Ironman Texas Volunteering Race Report – Epic Weekend

This may be the best race report I ever write because it will be from the perspective of a volunteer and not that of the athlete going over the course, hydration/nutrition, PRs, etc.

It was an epic weekend and let me say that if you have the chance to attend an Ironman race GO.  If you have the opportunity to volunteer DO IT.  It is like nothing you have ever seen, heard or felt before.

Friday

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Transition Area at Ironman Texas

My Ironman Texas weekend began with a late wake up.  I was intending on getting up at 3am and having breakfast and then the trainer for 3 hours with a 30 minute run.  I hit snooze and got out of bed at 545a and decided to go for a run instead.  My legs felt like lead but I got in a 40 minute run and then started packing my bag.  It was actually kind of nice to not have to calculate calories, bars, electrolytes, etc but I did calculate my traveling food for the 4+ hour ride.  I packed fruit and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The drive was uneventful and I got into The Woodlands around 1pm.  I went straight to Juan’s hotel (well not stright.)  I actually went to the wrong Residence Inn and was banging on Rm 114 and yelling to wake-up.  I texted Juan and he told me he was there and I quickly realized I was at the WRONG Residence Inn. Over to the right one and picked up Juan to go to the bike-drop off.  While in the room we went over all his gear, hydration, nutrition and plan for the next day.

The expo is small and really lacks anything as WTC wants to keep only WTC licensed vendors in there so the expo here looked just like he expo in California.  While walking from transition to the expo I ran into Coach and we chatted and she had the look of a killer and somebody ready to beat the course into submission.  We then ran into Shannon and made plans to have dinner with her and her family/friends at 4pm.

From there I went and met The Carrot.  It was like seeing an old high school friend you had not seen in years.  We know each others stories and have chatted via blogs, Twitter and email that there was no awkward how are you doing moment.  We just started chatting and of course it went right to nutrition/hydration, gear and everything else tri-related.

At one point I asked he and Annie about an alarm being on at the house and they said no but that the code was……  Then Annie made the funniest comment of the day right there.  She says….so I just gave my alarm code to my house to a stranger from the internet.  And I chimed in not only that but he is from New York too…..good times.

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Pro Bike that never started race

Dinner with Shannon and her family was great.  We laughed and I ate as if I were racing.  Juan and I split pizza and pasta and ate it all.  After dinner we went back to the hotel, checked everything out again and I headed to Jeff’s house, where I was greeted by Ernie and Bailey and it was like being home with Ginga.  The pugs are great company.

Saturday

I woke up at 3:30am and had a bowl of cereal and some toast (Yes, I brought my own food and even shopped before I got to Jeff and Annie’s house.)  I checked directions and made sure I had everything and out the door I was around 4:45am.

Picked up Juan at 5:15a and dropped him off at transition then headed back to the hotel to take a nap.  I set my alarm for 7:45a so that I could be at the swim by 8am.  I got to the swim area right at that time but never saw any of the people I was there to see exit the water.  I walked around and that is when I saw another friend from here in Dallas who was also volunteering.

We talked for a while and hung out at the mount line for the bike.  After the last athletes went out it was now time to find bike handlers.  I walked for almost an hour and covered at least 3 miles.  Finally at 10:30a the sign for the group went up and I checked in.  We were given instruction and at 11:30a it was go time.

We line up and the racers either hand you the bike or throw it at you.  Either way you have thousands of dollars in your hand.  By my calculations there were ~20 bike handlers with ~2500 bikes.  Figure we each handled 125 bikes (although go getters like me probably handled more.  I was loving it so I was running the bikes back to the rack and then running back to get more bikes.)  125 bikes at $3000 per bike means I handled ~$375,000 in my time there.

It was phenomenal to be in T2.  Some of the sights and sounds:

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Last male swimmer out of water who missed cut-off time by 20 minutes

Female Athlete Says:  Thank you for taking my bike.  Please get rid of it.  As a matter of fact put it on eBay right now.

