From the Desktop to the Desert…
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in what was dubbed as the “Inaugural IMAGEN Brands promoXperience.” Organized and sponsored by IMAGEN’s VP of Sales and Marketing, Dana Zezzo, the event was designed as a networking event “away from the boardrooms and bars” combined with a product field testing event. To add to the adventure factor, the networking and field testing would go down over the course of 48 hours during a Ragnar Trail Relay in the middle of the desert outside of Tempe, Arizona.
Sounds a little different than a round of drinks with clients at Eye Candy, right?
Are you crazy?
In trying to explain the event to colleagues at the office I was met with everything from a blank stare to an all-around questioning of my sanity.
“You’re going to run through the desert, at night?”
Well, yes…and during the day too.
“You’re going to camp? In a tent? With a bunch of guys, most of whom you’ve never met?”
That’s the plan.
“Aren’t there snakes in the desert?”
Well, sure…but usually you can hear the rattlesnakes before you see them, which is good, right?
Ragnar or Bust
I set off for the Arizona desert armed with camping clothes, running clothes, a laptop, an auxiliary battery and multiple cameras. There was going to be a lot of sitting around in camp and I figured it would be a great time to work on some projects in between running legs (a virtual blackout of cellular connectivity in the desert largely negated those plans).
I met up with the rest of the team in a parking lot in Phoenix. Dana Zezzo, who needs no introduction, was our fearless leader. Also from IMAGEN Brands was Ryan Meulemans, whose gazelle-like running prowess would make us all question our pre-race training plans. Kirby Hasseman, distributor extraordinaire, industry content mogul, and also a customer and friend, was in tow. Joe Durham, or “Big Joe” as you might know him, of HALO Branded Solutions rounded out the “above six foot” crowd on our team and provided a constant stream of levity throughout the day and nighttime hours. Proforma’s William “Willy” Adair, fresh off the Boston Marathon, was there to join Ryan at the front of the pack as our pace leaders. Jimmy Visney, of RLK and Associates or, as some of you may know him, captain of “Full Time Swag” where he blogs about life on the road in an RV with his family, provided a continual stream of conversational topics. Finally, Proforma’s Mitchell “Les” Edwards, who, after seeing him sprint out of the starting gate and sprint across the finish line multiple times, earns the award for hardest effort.
Having known only Dana and Kirby prior to landing in Phoenix, the proverbial “social media turns a handshake into a hug” certainly applied to this crew. We went from being recent social/email acquaintances to being teammates and moving into a 20 x 20’ campsite together seamlessly; a few people working on the tent, others setting up chairs and shelters, and others prepping food…and hydration (yeah, those Coleman coolers were full before we set foot in camp).
Dana and Ryan passed out products from Crown and Vitronic, as well as apparel from S&S Activewear. And he chose wisely – from the drinkware to the apparel and the folding chairs to the cool-down collar, I used these products extensively from the time we arrived until the time we left. For a great recap of the products we used be sure to check out Kirby’s post – “Epic Products from the Ragnar promoXperience”.
The campground at a Ragnar Trail event is fascinating. Nearly 400 teams – almost 3,000 people – set up camps ranging from the basic to mind-boggling (kudos to the team that built a tiki bar and had a propane-powered fire pit). Ragnar sets up a pretty elaborate village too! A 24-hour wood-fired pizza truck, a coffee truck, medical tent, massage tent, merchandise tent, a campfire, s’more and movie area provided by REI, plus stretching and yoga areas – it’s an impressive setup. Our camp was stocked with all-new gear courtesy of Coleman and IMAGEN Brands and before long our temporary housing was assembled and we set about cooking, eating, “hydrating”, and learning about our teammates (and our neighbors…no conversation is private when you only have 400 square feet to house each team of eight).
The Race..and the Product Field Testing
At sharply 10am the next morning our team was scheduled to start the race. Kirby was our lead-out runner, followed by me, then Dana, Jim, Joe, William, Les and Ryan. Once all eight runners finished their first leg we moved on to the second leg for each person, and finally a third…24 legs in all, encompassing 124 miles (roughly 15 miles for each of us). My first leg was the “yellow” leg – in theory the second hardest leg – and I’ll readily admit that I was a little under-prepared for the hills and heat (note to self: next time actually train. On hills. And in heat. And on trails. And at night). But I got through it, and ultimately my second and third legs felt a lot better since they occurred at 6pm and 3am, respectively, when the temps in the desert dropped into the 50s.
Everyone on the team rocked this course and in the end – although we were doing this purely for fun – we were excited to learn that we had finished in 9th place in the men’s division! Given that we just spent 48 hours sleeping under the stars (and really, there wasn’t much sleeping) and running through the desert and over mountains at all time of the day and night, I’m chalking that up as a success.
I ran all three legs in my polyester sport shirt from S&S and my Jersey Mesh Cap from Vitronic and they worked wonderfully. The cooling collar from Crown literally saved me on the hot leg during the day – soak it in ice water and wrap it around your head and it becomes a personal cooling device. Of course, when I got back into camp after the cooler legs at night…I threw on my performance hooded sweatshirt from S&S and dipped into the cooler from Vitronic for some liquid refreshments.
In between the running legs there was a lot of talk – industry talk, non-industry talk, project talk…we even broached politics at one point (differing opinions, but a refreshingly jovial and agreeable discussion by everyone). I learned about interesting projects these guys were working on, their thoughts regarding the industry, marketing strategies, technology and more. A few of the guys struck up friendships and passed out cards with our neighbors in the campground after explaining what we do (if there were a prize for best outfitted team…we would have won, hands down). And yes, Kirby and I did get a little business done (more theoretical and planning rather than actual technical work given the lack of cellular connectivity in the desert).
All in all the experience was a blast, and I’d definitely consider doing it again in the future. I made five new friends from the distributor side of our industry and had a great time learning about the things they’re working on. There are some cool projects going on out there, and I look forward to connecting and working with them in the future (when, after this event, they’ll no doubt be selling more Crown and Vitronic products). We put some great products through their paces and learned a lot about IMAGEN’s line that I wasn’t aware of before.
Interested in checking out the products we used? Visit promoexperience.distributor-catalog.com. In fact, if you host a website with DistribtutorCentral shoot us an email or give us a call and we’ll show you how to quickly and easily add and feature these products to your ecommerce-enabled website. Of course, if you don’t host a website with us…give us a call and we’ll help get you started!
For a great write-up about his experience at the event be sure to check out Kirby’s article, “The promoExperience Ragnar Recap.”
For Kirby’s take on the products we used check out his article, “Epic Products from the Ragnar promoXperience.”
Oh, there’s video too… a great behind the scenes look at our experience at the event assembled by Kirby, and a music video…yes, a music video…that was born out of this off-centered experience.
Check these out and be sure to hit up Dana and Ryan if you want to learn more about products from Crown and Vitronic or if you’re interested in a future promoXperience event!
“Behind the Scenes”
“Runnin’ Through a Stream”