Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ironman Lake Placid Volunteer Recap- Part Two

After Andy Potts came out to start his second loop we knew it was time to head back to transition to begin the real work of our shift. When we got back Randy gave us instructions for what to do and what to tell the athletes. At this point it started raining off and on, not too heavily but enough to make the transition area slippery. We all positioned ourselves around the gear bag area and waited patiently to hear the crowd start cheering for the leader out of the water. Before we knew it Andy Potts came barreling around the corner, knocking down some of the fencing, and was smiley, gracious and even apologized for the mishap as he zoomed by. One of the perks of being a pro is that you get a little more TLC, so as pro's came around the corner we would shout out their numbers and volunteers would pull their bags for them. Everyone else that came out of the water (in a hazy stupor) had to figure it out for themselves.

All of a sudden there was a constant stream of athletes coming through the transition chute. Due to the rain and the fact that they were all wet, the grass and concrete became very slippery. More volunteers positioned themselves to act as catchers as people went down, others yelled out to athletes to slow down and watch their footing. The gear bags were in a new area this year, and even though I can't compare it to what it was, it seemed slightly dangerous. Athletes had to navigate their way around, grass, old wooden boards, concrete and because transition is in the former olympic speed skating oval, they had to worry about stepping over the lip of the track. You can see some of what I mean in the photo below.

Lots of neon tape to make the athletes more aware. 

As more and more athletes came in they became foggier and foggier. At one point an older gentleman walked by me and something didn't seem quite right. I had been yelling to the athletes to grab their blue (bike) bags and head to the changing tents. But when he walked by I saw a red bag. I quickly yelled at him that he had the wrong bag and when he turned around he had dark swim goggles still covering his eyes. No wonder he couldn't tell the color of the bag!! He still wasn't quite comprehending me so I kept yelling you need your blue bag, you have the wrong bag. He finally got the idea and headed back to his spot, but still was wearing the swim goggles. The rows of bags were kind of confusing and to athletes who had just swam over 2 miles and were disoriented it was even harder to figure out. Some athletes would just stand at the end of the row, staring at the sign, hoping it would shout out to them which direction they had to go. For a lot of athletes we could see their body markings, or they would  tell us their numbers and we could help to guide them.

You can sort of make out the small sign
on the end of the gear bag rack. 

After a while there were just a handful of blue bags left hanging and fewer athletes were coming in. We had about twenty minutes left in our shift and lots of new volunteers were coming into the gear bag area. Now our job was to take the 2000+ blue gear bags, all thrown into a HUGE pile, and hang them back on their rightful hook. Randy reminded us that it was super important to get the numbers right so they weren't searching for bags for the athletes after midnight. I must have checked those number labels a million times. The bags were heavy, they had all of the athletes wet swim gear in them and wet because of the rain and puddles they were resting in. A little after 9am Rob, Molly and I made our way over to the merchandise tent and looked around and then headed to get some breakfast. We have a favorite sandwich/creperie deli to go to and as we approached the line was out the door. But it was well worth the wait. I got the Gulf Brook, an amazing breakfast burrito and we all sat on a bench and wolfed down the goodness.

Taken from the link above.
While we were enjoying our breakfast Rob happened to spot a childhood friend who was in town to watch the race. He himself is an accomplished triathlete who has gone to Kona to race in the Ironman World Championships. Rob has talked about Travis for a while and so it was neat to finally meet him. We then headed to my really favorite spot in Lake Placid...

Taken from the link below.

Last year they had dill pickle popcorn for the first time and I loved it so much I was really hoping they would have it again. Apparently it has become so popular they have made it one of their daily flavors, woohoo!! When I told Molly about the dp popcorn I think I got a disgusted look or at least a shocked one, but when she tasted it she was instantly converted and got some for herself. The owner also recommended mixing the dill pickle with the cheddar and I told her we would be back often and would try that combo too. With popcorn in hand we headed to the bike turn on Main Street to watch the cyclists finish their first loop and head back out on to their second loop.

We noticed a lot of the athletes were eating at this point and we saw everything from bagels, to sandwiches to uncrustables. The athletes were in good spirits and a lot of them encouraged the spectators to cheer louder by yelling or making arm movements. At one point there were three cyclist whizzing by and one female athlete was screaming and not in a good way, it turns out a toddler had somehow gotten under the barrier and was making her way towards the cyclists who were heading downhill (see in the photo above). It could have been a scary situation but luckily a volunteer had heard the scream and ran over to scoop the little girl up and return her to her mom.

Okay small rant break: I know I am not a parent, but exactly how does that happen?!?!?! Plus what made it worse was that the mom didn't even seem thankful or appreciative. She just wrestled the (seemingly) wild and hysterical little girl back into her stroller. Molly said she was practically sitting on her to buckle her in. REALLY?!?! I would have told them to leave. I also saw them a later in the day and the little girl was still being unruly.