Male Athlete Says: Whoa.  What are you doing with my bike.  No. No.  Oh, ok.  Thank you so much.

Female Athlete Says:  Man that was hard (tears welling up in her eyes.)

Male Athlete Says:  Woooo!!!!!  Wooooo!!!!!!  Let’s get this done.

So many stories to be told from T2 but I will always remember speaking spanish to the Mexican athletes to take their helmets and shoes.  I will always remember the British woman, who as she handed me her bike, helmet, gloves, shoes, camelbak say Cheers after each handoff.  I will always remember the faces and the thank yous and the ‘I am doing this’ look on their face.

But the best memories will be:

  • High Fiving Coach C as she ran out of T2 and looked determined and strong.
  • Grabbing Juan’s shoes and helmet as he ran out of transition and cheering him on.  He told me about his drafting penalty but had a huge smile on his face.
  • Seeing Jeff as he handed his bike off to another handler while also hearing Annie cheering loudly like a proud wife.  I gave Jeff some encouragement and off he went.  He had a huge smile as he took off.
  • Running up to grab Shannon’s bike and basically barrelling people out of the way so that I could handle her bike.  I took her helmet and shoes and gave her a big hug.  I was so happy for her as she was in great spirits and ready to run.

 

After our shift I began to head out to the finish line where I ran into Rob, who is the husband of Coach C.  He told me she was in 3rd place but struggling and that was a total surprise to me since she looked great in T2.  He told me she was dehydrating and threw up a few times.  My heart sank for her as I knew she poured everything into this race to qualify for Kona.  As I walked with Rob I heard my name yelled out and it was Shannon.  She was smiling and looking great.  I then ran into Shannon’s parents and spoke with them for a bit and lost Rob.  Off to the finish line I went.

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Last female swimmer who missed cuf-off time by 15 minutes

At this point I was calculating times for Jeff and Juan.  I found a great spot at the end of the finish chute and just hung out there.  Before I knew it I saw Coach.  She was in a wheelchair and I was stunned but being who she is she high-fived me and pulled me in for a hug.  I think she needed the comfort of a familiar face.  I gave her a kiss on the cheek and told her:  You Are A Rockstar Superhero.  I held back tears until she pointed at her watch and told me I raced to an 11:06.  She was excited but then told me they were taking her to the medical tent for IV b/c she could not hold anything down.  I was so proud of her and proud that I was an athlete of hers.

Now my head was on a swivel.  Looking for the last run down the chute and the finish line so I would not miss anybody.  I kept calculating and calculating in my head.  I saw Shannon again and again she was looking strong.

Seeing the athletes stream out of the finish line with smiles and tears was incredible.  Family members running up for hugs and almost knocking the athletes over.  Athletes telling them not to hug them out of comfort (most listened) or for sweat (no family member cared.)  I was getting inspired and then Juan ran by and I yelled like a school girl at a Jonas Brothers concert.  Juan came through and our friends who drove down that morning and his sister were there all smiles.

Afte dropping Juan off at the hotel I ran back to see Shannon finish.  At this point it was dark out and the runners were performing on fumes.  They had been on their feet for 13-14 hours at this point.  The beauty was that there was no quit in them.  They kept moving forward and I developed a chill even though it was 90+ degrees out along with 100,000,000% humidity out.

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Blind Athlete's at mount line to prepare to ride 112 miles.

I exchanged texts with Lesley of Racing it Off and my wife along with BDD.  They kept telling me where Shannon was and her pace.  Sure enough she came around the corner.  I ran with her for about 20 feet and wished her well and told her she was doing great.  I then ran to the finish line and waited.

She came across the finish line and her Mom and Dad were right there and gave her great big hugs.  I hugged her and then walked her to the athlete lounge.  I ran to Juan’s room after that and he and I split some pizza and a beer.  Finally at around 11p I left and headed to Jeff’s.

