Monday, May 24, 2010

Veggie Chase Review

The Veggie Chase sucked and ruled all the same time. The race organizers failed on so many levels, but on a personal level it was so much fun to see my daughter finish her first race !

"The mission of the Veggie Chase is to create a fun and unique community event where kids and families come together in a beautiful, natural setting along the American River Parkway to enjoy an event inspiring lifelong appreciation of fitness, excercise and healthy food choices." The mission statement is great, but their execution was awful. Let me rant for just a second , a rarity for me!
  • They ran out of kids t shirts. How does this happen?! We registered weeks ago, and all they had was adult small. Colossal fail. You gear a race towards kids and then underestimate the amount of shirts to print? It's not the volunteers fault, but I overheard a lot of angry parents at the packet table complain. Luckily my daughter didn't mind but she's not going to grow into that show for another 5 years! Race organizers: print more shirts. You will make a lot of parents happy and gain free advertising when the kids wear the shirt out to the playground/school/etc.
  • The course was poorly laid out. When I mean poorly I mean, they had a flimsy bit of tape stretched over some pylons and then haphazardly positioned in a grass field.
  • Every event ran late. We are talking like 15 minutes late or so. I understand that things get crazy, sure but come on ! When you are dealing with impatient children those minutes seem like hours.
  • Running shoes + wet grass = cold kid's feet.  nuff said.
  • The announcing was inaudible and confusing. I overheard many parents venting about the announcing. The PA system was woefully in adequate and I am positive that lots of kids missed their races because the start finish lines weren't laid out clearly and the announcer couldn't be heard.

      I took this shot of the 2k, they didn't warn us about rattlesnakes either but that's a whole other story ;)

    Ok so that being said, here's what I DID like about the event!
    • Chipotle chips and guac at the farm event
    • Promoting healthy eating
    • The feeling of pride when kids complete their event and do a race "like mommy and daddy do"
    • Seeing related booths from people like REI, gymnastics, etc.
    • Having my daughter finish! She has a DNF under her belt (she was at my first half and declined to run thanks to some overzealous people in superhero outfits) now she's much more confident and had a ton of fun running with her friend and waving to mom, grandma,  and grandpa. I'm very proud of her! She told me all day "I won daddy!" and I told her "yes you did. Sometimes all it takes to win is just to try" and she did !

    Update! Lots of people are also chiming in at the forums and  more blogs discussing the Veggie Chase Shirt Situation
    Yet another update!
    So yesterday Sam McManis wrote  this about the Veggie Chase.

    Today we received a response from  the race director. Here's what he sent out to Veggie Chase  participants/registrants.

    Thank you for your patience; we are a small, all  volunteer group with a limited budget trying to provide tremendous value  for kids and families at an affordable entry fee (our pre-registered  rate for kids was only $5!) we had a hiccup with the t-shirts (of all  things!) one of our dedicated volunteers miscalculated the number of  kids shirts pre-ordered (plus registration grew by over 110% in the last  10 days) resulting in a shortage. Disappointing a kid bruises a  Veggie's we will provide rain-check shirts for those  kids who didn't get one. If your child was one of the pre-registered participants   that was not able to receive their shirt, please respond as soon as  possible with your child's name, and shirt size so we can make sure  their shirt is included in the count. Thank you for your patience.

    You all  are awesome!

    Hope you all had a blast!

    ~ Tomato  Tim  


    1. I was a volunteer for the Veggie Chase and assisted with it a lot the last week (handled all of the registration with some help at packet pick-up and race day). Running out of the youth t-shirts was a HUGE downfall and not planned at all and we are SO sorry that it happened. Not that I want to make excuses, but the problem was the person who was supposed to get the shirt count, miscounted, by A LOT and ended up counting NUMEROUS youth shirts as adult shirts, therefore, the low count of kids shirts. The race director is working on getting new shirts printed for the parents/families/kids that want them. On the same side, it is hard to project what a race like that will turn into as we had 400+ people register the day before and day of, so a lot of the people complaining about shirts were people that did NOT pre-register which was indicated that day before and race day registration would get shirts while quantities lasted. I do appreciate you acknowledging it was not the volunteers fault as some parents didn’t feel that way, one so much that the on-duty police officer had to butt in…all because of a shirt…on the same side of that, pre-registratants only paid $5 for kids 12 and under and they got medals/ribbons. Regarding the events running late, we are sorry about that as well, but unfortunately you can plan for how long it will take everyone to cross the finish line, but can’t guarantee when they all will, we have to wait for every person to cross the finish line before the next event can start…next time we plan to put the events a little further apart as to prepare for slower runners/walkers. I can’t speak for the course as I never saw it, but I do know that the location of the race isn’t exactly a race location, so I can only imagine how confusing it is.