After watching for a while and moving to a new spot I was getting tired of standing, here I am complaining about standing, so we decided Rob would swim and Molly and I would find a place to hang and relax for a little while. Molly wound up going to hang with the Towpath crew at their tent and I made my way to the top of the hill by the beach and parked myself there for a new vantage point. It was here that the cyclists were getting their bike special gear bag. Ahhh that explains why they were all eating just a short bit down the road at our previous spectating spot. As cyclists would approach, their numbers were called through a megaphone and volunteers grabbed their bags and assisted the athletes with what ever they needed. Then they would push them off on their way again. I sat there on the curb and loved cheering and calling out numbers as they rode by. Since this was a much less crowded spectating spot, I actually got some smiles, thanks and thumbs up. I also chatted up a woman next to me who turned out to be from Rochester too.

Once Rob finished swimming we decided we would take the shuttle back to his car to unloaded his wetsuit and some stuff from our bags we weren't using. I think we both just wanted a break from the hustle and bustle too. We didn't have to wait long and we enjoyed being chauffeured around town. Once we swapped stuff at the car we got back on the bus and headed into town again.

The wheels on the bus...

When we met up with Molly she was standing at the run entrance/exit of transition cheering on runners some of whom were starting their first loop and the pro's who were finishing their race! By this time we were getting hungry again and jumped into a near by pizza shop for halfway decent pizza. After some more spectating and a quick trip into a bar for some free popcorn and adult beverages we decided we would take the shuttle to the car, take the car to get gas and head back to the campground for some relaxation before we came back to cheer the last hour. In hindsight this was probably a bad idea. For a short portion of our drive we were following alongside the run course and so we cheered, and Molly rang her cowbell out the window. We saw lots of tired, weary athletes but they were all still moving.

Once we got back to the campground Molly and I decided to close our eyes, we were exhausted and the day already felt like the longest day ever. At around 9:15 I was awoken by Rob who was also getting ready to take a nap, he had turned off the tv and the lights and was going to bed. Apparently we weren't going to make it back to Placid for the last exciting hour. Molly was passed out and even though I thought I had just fallen asleep I guess I had been out for a while. We all were in agreement that we would go to bed and we didn't wake up until the garbage truck woke us a little after 7am Monday morning.

Overall volunteering at IMLP was an amazing experience and we were already talking about next year and what we would do differently. First: not volunteer at the butt-crack of dawn. We weren't sure how easy or hard it would be to get around town from Wilmington but apparently it is pretty manageable. Second: I think it would be fun to volunteer out on the course. Third: get back to town for the last hour of competition. You can't help but be inspired by the people and their stories and what keeps them moving, for some, up to 17 hours!!!! Soon I'll have a post about the volunteer dinner we attended the day after the race and the rest of our time in Lake Placid.

Have you ever volunteered at a race?

What was your favorite part?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Ironman Lake Placid Volunteer Recap- Part One

Mirror Lake- Swim Course

I have known about Ironman Lake Placid (IMLP) for quite some time now because we have been vacationing there most summers and you tend to see the flags, banners and hear chatter around town. This was the races fifteenth edition. About five years ago, a close family friend Scott (the one responsible for bringing Rob into the cycling cult) attempted IMLP and because of health reasons related to his diabetes, had to pull out during the run. Scott and his family have volunteered at the race numerous times and so last summer while camping at the KOA we decided to reserve camping sites for 2013, volunteer and at the time, Rob planned on signing up for the 2014 race. My friend and training partner Molly and some of her friends decided they would sign up also and Molly reserved us a volunteering shift in transition, doing gear bags from 5-9am. We had also planned to stay until the last hour to watch the final athletes come in before midnight, we knew it would be a really long day.

Beach/Boat House on Mirror Lake

Since we were going to be away from the campground for the entire day, we all packed bags and brought what we thought we would need to survive the day. I brought a magazine, which I wound up never using and Rob brought his wetsuit so he could swim the course after our shift had finished. Our priorities are slightly different! We figured out logistically where we had to be and when and set our alarm for 3:00am. Don't worry, we planned on hitting snooze at least once. When the alarm went off Rob and I were surprisingly awake, I think it was the excitement of the day, and we weren't even racing!! Rob went out to make some coffee with the Keurig and it was quickly realized that Dad only had stock piles of decaf coffee. What the heck was that going to do for us?!?! Not too shortly after, Molly awoke from her slumber and joined us as we stumbled around the RV trying to get ready when it was so dark out still. The volunteer shuttles began at 4am and since we had a little bit of a drive to the lot and because we weren't quite sure how long the wait was going to be and because I am a worry wort, we left the RV at 3:45am. The funny thing was that as we were leaving the campground so were about five other cars, not something we expected to see even though we knew a lot of volunteers and participants were staying at the KOA. We made our way down the dark and twisty route 86 and turned on to River Road. Because both of these roads would hold a couple thousand athletes later in the day we loved seeing the signs, banners and spray painted messages along the road. If we weren't already excited it was really hitting us now. Somewhere on River Road the low gas signal came on in Rob's car and so of course I began to panic. The panic only lasted, well most of the day, as I knew getting around town would be challenging and didn't know what would be open when we left at 1:00am. I knew where we had to go, but it was so dark and there seemed to be no other civilization awake that I started to get nervous, until we came upon a field that had a couple people and a school bus. We were the first volunteer cars to actually pull into the field and I thought maybe my need to be early might not have been warranted.

