We asked you about your 2017 Marin Century experience, and 481 of you (more than a fifth of this year’s participants) responded. The stat that stands out: a whopping 97 percent would recommend the event to friends. That’s why it’s hard for us to contemplate not holding the Marin Century next year. We’ll get to that part of our story after a rundown of the other survey findings.
Overall, the event appears to be a success. On a one-to-five scale, two-thirds of you rated the event support (email correspondence, course markings, SAG, marshals, and so on) a five; a quarter rated it a four. Nearly two-thirds rated the overall experience a five; just under a quarter rated it a four.
Many of you offered ideas for improving the event, the majority of which fell into three categories: food, signage, and route/road conditions.
- Food—We received lots of requests for more vegetarian options and for offerings that suit very specific dietary requirements and address food allergies. With 2,300-3,000 riders, there’s no way we can meet every individual’s needs—and many of you recognized that fact in your comments. We do our best to offer both variety and nutritional value, and over the years we’ve made a concerted effort to provide organic fruits and gluten-free goodies on course. It appears that riders would prefer more of these offerings at the finish and those arriving after 7 p.m. want more options. We also heard plenty about the free beer that wasn’t free. As we explained, we made good-faith efforts to provide it free of charge, and we apologize that ultimately we could not deliver.
- Signage—Some riders felt signage was inadequate or confusing in some areas. If there’s one thing we are constantly reviewing, it’s route markings. When riders go off course it’s a problem for them and for us. The sad fact is that some people who are not fans of cycling events steal signs or move them—it happens every year and not just at our event. There’s no way we can stop it. When we get reports of missing or turned-around markers, we attempt to address the situation as quickly as possible, but given the length of our six courses and our limited volunteer numbers, speed is a relative term. We post course marshals where we think riders could use extra guidance, and we rely on riders to carry a course map. If possible, we will SAG riders back on to their course, but the priority of SAGs is medical situations and then mechanicals.
- Routes and road conditions—Some riders liked our revamped courses; others, not so much. This year our route changes were instigated by road closures due to road repairs necessitated by our unusually wet winter. When designing work arounds, we looked for the best possible options in terms of avoiding left-hand turns, heavy car traffic, and dangerous road conditions. We are cyclists and do the best we can to establish routes with the needs of cyclists in mind. Against those needs we balance scenic beauty. The short story is that we cannot, in Marin County, avoid some less than desirable road surfaces--we hate potholes as much as you do—nor can we avoid some technical downhills. Our route descriptions note several descents requiring extra caution and we station slow-down signage and marshals at the drop down from Big Rock on the return to the finish because we know that descent tends to be a challenge because of its tight turns.
Some other comments had to do with queues forming at registration tables and at the food tables at a rest stop—and some suggestions on those scores are helpful. Others were confused about the mass start or experienced some snafu about which we are glad to know.
Even when they found fault with one aspect of the event, the vast majority of riders praised other aspects. We’re glad that most implicitly, if not explicitly, acknowledged the enormous effort required to put on the Marin Century.
That effort brings us to the second part of this post—the numbers behind the numbers in our survey results. We are immensely gratified that 97 percent of you would recommend the Marin Century to friends, but we are also about 97 percent overtaxed in putting this event on.
Noting that Marin Century volunteering is a great opportunity to involve your family in cycling and to support local charities, we asked those interested in helping out at next year’s event to leave their email in their survey. Twenty-two of you did so. Although we are grateful to those folks, we also have to note that they represent just 4.7 percent of the total number of respondents.
That leaves us with numbers that don’t add up. As our Marin Cyclist Club president, Rebecca McClellan has pointed out, we have more than 400 jobs—from food planning and buying to truck loading, tent setup, SAG support, permits, apparel, and promotion—and typically about half that number of volunteers, many of whom wind up doing two, three, or even four tasks and multiple shifts. “This is unsustainable,” she said at a recent planning meeting.
Particularly now that our Marin Century ride director, Lorraine Trautwein, has given us her notice after four years of dedicated service, and other integral team members have announced their intention to step back from their usual roles.
McClellan put it bluntly: “For Marin Century 2018 to happen, we need a new ride director—now—and we need new support volunteers to ensure that the director job is not all consuming.”
That’s why we are asking you—members of the local cycling community—whether you are prepared to pitch in to save the Marin Century.
“Our goal has always been to put on a great event,” said McClellan, “and with the hard-earned dollars from that event, to give back to the community. We hope that our contributions could maybe, just maybe, save a kid (Trips for Kids) or save a life (MCBC safer road advocacy). Is the Marin Century done? It is up to you to decide.”
Let us know your thoughts and whether and how you are prepared to make the 2018 Marin Century go forward at email@example.com.