      Bottom line, things went wrong and we are so sorry for them and trying to rectify what we can, but on the same side, a LOT goes into putting on an event where the main audience are young children…all the people working the race are volunteers (and we had some AWESOME volunteers this year), but you can only do as much as you have people for and when you are short people or things get moved by people who shouldn’t be touching them (the start/finish line) and your in a time crunch you have to work with what you have and do the best you can.

      We are thrilled to hear that your daughter had fun and was excited to complete her race because that IS the point of this event.

    2. You're right, many of the volunteers were awesome. But regardless of the level of awesomeness, there were some significant problems with the event that the awesome volunteers simply couldn't overcome.

      The issue with the t-shirts wasn't so much that you ran out, it was that you ran out and then handled the aftermath poorly. The second you ran out on Saturday during packet pick-up, you should have started saying, "we're very sorry, we made a mistake, and we will be ordering more shirts so that we can make good on our promise to provide a t-shirt to everyone who pre-registered." Easy solution, and it would have satisfied 95% of the people who were upset. But unfortunately, that didn't happen, and that's why the situation escalated.

      I'm happy to hear that now you are in fact getting more shirts made. Had that decision been made and clearly communicated to pre-registrants the day of the event, I suspect very few people would be complaining.

      You say that you're not trying to make excuses, but you make quite a few. You say pre-registered kids only paid $5 and they got a ribbon or medal, as if that makes the lack of t-shirts okay. The bottom line is, pre-registered people were PROMISED a t-shirt. It was very clearly stated in numerous e-mails I received regarding the event, and it wasn't contigent on how much you paid for your entry fee. Thus, the amount of the entry fee is completely irrelevant here.

      You say that it's hard to predict the numbers for an event of this size. Isn't that exactly what pre-registration is for? One of the excuses I heard on the day of the event was that the t-shirt order was due long before pre-registration was closed and pre-registration spiked after the order was made. Seems like there's an easy way to avoid that problem: cut off pre-registration BEFORE the shirt order is due.

      You say that a lot goes into putting on an event of this size, especially one geared towards kids. Of course it does. But if you can't handle an event of this size, with adequate planning and adequate staffing, then don't put it on. You can't blame problems on the size of the event. You need to plan and staff appropriately for whatever size event you have.

      I understand that in any event of any size, not everything will go off without a hitch. But the sign of a well-run event is that issues are addressed quickly and effectively and apologies are issued sincerely and graciously. That was just not the case here. A true apology doesn't have excuses attached. If you're really sorry, apologize, promise to fix it, and move on.

      I get it, you feel that your hard work and the hard work of many others has been de-valued because of the criticism the event has received. You feel that a few problems have clouded people's ability to see that it was actually a fun event. It sucks and it's frustrating. But it's just part of the territory. And hopefully you will use the criticism to improve the event next year.

    3. Jose, thanks for swinging by my blog! I just replied to your comment there.

      I am just glad people are speaking out so that hopefully yes, this event can be improved. That is how improvement happens right?

    4. Dear Anonymous Volunteer - Thanks for reading, thanks for the input, and thanks for volunteering!
      If the race director really is printing new shirts, I will gladly help get the word out to the running community via this humble blog and my twitter It's only fair!

      Anon commenter - thanks for your input as well. This is the 2nd time that this has happened to us although the first time my daughter never even finished the race so it was no big deal ! This time though- it was her first! I ran my first race at 38, a 5k. She ran hers at 4 - how cool is that?

