Woman and man standing next to each other smiling.

Race Director of the Month: Carrie Panek

ACTIVE Network
August 21, 2020

As owner of Koz Events, Carrie Panek manages an expanding list of endurance events in San Diego. Their mission is the promotion of an active lifestyle and fulfilling meaningful life experiences through sports. Koz Events, which Panek and her husband Tobias manage, offers 21 events a year, appealing to the avid runner, cyclist and triathlete and to the athlete that wants a modified version of a triathlon.

We recently had the chance to speak with Carrie about how she’s managing her expanding assortment of endurance events.

How did you become race director and owner of Koz Events?

We started doing the cycling tours over in Europe because we went over there for Tobias to race about 18 years ago. We found these wonderful Gran Fondo tours—the cycling events in Italy—and we thought this would be a great experience to share with people.

We have always had that same mentality through everything we’ve done. It's always a shared experience. So what can we do to make the experience really positive and fantastic for people? Because that's why they're going to want to come back because they had a really great time. You get people to start going back a year after year because they love it and they know they're going to get a good experience when they come.

Is there one thing in particular that stands out about your races?

This is San Diego so you can run and race all year long. Our races have a really fun atmosphere. People go there to race, but also to socialize. We have this big group of people that feels like a family together, that's what I feel like in the triathlon community. It's like this family that everybody knows everybody. And even though there are 2000 people there, sometimes you know everybody, which is pretty amazing. 

What work accomplishment are you most proud of?

Our events are always athlete-centered. We're always trying to figure out how to make the best event for them. We actually have added a bunch of events to our triathlon to keep people engaged even as they get older and we’ve added things like Aquabike so you don’t have to run anymore—it’s swim and bike. We have the Duathlon which is a run-bike-run for people that don’t want to swim. We also have kid’s races and a whole series for them. 

We have a really strong connection with this charity called Challenged Athletes Foundation. Almost every event we put on raises money for that organization. Along with that, we have their athletes come and do our events. It’s inspiring for athletes to race alongside people who have some other kind of physical impairment so that they're out there just racing with all of us. They have a wonderful experience, but it's getting them back into life through a sport.  

What tools have you used to build your success?

ACTIVEWorks Endurance is a great tool for database management. It’s an easy tool to use for marketing. You can send emails to everybody on your list and don't have to pay an outside source to email clients—you have that built into the package. The software is great for telling runners about their race that's coming up. I can put my sponsors out there, and the sponsors get a really good range of people seeing all of their content, which is always great for my sponsors.

What is something that drives the success of your events?

Our teamwork and just having a great staff here. We're always thinking of new ways to improve and do a better job. We have several of our staff that have been with us throughout the years, and so they really care exactly what they're doing. They're coming out there to do it for fun because they like doing it.  

Have you been offering virtual events?

This is our fifth month offering CV-19 Virtual Race series - Duathlon. It is generally a run-bike-run. But on the first leg of our run, we let them do what they want. Yeah, you could play badminton (or anything creative). We encourage people to send in pictures of themselves doing their first activities. We have about 500 people doing that, and for many of them, this is their third or fourth month doing it.

Do you have any advice for your fellow race director?

Work hard and love what you do. It’s all about the quality and the experience for the racers.

Set yourself up for success.

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