Behind the Scenes with XTERRA Race Director, Todd Jackson

Jun. 25, 2017

On race day, we have enough to think about without worrying about whether the course is marked, the aid stations are stocked, and the correct permits were obtained. We don't worry because we know that someone else has already taken care of it.

Often, the job of a race director can be demanding and thankless. After all, it's more noticeable when the lights don't turn on than when they do.

To find out what really goes on behind the scenes, we caught up with Todd Jackson and asked him to share the highs and the lows of the job. Todd is the race director of XTERRA Tahoe City and the founder, president, and CEO of Big Blue Adventure, LLC.

Q. Why did you decide to become a race director?
A. To be honest, I didn’t want a real job - I’ve always enjoyed working independently of larger organizations. As a youth, I had the opportunity to volunteer and to work at a variety of sporting events, and one thing led to another.

Also, working for yourself you only have to work half days. You just have to figure out which 12 hours.

Q. What do you love about putting on races/XTERRA events?
A. I love creating an event from scratch. I'm all in, whether it's designing a course, working on the branding and marketing, and especially seeing the smiles at the finish. Nothing beats knowing we are creating lifelong, positive memories.

Q. What is the hardest thing about putting on a race?
A. Race day is easy compared to all the planning, marketing, and digital media promotions. I’d say that getting the necessary permits might be the most challenging aspect, as the process is administratively time consuming.

Q. How much time do you spend worrying about the weather?
A. None.

I’ve been at this long enough to know that we’re not going to change the weather. Over the twenty years I've been doing this, we have had very few cancellations. However, safety comes first. If there is excessive smoke from nearby fires, too much wind, or really bad weather, we work through these situations in a positive and professional manner. 

Q. What’s the worst thing that has happened to you as a race director?
A. Once we had course vandalism at one of our triathlons. In between checking the course marking and the race start, someone moved and remarked our bike course.

The end result was that I was waiting at the transition area for the first athletes to come in from the bike course, and I started to see folks whom I knew wouldn’t normally be in the first group. Next, I saw folks coming to the transition area from different directions.

I knew then that the race was compromised, and for the next several hours I would be doing my absolute best to smile and become the athlete relations sounding board. That was a challenging and disappointing situation.

Q. What’s the best part about being a race director?
A. Even though event production is something I love, I ended up creating a successful business. It brought me to live in Lake Tahoe, which in my opinion, is one nice place to live. I have a family and a lifestyle that is very rewarding on many levels.

Q. What do you wish more people knew about what goes into putting on a race?
A. That in order to do this well you have to have an extremely high IQ and be very good looking.