It was an absolutely epic weekend and as Kevin of Ironman By Thirty pointed out….it is better than the Super Bowl.  I couldn’t agree more.  I am ready to put my body and mind into a 140.6 race and training for it will be long and hard.  The difference between myself and a majority of the athletes and today’s race is that I know what the reward will be because I saw it first hand this weekend.

 

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Athletes finishing up after racing for 13 to 14 hours.

Sunday

I woke up early and packed up my things and headed out the door.  The entire time I kept trying to figure out if Coach could make Kona.  Was there the possibility that being in 5th place could net her a slot.  I just did not think it would happen and my heart sunk for her.  I know the work she put it and I know she was ready for this.  She will tell you that if she did not get the slot it was only because it wasn’t her time.  She is gracious that way.

About half-way into the drive I got a text from one of the athletes on our team and it read ‘She Made Kona’  and I yelled.  I also did something you shouldn’t do and that was text back ‘F*CK YEAH’ and fist-pumped.  She did it.  She fought her way to the finish line and qualified for Kona.  True inspiration and motivation.

Have you ever volunteered at a race event?  What was you experience?  Will you do it again?

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  • http://www.shutupandrun.net Shutupandrun

    Awesome report. And amazing that Coach made Kona.

    Yes, you and the 140.6 have a date.

    Remind me to give you my garage code.

  • http://trirunveg.blogspot.com Aimee (I Tri To Be Me)

    What an awesome “race” report! I have heard that it’s such an amazing experience to volunteer at an IM event!
    Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) recently posted..Life HappensMy Profile

  • http://marleneontherun.blogspot.com Marlene

    There must be such an incredible energy at these events – I’m sure there is NOTHING like that finish line. Awesome that you got to soak it all in!!
    Marlene recently posted..One week agoMy Profile

  • DR

    Congrats on volunteering!
    great report

    I had pretty much the same exact experience last year at IMWI when I volunteered. It was amazing

    D

  • http://www.misszippy1.blogspot.com MissZippy

    I have volunteered at several events and always love it. Doing it at an IM, where you know people racing, would be fantastic! And so the question is….did you sign up today??

    I did LP years ago and I know what a long day it is for the volunteers–I’m sure they all appreciated your help!
    MissZippy recently posted..Today IMy Profile

  • http://tri4success.blogspot.com Chris

    Great report Jason. I was tracking Jeff and Shannon and willing them on from afar. I can’t imagine the energy level at an event like that. That must’ve been one heck of an emotional day for your coach. A huge CONGRATS to her!
    Chris recently posted..Classic Rock Triathlon – Family RelayMy Profile

  • http://danglethecarrot.blogspot.com Jeff Irvin

    Excellent report Jason! Thanks for all the support over the last year of training. It was great to have you there – now we can prepare for yours!!
    Jeff Irvin recently posted..TRACK-A-JEFFMy Profile

  • http://my140point6milejourney.blogspot.com/ kc

    That was the best spectator/volunteer race report ever!! Thank you for writing this up. I felt like I was there. So proud of all of our buddies and so cool that you got to meet them. You are next on the 140.6 list!!
    kc recently posted..im done hidingMy Profile

  • http://www.caratunkgirl.com Mandy

    WOW! What an RR!! LOVE IT. I totally felt like I was there, which is cool, because I wish I was there.

    I volunteered at IMLP, best thing I have done to be honest, I plan on always being at that race either as a volunteer or participant. There is NOTHING like volunteering at an IM!
    Mandy recently posted..Sunday Random Stuffand Giveaway WINNER!My Profile

  • Colleen

    This is awesome. Doing the Ironman is a magical experience, but volunteering is a whole other ball game! :) I am so glad that you got to experience this!

    And I definitely have been the one with tears in T2… as well as the one asking you to sell my bike! It’s a weird feeling!

  • http://ironbob-ironbob.blogspot.com/ robert shuler

    The best is working the race you are in. I did it in 2009 at IMFL at body marking and was great. It is one of the few races you can pull that off. IMTX is one too, as I found out.

