Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ironman Syracuse 70.3: The Volunteer Point of View

Quite awhile ago I decided to volunteer for the Half Ironman and I did it because I wanted to:

* be involved in my new sport
* experience an international race
* be able to cheer for people I know
* be involved behind the scenes in a sporting event again
* get the tee-shirt
* to help out the CNY Triathlon Club
* to do something besides sit on the couch and get frustrated while job hunting
* to see pro triathletes up close

Originally I was only going to volunteer Saturday and Sunday, but when I knew I still would be out of work, I added my name to Wednesday and Friday as well. So, in this blog, I will write about my volunteer experience.

Wednesday, September 15: Packet Stuffing

I arrived at the Holiday Inn Wednesday morning to stuff athlete packets. Some of us were assigned the duty of filling the drawstring bags and others, myself included, were given the duty of filling the athlete's envelopes. We were each given a crate with the items for 100 athletes. Each athlete had a large envelope with instructions on it and we filled it with the following:
* Race numbers for their bike and clothes
* Color coded swim cap
* Numbered ID bracelet that they had to wear once they checked in
* Ticket to be able to get their bike once the race was over

The first bin I worked on were men ages 35 to 39. I filled a few envelopes then I looked at the next one and saw the name "Kelly M. Covert," Coach Kelly's husband. Cool! Once I finished that bin, I then went on to another. After finishing that one, I went to help another woman with her bin because we were pretty much finished at that point. Her name was Melissa and she was originally from Boston. She moved here to Syracuse and, like me, had recently lost her job. She's a runner, so she wanted to get involved and to have something to do while job hunting. Although our shift went until 5:00, we were done by 1:15, so we headed home for the rest of the day.

Thursday, September 18: It's All About the T-Shirt

Although I could have waited until Friday to get my shirt, I decided to get mine on Thursday since I was so close by. I really liked the color of our shirts. At first I liked them a lot better than the athlete's shirts which were white, then I discovered that theirs were tech shirts. Hmmm...I might have to think again which I like better.

Friday, September 17: Poster Rolling

I arrived at the Holiday Inn at 9:00 and was assigned the duty of rolling the posters that were given to the athletes. It wasn't a bad duty with the exception of getting a number of paper cuts. The athletes starting checking in at 11:00, so we handed them a poster along with their tech shirts. I saw a few people I know checking in including Coach Kelly. I also saw my friend Gina who is a Sport Management professor at Syracuse University. She was doing some research on the event about volunteer satisfaction and also some on the out of town athletes. I would be very interested in reading her results when she has gathered everything. At 2:30, the new crew came in and I headed home for the day.

Saturday, September 18: The Gate Keeper

Friday was pretty mellow in terms of the number of athletes checking in. Saturday was another story. It was very crowded when I arrived at 1:00. Saturday's duty was to greet the athlete's as they arrived and direct them to the check-in desk. I also had to let friends and families know where they were allowed to go, show the pros where their check-in table was, and answer questions to the best of my ability. I had a few highlights during my day:

* I had the pleasure of having a GORGEOUS athlete walk through my area a number of times. I have more to write about him during my Sunday duty, but he was VERY easy on the eyes and for a minute or two each time he walked by, I forgot about how much my back, legs, and feet were hurting from standing all day.

* I actually recognized one of the female pros when she walked through. I saw this little red headed woman walking toward me that I thought I knew then I realized she was Samantha McGlone who writes an article for Triathlete Magazine.

At the end of the day, we started helping pack up everything for the Ironman staff. They told us we could each take a tech shirt and drawstring bag. I had been informed that it wasn't very cool to wear the gear unless you did the race, so I grabbed a small for Alex. Then they told us that we could take as many bags as we wanted because they were just going to throw them away. Excuse me?!?!? So I grabbed a couple of boxes to give to some of my training partners who were also volunteering and some friends of my son's.

Sunday, September 19: Water Girl

Headed out of the house around 7:30 and it was cool and drizzling. Luckily the drizzle stopped by the time I got to my water station in front of Speach Candy on the corner of Court and Lodi.

I met my water station mates and the first thing we did was get out the sidewalk chalk to write inspirational messages on the road.

I even did my best to draw a huge M-Dot.

After that, we had to wait awhile for our supplies to come. Eventually, two trucks showed up with tables, lunch, and cases of water and Gatorade mix. We got to work pouring drinks in anticipation for the first athlete to arrive. I had friends who were working at another aid station two miles before us, so she texted me when the leader, Paul Matthews, came through. It was pretty exciting when he came through just before 11:00 AM.

