Sunday, June 17, 2007


Yesterday I volunteered at an Olympic triathlon, Johans Trifest, a race put on by many of the mentees of Johan Visser, a local triathlete who died from cancer 5 years ago now. Johan fought to the end, but the disease was stronger than he was. When he died, he left money to a foundation to put this race on for as many years as people show up, and that's what many in our triathlete and running communities come together each year in June to put on for others to enjoy the sport. So it is a race run almost entirely by other athletes, many of whom were inspired and encouraged by Johan himself, and he himself was an outstanding Ironman, with age group records still held at some races.

If you have never volunteered at a race, triathlon or running, I encourage each of you to do that at least once a year. It can definitely be a chance for you to give something back to the sport, but what you will gain will be much more than you will give. In my case, this probably came at a good time, a time when I needed some new hope and inspiration of my own to work through the Steelhead dilemma I am facing. At least watching some of the race gave me a break from freaking out!

I worked at one of the turnaround points on the bike course, a place I have helped with a couple of times in the past. I arrived early, since I bypassed the race site and went directly to my post. The bike course is all on hilly country roads, country roads where the redneck mentality is alive and well. The road my turnaround was on was off a main road, both paved, but it was also a main straightaway to other roads to bypass all the unpaved roads in the area, so it was busy, busier than I remember from 2 years ago. They put up a "Road Closed" barricade on the road, but I actually saw someone get out of their truck, and move it aside so they could get their big rig through! It was incredible. I would bet more than 50 cars came speeding down this section of the road, including 4 semis, and many of the people refused to stop, even when bikes were approaching or making their turnaround. Two trucks nearly ran Joyce, the other woman working with me, and myself over because as she approached the one truck to tell the driver what was going on, he sped away, right as I was stepping into his path, with someone following close behind. A near miss, I can assure you! They just couldn't be bothered with slowing down! It was unbelievable how angry some of these people were! Someone even deliberately ran off the side of the road to knock over the cone with a sign stating "Bikes in road ahead. Caution." It was too much. And the guy who lived in the house who had the turnaround in front of his driveway? He left before the first bikes came through but deliberately backed over all the cones set up to mark the turnaround, knocking them down. And one guy hauling a rig of some sort with tanks on the back never slowed down and blew through the narrowed roadway going at least 50 mph. We were scared to death on that one. I WILL report all this to the race director, you can bet on that! Not only was the safety of the volunteers at risk, but think of what could happen with any of the triathletes? I know they always warn you about courses being open to traffic and to not take chances, but I also feel that as a volunteer it was my responsibility to make it as safe as possible for these people, which I didn't feel I could do that day.

All that aside, we still enjoyed watching the bikers come through. It is a perspective each of you should experience--watching the first place males battling it out; waiting for the first women to come through; seeing familiar faces and friends as they competed. I got to see Cindy again and her pretty pink bike. Awesome! And Shelley, if you read this, I saw your Lake Placid cohorts out there: Kim, Shawn, Deb, and a few others I can't think of right now.

Our spot too was at the top of a LONG uphill, at about the 8 mile mark, and it was mutually agreed by many that "I'm tired!" when asked how they were doing. Those unfamiliar with the course asked if it was the halfway point. Nope, sorry, only 8 miles. (its a 40k) One guy as he turned said, "I think I'm in 5th place, right?" Nope, sorry, 12th dude. Then there was the young man who stopped and was done when he reached us. Something wrong with his knee. Fortunately, one of the motorcycle teams was coming along, so they radioed for help for him. He asked what place he was in then, and I told him 33rd. (we kept track of numbers, and I went a step farther and started numbering down the page, so I always knew how many people had come through. He also wondered about when the first place guy came through, and, being the clock watcher I am, I had that answer for him too!

Eventually, the number of bikers started trailing off, and at 9:41, one hour and 41 minutes after the start of the race, the last woman biker came through. She was a long way back from everyone else, and I could definitely sympathize with her there! I wish I remembered her number so I could look up to see how and whether she finished. Bless her heart! She didn't seem undaunted by the fact she was last at all. Another lesson learned for me!

Joyce and I waited around for another 10 minutes to be sure no one else was out there before we pulled up the cones and headed on our way. I had to leave for a family commitment, so once again did not go back to the race site.

Looking at what I think are the results from the race (even though they are dated 2006), I see there was a no wetsuit swim! That was why the swims seemed slow! That, and the huge mass of weeds they had to deal with. Apparently, with the warmer temperatures and lower water levels, the weeds were thick and out of control this year. I'm betting people were not thrilled with that! The first year they had this race, the weeds were bad then too, and people were coming out of the water looking like creatures from the lagoon, with weeds hanging off them and dangling from faces, arms, and ears. I don't particularly like swimming in weeds--it always makes me wonder if there is some fish or turtle or something waiting to bite me! But I can do it. It definitely slows you down some. So I guess I'll wait to hear from a few people who did the race to hear about that.

It was also VERY hot right from the start. Just standing around waiting for our duties to begin, I was sweating, dripping sweat. I'm not sure if the times reflected the temperature or not. The winning time was 2:01 and the last place finisher was 3:49, with several over 3:30, so it looks like had I done the race, I either wouldn't have been last, or I would have had a lot of company out there for once! Again, a learning experience!

So on with the training!

No comments: