It was a great weekend. A couple of long days and a lot of hard work but very rewarding. Got a chance to meet some great athletes, both experienced and beginners, and educate them on some great products. Throw in some oppressive heat, torrential downpours, hail warnings and a flooded expo and you have the recipe for an epic weekend.
The reason for us being there was to educate athletes and provide them with an opportunity to try Gatorade products. The products we had to sample were the Carb Energy Chews and Gatorade Endurance Formula. I’ve started using the Carb Energy Chews myself during my runs. I’ve had a really good response to them in my training so I’m at the point now where I’m thinking of reducing my gels or ditching them all together. This isn’t a small thing since I’ve been a gel guy since I got back into marathons in 2009 and I’ve used a number of brands including PowerBar, GU and Accelerade.
Gels have worked well for me but the chews just work better. There are a couple of downsides to the gels, one is when you open them you need to take the whole packet or lose the rest. You can’t just stick a half empty packet back in your pocket. Gels can also be an issue if your fighting stomach problems or are still a few miles from the water station since each full gel needs to be diluted with a good amount of water. With the chews I can just take what I need, even half a chew if need be. I don’t need to worry about water either with the chews and they digest really well. With the gels on race day I would always have to time it so that I was near a water stop just after taking one. Also a lot of gels leave that pasty bitter taste in your mouth. Our other product Gatorade Endurance Formula is the same G Series Pro product athletes get on the race course. My personal experience with both products made it very easy and natural to talk about them.
There was a lot of coordination leading up to the expo. I had committed to being there before my training in Chicago so as the date got closer the emails flew back and forth at an increased rate as all the details got worked out. Having logistics experience on active duty was a big help for me that weekend. There was a lot of details to keep track of with shipments coming from different directions and all of them eventually converging on Smith Memorial Field in Philadelphia under the big white expo tent. The important items needed for the expo were the signage (back wall, table covers) and the products to distribute to the athletes. The back wall and tables covers arrived on Thursday and the products were being shipped directly to the expo so no problems there.
I got my two guys together early Friday morning, packed the car with our cooler and Gatorade signage, made a quick stop at Wawa to pickup hoagies for lunch and then headed out to the expo. We arrived around 8:30AM to set up for a noon start. Since this was my first Gatorade activation I wanted to get there early enough to work out any issues, make sure we got everything we needed and have enough time to cool the Endurance Formula before the athletes got there. We got the back wall up and tables all set up and then worked on moving the product boxes off the pallet behind the booth and into our area. By 10 o’clock we were all set just waiting on the ice to arrive. Turns out the ice didn’t arrive until about 11:30AM which concerned me a bit since by that time the temps had reached 90 degrees. The first few samples we gave out were a tad on the warm side but once the bottles had a chance to chill in the coolers we were good.
As I mentioned it was a bit warm on Friday so we had to keep ourselves hydrated. Not being sure how much of the Endurance Formula we would have I brought along enough beverages for the three of us (Gatorade of course). We brought two 8-packs of Thirst Quencher and we just about polished those off by the end of the day. On Friday the crowds got a bit heavy around 1PM and then again after 5PM.
Embrace the Epicness
Then the rains came. The skies darkened and literally opened up around 5:30PM and for the next hour and a half all the athletes were trapped in the expo tent as sheets of rain came down. It was around 6:30PM that the expo tent flooded, I could tell because I was wearing my Vibrams and I could feel the water seeping into them. The cold water felt good as the earlier part of the day was sweltering and cold hitting any part of my body at that point was welcome. The rains subsided enough by expo closing at 8PM that we were able to get to the car relatively dry and head home.
The weather was much more cooperative on Saturday. Since the Sprint Tri was taking place that morning as well as the Olympic Tri participants coming in to pick up their race packets, the expo was hopping! The three of us stayed busy for most of the day. The expo only ran until 4PM so the time seemed to fly by as a steady stream of athletes came by by the booth.
Got a chance to meet some great people and I really enjoyed passing on my enthusiasm for some great products. I’m really looking forward to doing more events this year, it’s been an eye-opening experience being on the other side of the expo table. It made me appreciate all the time, effort and energy the volunteers, vendors, expo staff and support crews put into pulling off a successful event. As participants we take a lot for granted and tend to nitpick when things go wrong. Next time things go wrong on race day I plan on cutting them a lot more slack.