With over a decade of successfully creating and producing events at ESPN and the Whitewater Center, it’s clear to me that humans crave and thrive on experiences. We all appreciate being part of something new, exciting, and engaging. Our experiences help develop and mold who we are. Human Powered Movement just hosted our first in-person event lovingly named Rocky River Shiver, and I know I’m not the only one that is still bursting with stoke.
Memorable experiences can’t be turned on or off with the flip of a switch. It takes significant time, planning, and effort. There are, however, consistent concepts that should permeate the creation and execution of any impactful experience. Clearly defined goals, understand the needs and wants of the target audience, leverage available resources, remain authentic, be passionate, worry about sleep later, and buckle up!
On June 1, I announced a new concept, a new event, a new experience as the first in-person event for Human Powered Movement. The Rocky River Shiver was officially live and it immediately spread like wildfire throughout the Charlotte, NC MTB scene. This “Hellacious MTB Event” would challenge riders to 43 miles and nearly 4000ft of elevation gain, more simply “3 laps”, at Rocky River MTB Trails. This trail system is unanimously acknowledged and understood to be the most difficult and technical system in the Charlotte region. The event was also scheduled for August 1, a hot and spicy summertime beatdown for those foolish enough to join the pedal party.
Justifiably on the participant side, little time is spent understanding the behind the scenes work that goes into an experience like this. The true make or break happens well before event day. As mentioned above, I’ve been fortunate to be in the active outdoor scene for well over a decade and have made enough mistakes to understand how to approach these types of events. With time comes experience, with experience comes relationships, with relationships comes opportunities.
One of these relationships is with Donnie Harris and Jonathan Clayton. 7 years ago, these two bad hombres were sick enough to create a grassroots trail running event called “The Stevest 50k” at the same trail system. The first few years of the event, the registration fee was the going rate for a case of Tecate and the prize was a mason jar of muddy water from the Rocky River itself. If you were lucky, you might even find a matchbox car in the jar. This “50K” is also nowhere close to 31 miles, rather 43. The Stevest has a slightly higher finisher rate than Laz Lake’s famed The Barkley Marathons in Tennessee. Each year the wait list is as long as the starting line roster. I love the message they’ve sent and the culture they’ve created in the trail running community. I wanted to create that same authentic vibe for the hungry MTBers. The Shiver would deliver.
I discussed my concept in passing with Donnie for over a year and have internally refined all of the unique aspects and features of the event in my mind. I finally met with Donnie and Jonathan to have a slightly more “serious” discussion over too many beers in Mid-March of 2021. They were onboard and agreed to connect me with Steve Kiker. Steve owns the land and is the master builder of these amazing trails. His trails are open year-round and are an unbelievable asset for the local active community. Steve graciously gave his blessing in Mid-April as he was on board to bring more attention and use to the trail system. I would also happily kick Steve a portion of each registration as a much deserved "thank you".
It was officially go time! My clock was ticking, and I was already way behind the 8 ball. I only had 6 weeks to coordinate and build all aspects of the event before the public announcement on June 1. This meant I needed to start sewing many of the seeds that I had previously and intentionally planted … partners, sponsors, family, friends, ambassadors, photographers, vendors, graphic design, website, pro-forma modeling, the list goes on and on. This event would take a village to pull off.
I was also emphatic about folding in unique aspects to make the experience different than a traditional bike race and therefor more impactful in many ways. Without a doubt, there was a competitive side to the Shiver, but it was a competition between each rider and the finish line and not between each other. I intentionally folded in a mental/physical conflict by incentivizing anyone that finished regardless of their finishing rank. $10 from everyone’s registration would go directly into a cash purse. Rules were simple. Finish in the allotted time (7hrs 30mins) and you equally share the winnings. DNF and you don’t.
Everyone knows that cold beer is the quintessential post ride beverage. I’ve been a homebrewer for 10+ years and was excited to share another one of my "crafts" with all participants. Anybody know of another event where the Race Director brews beer for everyone? Along with a big ol’ smile, everyone would be met with a homebrewed, hand bottled, and hand labeled, ice cold Shiver Pale Ale when done riding.
Immediately after Steve’s blessing, I enlisted one of my Graphic Design buddies (Patrick McGrady) to create the Shiver artwork that would be used on posters, bike plate, website, social, beer labels, etc. While he was working on the design, I reached out to my personal and professional network of like-minded knuckleheads that I knew would also see and capture the value of supporting a grassroots event for the MTB community.
I’ll spare you the gory details of my professional network, but I cannot thank the supporters enough for stepping up to the plate to help make this event, and experience, a reality. Sierra Nevada, Trek of CLT, Moose Packs, Stoke Nut & Seed Butter, Summit Coffee, Recover Brands, and Charlotte Athlete were all amazing throughout and provided the opportunity to give out over $1500 in cash and prizes throughout the event. Building a like-minded and mutually beneficial network over the years proved massively helpful. Each of these brands believed in me and the concept and knew that they would get their value out of the relationship and the experience.
The personal network was huge as well. Good heavens, the number of coolers, supplies, gear, vehicles, refrigerator space, storage and man hours that went into the event are endless. This event doesn’t happen without them. Nor does the event happen without overtaking my dining room table for the month leading up to the event. Every person involved knows they can call me anytime they need help on their end. This stuff is seldom noticed on event day.
Based on managing literally thousands of other events in my past, I was confident that most of the heavy lifting was done by the time August 1 rolled around. Even after all these years, I still get butterflies in my stomach leading up to events. For me at least, it is a very deep and meaningful concept that that people place their extremely valuable time, dollars, and trust in the people responsible for the event. There is a certain expectation that must be achieved. My goal has always been to have each participant walk away in a better spot than when they toed the start line. Based on feedback, that is exactly what was accomplished with the Shiver.
It was time to dial up the energy and get the party started! Event morning began with a 4:30am alarm, included a shot gunned Sierra Nevada Pale Ale at 8:01am to start the event, continued with flipping burger and dogs on the grill, involved hours of smiles, hugs, and high fives balanced by literal blood, sweat and tears, and ended with Strava on absolute fire when the “results” started rolling in. I think it’s safe to say the experience was memorable.
These event days are always a bit of a blur since so many moving pieces need attention and the inevitable impromptu fire needs to be extinguished, but I sincerely and truly love them. The emotion that is drawn out in people is inspiring. The amount of effort that is poured into it from all sides is invigorating. The feeling is tangible. I don’t want to get back into the event production business at the volume I once was, but dang, this stuff is fun.
I’m staring out my window over the vastness of middle America on a flight to Denver, CO for the annual Outdoor Retailer (OR) Summer Show. This is by far the biggest gathering of brands, creative minds, athletes, strategic leaders and up and comers in the outdoor industry, an industry that I’ve securely found my groove. I am anxious with excitement to learn from others and share how Human Powered Movement’s mission is in fact facilitating greater human powered experiences in all of us.
The Shiver experience only further solidified my excitement to be a part of this lifestyle. A lifestyle that is alive and well.
I’ve heard it a thousand times. “I want to create an event!”. I’m not entirely sure that people fully understand what that entails. If you’ve caught yourself having that thought, make sure you put in the effort to create a memorable experience. If you need a few ideas, give me a shout. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve.
Journal - The Rocky River Shiver Experience
Human Powered Journal
Writings and musings of an active lifestyle
Adam Bratton is the Founder and Head Enabler at Human Powered Movement.
Guest Contributors are more compelling in written word and life in general.