52 Projects is an adventure in discovery. Every week, for 52 weeks, do something. Something you’ve never done before. Something you’ve always wanted to do. Something that scares you. Something that inspires you. Something that inspires others. Something that tickles your fancy. Something that caught your eye. Something that just popped into your head. It can be big. It can be small. It can be whatever you want it to be. Find out how doing something can lead you to discover things about yourself, your world, your God. Then, come here on Sundays and share it with others. I'll write about mine here, you write about yours on your blog, then use the tool in my post to link to your something. Please feel free to jump in and participate anytime throughout the year!
Monday, July 26, 2010
Week 27: Volunteering at Ironman Lake Placid
This is the first time since starting 52 Projects that I was not able to post my project on Sunday. But for good reason. Breen and I have been in Lake Placid, NY volunteering for the Ironman Lake Placid which took place on Sunday, July 25th. We volunteered this year because Breen will be doing the race next year and if you volunteer the year before your race, you can sign up for the following year.
So our time here has been spent like this:
We arrived on Friday evening.
On Saturday morning, we grabbed some breakfast and headed over to the center of Lake Placid to meet our team captain for our volunteer work at the finish line. We checked out the vendor expo. All I can say is that the sport of triathlon is a very expensive sport. Everything from racks of $6,000 tri bikes to custom running shoes. The Ironman merchandise is ridiculously overpriced.
While Breen stayed in Lake Placid for the afternoon to get a long ride and a run in, I hit the area for shopping and some scenic enjoyment. I stopped at a quilt shop on my way back to the motel. Low and behold the owner (15 years older than me) grew up one street away from where I did and she even worked at the same swim club that I did growing up as a teenager. We knew mutual neighbors. It was really crazy. I think we were both blown away by our chance encounter.
Sunday morning was race morning. We woke up at 5am and headed in to town. The open water swim started at the lake at 7am. There were close to 3000 competitors in the water waiting for the start horn to go off. It was an amazing sight to see that many people at once start off for the swim.
In Ironman, you have to complete the 2.4 mile swim portion within 2 hours 20 minutes, otherwise you get disqualified and can't go on to the next portion of the race (bike). One woman did not make the cut off and it was sad to see her and her family crying because she had come so far to do this race. Breen and I noticed that there was a stack of timing chips that other athletes had turned in during the swim which meant that they voluntarily quit the race because they couldn't go on and finish the swim. At $500 to enter the race, it is an expensive learning lesson.
The bike portion came after the swim. When you get out of the water you have to run to the transition area, get on your bike and pedal 112 miles. We stood at various places around the course to cheer athletes on. After riding 112 miles on the bike, you finish the Ironman by running a marathon distance of 26.4 miles. I was really laughing at two guys in obscene Speedo banana hammocks with pom poms cheering people on.
By 4 o'clock in the afternoon, Breen and I headed over to the finish line area to report for duty where we stayed until midnight when the race was officially over. The elite pro athletes can finish the race in 9 hours or so. But it can also take 17 hours for others. I started out in the finish line area as a "catcher" for the athletes crossing the finish line. After being in movement like that for all those hours you can imagine that some finishers nearly collapsed while others were still full of energy. I assisted a few to the medical tent. By the time we finished our shift at midnight, we had been at the race site for 17 hours. I don't think an Ironman race could be successful without the help of 3,500 volunteers helping out with every aspect of the race.
I loved my experience as a volunteer at the finish line. I'm hoping to do it again next year. I think it would be amazing to be right there when Breen crosses the finish line and put the medal around his neck. I've been to quite a few triathlons with Breen but nothing like the experience of an Ironman. I think it also gave Breen a sense of appreciation for the hours of waiting around the course by the families and friends of the athletes for them to finish. The road to Ironman is paved with endless hours of disciplined training. There's a reason why they call us "the triathlon widows" but I wouldn't change any of it. Being supportive and involved at this level has really been live changing.
PS: I'm still in Lake Placid and can't, for the life of me, remember my password for Mr. Linky which is bookmarked on my home computer. If you'd like to share your project this week, leave a comment here in the comment section.