Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ironman Texas!!!

WOW.  All I can say about volunteering at IMTX is WOW.  That, and if you ever have the opportunity to volunteer, DO IT!!!

First of all, we saw a lot of cute signs at several local businesses around town.  I am sure they enjoyed the extra revenue that all of our out of town guests brought to the local community!

One of many IMTX-related signs around town!

On Friday, the Hubs and I decided to head over to the IMTX expo to check out all the vendors and to see Chrissie Wellington.  We had a great time checking out all the Ironman logo gear...seeing all this cute stuff is great motivation.

Some of the sights at the Expo...See that top left?  That's my new my dreams! :-)

On Saturday, we arrived at North Shore Park at 4:15 am.  (Yes, this did require us to be up at 3-something, which is way earlier than stupid-thirty!)  We met our volunteer coordinator, Tina, and were given instructions for body marking.  For awhile we were growing concerned, because we only had 3 markers.  Fortunately, someone showed up with tons of markers and we were all good.  Before I even had a chance to mark anyone, me and the Hubs were asked to man the water station near the swim start.  We poured a table full of Ironman Perform for the athletes, but were a bit surprised to find that we did not actually have any water to hand out. Trust me, the athletes were surprised, too!

At the start...(from top left) Me and Kelly, the logo for this year's IMTX stuff (top), the swim start, the ice cold Ironman Perform, our handiwork with the cups, me and Coach Karen ready to cheer, me and running pal Erica (who was volunteering in her kayak) and me and the Hubs waiting for the athletes to arrive!

I took a break in order to find some of my peeps, especially tri BFF Kelly!  She looked great and so ready to go.  I headed back to my water IM Perform station and before we knew it, those swimming without a wetsuit were starting to head toward the start.  So exciting!  I saw Kelly again, gave her a hug and wished her luck.  She was wearing a wetsuit and would be starting 10 minutes after the official start.

Me and Kelly hanging out at the start

Once all the swimmers were in the water, we cleaned up our table and headed over to the swim exit.  We were totally excited that we had a special parking pass especially for finish line volunteers.  Unfortunately, the rest of the world seemed to have one, too!  We knew we'd be walking a lot, so we sucked it up and parked where we could and walked to the swim exit.  As we were walking, we passed the first turn after coming out of the bike exit.  Right as we passed, we heard someone fall on their bike.  Yikes!  Luckily, the woman who fell got up, checked her bike out and starting riding again.  Wow, what a way to start your 112 mile journey!

Some of the sights around the swim start, exit and T1

So back to the swim...I loved watching the age groupers come in, and we were not far from Mike Reilly.  We cheered and cheered, and we got to see Kelly and a lot of other peeps from our tri group exit the water.  The most humbling moment of the day - watching the first person finish the swim right after the cut off. She struggled through that last little part of her swim with people in kayaks and at the finish cheering - it was heartbreaking!  There were two others who came in after her.

Kelly giving us her thumbs up...she looked strong and had an awesome swim time!

The first athlete to exit the water after the cut-off...Mitzi, you are a bad ass regardless!

Once the swim was over, we decided to head home to let the puppy out for a bit.  We made it back in plenty of time for me to head to my next volunteer shift on the run course.  The hubs had over a hour before he had to be at the finish for awards.  Let me tell you - it was pretty damn hot out there!  I've heard people say it wasn't as hot as last year.  It certainly wasn't as humid, but there was no cloud cover at all this year.  I was melting just standing there handing out ice and water!  While I was standing out there, I received this text from the Hubs...

The Hubs and Chrissie...I heard they were BFFs handing out the awards!

I'll admit, I was a bit jealous.  I was pretty sure Chrissie wouldn't be there when I finally started my shift there in 3 hours. :-(  It was all good, though, because we were having a blast at our aid station!

We did see the a lot of people affected by the heat.  One man layed down on the grass next to the path, while volunteers gave him water and cold sponges to help cool him down.  I was happy to see him eventually get back up and start going again, but later saw him walking slowly in the opposite direction...I'm assuming he stopped and DNFed.  Other runners seemed a bit dazed and confused from the heat, while others looked as if the heat didn't bother them at all.  I was asked to pour ice down the pants of at least 3 men, and poured ice down many shirts as well.

Me and Lacy with our Mustaches on, me and Egin ready to hand out some water and ice!

