Ironman 2013…here I come….

When I volunteered for the Ironman US Championship, I thought it would be a wonderful experience to see a race from the “behind the scenes,” since I had competed in many.  Time to give back, right?  Well, I ended up receiving much more than I gave.

Several months ago, I met with an incredible young woman, Sarah, the race’s Volunteer Director.  We met for coffee to discuss all of the different volunteer opportunities that this inaugural race would afford.  I was truly excited and offered to help in any way that I could.  I told her that I would happily accept a role as a Volunteer Captain and work wherever she saw fit.  After our meeting, I waited anxiously for the email indicating where I would be stationed on race day – August 11th.  Finally it arrived!!!  I would be the Volunteer Captain for the two days of Race Registration/Packet Pick-Up at Pier 92 and for the Women’s Change Tent on race day.  Okay…hold up…that was a bit more volunteering than I had planned….

As I am one who has great difficulty saying no, I embraced my Volunteer Captain-ships.  Several captain’s meetings later, after discussing countless scenarios for an inaugural race, and begging my local friends to volunteer with me, promising them a fun experience, I couldn’t wait for race week to begin!  (Luckily, I have many wonderful friends in my area, who eagerly registered to volunteer with me!)

My last captain’s meeting actually turned out to be our version of “packet pick-up.”  I headed into the city, from northern NJ, to get all the goods that I needed.  Visor, fleece pullover, polo shirt all with the Ironman US Championship logo – yummmm…awesome swag!  Things that I needed to wear to indicate my “Captain-ship.”  Finally, we had arrived at Race Week.

This Ironman race was not only inaugural, considered to be “the US Championship,” but it was situated in the busiest city in the US – NYC, baby.  That presents problems on so many levels – traffic, parking, congestion, and the list goes on. Driving into the city from home, I was nervous about everything.  Why?  I had no idea.  I have done many races, including Ironman, but I had never volunteered before, let alone be in charge!  Actually, I had never been in charge of a large group of adults before – preschoolers-yes, but adults-no!  I channeled my inner teacher and parked at Pier 92, nerves in tow.

After the initial chaos of packet pick-up set-up, things started to go very smoothly.  My volunteers showed up and were eager to help.  Athletes were so excited and race ready.  Picture perfect!!

Two days of this and I was in love with volunteering…exhausted, but in heaven!!  Next up…RACE DAY!!!!

I remember well what Ironman race day feels like as an athlete.  It is scary and exciting!  I felt that same way this race morning as a volunteer.  The transition area began to fill with athletes in line to board the ferries to the swim start and volunteers heading to their posts!  The energy around race morning was electric!  I entered my post – Women’s Change Tent – all quiet and calm,  awaiting the athletes arrivals after they had completed the swim…ready for us to help them  change out of their wet clothes and head out on the bike and then after, to the run…not the most glamorous post, but essential to the athletes.  My volunteers soon began to arrive in change tent too.  An amazing group of ladies ready for what race day was going to bring – teammates of mine, friends and volunteers (that became my new friends) that worked with me during packet pick-up and decided to join me in the tent too. We set up any essential items that the ladies might need – water, safety pins, vaseline, tampons etc.  And then we waited…and waited….

Women’s Change Tent

Ironman US Championship covered areas in New Jersey, New York and NYC.  Therefore, as you might realize, the swim took place in the Hudson River.  And also, as you may know, the current in the river is FAST!!!  The athletes started to roll in about 40 minutes (crazy fast for a 2.4 mile swim) after the race start and didn’t stop for the next two hours.  Non-stop activity!!  Women of all ages, shapes, sizes.  Pros, amateurs, mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, friends…you name it.  Ironman welcomes anyone who is ready for the challenge of a lifetime.  It was a pleasure helping them in their quest to become one.

Ladies only 😉

My volunteers are what made this experience so amazing.  They showed up, did their jobs – happily and kindly.  They made me, as the Volunteer Captain, look good.  They were incredible!  Especially the Women’s Change tent ladies!  We saw some unspeakable things, heard a lot of unpleasantries, but also assisted very appreciative ladies in that tent and we ALL finished the day happy and smiling!

Thanks to them, I found out yesterday that I was named the Ironman US Championship Volunteer Captain of the Year!   With that honor comes an entry to an Ironman race of my choice.  Have to decide on which race I’ll do soon.  Decisions, decisions…the hubby and littles are weighing all of their options and ideal locations.  I am just hoping that the volunteers for that race are as wonderful as mine were!

Another exciting step on this Go Long Mommy’s Journey…