Monday, June 09, 2008

Hot enough to...


That was hot.

A massive cheer for everyone who participated in the Eagleman half iron this weekend. Even if you didn't finish, frankly not running home screaming about heat stroke at 6 am gets you massive tri-points.

Yes. It was that hot.

I managed to get down to the race just in time to see the age groupers start and see the first waves come out of the water. It was beautiful! Bright and sunny, the water was glass and people were saying it was a great swim. So much excitement...I kept having to choke back tears. Yes, tears.

I'm emotional, you know.

I managed to not cry, and saw my friend D get out of the water with a strong swim behind her and a hot bike ahead. How much fun is it to cheer on the sidelines!! So fun!! Once she was safely off, I wandered around a little. I was a bit surprised at the size of the operation -- I actually expected it to be a little bigger. Mainly a lot of team tents and some Rotary-like food tents. Everyone was so nice and enjoying the festivities.

After spending a little time cheering those out of the water near the end (ahem, usually where I am!), I found a nook right near the bike entry and pro rack. WAY FUN!! These guys and gals are machines! I mean, really. They make it look a casual and all, but transitioning under a minute after a brutal bike (I heard there was some bad headwind issues at the end to add to the 100+ heat index)! Crazy folk.

I didn't get to see the Elf transition because I had to report for volunteering. But I DID get to cheer her as she ran by the finishing shoot -- looking strong and ready to tackle day?

These pros. I tell ya. (chuckle)

Anyway, I learned a really interesting thing from my group of volunteers. If my group represented volunteers at events like this, as a whole, then WE TRIATHLETES NEED TO GET OUT AND VOLUNTEER MORE DAMMIT!!

I was the only triathlete volunteer. (With the exception of the Tri-Columbia folks.) Bless 'em, these other folks were from the local town and decided to brave the 100 degree temps because their churches or schools said volunteers were needed. All ages, all ethnicities, all backgrounds. What a great group!

Plus, it was tons of fun explaining little details of what was going on for the volunteers -- who was coming by when and why, how long each leg was, what racing was like. I was proud to be a triathlete.

But soon the talking was over and the pro's were coming. And let me tell you.

Holy. Shit.

These people are seriously the finest form of athlete. Strong, lean, chiseled, serious. They put it all out there for this race, as I would assume they do for every race. But the moment they crossed the finish line, you could see the toll it took on them.

Many were struggling. Most went straight for an IV. It was a brutal day.

Soon the age group men started arriving, including Christian Waterstraat -- the ELF's hubby. He managed to kick some serious arse under terrible conditions to win a Kona slot. Third in his age group, I think. And he was so nice and talkative when he finished -- wide eyed and looking for who was ahead or behind him. I grabbed his chip and steered him towards the water/hose.

Then racers started coming a little faster through the shoot and it wasn't long before I was screaming GO LIZ GO LIZ WHOOOOOOOOOO LIZ!!! Here came the Elf, out on a little training exercise. I couldn't believe she was with it enough to even say hi, much less give me a big hug and jump into a conversation right there in the shoot. Went something like this -- "Omg, it's so nice to meet you!" "Do you need a medic?" "How are you?" "No seriously, we have a hose" "Yeah, your right, hose...water..."

Love her.

As an aside, seeing the Elf there and watching the racing and knowing the dedication to the sport everyone was showing...well, it gave me major pangs for my recent decision to dial back. I know, of course, that it was the right decision and everything, but I missed so much working with Liz and being structured and pointed and goal oriented in my training. I just missed it. It made me really, really want to (a) get back to a coached environment, (b) sign up for the next big race that I could find, and (c) make solid plans for an Ironman. All of those things, as we know, will not happen in the next year. I know. But I really want them to happen. So much. Le sigh.
Anyway, a couple athletes turned into a huge cattle shoot of sweaty, cramping, and disoriented triathletes real quick like. No need to check the thermometer, you could see the conditions on everyone's faces. I've finished two half irons so far, and let me tell you...the finish line does usually look like this. This, my friends, was war. And those athletes won.

So for about 6 hours, I collected chips, steered athletes towards or away from medical, propped up the ones that couldn't walk, manned the backup timing box, got ice/water/soda to those who couldn't make it past the finish shoot. I was thrown up on, encountered multiple people who lost control of their (um) bowels out there on the course, and was a certain kind of filthy by the end.

But so proud to be in this sport.

By 3:00 I finally called it a day. Exhausted, filthy, dehydrated and sunburned. I had been so focused on the racers I failed to eat all day or get on board any fluids myself. Or sunscreen. Oops!

I spent some quick but quality time with my friend D, who finished strong and healthy after an excellent showing on the course. Then it was time for the 3 hour drive home and the attempt to find gas, fluids, and some quality food on the way home. I managed to find the gas under $4 and Gatorade, but quality food was nowhere to be found. Oh, and I made a stupid wrong turn and added a good 45 minutes onto my trip.

But, I loved every minute of the day. It was inspiring and emotional and exciting. It was so fulfilling to volunteer and help the racers out there.

Now all I have to do it make sure I don't start making any rash decisions like, you know, signing up for an Ironman or anything.

But you never know...

Post Script: Over 1,200 athletes finished while I was in the shoot. Being "the chip lady," I took off probably about 800 or so chips from peoples' ankles. That's a lot of bending down. Incidentally? Bending down right now is really, really hard.


Spokane Al said...

Good job and thanks for volunteering. I can imagine your enthusiastic cheering and am certain everyone within earshot appreciated you.

It was good to hear you met the elf. She is now my coach and perhaps I will be lucky enough to meet her some day.

Wes said...

Awesome, Able... You are an outstanding example of what makes me so proud to be a small part of this sport. Yea! Volunteering rocks...

Andra Sue said...

Incidentally, I did the same job at Vineman HIM in 2006...and encountered the same, ah, problems bending down afterwards as well. Glad to hear it wasn't just me!!! I'd never felt so out of shape in my life...didn't even race and was hobbling around the next morning like an old lady. Ha ha.

TriGirl Kate O said...

Thank you for taking care of our Richmond athletes too! Being out there in the heat and doing the (nasty) job of taking off timing chips puts you in the category of volunteer-extrordinaire!

Lesser is More said...

Great job out there. You, just like all the other volunteers, were just as tough as those racing. I don't know if I would have been able to stand up (and bend down) for 6+ hours straight in that heat. Thank goodness triathlons have a swim and bike.

It was really cool to recognize all the pros out on the course. I was fortunate enough to be starting the run as the top men were finishing, followed shortly after by the top women. One of the few women I recognized out there was ELF, and she looked like she was moving strong, with about 2.5 miles to go.

You're right about the war zone though. When I crossed the finish line, I was looking for someone to take my chip, and it looked like every volunteer was tending to the dozens of people laying/passed out/sitting in that finishers chute. You must have had a brief break from the endless casualties to help me out to get my chip off. Thanks again!

Flatman said...

Thanks for volunteering...that is awesome. I am glad you had fun out there!

Anonymous said...

Volunteering is so awesome! And, I love the fact that you are dailing your year back, but you still take the time to do this. Eagleman is an epic glad you got to help and cheer for everyone, especially your friend D and Chris and ELF. :) Jen H.