Using Project Management to prepare and execute on my mountain bike races.
There is a lot of work in preparing for a mountain bike race. What type of race is it - distance race (50 or 75 miler), or time race (6, 13, 24 hours)? What is the terrain like - technical, extremely technical, medium climbing, ridiculous climbing? Weather? How far away?
So all of that answered, I can begin to tackle the details - travel plans, bike set-up, nutrition, etc. Let's take an example.
Twenty-four hour race, 2 person team, at a ski-resort. So what this means is between my partner and I, we need to race around the course as many times as possible during the 24-hours. The race starts at 11am through 11 am the next day. The course was (I forget the miles, but it was about 2 hours/lap). The weather - well that is where it gets fun. We had the reminisces of Hurricane Ernesto, so the course was already super muddy, and it was still raining. That significantly increases the logistical nightmares, and preparations for your next turn.
Our plan was to go out at first for single lap turns, with cleanup, gear change, and bike tuning while the other was out riding. Turns out, there was not much time to rest, so we decided to do double laps - 4 hours a stint. That would give the other rider plenty of time to cleanup, eat, and rest for their next turn. The course conditions were very difficult and progressively got worse as the race went on.
Once nighttime came, lights came out. I had a light for my helmet. It was brutal. I did two separate 4 hour stints during the course of the night, my second taking me to around 5am. Did I say it was brutal. The rain had let up during the race, but the damage was done, the course was a mess, and some parts were not even rideable, having to dismount and run/walk, but it was slippery, it was slip 'n sliding all over.
Eating, yeah, that was interesting. I would have a camelback for water, with gels. I had spare parts and tools in case I had a mechanical. There is no support. You are out there completely on your own. Other riders will help if you need it, we are all supportive - it's a friendly competition. Now, the team I rode for had support at the main area. We had a large tented area. There was several of us racing from the same team, but in different teams and categories within the race. I would have a team support person meet me at the checkpoint to hand me a pre-baked sweet potato for good energy. Between laps, there was food I could eat, either food I brought, or something off the grill.
The category we were in was the duo-team. I don't remember how many laps we did. Around 15 or so. The distance was about 14miles/lap. We got 3rd place. I don't think we realized how we were doing until the middle of the night. We benefited from our bike setup. Both of us rode bikes with only one-gear, so the mud did not effect our gears and shifting. It's called single speed.
You're probably asking yourself, how does this relate to project management. I used project management practices in preparation for my mountain bike races; planning and executing on my strategy, monitoring my performance and surrounding elements, controlling my efforts and actions, and lastly, reviewing my race, results, and planning post race for lessons learned for the next one.
I wanted to provide the details to provide context around how difficult the planning can be, all the environmental factors at play, mitigating risks (known and unknown), and dealing with issues all on the fly while racing - flat tire, crash - you're on your own, but you had thought about this particular scenario, playing it out in your mind, leveraging experience. Cramps? Getting lost? Bees! Snakes! You name it. Trust me, I've dealt with them all.
Bike set-up - what is the weather? Terrain - hills, technical terrain, wide-open? What is my gear ratio? Tire pressure? What do I carry with me? I would spend hours in the weeks leading up to the race preparing for all these scenarios, and mentally preparing. Once at the race, it was a matter of executing the plan, monitoring and controlling all actions and scenarios.
In the end, I analyze my results, and how my planning worked in reality, then take that for the next time.
I have also done 13 hour races solo, and many, many 6 hour (laps around a ~10 mile course) and 50 mile races (one loop, which are also about 6 hours).
I miss my racing days ....