-time for doing this) you simply don't know what you don't know so don't beat yourself up for something you didn't know about"
"You can only be reactive to things on the day of the event. Anything you haven't done before go-day is now irrelevant, and you will have to react in accordance to how things are unfolding."
Looking back on this endeavor, I complained and stressed about the amount of work required because I was doing it on a volunteer basis and it was impacting a lot of the other important things in my life that had a lot more relevance than this did. I see now how much I really enjoyed the whole event planning thing (even more if I got paid for it). It was interesting to have to hit the pavement for the marketing endeavours and forge all these relationships with service providers that I can now consider part of my network which would make doing something like this again a lot easier the next time. Maybe a future career move? I guess project management is much in the same.
There were big problems of course. A few of them were systemic, others were event-based, all were a learning experience. Some people felt the sports entry fees were too high, which I would certainly agree with given the numbers we ended up with and the feedback I got from some of the participants. Early on, it was said that people travelling from far away wouldn't be concerned if the entry fee for the run was $50 or $70 -- the amount is insignificant in the whole scheme of things. However, for the local people who would make up a large number of the participants and be the base of participation in all the events, it would be an issue, and obviously was, especially for the new sports.
For the run, we gave out free technical toques with the OutGames logo to the participants and volunteers. At the time of ordering about six weeks ago, we had NO idea how many to order, so we went ahead with a 200 toque order of which we now have ~100 left. This was our one big financial mistake, but it's not like the money's lost. We simply have to figure out a way to sell off 100 toques to make the money back. Anyone interested? I've got tons to sell!
We could have had a larger contingent of out-of-town participants, but communications were far too little, too late. This was a main point of contention for me because at the outset we were assured that communications and marketing were being managed by someone else, then they weren't and consequently over 50% of my time on this project was spent on marketing and communications.
We've also realized that we need to forge closer relationships with our sister groups in Vancouver, Edmonton and Winnipeg. I was disappointed by the turnout of Canadians to this event, but then some of us thought, "why should they decide to come to Calgary when none of us (at least identifying as a part of the Frontrunners group) have come to their cities to participate in their events or even run with them?". Very good point, indeed.
The truth that "you're only as successful as the team you have around you" rang so true this weekend. That the Calgary Frontrunners team is such a small, tight group yet we were able to pull off such a large complicated event is evidence of the excellent people that I run with. None of this would have happened if the people that came up to the plate weren't as ambitious and generous as they are.
The big disappointment of the weekend was the no-show of DJ Tracy Young at the Silver dance on Saturday night. Everyone was upset over this, but it was another of those 'things out of your control'. People were angry and demanding to be reimbursed at the front table. I recall saying to someone at some point in the night, "Why? There's nothing that could be done. It's no one's fault." to which they got all huffy and mad. I was like, whatever.
I'm amazed to this day how some people come to expect all this stuff to happen, as if it all does magically with no effort, planning or cost required in the background to make it happen. These are the people that piss me off. They don't want to contribute yet expect it all to happen in the way they expect, otherwise it sucks. I saw examples of it all weekend, and to those people, I say 'fuck you'.
Despite the hiccups, the events were fabulous. Thursday night was Registration at the Westin. I spent the evening at the running table from 4-9pm and got to meet many of the participants as they came to pick up their registration packages.
Friday was the Cowboys and Queens reception at the Westin. I spent Friday morning volunteering at swimming, then Tim and I ran around town picking up stuff for the run. Brian and I marked out the course at 5pm and then we had an IFR dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory at 6pm. The Cowboys and Queens party was a combination of a casino/western dance/karaoke competition/drag show in three different rooms. There were quite a few people there, but not as many as I had expected (which was the same for most events over the course of the weekend). Joe and I got out of there fairly early.
Dinner at the Spag
Saturday was the run. Rob and I were off at 6:30am getting tables and equipment for the start/finish line and water station. Most of the rest showed up at 7am. All the volunteers, many my friends including Joe, Jeff, Doug, Matt, Felix, Justin, Lisa, Rebecca, Brenda, Dennon, Doug, and Ken showed up early at 7:30 to 8am. One group was out putting the course together, another putting the start/finish together with Running Room and WinningTime, another team organizing volunteers and the reception room in Eau Claire market and another managing the registration/sign-in tables. It was a very busy morning for me until around 9:15am when I started to get ready for the Half Marathon. It was a rather cold morning with a strong southeast wind so I'm sure for some of the less acclimatized southerners and sea-level people, it was a challenging event. I won the Half with a time of 1:25.46, which is pretty close to what I ran two years ago when I last ran a Half. I was pretty pleased with that time! It's good to have a few good results early in the season since it is a boost psychologically that all your winter training has kept you in the game!
The Start/Finish Line
11K down, 10K to go...
After the teardown, cleanup, and dropoff, Tim, Doug and I went to watch the men's volleyball finals and then I managed to get a couple of hours sleep before Lily Tomlin and the Silver dance. Lily went on at 7:30 and put on a great show to a small, yet enthusiastic crowd. Joe and I immediately went over to the dance at the Telus Convention Center. The place got really full (I think they were expecting around 1,500) by 11pm, but that's when the rumours started flying around that Tracy Young wasn't showing up. There was some sort of security problem in Seattle and her flight was grounded there. Everyone was pretty upset, but we made the best of a bad situation, straightened out the DJs to put together some up-to-date, non-sucky non-80s-songs-I've-heard-a-million-times music playlist that might keep the gay men around a little longer otherwise the place would turn into a ghost town. Even by 1am when we left, there were still quite a few people around, but not near the crowd that had been there at 11pm when it peaked.
I went to the Outgames Celebration at Jack Singer Concert Hall by myself at noon on Sunday. I counted around 300 in attendance. Carole Pope belted out some tunes, there was an aerial act, Vong did a great standup routine and the MC from Vancouver did a wonderful job. A group of us went to MoneyPennies after for the Recovery Party. After that, I went home, collected some things and went over to my buddy Ryan's place on Sunday night and spent the night there.
Yesterday was a day to clean the house, unpack from the California trip (still), get caught up on some things and try to catch up on some sleep (which didn't happen). There is still a lot of work and legacy reporting to do in the aftermath of the Games, and despite the glitches and the ugly sights such as the protesters, the memories of this great weekend in little ol' backwater Calgary are sure to stick in many minds for awhile.
Next year, Philadelphia!