Is Frog Hollow the Next Big Endurance MTB Race?
Mountain bike racer turned race director, Cimarron Chacon, put on the 2nd Annual 25 Hours of Frog Hollow this year. No doubt this was the 24-hour MTB event to race this fall. All the fun was happening off-road in Utah. I got a chance to catch up with Chacon after to race to find out what makes her race so cool and why it should be on your race calendar next year.
Where is Frog Hollow? Why there?
Yes the name does come from a real place. Frog Hollow is a secrete place near the race course only known to a few locals. I will save the rest for later as we are writing the “Legend of Frog Hollow” and will include it on our race web site sometime this year.
What makes this course so special?
A lot of technical thought went into developing the perfect 24 hour racing course. Considerations such as:
safety of riders and access by medical staff
ability to “escape” the course quickly if you were in trouble
ease of finding the route
multiple access points on course
easy in set up and tear down
balanced combination of double track for passing and single track for fun, with double track preferably on up hill sections
balance of technical and flow trail
about an hour to 1:20 average lap time
ability to sustain growth and place to accommodate camping for up to 1000 people
The result is the Frog Hollow course. It is 13 miles long and almost equally split between single and double track. All but three-quarters of a mile of the double track is up hill and two miles of the course are the technical rock garden. The course is classic cross country with short burst climbs followed by a straightway for recovering. Although the rock garden is technical it is ride-able by most every racer once they pick the line. There are no major drops, hike –a –bike climbs or annoying sand. It is the kind of course that makes you want to ride it again and again.
Looked like it was single-speed friendly. Did you have any unique categories?
It is extremely single speed friendly. We are finding that our single speed categories are going with every race. We added the four-person SS open category with year from a racers request and had three teams enter. Many of which rode in costume.
I know you had treats at the timing tent. When and why did those appear?
The treats, like the podium and the awards, are the extra special additions that FROG TOWN built. This race is not just about what I have come up with, but also about allowing contributions from volunteers, other racers, and staff to create a real racer community and something people feel apart of and want more of year after year.
The food started with one volunteer bringing a couple of pies to the first event. Now we have “food donations (or sponsors if you will) that included bananas for the banana bread, whole fruit and eight pies. This year we even had a person donate some pizza in that late hours of the evening. It was really a lot of fun to see the racers get excited about which goodies would be at the table when they came in. And we always saved the best treats for the wee hours of the morning when we need it the most because the last thing they want to do is shiver while preparing food at 3 am.
As a racer you know what is “needed” in those dark moments. Can you describe in one word what that need is?
I think Lynda Walenfells said it best in her Facebook reply to me: they need a mom.
What band was playing the live music?
The band was called Bottled Monkey. I choose them for their eclectic sound and the fact that they dress in costume. We had some challenges with their amps, unfortunately, so they were only able to play one set. But I think it was a great way for racers to wind down while they are waiting for the last riders to come in and the awards ceremony to start.
Had they ever played at mountain bike event before?
No, I believe this was their first time.
Are you running the event next year?
Yes, of course we are making this an annual event. Next years dates are October 1, and November 5 2011.
We made a lot of changes from year one to year two. We don’t plan any major adjustments this year, just to fine tune what we have now. We want to be able to give even more for prizes, more food and more fun.
What were your goals for this year? Did you meet them?
I had a lot of goals and challenges for the second year. First and foremost was to allow myself to direct and not labor. The two challenging areas where timing and announcing. I was able to get a professional announcer which helped immensely. And then after going through two timing systems from others, my data base volunteer Diane Tracy put in a huge amount of time and effort to create our own timing system. We have now perfected the timing system so it is easy for volunteers to run and provides quick results for races.
In terms of growth we had hoped to double attendance this year, and we did.
What other marketing did you do for this event?
