Handle the politics that mess with your races – MOD005

Show Notes

Welcome to the Merchants of Dirt Podcast Episode #5, hosted by Reckoneer.com founder Kyle M. Bondo. This is your insider’s guide to practical recreational engineering where I teach you the art and science of building, promoting, and directing off-road races. In this episode, we’ll talk about the rant I recorded at the DC PodFest this past weekend, I’ll tell you about the new Race Promoters Group I started on Facebook, and get into how you should handle the politics that mess with your race promotion business.

In This Episode
  • 0:01

    Podcast Intro

  • 0:22


  • 0:50

    MOD at DCPodFest

  • 4:16

    Stop racing in your own events

  • 8:21

    Race Promoters Group

  • 13:54

    You cannot escape the politics in racing

  • 14:38

    Political decisions can have an economic impact

  • 22:01

    #1 — The Issue of Land Ownership

  • 26:43

    #2 — The Issue of Land Access

  • 33:38

    #3 — The Issue of Diets and Food

  • 37:59

    Time to Vote

  • 39:10

    Race Promoter’s Political Survival Guide

  • 41:17

    And Now You Know

  • 41:19

    Call to Action

  • 42:42

    Podcast Outro

MOD at DCPodFest

I went to the DCPodFest in Washington DC this weekend and recorded a live segment of the Merchants of Dirt Podcast. Special thanks to Justin Emery from New Media Recording Studios who provided the time and equipment to record my segment.

Stop racing in your own events

If you are a race promoter, organizer, and director that thinks they can build a race AND race in that same event, you can’t! And I’ll tell you why.

  • Reason #1 — Who is in charge of your race? If you’re out racing, who’s in charge? Not you! The race that you’re responsible for is missing it’s captain if you’re out on the course.
  • Reason #2 — That is your name, and your company’s name, on the permit and insurance policy, right? The safety of your racers is your responsibility. If you’re elsewhere, and something bad happens, how can you respond? Worse yet, your insurance may not cover an accident if you’re negligent in overseeing events. Being out on the course as a racer could put you and your company in a very bad situation. Liability is no joke.
  • Reason #3 — Do you really think your part-time or volunteer staff can’t solve everything? If everyone covering for your while you’re out having fun is temporary help, who is representing your company, or your race? Do not put your reputation at risk by leaving what amounts to strangers in charge of your race.
You’re the leader of your race, so act like it!

The buck stops with you. Your role is to lead. Not just when you want to, and not just before or after you’ve raced your own course. But from the time you put your first arrow up, to the time you take your last bag of trash away. You are the first one at the venue, and the last one to leave. Stay focused, stay visible, and stay in charge at all times. Your family, your business, your reputation, and even your livelihood depends on it.

Race Promoters Group

I started a new Facebook group: Merchants of Dirt Race Promoters Group to allow my audience a forum for asking questions, getting help, and exploring race promotion topics. This is a Closed Group, but everyone interested in building better races is invited to join!

You cannot escape the politics in racing

We often think that off-road racing sits outside the political struggles of Washington DC. You think your carefully scheduled, mapped-and-ready trail fun doesn’t seem like a place you would find politics anyway. Unfortunately, in this day and age, even off-road racing has been politicized. By avoiding the actions of your politicians, they acting in your best interest without you. They passed bills, laws, and new regulations hundreds of miles from your races, without any of your input. It’s only when these bills, laws, and regulations have a direct impact on your races, do you suddenly notice something is wrong.

Political decisions can have an economic impact

This election has all sorts of people politically charged. But unlike other elections, you can no longer put your head in the sand and pretend politics do not have an impact on your races. Especially when you go about operating a business, using public land, operating a business ON public land, or just trying to make money with that business in general. Many race promoters do not want to even think about politics. They often say, “Leave me out of the politics. I just want to build races”. Sorry. You cannot avoid it any longer! To be successful race promoter, you need to be aware of the people making the political decisions that will have a huge economic effect on how you plan, promote, and direct your events. In this season of political drama, you need to know what issues can aid or disrupt your racing efforts, and who is for or against those issues.

#1 — The Issue of Land Ownership

Issue-at-a-Glance: The US Government owns 640 million acres or nearly a third of the U.S. landmass.

From Texas to the Atlantic Ocean, the US Government averages about 5-percent or less land ownership in most states, with the most in North Carolina at 11.8-percent. However, the federal government owns large tracts of the western states: from a low of 29.9% in Montana, already more than the national average, up to a whopping 84.5% in Nevada.

See the complete accounting of what the US Government owns of each State, check out Just How Much Land Does the Federal Government Own — and Why? by Frank Jacobs of bigthink.com. In Jacobs article, he states that the map of Federal Land ownership is “stunningly effective at bringing home [its message that] Federal land ownership out west is huge.”

Who owns all this land?

Jacob’s points out that according to the Congressional Research Service, a majority of the land is administered by 5 federal government agencies:

  • Dept. of Agriculture — United States Forest Service (USFS)
  • Dept. of the Interior — National Park Service (NPS)
  • Dept. of the Interior — Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • Dept. of the Interior — Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
  • Dept. of Defense — Various Agencies/Military Branches
Blocked Recreational Opportunities

This issue, especially to race promoters, is the federal mismanagement of that land due to complicated, inconsistent, or blocked recreational opportunities. The federal government agencies, that are responsible for rules and regulations, have created a bureaucratic nightmare that Jacob’s identifies as a fight between “… good stewardship of the land … [and too much] … government intervention… [in how the land is used]”. As a race promoter, this issue directly impacts your capability to use public land as a race venue. The more land the US Government owns, and then shuts off to recreational opportunities, the fewer areas you will have to host races. Therein lies the political issue.

