Thursday, June 19, 2008


Volunteering for a race is something every triathlete should do. When you are out on the course focusing on your race, it is easy to forget about the work that goes on behind the scenes to make your race a success.

When Peter Reid volunteered for the Hawaii Ironman a few years back, he chose the go to the heart of the race, the energy lab. I guess he wanted to get a good feel for the race he loved and that usually followed him. I remembered a comment he made in an interview. He said that the 9:30-10:00 guys were the most intense and demanding and were the rudest to the volunteers. I thought, “Hey, I was in that group and I don’t remember any incidents“. There is no reason to be rude to people who come out and stand in the hot sun for hours on end to help you.

If Dana qualifies for Hawaii this year, I plan on volunteering. I think it would be a lot of fun.

I see folks on various online forums complaining about races and race directors. Obviously these people haven’t volunteered for a race and don’t appreciate the work that goes into putting one of these on.

This past weekend was the Tulsa triathlon. I was still feeling ill and tired so I chose to volunteer rather than race it. Dana was doing the bike on a relay team, so I had the kids. I was placed out on the bike course at mile 15 of the 25 mile course. My job was to keep the athletes on track and headed in the right direction. The race was the standard Olympic distance, however this year they changed the course from a hilly loop around Skiatook Lake to a point to point, Skiatook to Tulsa. The route took the athletes due south into a prevailing headwind for the entire ride. This made the course difficult and I think only one rider, Chuck Sloan, averaged over 20 miles/hour. On a positive note, it brought the race back to Tulsa, which brings more visibility to the sport here.

The kids and I got to our assigned position an hour in advance. I chose to make our station a Star Wars theme. Braden had a Darth Vader helmet and cape and we had plenty of plastic light sabers to assist in directing the cyclists like airplanes. While we were waiting, I had plenty of duels with Darth Vader and managed to win a few. We also used the light sabers as baseball bats to hit rocks over the fence at the cows. We examined the road kill at our station. Braden correctly identified the decayed corpse as a raccoon. Dana had a case of Diet Coke in the back of the van so the kids managed to open a few of those and pour them all over the cars interior. It never fails, if the kids have drinks or food in the car it always ends up on the floor. I should have had the carpet and the vans interior coated in plastic prior to bringing it home.

Once the cyclists started pouring by we had a lot more fun but the excitement soon grew old, especially for Darth as the cyclist flow slowed to a slow trickle. Everyone seemed to get a good laugh seeing me standing on the side of the road waving light sabers with little Darth at my side. I think it would have been funnier if he had a Yoda mask on. We spent a total of 4 hours out there. It’s been a few years since I have volunteered. There were quite a few folks that voiced their appreciation for our efforts and I liked that. I think that is something that I’m going to do more regularly when I’m out on the course racing.

Here's a shot of Darth and I bringing the cyclists home. Excitement is high.

Darth started to get a little tired and had a seat in the lawn chair.

Despite drinking this entire mug of
Kona Nightingale, Darth is out cold.

Roadkill...The give away is the striped tail.

After the race, I spent a short time at the finish line returning my gear and talking with a few folks, but I was pooped. I went home and crashed on the couch. It was tough work. I think I was more fatigued than those that raced the course. Jessica Myers won the women’s race in 2:17 and Chuck Sloan went 2:05 for the men. Eric Lundt, one of the athletes I coach, went 2:48 and 7th in his age group in prep for Buffalo Springs in two weeks.

Remember when you race give thanks to the volunteers. They will appreciate it.


Alili said...

Great post, I completely agree. I was at a low point after a DNS and volunteer for a race the week before my next one. As the day wore on at the volunteer race I kept getting more and more excited for my own the following week.

And I admit, I was much nicer to the volunteers at my race after the experience!

Joel said...

Thanks for providing some comic relief during a grueling bike leg! That's actually me on the bike entering the picture at the top of the page. I told my wife about the mini Darth Vader after the race. Your effort was very much appreciated. I always try to acknowledge the volunteers as I pass because the races wouldn't happen without them! Also, I've looked over your page and have a lot of admiration for you and your wife's dedication to the sport and your family. I struggle to keep things balanced at times with only an 8 month old child. It's great to see it can be done with 3!

Rainmaker said...

Nice job - I had a blast volunteering a few months ago and am looking forward to doing it again sometime soon. Being out there with your kids looks like it made it even more fun.