Within the next few minutes the second place athlete came by, Maxim Kriat.

As the fourth place athlete came through, I held out a cup of water for him. As he approached me I realized he was the GORGEOUS man from yesterday. He ended up taking the cup from me as he ran by and I acted like a school girl all excited that he touched my hand. OK...let me compose myself for a minute....OK, I'm good now. I later looked him up to discover his name is James Hadley. Oh, did I mention he's British? So, not only is he hot, but he's got an accent too. I've got to volunteer more for these pro events!

The next exciting event was when the first female came through and it ended up to be Samantha McGlone.

The second place female was Rachel Challis.

The rest of the day was spent standing with my hand held out yelling "Water!" and encouraging the runners to the finish line which was less than a mile away. However, there were more notable moments:

I got my camera out when I saw the familiar Trakkers green jersey of Kel Covert:

I got it out again when I saw that familiar green on Kelly Covert:

This isn't actually my picture below, but this guy was awesome. I loved his pink shirt and rainbow shorts. Our aid staion had a "Fiesta" theme and one of the guys at our station was wearing a sombrero. This guy asked him for the hat and wore it to the finish. You might as well have fun if you're going to torture your body for 70.3 miles!

A moment that was scary at the time was when a 70-yr old atlhete named Lee came down the street barely able to walk. Bob got on one side of him and another volunteer got on another and helped him to the finish. Not sure how "legal" that was, but he made it to us on his own. At 70-yrs old, that is an awesome accomplishment.

Well, that's my report from Ironman Syracuse 70.3. I really want to drive the course this week to see what the route was like. Maybe that will help me decide if I will actually try this thing in a couple of years or not.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Iron Girl: The Photos

With 8 days to spare before the deadline, I finally purchased my official Iron Girl photos today. Had to make sure I had enough room on the old credit card! Anyway, this should wrap up all of my 2010 Iron Girl posts. Hard to believe we're only about 3 months away from registration opening for Iron Girl 2011. Crazy! Here are the pics and some of my feelings about them:

Coming Out of the Water

Why is it that my first thought when looking at this picture is that I look fat?!?! For crying out loud I just did an open water swim in a wet suit. No one looks good, skinny, etc. after doing that. I can't stand that society has us women brain washed like we are.

Coming in Off the Bike Course

This picture, on the other hand, makes me happy. I have such a look of determination (or is it pain?) plus you can see some muscles on me. Proud when I look at this one.

Coming in from the Run

I definitely like this one too because I look happy. I'm not sure if this was taken before or after I gave high-fives to Dan and Alex, but either way, I know the end is just yards away.

The Big Finish

I was FLYING when I crossed the finish line. I think the lady behind me thought I was racing her, but I was just so pumped to be finishing that every ounce of adrenaline came up and moved my legs faster than they have ever gone.

Pure Joy!

I was beyond happy in this picture. I wanted to laugh and cry. I couldn't believe it was over.

So, that should be it for Iron Girl 2010. My next post will be about Ironman Syracuse 70.3 and my experiences as a volunteer. Not quite as exciting as participating, but it will be fun.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Arc 5K Race Report

(Me in my Arc tee and wearing my HR monitor watch)

My pre-race actually started yesterday. Coach Kelly wanted me to use this race to establish my training HR zones, so I met her at the Y to make sure I did, in fact, know how to use my HR monitor. After some time on the treadmill, we got it figured out and I was prepared to get my time, max HR, and average HR during the race. If this didn't work, I was going to be tortured with a sprint workout on the treadmill that I was definitely not looking forward to. I was going to make this work one way or another.

I have to admit, I was very nervous about this race. Sure, I've run 5K's before, but this was the first that I had orders to push myself and had to determine HRs. But, I want this and this is why I signed up for coaching, right? The race started at 9:10, so my plan was to get up and eat breakfast by 6:45. Because of my nerves, I was gringing my teeth so much that I woke myself up around 5:15. After tossing and turning for an hour or so, I got up to quit torturing myself. I had my standard pre-race breakfast of a PB&J sandwich and an iced mocha, then got ready and headed out. I had Dan and Alex come with me because they had a "Family Fun Zone" I thought Alex would enjoy, but I was wrong and my 10 min pre-race walk only ended up to be about 5-min so I could help Dan with an Alex meltdown. I met up with Erin Donovan and her friend Jessica (Erin-please let me know if I've got her name wrong...I'm horrible with names!) Having the two of them to talk with helped calm some pre-race jitters.