#2 — The Issue of Land Access

Issue-at-a-Glance: This issue focuses on HOW you access public land that is already been set aside for public use. If you’re a mountain biker, this one is very important to you.

Banning Use

Take for instance the case of Bitterroot National Forest in Montana presented by Vernon Felton of Adventure Journal. In Felton’s article, he cites how the US Forest Service changed the rules in 2015, and made mountain bikers no longer welcome on 178 miles of singletrack trails. Critics of mountain biking believe that mountain bikes cause more erosion or disturbed wildlife more often than other trail users. And are using the Wilderness Act of 1964 to kick mountain bikers off trails that use to allow them. A number of environmental protection groups convinced the US Forest Service to change their regulations in 1984 to explicitly prohibiting mountain bikes from wilderness areas. The new regulation has now been expanding by changing the wording of the prohibition from “[…] motorized to mechanized transport”. The change resulted in banning of mountain bikes from 762 wilderness areas in 44 states.

Did you know that happened?

Defending Use of Public Lands

On the other side of this issue, advocates like Mark Eller, communications director of the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA), have defended mountain bike use on public lands. IMBA continually argues that a “[…] vast majority of independent, peer-reviewed studies indicate that mountain bikers are no more impacting on natural resources than other recreational trail users.” IMBA has lobbied heavily to get mountain bikes removed from their federal portrayal as a motorized vehicle. Some mountain biking advocates have gone as far to create campaigns that illustrate how mountain bikes are not motorbikes, with t-shirts like Lindarets Motorbike Shirts to Benefit Human-Powered Trail Access.

The Dark Side of the Environmental Movement

Some people are so invested in removing mountain bikes from public lands, that they willing to injure or even kill riders with boobie-traps. From wooden-boards full of nails as was found in Eagle, Colorado, to punji stake traps discovered in the United Kingdom, extremists been going to great lengths to prevent even the limited access by mountain bikers. Unfortunately, these traps do not discriminate and injure hikers, backpackers, trail runners, and horse riders right alongside mountain bikers. Nor do they help the environmental protection cause.

A Compromise?

So far, when it comes to finding a balance, the IMBA’s Public Lands Initiative is one of the few efforts that tries promote bicycle-friendly approach towards public lands protection.

#3 — The Issue of Diets and Food

Issue-at-a-Glance: Science, nutrition, and dietary philosophies all offer different choices when it comes to what racers eat, and what racers want to eat.

Something Easier to Digest

Once upon a time, pizza was a great post-race food. Boy, have times changed! Take for example an article from The Clymb.com’s blog titled 12 Items I Want To See On My Next Marathon Aid Station Table. Notice you don’t see pepperoni pizza on a list like this. In fact, you don’t see meat on that list at all. Meat, among other interesting foods, is no longer considered acceptable racing foods in certain circles.

Welcome to the Political World of Food

Who knew that food could be so contentious. On one side you have the herbivores (those who do not eat meat or fish) that defined by terms like vegans and vegetarians. On the other, you have the omnivores (those that eat anything, including meat or fish) that defined by terms like carnatarian and meat-eaters. Which side do you see yourself on? More importantly, which side is most represented by your customers?

What’s a Race Promoter to do?

Your choices are simple on this one:

  • Walk the thin line by providing options for both: Walking the line can work in pleasing most customers. But it will require you to spend more on post-race food to satisfy everyone.
  • >Take a position — one side or the other — and stick to it: Taking a position can work too. It lets everyone know where you stand on this issue. But it may also cost you many of the customers who have the opposite position.
  • Don’t offer post-race food at all: Of course, you could just stay out of the post-race food business altogether. That might not make anyone happy.
A Balanced Approach

You could try what Adventure Addicts Racing (AAR) has done. During the AAR’s most recent events, the Adventure Rush adventure race, they put out spaghetti. How is spaghetti a position? Because this spaghetti was both with meatballs, and without meatballs. Plus, both meat-eaters and vegetarians alike can eat spaghetti. It’s like the United Nations of foods.

Time to Vote

There are certain world views that you will either support or not support. The truth is, you and your customers will care deeply about some issues, but not others. It is your job to know what those issues are. By taking ANY position on ANY given subject, there will be consequences associated with it. Regardless of the issue, always remember to stay cool, polite, and honest about where you stand.

Race Promoter’s Political Survival Guide

You can navigate politics towards your best interests, so long as you understand how this issues can and will affect your business. However, to help you survive the political world of the race promoter, there are a few important skills that you can learn to keep things from going off the deep end.

  • First, determine where you stand on the issue most important to you and then find out where the power bases are.
  • Second, you need to become adept at discovering the information that lives in the world of facts, not hidden within the world of spin, rumor, or innuendo. Know that everyone has an agenda.
  • Finally, you need to predict the political pitfalls that could hurt your business and determine what you can do to head off unfortunate events.

Have a contingency plan in place in case a political fight does not go your way. Additionally, be ready to act if a political decision DOES go your way too. Ultimately, success in politics only comes to those race promoter’s who stop blaming politics for their problems, and start handling these issues, before they handle you right out of business.

And Now You Know

I have a few things I want you to do right now:

Action #1 — Join
Go to Reckoneer.com SLASH Join and drop your email in the box so I can tell you when a new episodes has come out.

Action #2 — Feedback
Did you learn something useful? Is there something I can do to make them better? I would certainly like to hear about other race promotion pains you might have. If there is a topic you would like me to cover, please join my Facebook group: Merchants of Dirt Race Promoters Group. But if you don’t want to ask the group, I am @MerchantsofDirt on Twitter, or you can contact me through my blog at Reckoneer.com.

Action #3 — Review
If you liked this episode, I would love if you would go to the Merchants of Dirt podcast page on iTunes and gives me a quick review and a 5-star rating.

Thank You for Listening!

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