      TrailMomma - People speaking out and (hopefully) being civil, yet vocal would be an ideal way to get improvement to happen. For sure! Your blog is great! I'm stoked I found it and stoked to see more runners/vegetarians. You might like my friend Ivy's adventures. She's a vegan like me but she's much more of a bad ass :)

    5. i pretty much agree with all the comments, and will inquire about getting a kid's shirt, as my 3-year-old would wear it proudly. the problem it seems wasn't that they ran out of the "garaunteed" shirts because they gave them to race-day registrants (I had assumed this was the case), but that they continued to garauntee shirts to pre registered runners after the order was due? A little common sense would go a long way there...and I paid $12 for my kid on, not $5, for a 1-minute run. I didn't care about the short, but she was pretty disappointed. Hopefully they really are getting more made. As far as the timing, we noticed how late things were running, but were having a good time, so really didn't mind. That said, if you've got a course where you have to wait for EVERY SINGLE PERSON to finish before you start the next race, you need a different course. Have the participants from event #1 finish FROM the east, and participants in event #2 heading out east at the start. Thanks, Jose, for the blog. I'm kinda glad to hear I wasn't making much ado about nothing. Keep up the running my friend. Maybe I'll see you in Sacramento again soon!

    6. Hello everyone, we received word from the race director and I've updated this blog with his info. You should have also received an email from him!

    7. 失去金錢的人,失去很多;失去朋友的人,失去更多;失去信心的人,失去所有。..................................................

    8. Jose,

      Thank you for your feedback about the Veggie Chase 5K and Kid’s Runs. This is our second event and we appreciate any information that helps us improve the event for local kids and families.

      My name is Tim Coughlin and I am the principal race organizer. I am a volunteer who has donated over 400 hours of personal time and thousands of dollars of my own money to create a special community run/walk for kids, families and beginners. The main focus is to create a run that families can do that focuses the attention on the kids, makes it fun (the costumed veggies, food, music and entertainment) and rewards (medals, plaques, etc) and reinforces kids for running. As an active local runner and father I hope that the event will help some kids and their parents embrace running as a fun and rewarding sport.

      First I would like to address your question about the T-shirt shortage for kids. We are in the process of providing rain check shirts for pre-registered kids. This is what happened: we needed to order the shirts on May 12th to allow enough time for the shirt vendor to order the shirts, print them, dry them box them up and deliver them to us on May 20th which would allow us to organize them in time for packet pick-up on the 22nd. Registration on May 12th was at 678 participants. The report I received from one of our core volunteers, a very experienced, high-level executive administrator familiar with, was run incorrectly skewing the shirt count towards adult sizes. Because the sample was relatively small (678 registered) and most of those were in the 5K it was not apparent that the numbers were off. I allowed for almost 100% growth in the last 11 days with 1320 shirts. Registration surged in the last week (possibly due to some late media hitting) with the final count at 1501 participants, with over 400 registering Saturday and Sunday (race morning). The main issue was the mistake on the shirt report, which was not caught; this is how something like this happens. I feel terrible about it and am working to get shirts for all pre-registered kids.

      I will briefly address the other issues you raised:

      Poorly laid out course-I used delineator cones and barrier tape to layout the first/last 250 meters of the course. We could have made it a little neater if the wind wasn’t constantly blowing the delineators over Saturday night and Sunday morning. Barrier fencing is not a practical option due to the length and cost. Perhaps dozens f cones would be better, but do the kids really care if its cones or delineators/barrier tape their running through? This is the venue we have and it has some advantages (ability to have an extra wide start/finish line, no skinned knees if kids fall, open space to have an exceptional expo area, etc). With over 800 kids running, 277 of whom were 5 and under, the safety advantages out way the aesthetics in my opinion.

      If you have suggestions for improving the lawn area of the course, please let me know. I am always open to suggestions and ideas for improvements to the course.

    9. Every event ran late-The 5K started 6, maybe 7 minutes late. I was approached by a volunteer before the 5K was to start and asked to delay the start of the race because there were still 30-40 people in the process of registering for the 5K. Granted we made it clear that people needed to register at least 30 minutes prior to the event and could’ve cut off registration to allow the 5K to start at it’s scheduled time, but the money from the registration goes to benefit a wonderful non-profit organization and we appreciate all the donations(registration fees) given for the organization.

