Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It has come to my attention that I NEED a cowbell...

The Iron Girl series made a stop in Atlanta this past weekend and I spent both Saturday and Sunday volunteering for the event. I don’t know if this is true of the rest of the events in the series but the Atlanta race sells out FAST. Not Boston Marathon fast but usually within a month or so of the registration opening date. I raced the event the first year it was held in Atlanta but for whatever reason did not get registered in time this year so I decided to become involved by volunteering. I cannot express enough how much I love to volunteer for events. Whether it is a charity event or a race, it is always a good time. This weekend did not disappoint.

I started off Saturday afternoon at registration. I checked in at the volunteer tent put on my volunteer t-shirt and was given my on the job training. I was a little intimidated at first as registration for a triathlon has a few more moving parts than a running race. This registration wasn’t a matter of simply handing over a race number. For each racer that came to check in we had to:

1. Have them sign an all important liability waiver
2. Attach a wristband to their arm for entry into the transition area
3. Confirm they had the correct colored race cap for their wave
4. Grab a shirt in the size they entered at registration
5. Rip off the t-shirt tab off their race number
6. Grab a swag bag
7. Instruct them where to drive to drop off their bikes & get their timing chips

WHEW! The first couple I did were a bit stressful but by the end I was flying through the registration like it was nothing! Having free snacks helped :)

The one thing that did amaze me was how many people registered and then didn’t show up for the event. There were 1400 registered for the event and 1000 actually raced it. Kind of sad considering there probably were 400 people who would have loved to take those empty slots. Iron Girl does not have a provision for transferring numbers to another person (which I think is typical of most triathlons) so if you become injured, fail to train or just change your mind your race number goes unused. I guess that happens at a lot of races but not having really been behind the scenes before I didn’t realize it was such a large number of unused numbers.

The ladies who were there that actually worked for Iron Girl were so appreciative of the help. They thanked us more than a few times. As we were leaving Saturday, they let us each grab one of the race shirts – which I loved BTW. Athleta is the title sponsor of the series so you know the shirts had to be good. They were kind of generic without a year or advertising, just a great design and the name of the race series. We also got one of the swag bags so I was able to finally sample one of the new Iron Girl power bars. I was thinking the bars were more of a protein bar but the one I had was a chewy granola bar in strawberry and cranberry. It really tasted good, I don’t think I have had a granola bar with strawberries in it before. YUM-O! Just the thing to eat on the drive home.

Day two started bright and early, or more so dark and early. I had to be at the venue at 5:30 AM which meant leaving my house at 4:45 AM, something I didn’t really factor in when I decided to volunteer ;) In the end, it was totally worth it! By the time I got the venue and things were hopping already. I was sent over to body marking for a few minutes where I ran into several people I knew who were racing that day. There was so much energy and nerves, it was really exciting!

At 6:00, I was sent out on the bike course to be a course marshall. I have seen plenty of course marshalls in races I have done before but really didn’t know my duties. I was dropped off outside the gates to the park with 2 other people with no instruction so we just kind of went with it. The race started at 7:00 so we sat at the intersection for probably 45 minutes before we saw the first racers. It was a very long 45 minutes as my fellow volunteers weren’t particularly chatty. Once the racers started coming by, I took it on as my mission to cheer for each and every one of them. At first it was a little awkward as I am yelling and clapping like a crazy cheerleader (minus the pyramids and jumping) and the other volunteers would just stare at the bikes as they went by. After about 90 minutes, I moved to the other side of road to catch the racers as they were coming back in to finish up the bike leg. At that point, my fellow volunteers were starting to warm up a bit and I continued with my yelling. One of my friends from USA FIT came by on a bike with a cowbell and he stood there with me for a while as we cheered for the racers. I decided at that moment I had to have a cowbell. CR would love this for my next race, right? ;) SO. MUCH. FUN!

About 3.5 hours after the race start, the last bicyclist came through. She was walking her bike up a hill with an ambulance and sweep crew behind her. I can’t even imagine how that must feel. I guess it depends on your outlook. Either really disheartening or really motivating. At the top of the hill, she hopped on her bike and just kept on pedaling. Whoever she was, she should be quite proud of herself! That course is tough with some killer hills and that particular day it had a crazy headwind.

The morning flew by… Once my duties as head bike cheerleader were over, I headed home for a much needed nap. It turns out I got a minor concussion at the Tri the Farm race and have been insanely tired ever since so I probably slept at least 4 hours that afternoon. It was sooooo nice.

If you ever have a chance to volunteer for a race, you should definitely do it! Congratulations to all the Iron Girls, especially Jan, Joanna, Carlene, Fran, Cathy, Lauren, and Dana! Jan has really been working on building up her yardage. Fran could only swim with one arm due to an injury so imagine 600 yards of one arm drills - I know... Carlene had not been able to train at all and then Cathy, Joanna, Lauren and Dana just rock :) Way to go ladies!


Teamarcia said...

good for you for volunteering! I love doing it because it's all the excitement of a race with none of the stress. Bummer on the number of no-shows though.

Jim ... 50after40 said...

Great job helping out. I really need to do that soon! I try very hard to thank every volunteer at a race, I know it sometimes goes unnoticed.

ajh said...

I have volunteered and enjoyed it. Sounds like you put a lot of hours in. Take care of yourself. Is everything okay?

Michael said...

Great job as a race volunteer. The races truly could not go off without the voluteers! I haven't volunteered yet, but I want to. Maybe I can find a race this summer!

P said...

You've totally inspired me to volunteer at a race - it sounds like so much fun! As a spectator, I bring my cowbell and try to yell for every racer. Thank you for being such an enthusiastic volunteer!

Johann said...

It is always great to help at a race, I love it. I hear you on the 400 places not used by people that registered. We have that problem here with the Comrades Marathon. You have to enter before you qualify and many people enter and then never qualify. They capped entries at 18000 this year. I’m sure 2000 - 3000 didn’t qualify. I suppose you just have to be quick when registration opens.

Jennifer said...

I love volunteering. I always go away with that warm fuzzy feeling from doing something very satisfying. It's also hard work, kudos to you!

Amanda said...

How fun. I really want to volunteer at a tri event - I think it would be a lot of fun!

Glad you enjoyed your experience.

Julie said...

I love to volunteer too! And like you I like to cheer for everyone! And IronGirl is a fantastic event, I've done a couple races they put on and have had so much fun! I may have to volunteer at this years becuase I don't think I can participate.