Monday, June 13, 2011

Iron Team

Yesterday I had the honor and privilege of being a run course aid station volunteer at the Kansas Half Ironman that took place in my town. To have an event of that magnitude within spitting distance of where I live is cool enough in and of itself, but to be able to help out on the front lines? AMAZING. We are lucky in that the event is growing and attracts world-class athletes, including Chrissie Wellington (who won for the third straight year).

The day started about 7:30. We arrived at our station, which was at miles 2.5ish/9 on the run course (they ran the same route twice) but happened to be stationed near T1 so we could hear the roar of the crowd as people were taking off from the swim and onto the bike course. Unfortunately, there wasn't much time to watch as we immediately had to get our tables set up and our water/drinks on ice. We set up smoothly and had a little time before the first male runner blew through around 9:15 (the first swim wave started at 6:10). Shortly after that, we had our first female runner--Leandra Cave--and a few minutes after her, I saw Chrissie come through the first time. Seeing a professional athlete of that magnitude that close gave me chills and left me awestruck. And she actually smiled as she came through--what a lady.

It was sporadic for a while, with only a few elite runners cruising through that early on. I decided to do a "behind the table" job since I was nervous about handing off drinks and things, and I set myself up at the food table thinking it would be the slowest of the bunch. Ha ha. Little did I know that every. single. runner. would want Coke, which was assigned to the food table. We also started handing out cups of ice at our table, since so many folks asked for it, so between keeping cups of coke and ice filled, I was a busy bee!

The first rush of runners went through between 10:30 and 12:00, and most people looked like they were still feeling good. Most were still running through the station, trying to keep pace and we did our best to cheer everyone on as best we could, while still keeping drinks and supplies filled. After noon, the temps began to rise and as folks made their second loops through, we could definitely see the beginning stages of exhaustion and fatigue set in. Most folks took the opportunity to walk, many grabbing an orange or some pretzels for a little extra fuel. And surprisingly, several folks were chatty and engaging and seemed happy to have an excuses to stop and chat, if only for a second.

By the end, nearing 2:00, most of the runners had passed through, although we were still getting the occasional BOPer. And THOSE were the folks we wanted to help the most. The ones who were cramping, the ones who looked like they needed an extra cheer or a smile or a heartier clap. The people who simply wanted to finish at that point--the folks who'd be me if I ever get up the guts to try something like that.

We finally pulled up stakes around 3:00, and I left with a mighty sunburn and the memories of a truly awesome experience. For those of you who participate at this level, you have my utmost respect and admiration. I would gladly stand outside in a parking lot for 8 hours every weekend if it meant an experience like that each time.

I walked away with a renewed fire for training and the longing for the sense of accomplishment you get only after conquering a major goal like that. I know my sprint tri is a drop in the bucket compared to what those athletes do, but it'll be huge for me. Along with my the sprint tri, my next goal is to convince M that she needs to come to Kansas next year and participate so I can cheer her on. Whether I'll cheer from an aid station or as a spectathlete remains to be seen, but I WILL be there one way or the other.

I wasn't able to get very many decent pictures--I did have other things to worry about at the time ;)--but here's the ones I did get.

The overall male winner, Paul Matthews. He'd done a HIM the previous weekend, too, and called it his "warm-up". Ha.

Chrissie Wellington at OUR aide station! I die.

I bet getting chicked is easier to take when Chrissie Wellington's doing the chicking.

Chrissie RIGHT in front of me. (Sorry about the port-a-potty background. Par for the course, I suppose.)

Best free t-shirts ever? Yes, I do think so. (And I got a KS HIM drawstring bag, too.)

1 comment:

  1. The pics are awesome!!! WOW!!!!! I am so pumped that you got to do this. And it really would be amazing to race this one next year...