Sunday, June 24, 2012

Slip, Slap, Slop at the Ironman Triathlon

It seems humanly impossible to swim 2.4 miles in 55F water, jump on a bike for a 112 mile ride, and a full marathon of 26.2 miles.  

I've had a lot of great volunteer jobs over the years, but today's was the most unique -- and admittedly, one of the most fun.  I was on the Sunscreen Application Team at the Coeur d'Alene Ironman Triathlon.  Not a bad gig.

On the way to the race, I got caught up in a detour, and found myself running parallel to the cyclists in the bike race.

All of a sudden, the two cars ahead of me stopped as a cyclist was on the ground.  Other racers gallantly got off their bikes to direct cyclists away from the injured rider, and one of them asked me to call 911.  I couldn't tell what happened, but the racer wasn't moving and I was assured help would be sent.

Cyclist down -- but notice the other racers that came to help

I was based in the Transition Area where racers change from wetsuits to bike wear, then from biking to running.  Each athlete has a numbered bag and they all packed different gear, food, etc.  A few said they wished they had packed Tylenol.

Each component of the race had time constraints so at anytime they could have their race halted if they didn't reach certain markers on time.  It was heartbreaking seeing some athletes cry when they were reunited with family members after they hadn't made it.   All racers must be finished by midnight -- which is 17 hours from when they started the swim.

This is where the swim race took place.  One swimmer was pulled out of the water after suffering a heart attack brought on by hypothermia. 
A lonely bike signalling its owner did not proceed from the swim portion of the Triathlon.

Gear bags waiting for the cyclists to transition to running
One of the pro racers running out of the Men's Change tent ready to tackle the marathon

While the day started off cool and rainy, by the time my shift started at 11:30 a.m., the sun broke through the clouds and all of a sudden, we had hundreds of athletes running to us with outstretched arms in order to get slathered with sunscreen.

The best way to describe it is like being a member of the pit crew at the Indy 500.  I concentrated on doing backs -- neck, ears, shoulders and legs.  Like I said, not a bad gig.
"Swarming" the racer in an effort to cover him with sunscreen in the shortest time possible

The professional athletes zoomed by us not wanting to waste time.  After all, they were racing to share a pot of $75,000 amongst the first 16 finishers.  Others that came out of the change tents took time to chat, joked about getting rubbed down by a bunch of women, and all were appreciative.  Their ages were marked on their calves, and it was humbling to see racers in their 40s, 50, and 60s.  One man had an artificial leg.  Amazing.

Not all of the 2500 racers finished.  But they all started.

“The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.”
Vince Lombardi

1 comment:

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