What was I thinking? At least that’s the question I asked myself over and over as I shut off the alarm at 3:30am. OMG, I need more sleep. I had gone to bed early enough but did not sleep well. If I was stressed I can only imagine how little sleep an athlete may have gotten. Thankfully I had laid everything out the night before. It didn’t take long to dress and eat breakfast.
I was out the door by 4am. Oh yeah but before doing so I woke up the athlete I was sharing my suite with. Hopefully she slept better in the bed then I did on the couch. Man was it dark outside. Again, what was I thinking….sheesh.
As I approached the Transition area I saw vehicles being towed away. Silly people had parked in front of the clearly posted signs…oops. Holly handed out large black markers, we each took a few plus wipes for errors then we waited for the athletes to arrive. It didn’t take long before each of us had a line up of athletes wanting numbers. I was lucky and some of my friends got in my line. I gave them each a heart on their shoulder as well as nice neat block numbers. Many athletes saw how myself and my neighboring volunteer were doign such great numbers so our lineups grew and grew. Cool, sweet! I’m popular…lol.
Time passed quickly and all the numbering was pretty much done. A couple of volunteers hung around for the stragglers but the rest of us moved over to where the athletes were suiting up. We got a bit of a break to help with wetsuits if we wanted, mingle with friends and complete strangers. Then we got to get up real close to see the swim start. I got some awesome photos (links at bottom).
Once the swimmers were off and swimming Holly our awesome volunteer captain gave us the low down on how to “strip” as in remove wetsuits. It was recommended we partner up with at least one or two other “strippers”. I don’t remember when the first speedy swimmer came out of the water but it didn’t take long before they were streaming out of there and we were stripping left right and center.
I had to laugh. We were all pretty much soaked. Oops careful not to wipe your face as well ya just don’t know what has been done in those wetsuits…ewwww. Let’s just not go there…lol. Despite that I had a lot of fun. We joked with the athletes and that helped many of them get into good spirits before heading off on the bike.
They gave some stats at the volunteer banquet on Tuesday but I don’t remember the numbers. I just remember being in awe of how many athletes we stripped. I don’t have a clue how many I stripped personally. I stripped lots – big, small, gal, guy, old, young – eventually it became a blur. I remember pausing briefly to look up and OMG it was a zoo. Athletes on their backsides everywhere and volunteers whipping off wetsuits in seconds. Man we were fast. I never saw a line up or an athlete waiting. They were in and out quicker then pit crews at NASCAR.
It was sad to see the time run out on one of the last athletes. He had mere seconds to make it out of the water and across the mat. Unfortunately he stumbled and his race day was over. We watched and help the last few swimmers out of the water and out of their wetsuits. Their day of competing for Ironman was done. The last lady out of the water was nearly 20 minutes past the cut off of 2:20:00 for the 2.4 mile/3.8km swim. It was her second failed attempt.
Volunteer shift over, now I get to watch and cheer on my many friends. Wooohooo! Ah but first to clean up. I left the transition area via the lake. It felt good to wade in the water a bit and wash off. It felt much better once I was back at the hotel and had showered. Ahhh fresh clean dry clothing.
Now it was time to put up all the cool signs I had made the day before.
I had a lot of fun making these. The bottom one had myself and some friends ROFLMAO. I put the signs up along the run strip and then headed off with my fancy camera to get photos of the cyclists heading out.
Wow it wasn’t long before the front runners or should I say cyclists were off their bikes and heading out on the run course. Throughout the day I wandered from the bike side to the run side. I made occasional trips back to my room which was near one of the turn arounds for the run to change, eat and hydrate. Man it was a hot day – somewhere over 30C. I cheered on friends and was happy to spot many of them on the run.
It was a long day for me. I can only imagine how long it felt for the athletes that finished into the last few hours of the event. The athletes have until Midnight to finish – 17 hours from when they started. They Swim 2.4MI/3.8KM, then Bike 112MI/180KM and Run 26.2MI/42.2KM. Yes they must do it all in one day – no stopping over night at a hotel…lol. Someone asked me that once when I was talking about a marathon. The fastest athlete this year finished all three legs in 8:28 (Jordan Rapp) and the last official athlete finishes at midnight..
Speaking of cutoff, their are swim and bike cutoffs as well. Sister Sister Madonna Buder, one of the older athletes (80+) and well known by many missed the bike cutoff by only a couple of minutes. Her race day ended with the bike. Still an amazing day!
As I said I made many trips back and forth to my room. The Kms added up for me as well. I should have had a nap earlier in the day….what was I thinking. Had I napped I might of made it to midnight to see the last athletes finish. But silly me wore myself out. I made a trip back to the room somewhere around 10:30 or 11pm. So close and yet so far away. I was just too tuckered to make it back for the last hour. I collapsed on my bed and tweeted until midnight.
Next year I vow I will make it to midnight. Heck if I can’t make it that long as a volunteer how will I ever compete in one of these things. Yes, Ironman is on my bucket list to do before 60. I have yikes less then 4 years. Only time will tell if it gets crossed off the list or remains as unfinished business.
Oh yeah, I will return again in 2012 as a volunteer. Loved it, wouldn’t miss it. And who knows, I may find myself brave (or is it foolish) enough to sign up this time. 🙂