    Now you are hooked, as I can tell. Oh, all expos are the same (as you found out)
    robert shuler recently posted..Book it DannoMy Profile

  • http://www.teammancuso.blogspot.com Nora

    Wow that really was beautiful! I’ve volunteered at small races but nothing like this! I would love to have you cheer me on! (mamarunsbarefoot)

  • http://youjusthavetotri.blogspot.com/ Julie

    Amazing day!!!
    I’ve volunteered at the finish line of a marathon and a 70.3 and both were fabulous experiences.
    Julie recently posted..Lookout Mountain Conqured!My Profile

  • http://www.ironmanbythirty.com Kevin

    I volunteered at IMWI last year and was in awe the entire time. I worked in the T2 tent and it was an incredible experience. The best part was that as the age groupers started to come into transition and take their time, they just wanted someone to chat with for a minute or two while they rested. So much good info was learned. The best part about the whole weekend is that I never saw a single person (athlete, volunteer, spectator) ever upset or angry. Sure, there were the jokes about, “You mean I have to run a marathon now??!?!” in T2, but it was all in good fun.

    For some reason the code got replaced with “…..”. Can you please repost that code so that the rest of us strangers on the Internet can drop in on Jeff and Annie??

    Love it: “As a matter of fact put it on eBay right now.”

  • http://www.runningwithabottleofwine.blogspot.com Chloe

    Yes! I have volunteered at IMFL for the three years and then raced it last year. Being a volunteer at an IM event is no doubt the best thing ever! I can’t wait to do it again!

  • http://www.irunitri.com Claudia Spooner

    Being a volunteer is amazing and I first hand want to say THANK YOU to all volunteers and Jason!! I had a very tough run and managed to do that marathon on 100 calories… Although I didn’t hit my goal finish time, I did qualify for Kona which was the biggest prize. I also learned a huge lesson about salt… I NEED IT!!!

    I know Kona has weather that is very similar to Texas, I have trained the IM course there.. Now, I actually get to compete on it. I learn from my mistakes and the draw to Ironman is that every race is different and with every race there is something to learn.. A truly humbling sport.

    I am very excited and will do what I need to do:o).. A little rest and back to BASE:o)

  • http://runkdubrun.blogspot.com Karen

    What an awesome experience! I love volunteering – the vibes from the racers are so inspiring. I have only volunteered at Sprint races, can imagine an ironman would be insane!
    Karen recently posted..Training Day One &amp 4All by Jofit WinnerMy Profile

  • http://www.untilyoutri.wordpress.com Erin @ Until You Tri

    Great race report! That is so great that you volunteered, after my last few tris and how much I appreciated the volunteers (I tried to make sure to tell every one of them thank you, even if I didn’t take any water/bottle at the aid station, I still said it!), I really want to make an effort to volunteer more. Volunteers make the race! We would be lost without them! Congrats to Coach C!
    Erin @ Until You Tri recently posted..Hello Legs- Are You There It’s Me- ErinMy Profile

  • http://mattheworavec.blogspot.com Matt Oravec

    What a great write up man. Honestly I felt like I was there. So happy you got to experience that and that your coach made her dream. CONGRATS COACH!

  • http://www.chasingthekenyans.com lindsay

    i think volunteering for an IM would be even cooler than doing one! ok, well maybe not, but it is pretty cool. you and kevin definitely make it sound like good (and motivating!) times. LOL about the girl who said you could sell her bike. :)
    lindsay recently posted..yoga researchMy Profile

  • http://tridiesel.blogspot.com Scott

    Thank you for volunteering, I am a huge believer in giving back to the sport. This was simply awesome

  • http://fatlete.blogspot.com Luke

    One of the best post i have ever read. Thank you for volunteering and continuing our sport. Thank you for being there to support all of those athletes.
    Luke recently posted..Happy TuesdayMy Profile

  • http://needagoal.blogspot.com adena

    love this!! Volunteering is so much fun. You are so damn cool!!! WTG coach!

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