After my shift on the run course, I had a little time to grab a bite to eat and call to check on the kiddos.  It was about that time that I realized that I was super thirsty!  I had barely had any water in the 5 hours I had been out there!  I grabbed a water from the volunteer support tent and sat down for a few minutes to relax.  I also realized that Kelly should be coming in from the bike, so I headed toward the bike in to wait.  I kind of forgot about eating, but remembered that I had an apple and some almonds in my backpack...thank goodness!  I saw Kelly coming, so I jumped up and down screaming.  She looked great! All smiles and looking strong.

Finally, I made it to my final volunteer shift - the finish line awards!  I have to admit, I was a bit bummed because I was placed on t-shirt/hat duty.  This role, while it is an important one, is a bit removed from the excitement of the finish line and doesn't have much interaction with the athletes.  I did get to see Coach cross the finish line looking strong and was able to run up to her and give her a quick hug.  The Hubs was now working as a catcher, so he was in the middle of all the excitement.  The best part was that another tri buddy, Merry, was also volunteering here, so I had someone to talk to.  Who am I kidding, I was talking to anyone who would listen...but, I met a lot of awesome people!  And, I also had the chance to meet blogger, Amy!!!

From top left - the shirts and hats, the hat up close, the awesome mdot bat signal and the Hubs with an armful of medals (thanks for the pic Amy!!!)
Me and Amy (That Pink Girl) was so awesome to finally meet!

When I had about 1 1/2 hours of my shift to go, Marilyn Reilly came up and said that she would be moving one of us up to the finish line. I raised my hand quickly and told her I'd be happy to help.  A few minutes later, I was up front with an armful of medals!  I handed out a couple, but then to my surprise, Chrissie Wellington walked up to beging handing out medals!  Apparently she had been there for several hours earlier in the day and had just been taking a break!

The 1st pic is my "OMG it's Chrissie Wellington!!!!" face.  Finally, I had my own pic with Chrissie!!!

Can I just say that Chrissie is the sweetest, most down to earth woman?  She chit chatted with the volunteers, danced and sang the entire time.  And, it was amazing to see the look on the athlete's face as they crossed the finish line - they looked exhausted at first, but when they realized who was giving them their medal the look of exhaustion turned into a huge, beaming smile!  That was so much fun to watch.  And she often told athletes, "I waited for you!" and gave them a hug as they walked by.

Finally, my shift was over.  As much as I wanted to stay and hang with my new BFF, I was tired and I knew Kelly would be finishing soon.  I met up with my other running/triathlon BFFs and cheered for those finishing up.  Before we knew it, Kelly had made it!  I have to say that she looked absolutely amazing as she came through the chute.  The best part was when she crossed the finish line - galloping with some fist pumping going on.  So cool!  It was an awesome end to a perfectly amazing day!

Kelly is an IRONMAN!  Me, Kell, Katie and Erica after the race!

Witnessing an IM race up close is an amazing thing!  It inspires you to work harder and challenge yourself more.  And yes, it also inspires you to want to train for an Ironman distance race.  Last year, I left IMTX thinking, "Wow that's cool, but I am not crazy enough to try that!  Lemme start with an Oly or 70.3 first."  This year I left the race thinking, "Hell yeah, I am doing a freaking Ironman!"  The Hubs has already claimed 2013 as his year to become an Ironman, so that gives me time to heal up the hip and come up with a game plan for how in the hell I can accomplish this may have to wait until the kids are older, hell I may be retired before it happens...but it will happen!


Anonymous said...

Awesome pics and recap! I was at body marking and the finish line too!!

Rachel Zambrano said...

Thanks for being out there. You guys gave me the ability to really fly that day. Without the volunteers, there would be no race. Thank you so much!

Laura @ Mommy run fast said...

What an awesome experience! I would love to volunteer sometime, maybe next year! I was wondering about the heat, too. Our neighbor did it as well, so I'm curious to talk to him and hear how it went!

Anne said...

People have no idea how much goes into volunteering, especially at a primo event like an Ironman triathlon. Sounds like you two were superb volunteers, and how cool to get those photos with Chrissie W.!!

That Pink Girl said...

LOVE the pic of you with Chrissie!!! (and hwy, that's me to the left of Mitzi; I helped her out of the water)
Such an incredible experience to be on that race course. I will def be volunteering again!

Beth said...

LOVE this post! I needed it now that I am at the end of my IM training. Very inspirational!