The Susan G. Komen Twin Cities 3-Day kept the Event 360 team on their toes. Last week we heard from Vehicle Coordinator, Liz Parks. Next up is Robin Shapiro, who played the role of Route Participant Liaison, affectionately called the “caboose.” In this role, Robin is responsible for working with the “back of the pack” walkers, ensuring no one gets left behind by motivating, supporting, and encouraging them and offering solutions to stay on track.
Tuesday, August 18th (Prep Day)
As is the case for many working mamas, my event week begins with lots of preparation to make sure that life runs smoothly for my family while I am away. This week’s preparation includes: packing and labeling my son’s lunches for the next three days (including love notes), cooking and freezing a few dinners so my husband and son actually eat some vegetables while I am away and stocking the refrigerator with beer to help my husband cope with five nights as a single dad.
Wednesday, August 19th (Travel Day)
My travel to the Twin Cities goes quite smoothly. We land 15 minutes early and I am driving away from the airport in my rental car less than an hour after arrival. This has to be a new record for me. I head across town to the hotel where I meet up with my friend and co-worker, Amy, the Crew & Volunteer Coordinator for this weekend’s event. We enjoy a hotel carpet picnic of yummy sushi and I help her pack thank you gifts for her volunteer leaders.
Thursday, August 20th, (All-Crew Kick-Off)
I don’t have to report to the site until 9:00 a.m., but I haven’t adjusted to the new time zone yet, so it still feels like an early call time. Arrival on site means reunions with co-workers whom I only see on-event. Lots of hugs all around.
My day officially begins with the Route Team meeting. The Twin Cities Event Production Manager, Kiki, reviews the ins and outs of the route with all staff members who will be managing the route signage, pit stops and supply fulfillment over the course of the weekend. A few of the jurisdictions are sticklers for food handling guidelines and hats or hairnets will be required for anyone handling food at a pit stop. Here are the Pit Stop Coordinators testing out their hairnets.
After the Route Team meeting, I turn my attention to supporting Amy as she leads the trainings and meetings for our crew members, the volunteers who will be serving in various roles all weekend to bring the event to life. I sort and label t-shirts, print credentials and pull SWAG for our Youth Corps team, hand out thank you gifts to crew leaders, and help facilitate the crew leadership meeting and the All-Crew Huddle. Our Event Execution Manager, René, updates the crew leaders on a possible event relocation due to thunderstorms in the forecast for Saturday.
As caboose, I will be trailing the last walker on a bicycle to make sure that the route is moving according to schedule and that we don’t unintentionally leave any participants behind. This year we have a brand new caboose bike. It is a great bike but unfortunately the handle bar height and step down from the saddle are more suited to someone who is at least 5’ 8. Since I fail to meet that mark by a good seven inches, I ask the Route Marking Coordinator, Nemo, if she would be willing to trade bicycles with me. She kindly agrees. I love my helpful and kind co-workers.
I take dinner back to my room and set to labeling and folding the next day’s route cues. I like to keep the route cues clipped to my credential so I can keep the walkers (and myself) up to date on our progress and the distance to the next stop. I turn this:
As is the case on most Thursday nights before the Komen 3-Day, I struggle to fall asleep at a decent hour. My last memory is looking at the clock at 1:04 a.m. Sigh.
Friday, August 21st (Day One)
Since my mode of transportation this weekend is a bicycle, I’ll need to secure a ride to and from the hotel each day. My co-worker, Jennifer, is the pit stop 4 coordinator this weekend and she has a later call time than I do yet she kindly agrees to get up early and chauffer me.
When the Opening Ceremony starts, I am caught up in the emotion. The breast cancer cause has been important to me for many years through friends and extended family and unfortunately, the cause hit close to my heart when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer two weeks ago to the day. Hearing participants share their stories, wishes and promises for the future makes my eyes well up with tears. After the ceremony ends, I stand on the stage and watch the walkers exit. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to work with such wonderful people on this magical and meaningful event.
My next job is to scan the site and knock on the portable toilet doors to make sure that all of the walkers have left before heading out on the route. Less than a minute after I leave, I get a call that a walker has arrived late and that I need to come back for her. She is a delightful walker who drove all night from Michigan. We walk together to the first pit stop and I learn that she has been participating in the 3-Day® since 2008 and will be walking all seven events this year. Family circumstances delayed her travel but she resolved to not miss the event.
One of the best parts of being the caboose is getting the chance to talk with participants and to hear their stories and how much the 3-Day means to them. On the flip side of that coin, the caboose also gets to hear about all of the ways the event could be improved, and gets to answer many questions about the choices we’ve made when planning the event. Nonetheless, it is, in my opinion, the best staff role on event.
Since we like to give our participants a tour of both the Minneapolis and St. Paul sides of the Twin Cities but keep the mileage pleasant and at 60 miles, the route ends today with a bus ride from pit stop 4 on the Minneapolis side to camp on the St. Paul side. This means that as we make our way to pit stop 4, I need to identify the last walker and prepare her for entrance into camp.
One of my favorite things about the 3-Day is the recognition of the last walker each day. As the last walker is arriving at camp, we invite all participants to meet at the flag pole to welcome them with boisterous cheers and watch as he or she raises the flag in camp. This, of course, requires some behind the scenes logistics; especially today since we are riding a bus to camp instead of walking in. Once all the walkers are on the bus, I text a member of our stage team to let him know that we are about 30 minutes away from camp. As we pull up, he is waiting for us with the last walker flag at the bus drop off. I ask my last walker, Judy, to wait on the bus for the other walkers to exit and make their way to camp. Once the other walkers are gone, Judy and a Route Safety crew member make their way up the hill to camp. We hear the cheering before we see the Twin Cities 3-Day community giving us a hearty welcome. Judy, who I think was initially a little hesitant to be a part of the hoopla of the last walker, appears to be overjoyed by the welcome.
