Last weekend we drove south as a sponsor of two different utramarathons. They were the only two races that we were planning on attending and they both happened to land on the same weekend. The first race was the Zion 100. If you are looking for a challenging 100 mile race (as if running 100 miles isn’t challenging enough!) and a real adventure then this is the race for you. It is located on the edge of Zion National Park in the scenic vistas of the desert. The most common terrain is sandstone rock, sand, cactus, and dried out bones. We stayed there Thursday evening and all day Friday. We couldn’t stay for the finish because we had to head over to another race.
The other race is the Red Mountain 30/50K. This race is half trail and half road. I don’t know that I’ve ever been to a race with more smiley finishers! It is a great first ultra for those who are almost ready to take the next step in racing.
I was excited to go but with the warm weather we have entered our busy time of year. I’m trying to improve our process and also keep up with all our orders (plus welcoming a new addition to our family) so I’ve been a bit stressed out as of late. The race dates really snuck up on me. I found myself scrambling to get ready on Thursday. We didn’t want to camp in the 30° weather with an infant so our plan was to go to the race registration/social on Thursday evening. My wife would drop me off with my backpack and I would find somewhere to camp for the night while she drove on to St. George and stay with family. She would then drive back and pick me up Friday evening.
We got to the registration later than I wanted to but I was finally able to relax. I love the race atmosphere. I wasn’t running but I feel the energy of the runners and I love to get involved and help the race directors any way I can. I talked to a few people that I recognized from last year and chatted with the guys from UltraSpire (a local company that is making a big splash in hydration for running. Yes pun was intended).
I happened to see a group of people wearing Luna sandals. I’m not very assertive about selling our sandals. I don’t have a drop of salesman in my blood. When I saw them I thought that I should at least say hi and give them a business card or something. I walked up and picked one guy out of the group to talk to. I told him that I noticed his sandals and I handed him a business card. He looked confused and said, “but… I’ve got Lunas.” I replied that I could see that, and I thought he might be interested in Unshoes. After a moment of apparent confusion he snapped out of it and said that it was nice to finally place a name and face with Unshoes. I didn’t know why he looked confused because suddenly it seemed like he knew quite a bit about us.
After talking for a few minutes he referred to Lunas as “our sandals” a few times. I stopped him and said, “wait a minute! You are with Luna aren’t you?” I knew that Barefoot Ted was the founder and I could pick him out of a crowd but what I didn’t realize was that I was speaking with one of the co-owners of the company! He had come down to run the race and, of course, represent Luna. Open mouth, insert sandal. I laughed and told him that I felt pretty dumb! In the end, we had a nice chat about the challenges and advantages of owning a sandal company. He mentioned our Pah Tempe model and said that he thought it was cool. (I showed them to him in good faith that they wouldn’t copy them so if they come out with a competing model you’ll know where it came from!).
Other than just a funny story, the lesson I walked away with, other than the fact that I remember why I’m not a salesman, is that despite the fact that they are our largest competitor we have something in common that very few people in the world have. It was easy to find common ground because there are not many people who make handmade sandals for a living. It was fun to talk to him. Despite the obvious awkwardness of the conversation, I’m glad that I picked him to talk to. We have some pretty intense competition going on in the small industry of minimal sandals but in the end we are all pushing to come up with better designs for real people. As long as sales don’t become more important than people, we’re all kind of on the same team to reinvent footwear.