Mile 0-1
Kelly's orders were to start 1/4 back from the front of the pack and to start my timer when I crossed the start line. Problem was, the start line wasn't marked, so I guessed as best as I could. She also wanted me to run the first mile at my normal pace. I checked my watch at the mile 1 marker and I was at 9;50. Too fast! I think nerves and adrenaline got to me because I usually run about an 11:00 mile.

Mile 1-2
For this mile, Kelly wanted me to go a little faster than normal. Since I was already accomplishing this, I figured I should just try to maintain my speed from mile 1. At the turn around point, I was around 15:00. Still going pretty good. However, at the mile 2 marker, I was around 20:30. I wasn't happy that I slowed down, so I had to kick it up a notch.

Mile 2-Finish
It was "go time." Kelly wanted me to push even harder miles 2-2.5 then really push it to the finish. I definitely pushed the first half, but once in awhile I could tell I was slowing down when I wasn't focused. I did this a few times. Once I approached the one-lane bridge leading to the finish, I really pushed. Going up the bridge was tough, but I used the down side and another slight hill leading into the parking lot to pick up some speed. Even though I knew my actual time was quicker than the race clock, I saw the race timer and it was approaching 32:00. I DID NOT want my time to be more than 32:00, so I really sped up to make sure that didn't happen. According to my watch, my time was 31:36. A new personal record!!!

Kelly wanted me to finish feeling that I couldn't have gone any harder and I feel I accomplished that because it took quite awhile to catch my breath when it was all done. I was happy with my accomplishment, but I want to do even better next time. My rate per mile was 10:12. Mile 1 was 9:50, so I really want to be able to maintain a pace like that (or better!) throughout the race. (That would give me a finish of 30:29 or better!) I'm sure it will come in time. Next race: Festival of Races on October 3. A lot of work between now and then.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Presidential Approval

Chunky Kid

When I was in elementary school I was anything but athletic. In fact, I was fat. The most athletic thing I did was take tap and baton classes through my school. I vividly remember the day when they were measuring us for our dance costumes and a lady yelled out my waist measurement for everyone, including my classmates, to hear. Needless to say, it was material that some of the bullies used for a long time against me. The next closest thing to being active was Pop Warner cheerleading from second through ninth grades. I loved everything about sports, but never got involved myself.

However, there was one sport that I did do well at, but no one at school knew about it: volleyball. My aunt and uncle had a camp on Oneida Lake that we would go to every Sunday during the summer. They had a volleyball net set up and we would play every day we were out there. And I got pretty good.

Now back in gym class, I was always the last one chosen for a team. I hated going to gym class...that was, until the first time I saw a volleyball net set up for us. Finally, something that I can actually do!!! Our teacher decided that we would play a game to 5 points. Knowing that the typical fifth grader can't serve, pass, set, or spike a ball, he figured this would take all of the class time. That might have been a good idea if I didn't have my little secret...I COULD do all of those things!

One by one, my classmates got up to serve and one by one they would fail to get the ball over the net. Then it was my turn. My first serve glided over the net to my stunned classmates who didn't know what to do. Ace! This was followed by four more aces. The teacher was probably more stunned than my classmates! I had finally found my calling.

This story does have a sour note however. A few weeks later, we had a teachers VS the fifth grade volleyball game and I was on the team as the first server. I walked up to the end line and proceeded to shank the serve. This is the beginning of what is now years of doubt in myself that would keep a sports psychologist employed for the rest of their lives. But, that's another story for another day.

Give Me My Patch!
What does this have to do with "Presidential Approval" you may ask? Well, this was the first time in my life that I felt like I could excel at sports. I had to wait until seventh grade to try out for the volleyball team, but I did and I was the only seventh grader there. This gave me the confidence to try track and soccer also. Because of my newly found level of fitness and sports prowess, I started to look forward to gym class. I especially looked forward to the annual Presidential Physical Fitness Test.

Every year, I got close to winning the award which you got by scoring a 10 on a series of fitness test. But I never got it. I would usually score around an 8, but my senior year was my closest when I got a 9. I wanted so badly to get the award and proudly display my patch, but it wasn't meant to be.

However, a couple years ago, I found the adult equivalent: the President's Challenge. You simply log in any physical activity and you get awarded points for them. As you accumulate the points, you reach different award levels. Within the last year, I reached the Bronze and Silver levels and have recently been working toward the Gold level. With yesterday's swim, I am happy to say that I achieved Gold.

This along with finishing Iron Girl proves that I am fit and I am an athlete. I wonder how many of my classmates from elementary school can say the same thing? Since I saw some of them recently at my 25th class reunion, I can say that not many of them can say that.

And that feels pretty cool!