After Judy has raised the flag and the participants have dispersed into camp, my job for the day is done. I grab some dinner, find a ride back to the hotel and then rest up for another day on the route tomorrow.
Saturday, August 22nd (Day Two and Relo Day)
When I step out of my hotel this morning, it is breezy and a little chilly. The forecast calls for gusts of wind up to 30 mph throughout the day and thunderstorms in the late afternoon. The goal for the day is to keep the walkers moving in hopes that everyone is safely back to camp before the storms hit.
My job this morning is to sweep camp making sure that all walkers have left by the time camp closes at 7:30 a.m. By 7:45 a.m., it appears that camp is clear. I hop on my bike to catch up with the last walker and as I am leaving camp, I run into four walkers who didn’t stay camp and have just been dropped off by family members. These walkers missed breakfast so I share with them the bananas and grahamwiches that I stock in my handlebar bag for just this type of occasion.
At mile 11.2, the lunch stop is a welcome site. The skies are clear and the walkers are looking good but as I leave lunch, the winds start to pick up. That forecast of 30 mph gusts ring true as the caboose flag nearly blows away.
As I am nearing pit stop 3 near mile 18, I receive a text from our route manager that a tornado watch is in effect and that the impending weather is likely just a few hours away. When I arrive at pit stop 3, the stop is abuzz with concerns from walkers and crew members about the tornado watch. We do our best to allay the concerns and to encourage anyone who is nervous to go ahead and take a ride in a sweep van or bus to camp.
As l leave pit stop 3, the winds become even stronger and the skies begin to look ominous. However, the walkers I am with seem un-phased. They appear to be having a lovely time and are keeping a nice pace. About half a mile outside of pit stop 4, we hear the first burst of thunder and I receive a text that rain is less than an hour away and we are closing the route at pit stop 4. When we arrive, all walkers are directed into a sweep van and taken directly to camp. The pit stop 4 team breaks down their stop in a record 10 minutes.
My job is now to ride forward on the last three miles of the route and encourage any walkers still walking to get on a Sweep Van and ride directly to camp. I begin my sprint uphill and directly into the wind. I ride for nearly two miles before I encounter walkers who are still on the route. After some persuasive and difficult conversations about half of the walkers heed my advice to take a ride and half insist on walking. For those who insist on walking, I urge them to walk fast. The winds are strong and we hear an occasional burst of thunder but still no rain. We walk the last mile to camp in record time and arrive to find participants packing up their gear so we can move to a nearby high school to sleep indoors tonight. I stash the caboose bike in a gear truck along with the Route Safety Crew bicycles, where they will be safe from the rain and predicted hail, grab a quick bite to eat and then head to the Command Center to help with the relocation.
After all participants have been safely relocated, I hear an all-call over the radio for anyone in camp to take immediate shelter in a vehicle. The few staff members and operations crew members still working on breaking down camp disappear into vehicles and cars nearby. I watch out the back door as the sky turns dark gray and the rain begins to fall in sideways sheets. A few more staff members join us in the Command Center and some smart and fun person decides that it is the perfect moment for a dance party.
The dance party is the perfect way to blow off steam and stress from the events of the last two hours. Within less than 10 minutes, the rain has stopped and everyone is back to work securing the site for the night. It’s all hands on deck and I get to help with breaking down signage.
For some of my co-workers, the night continues at the relocation site but since I have to be out on the route in the morning, I turn in for the night. Back at my hotel, I watch out the window as the rain pours and lightning lights up the sky. Clearly it was the right decision to relocate camp.
Sunday, August 23rd (Day Three)
When I arrive at camp in the morning, the participants are surprisingly in good spirits. Thankful, I think, for a dry night of sleep. The walkers are also pretty eager to get on the route so there aren’t many that I need to encourage to get a move on.
It is a chilly morning and a little misty so walkers are moving pretty quickly.
I pull into lunch with the last walker an hour before it is scheduled to close. Feeling pretty good about my ability to keep the route moving, I sit down to enjoy my lunch. About five minutes later, I get a call that there are six walkers on the route behind me. One of the jobs of the caboose is to check coffee shops, gas stations, restaurants, bars, etc. to make sure we don’t leave behind any walkers who have stepped in to grab a bite to eat or drink. I’m not sure how I missed these walkers as I thought that I had checked all of the potential places to step off the route. I meet up with the walkers as they are passing by the lunch stop. These gals are fast walkers and I know that I will not see them at the back of the pack again.
The afternoon is breezy and beautiful as we walk through an amazing system of urban trails. I arrive at the last pit stop and am met by my co-worker, Gayla. I have a 6:00 p.m. flight to catch so she will be taking over the caboose responsibilities for the last three miles and bringing the last walker into the Participant Finish Area.
It’s bittersweet. I am excited to get home to my family but I am disappointed to miss the Closing Ceremony and to support the staff as they break down and load out. Gayla has brought my backpack and an event vehicle ready for return to the rental car agency. I hop in the car and head to the airport. The Minneapolis airport is quite fancy. It’s a great place to get delayed which I am for an hour and a half before my flight finally takes off and I call the Twin Cities 3-Day a wrap.