      The school district gave us the wrong key to open the back lot (the biggest parking lot available to us) at the high school which slowed things down until we received permission from the principal to cut the lock off. Maybe we should’ve tested the key first, but to be honest, that was really the last thing I expected to be an issue.

      I underestimated the number of 2K finishers who would take more than 25 minutes. The 2K will be changes back to a mile next year.

      None of the events were 15 minutes late, 10-12 minutes at most. I would certainly like to do better in this area and have all events start on time in the future.

      Running shoes + wet grass=Kid’s cold feet. If I remember correctly, Sunday’s weather forecast indicated it was the 2nd record low temperature for that date in Sacramento. Perhaps normal temperatures would have been more comfortable with less dew.

      The announcing was inaudible and confusing-the announcing could have been a lot more consistent. I know this area needs improvement, but there were race schedules available at registration, as well as packet pick-up at Fleet Feet, on the website and on the registration form. I personally did not receive any complaints about anyone missing their race, but this is definitely an area that needs work.

      Rattle Snakes-We did mention to the pre-registered runners (via an e-blast) that the 5K and 2K go into the “Parkway” a wild and scenic area and that rattlesnakes are out there and they should stay on the road and keep an eye out. We drove the course prior, sent several waves of bikes, posted signs and sent 2 runners out ahead of the 5K to help mitigate this issue. I believe most adults living in Northern California realize that when they go out into wild areas like the Parkway rattlesnakes (as well as other wild animals) can be present.

    10. You mentioned some things you did like about the event, the first being the Chipotle Chips and guac at the farm. Here are some things that I believe are noteworthy about the event:
      -Over 800 kids between the ages of 1 and 18 participated
      -Over 250 “First-Time Adults” (adults who indicated this was their first time ever participating in a community running event)
      -Many parents ran with their kids
      -All kids 17 and under got finisher medals (many received 2) or a ribbon (Kid’s runs). Many have commented how proud the kids were to wear their medals
      -First Time Adults were offered a special medallion to reinforce their accomplishment
      -We provided plaques for boys and girls (5 deep) in 2 year age brackets starting at 6 and under, plus adult plaques for the 5K and plaques for the top 3 boys and girls, 12 and under, in the 2K. That’s over 90 awards. Plus 16 pairs of New Balance shoes to kids placing in the 5K.
      -Our race fees were below average, starting at $5 for kids 12 and under, how many 5Ks start at $5 for a child?
      Our fees were:
      Early (prior to 04/07): Kids, $5; Teens, $8; First-Time Adults, $15; Regular Adults, $20
      Late (04/07 to day before event): Kids/Teens, $10; First-Time Adults, $20; Regular Adults, $25
      Race Day: Kids/Teens, $15; First-Time Adults, $25; Regular Adults, $30
      -We made available over 200 free entries to lower-income schools and groups
      -We had a lot of food for the kids and families
      -Race day expo for kids-the best I know of; REI/Granite Arch climbing wall, Prime Time Boxing Ring, Kaiser kids Obstacle Course, Technique Gymnastics Activities, Football Toss, Rowing Machines, Soccer Kick, Martial Arts, Fitness and Yoga Demos, lots of games and give aways
      -Raffle giveaways with BOB Ironman stroller, REI Kid’s bike, Dinner &Hotel for a mom and dad’s night out.
      -Soil Born Farm’s Day on the Farm with lots of fun and educational activities
      -Health eating reinforcement

      This is the second year of this event and there are definitely some bugs to work out (I wrote 4 pages of improvements in one sitting after the event, prior to even hearing other people’s input). The main this is we need more volunteers to help us execute. It is a struggle for a small group of volunteers, even though our intentions are good, to execute the perfect event we were hoping to deliver to kids and families. We would love to have yours as well as any one else’s help for future events.

      Thank you for being an advocate for local running events.

      Tim Coughlin
      Principal Race Organizer