Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Volunteering at Ironman Canada 2009

Having a chance to volunteer at IMC was an absolutely priceless experience. What an amazing day! I was assigned to transition to help out with gear bags as athletes moved from the swim to the bike. This meant that I got two wristbands, one to let me into transition and one that made sure I could get in first thing in the morning.DSCN1317Although I didn’t have to report until 6:30 am I wanted to get to Penticton early enough to find a half decent parking spot and to try and find my friends racing before they started. I left West Kelowna somewhere around 4:30 am, stopped by Tim Horton’s for the biggest coffee I could buy, and hit the highway to Penticton. Thank goodness Timmy’s drive through is open…possibly 24 hours? Caffeine was the key ingredient for the day given that I had an awful sleep the night before.

In transition I managed to find nearly everyone I knew racing – teammates, Susi, Julie. As we approached the swim start I helped them zip up their wetsuits and give last minute hugs of encouragement. The sight of all of the athletes in the water was amazing…so many people!DSCN1345O Canada was sung and it was go time. A few people take off swimming when the gun goes off, but a lot of folks hung back on the beach and let the fast folks get out ahead.

Once the swim was on it was time to get to work. We ran up and down the rows of gear bags to make sure that everything was in the right order. While the swim was in full gear we heard the announcer call for an ambulance. I got worried, and sadly the outcome was not a good one as a fellow passed away during the swim. Shortly after that we started to see the first few pros come in. DSCN1352 DSCN1358All of a sudden it was like panic mode in transition. After the first few pros were in the masses started arriving. They came so fast and furious that unless the wetsuit strippers had a chance to catch their race number we just pointed the athletes in the direction of their bags as it just wasn’t possible to grab bags for everyone. I went to grab a bag for a girl..and…it wasn’t there! She ran off to the change tent in case someone had grabbed her bag by accident and just left it there. I didn’t see her again so I assume she tracked it down.

There was one lady who lost a lens out of her prescription glasses. As transition started to empty we were all looking for it in the grass but never found out. I don’t know if she was able to continue her day at all.

The clock was ticking down and there were still a few athletes in the water. Two were so close to not making the cut off. The announcer, Steve King, instructed the kayakers on the water to come in close to help direct the swimmers in the straightest line possible. The cheering for these two was intense! Steve was saying that if they could just stand up in the water by 9:20 they would likely be allowed to continue. Guy #2 managed to find something in him to surge and they both managed to stand up, barely in time. When those two folks stood up the crowd roared! When they made it into T1 you could tell they had worked hard to make it in time. Sadly there were two or three people that did not make the cut-off. I talked to the first guy to not make the cut-off and I think he was mostly amazed that he just attempted an Ironman. Sad that his day was over though.

Once everyone was out on the bike it was time to start organizing the morning dry gear bags and the swim gear by number. Within an hour of the swim ending we had everything lined up together. They fed us sandwiches, chips and cookies, then it was time for me to go. My parents were picking me up to head down to Oliver for a great lunch at Burrowing Owl winery to celebrate their 40th anniversary. After a lovely lunch, maybe a little bit of wine tasting…they then dropped me off in Penticton as the last few bikers were heading in.DSCN1367
Hmm, that looks like a wee bit of drafting if you ask me… I found a spot at the turnaround on Lakeshore (just before the finish of the run) where I was able to cheer folks in. I managed to see a few of my friends and teammates and even managed to recognize Ray. I would have loved to stay longer, but I needed to get home and try to sleep since I was driving home the next day. What an amazing day though – having a chance to see everyone out on the course was a terrific experience! DSCN1371Once I was home I became “results central.” I was texting back and forth with my teammate Caroline as I tracked half marathon splits. Even though I couldn’t stay until the end I was still thinking of everyone!


Marlene said...

Wow, what a crazy experience! Sounds like you handled the chaos well. It must have been neat to get involved in all the excitement since you're going to be on the other side next year. (!!!)

Julie said...

Thank you so much for finding me race morning and wishing me luck -- it really meant so much! You had such a beautiful, glowing smile, it made me relax a little bit! :) :)

Thank you so much for rolling up your sleeves and volunteering! :) :)

Wes said...

thanks for the link for the athlete that passed away. It's always sad when we lose one of our own. I hope he was happy.

Watching the final swimmers come in is awesome. At Florida, it was a guy with one arm, beating the cut off, then the heavy set guy that didn't make it. He flung hisself down on the beach and cried.

This is Ironman...

lilmeg said...

It's crazy that you were there as a volunteer and I still got goosebumps and excited hearing about it!! Awesome!

Jess said...

That sounds wild!

joyRuN said...

So inspirational! I got goosebumps reading about the two swimmers who barely made it to cut-off.

Rainmaker said...

Wait - was that you that shouted out near the aid station? Awesome! If not, still awesome that you caught me.

Sorry, at that point (mile 25.5), everything was kinda blurry.

Thanks for the background on the volunteering though, pretty interesting. I'd love to volunteer at some point in an Ironman.

lindsay said...

how fun! you definitely make me want to go volunteer for a triathlon :) i bet watching those two people stand up and make the cut off was awesome.

very sad about the fellow who passed away. :(