I thought the challenge of promoting a ‘cross race would be somewhere in the complexities of a USA Cycling permit, liability insurance, hiring officials, securing a venue, laying out a safe yet challenging course, or getting people to come race.
It was 9:30 on the night before the big day and everything was set. Everything except safety pins. So I found myself running up and down the aisles at Target, trying to find a suitable box of pins, so that the 150-odd racers I had coming to slug it out in the park will have a means to affix their numbers to their skin suits.
Of course, I’d known that I needed pins for some time. Every bike race I’ve ever gone to has the same cardboard box of pins sitting on the registration table – you know the one, about five inches long and three inches wide, a piece of black tissue paper covering over the top. But where other promoters acquire this essential paraphernalia must not be revealed until later in your promotion career – like a pilot earning his wings only after completing innumerable practice take-offs and landings under the watchful eye of an instructor.
Surprisingly, the frustrating thing wasn’t that the whole enterprise, months of planning, hinged on me being able to find enough little bits of twisted steel. Instead, I was mostly just annoyed that the clerks at Target, AC Moore, Walmart, and about a half-dozen other stores where you would think you would be able to buy a basic item like safety pins looked at me like a crazy person when I asked where I could find the bulk box of pins. No, not the packages of 50, the box of 500, thank you very much.
Then again, maybe they were just looking at me that way because I did look like a crazy person; muddy boots that squished with each step, work pants soaked from a day spent driving stakes in a downpour, equally sopping work gloves hanging out of my pocket, wool plaid shirt clinging to my arms, my stubbly, bedraggled face framed by a damp mop of hat hair and eyes set deep in sockets of too-much-planning-and-not-enough-sleeping, the whole packaged wrapped in a useless orange rain jacket. Yeah, maybe now that I’m warm and dry I’ll forgive those clerks for thier taken-aback reaction to my demands for MORE PINS.
I never did find the pins, so I settled for three 100-count boxes of assorted size pins. Some racers thus wound up having their numbers more securely fastened than they might be accustomed too, but that’s OK, as long as the numbers stay in place, right? Right, because I say so. See, the nice thing about being a race promoter is that you’ve done tons for work – which you aren’t being fairly compensated for unless your name is Christian Prudhomme – everyone knows how hard you’ve worked, and is thus more inclined to listen when you make pointed “suggestions.”
So, when the registration volunteers ask where I’ve put the pins, and I hand them the assorted sizes better suited for stocking the family sewing kit than pinning race numbers, and they arch their eyebrows in question, I don’t feel any need to explain – after all, none of them were terrorizing Target employees at 9:30 the previous evening.