Syracuse Half Ironman Volunteer

September 19th, 2010.  What is this? Well its an official sanctioned Ironman event for starters.  A total of 70.3 miles:  1.2 miles swim, 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile bike.   Start:  Jamesville Beach.  Finish:  Syracuse Inner Harbor.

That said, it was an AMAZING experience volunteering at the 70.3.   My assignments were body marking and a run station at mile 9.   The morning started out warm, but overcast.  I dragged my butt out of bed at 3:15, as my job started at 4:15.  Please note, I DO NOT GET UP EARLY WILLINGLY.  It shows how much this event means to me, that I leave my warm, snuggly bed, to head out into the cold, dark , drizzley pre-dawn morning. When I arrived at Jamesville Beach, where the swim was to take place, I had  some brief confusion on where to go before I found my merry group of body makers.

To say we were a spirited bunch is an understatement!  The on/off again rain did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the early morning volunteers.  Large Sharpies in hand, we greeted the athletes as they came toward the transition area.  Many had there numbers applied the day before, so I had a good opportunity to look around and observe.  It was so amazing to see the pro’s come through – I even got to body mark one.  Another, I gingerly held her thousands of dollars “omyGODthiscostalotof$$$dontdropit” bike upright, as another volunteer marked on her numbers.

This was the first year the 70.3 has come to Syracuse – needless to say, there are some kinks to be worked out. The first of which was morning arrival for athletes and spectators.  I think the event organizers were caught a bit off guard as to how much the inflow of people, that early in the morning, would slow things down.  An announcement was made, that the swim start was delayed by about 15 minutes.  Last minute arrivals, were racing frantically, to get into transition before it closed.

It initially crossed my mind, that given that this was the first year the event was taking place here,  the athletes should have expected this.  But then, I realized, that despite the best made plans – things often don’t go the way you want them to.  I’m sure many participants, thought they had given themselves plenty of time to arrive and make ready.  However, the combination of weather, spectators, new event and being in an unfamiliar location – no doubt added to the delays.  I am sure too, there are many other factors, I am unaware of or forgetting.

That said, after the last of the athletes went through, a new friend of mine and I went down to the water to watch the first couple of waves set off.  Afterwards, we headed out of the park, to head over to our next assignment – run aid station, mile 9.  It took about 10 minutes to leave the park.  By the time I got out, the first of the swimmers were already in T1,  getting ready to start the ride portion.

On my way to my next assignment, my cell rang and I pulled off to the side of the road to answer it.  It was my husband, wanting to know how the first part of my morning volunteering went.  The entire conversation took about 5 minutes.  I had maybe left the park about 10 minutes previously at most.  In that time, the first of the triathletes, were already coming up the road behind me.  I was in absolute, frigging awe, as I watched them fly by my parked car.  With a great deal of nervousness, I pulled back out onto the road and passed them.  One even gave me a nod and a quick wave – WOW!!  I am kicking myself for not getting some pictures of the other riders as they passed, before I headed back out onto the road.

I found my way to my next assignment – a run aid station, manned by a merry bunch of YMCA staff and members.  Hands down, we had the BEST, most spirited aid station on the course.  Our theme was “Happy Campers” and we went all out in setting up.  We had all the camping accoutrements to complete our set up – we even dressed the part.

We also had the prettiest Port-O-Pot.  No joke (it was the same thing at body marking earlier) – they had bathmats on the floors, sachet and dried flower potpourri hanging inside. Mirrors for a quick once over and even a garland of flowers over the toilet.  Talk about swank!

A bit late, our aid supplies arrived – gels, Power Bars, Gatorade and water.  We set up our tables as directed and got our inspirational music going.  Anxiously we waited for that first runner to appear.  Finally we saw the first runners coming through – as they passed through our aid station, we cheered like crazy – it was such a thrilling moment!  A bit scary, was  a runaway dog that ran across the road and tried to follow the runners.  His owner was racing behind, trying to catch him.  We managed to get him out of the road and toward us,  I got him to come to me and held him till the owner caught up.  With profuse apologies, he hoisted his dog and headed back toward his house.  So glad, it was happy doggy and not a mean doggy.

Some highlights of the rest of the day:

The first female runner – we cheered so loudly and so enthusiastically, we saw a smile break across her face.  She was amazing.

That nearly all of the runners made the attempt to toss their cups into the garbage bins – I know its silly, but we really appreciated the respect that showed to our city and to us.

The participants who cracked the quick joke as they passed.

The older couple, who did the 70.3 together THE ENTIRE WAY.  I felt honored to see them come through our aid station…and was blessed to see them cross the finish line together.  I cannot wait to do the 70.3 with my husband in MY hometown someday!

Watching my coach, Kelly, cross the finish line.  Well done!

The random neighborhood residents, who pulled off to the side for a bit – to cheer the athletes on and to the ones who honked and gave us “thumbs up.”  The 70.3 is a fantastic thing for our area, it was good to see it being appreciated.

The police men and women, patrolling the course…and all the cute firefighters who honked at us as they went by our aid station.   Thank you for keeping everyone safe!

The community – for coming out and supporting the 7o.3 and all the organizers and participants.  It was amazing to be a volunteer and God willing, my goal is to be a participant by 2012.

Some things to remember for next time:

Make sure we have Coke-a-Cola.

Know right off, which gels have caffeine in them.

Know which gels have the highest sodium.

Have a couple of each ready to hand out.

Don’t leave the raincoat in the car.

Don’t wear running sneakers with mesh (feet get wet, standing in the rain).

Pack snacks.

Lastly:

All my friends I volunteered with – new and old.  I had so much fun. YOU made it so much fun.  I can’t wait to do it again and/or cheer you on if you decide to do the 70.3 next year.

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