There is never a substitute for word of mouth and Facebook is great for that. I also race, so I choose new races this year. Races I felt also had a fun grassroots feel to them like I am trying to create. All the race directors were wonderful in letting me add brochures to the race packets and hang out our banner. From there I just talked to people one by one to invite them to try Frog Hollow.
What was the most rewarding portion of the race?
When it is over and someone says, “Thank you.” There is still a bit of public servant in me and I just love knowing I provided a venue for someone to have a really good time riding bikes.
Which is harder racing or putting on the event?
Funny you ask that. I don’t know if it is harder than training and racing, but there certainly are parallels. Yes you have to pace yourself. Starting about three weeks out, there is a huge list that has to get done. I just start checking off tasks, making sure I take a break to ride my bike or do yoga every day. Once we get into race week, my sleep goes down to about five hours a day. I usually crash about eight and then wake back up at 2 am with a fresh mind and work for two to three hours in the middle of the night. It is very important to pace myself, however, so I stay fresh for the race.
Race day I make sure I take naps. The hardest parts are getting the race launched and then wrapping up with results in the end. Once I make sure that volunteers have arrived for their shifts I can usually get a hour nap in. This year I got about five hours of sleep in between 6 am Sat and 10 pm Sun. I felt pretty good. But the funny thing is, with the sleep deprivation, the pacing around the venue, and set up and tear down, by Monday morning I feel like I just rode my bike for 24 hrs.
Were you encouraging costumes or did that take on a life of it's own?
The first year, the race was on Halloween. We had a huge costume contest with some pretty major prizes. Although we will not be putting the emphasis on costumes like we did that first year, we think it is a way to build a fun racing community and involve all types of racers. We have a themed challenge during the 6 hr race (this year was fairies and goblins–we had five people dress up). Because the 25-hour event falls on the first Sunday in November (time change weekend), it will fall on Halloween about every five years, so it just makes sense that people will hold onto those costumes for a few extra days and wear them at the venue. It is just so fun. I want to get sillier and sillier with it every year.
How did your background in landscape architecture help you design/promote this event?
Well, as a landscape architect the design and planning portions of developing an endurance race came naturally. During my time with the Bureau of Land Management and as a professional Planner I have also had the luxury of co-chairing several event planning committees, from the Utah State Trail Conference to the American Society of Landscape architects regional Conference, as well as several mountain bike festivals. This coupled with my co-duty to assist major sporting events (Red Bull Rampage and Rhino Rally) with their planning and permitting in the St George area, gave me a pretty solid base to make the transition from Landscape architect / urban planner to Event Planner/Race Director.
But my skills to develop an endurance race were also drawn from other life skills. I have been an endurance racer myself for about 5 years now. Being a racer gave be both perspectives.
What exactly did you do for the Bureau of Land Management?
I was a landscape architect, one of ten, and my specialization was trails and transportation. In the 10 years I worked with the BLM I designed, planned, and permitted almost 800 miles of trail. I was also a liaison to the national travel and transportation team, which was responsible for developing national trail policy as well as the liaison and instructor for the interagency trail training course who’s role was to train other federal employees ( FS, BLM, NPS, Etc) on best practices and techniques for developing sustainable trail systems.
Is Great Rides Out Promotions your sole occupation now?
GRO Promotions started as an idea to build our local riding community and race offerings in Southern Utah, and as a way for me to continue to support cycling/mountain biking in my own town. I am really enjoying the new challenges and rewards I get from developing and growing my own races.
Prior to starting GRO I was operating a Design and Planning firm that specialized in sustainable developments and resort trail systems. After the change in the economy and a bad business deal with another professional athlete, GRO became my only endeavor. However, my husband and I are working to develop a new full service Trail Design company called Crawling Spider that will offer permitting, planning, design and construction of trails, as well as branding and marketing. We want to focus our work on small communities and continue the legacy we have started here in the Southwest. If all goes well, we will launch our first project this spring – a bike skills park to be constructed in Hurricane, Utah.
All Photography by Bryce Pratt – crawling spider event photography