This weekend I headed up to Penticton, B.C. in our lovely sister nation (a.k.a. “America’s Hat” ;-P) to scope out and sign-up for Ironman Canada. (For those non-triathlete readers of this blog, in order to sign up for some of the more popular Ironman races you have to go to the race site and sign up in person. Crazy, I know… ) I had the good fortune of having a fellow Seattle-area tri-friend of mine going up to the race who was willing to let me tag along, so I could leave T the car and not have to make the long drive alone. So, we hit the road on Saturday morning for the big adventure.
We had some “technical difficulties” leaving Washington and ended up taking a little scenic detour through Cle Elum (stupid Google maps… ) After a brief coffee stop, we were back on the road. Here’s Jenhs with some of that magic elixir:
We made it up to Canada in time to meet up with some other ladies from our tri-forum and it was great to put faces to some of the ladies I’d chatted with online, especially the ones that would be racing the next day. I’d planned to camp with Erin (you may remember her from training camp and this thread) and her beau David. They’d scored us a campsite near the run course, a few miles from downtown, so after the gathering (and a little ice cream at Tickleberries) we headed back to camp.
Race morning dawned bright and early and we hit the road at 6 so that we could watch the race start. Erin & I were volunteering in the women’s changing tent and David was helping out with transition bags, so we tried to navigate through the maze of fences to find where we were supposed to report for duty. David climbed up a tree to watch the swim start, while Erin and I headed over toward the transition area, through the huge crowd of spectators. We were getting frustrated trying to find our way into the transition area, but had some luck when we found a secret entrance through the back door of the ladies room. We got to watch the pro athletes start and I snapped a few pictures of the many, many age groupers heading to the swim start.
It was nerve-wracking just watching. I couldn’t imagine how I was possibly going to do this next year. What was I thinking? We watched the swim start and then headed over to our assignment in the change tent. For the uninitiated, Ironman races are a little different, in that you put your gear into bags and then take them into the tent to change for the next leg of the race. So you end up with something that looks a lot like this:
Yep, that’s 2,500 bags with the change tent in the background. We reported for duty and met the head volunteer Leona and the rest of our awesome crew. Our job was basically to help ladies change for the next leg and then put their swim items into their bags and back out into the pile for later pick-up. Initially, as the pros and faster age groupers came in, we didn’t have to do too much for them, they had things under control but as the middle and back of the pack women came in, it got pretty hectic in that tent. It was amazing the amount of stuff people had in those bags – keep it simple! The lake was really cold, so there were some shivering women, some nearly hypothermic. We only had to have the medic talk to one lady who was shaking really hard and was fairly disoriented. (Luckily, she ended up being able to continue and by all accounts had a great race… )
Then we took a break after the swim cutoff (athletes have a little over 2 hours to complete the 2.4 mile swim) and went into town to get some real food. We ended up eating some yummy wraps at a little place on Main Street, across the street from the place where I’m totally going to get my hair cut next time I’m in town…
Awesome, eh? As we headed back, there were all sorts of people writing messages in chalk on the street for the athletes that would be running a marathon there later in the day. It was neat to see all of the creativity.
This one was my favorite:
When we got back to the transition area, David went off to bang on Erin’s uber-cowbell. (What can I say, he’s got the fever… )
While we were waiting, I decided to take a few pics of the poor lonely bikes that were still in the transition area:
And here are the next round of bags to deal with:
The next round of athletes came in more gradually, so it was easier to give people more individual attention. Everyone was in remarkably good spirits, considering they’d just ridden over a hundred miles and were about to run a marathon. I got to see some of the athletes I helped in the first transition, which was cool. The wind had really kicked up and it was starting to rain. As we got closer to the bike cut-off, both Erin and I were exhausted. The rain was coming down in earnest, which was going to make for a very tough day for the racers.
We finished up volunteering and headed out to the finish line to cheer for folks and then on into town for a well-deserved dinner/beer. We were going to go back to the finish line, but instead to head back to the campground, figuring we’d cheer the runners passing by the campground. There was a second announcer booth set up right outside our campground, which was really cool. It was great because we got to hear about the folks going by and there was a little crowd to cheer with, which really lifted the spirits of the runners. Finally, I was just too tired and headed off to bed.
Good job, Ironmen & women!