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.



  1. Okay, clearly my message didn't post! So anyways, all three of those top men are mine! I claimed Paul Matthews as he was running by me (even though he didnt look at me- just put his arm out there for the cup) & now it looks like i may have to take james off of your hands!!

  2. can't believe that you left me not hearing you out! it was fun to see you guys tonight! marty

  3. Hey! Haha, I've never seen this before...but thank you for the compliments! Much appreciated. What a lovely surprise to read. Totally flattered. Hope to meet you again sometime.


    James Hadley