Rob and Molly on the Shuttle sometime
around 4:15am.

We stopped at the other lots and picked up a couple volunteers, okay I wasn't the only crazy early one, and we eventually arrived at our destination at the shuttle lot near the ice arena. Even though it was so dark still, the place was bustling with activity and we made our way around transition to find where we needed to report for volunteering.

Transition and finishing chute. 

Along the way we passed the body marking area where lots of athletes were stripping down to their skivvies to be written on. In addition to numbers and ages we saw lots of smiley faces being written in thick, black marker.

Lots of excited volunteers and anxious athletes.

The emails we received from the transition coordinator, Randy, leading up to the big day were funny and we were looking forward to meeting him in person to put a face with the emails. Since he did not hold a meeting the day before, we were told to tell security that we were working with Randy and that he would give us our wristbands and t-shirts when we started our volunteer shift. Well when we approached the, not too friendly security, they gave us a hard time about not having wristbands and didn't seem too happy with "who ever this Randy guy was". They made us walk all the way around transition to a back entrance to talk to whoever was there. I think they just wanted us out of their hair.

Athletes doing last minute bike prep.

The three of us walked around back and approached a couple people setting up the bike entrance/exit. They were much nicer and pointed us to someone who pointed us to the right place. However, when we arrived there was no Randy, or other volunteers for that matter. Chalk it up to being there a just a tad early. A couple other guys (one who we later found out was the race director) gave us some (unclear) info about what to do and told us that is how they thought Randy did it, but saved by the bell, Randy arrived before they walked away and quickly informed us that is NOT how he does things. He was very laid back, but still organized and put me in charge of handing out shirts as the other transition volunteers arrived. The first hour from 5-6am was all about answering athlete questions and pointing them in the correct direction. The most common questions were: what do we do with our (green) morning clothes bag, where do our special needs bags go, what time is transition open until, where is the exit for transition, where is body marking? Some of these questions I thought were funny, because if they found their way into transition, couldn't they find their way out? Plus most of the athletes had to walk right by body marking to get into transition. But based on the many, many, deer in the headlights looks we got, I knew they had a lot going on in their minds. I even had an athlete frantically come up to me asking if I had a cell phone. Apparently he had forgotten all of his water bottles and needed to call for back up. He was so appreciative and I was happy to help put out one small fire. At 6am we corralled all of the athletes out of transition and got the low down on what we would need to do once athletes came back for their transition onto the bikes. Since Randy was so laid back and we didn't have any work to do until the athletes finished their swim, we all headed to Mirror Lake to watch the swim start.

The swim start at IMLP has always been epic and I have not only heard about how cool it is, but have even watched YouTube videos of it. All athletes start in the water and start swimming at the cannon blast. Well about a month or so ago we heard that Ironman was testing a new start at some races, a
self-seeded start, and that this year's IMLP would indeed be testing it as well. So we weren't quite sure what to expect and we were too far away from the beach to really be able to tell what was going on.

Athletes finishing their practice swims.

Getting corralled on the beach.

What it seemed like was that all athletes started on the beach and lined up behind placards with different expected finish times, for example 0-60 minutes, etc. When the cannon went off Pro men and then Pro women went off running into the water. Then a few minutes later went everyone else, almost single file into the water. The process took so long that when Pro leader Andy Potts got out of the water to begin his second loop, there was a line of athletes still feeding into the lake for their first loop. The start wasn't as exciting as what I would think previous years would have been, but I think it was safer for the athletes and that is what is important. Plus it was still neat to be able to get to watch the start!!

Part Two Coming Soon! 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Go Dacks

Every year I look forward to spending time in the Adirondack Mountains. My grandparents had a house in Big Moose, near Old Forge, so I grew up going there multiple times a year. Now that I am an adult, Rob and I love to go and hike, bike, run and swim in Lake Placid and surrounding towns. Most of those exercises he loves to do and I love to hang out and read and relax. As you probably already know Rob is a triathlete and the idea of racing the Lake Placid Ironman is something he has been considering for a long time. This year we decided to "borrow" my parents RV and camp in Wilmington, volunteer at Ironman and spend the greater part of the week relaxing and having fun.

Before we left last Saturday we were dealing with a small, singular (hopefully) mole problem that you may have read about here. Well to up date you on the story, Mr. Mole exited our apartment by way of mouse trap thanks to the fantastic maintenance workers of our apartment complex. I guess it had been captured while we were at work and when the workers came to check things out, they were nice enough to remove it for us. They even cleaned up the chalk outline.

Too bad it was really a mole, or this would be even funnier. 

Once the mole was taken care of we were able to pack and prepare for our getaway. But you can be sure I had Rob get my suitcase out of the closet for me. We left for the Adirondacks at 6am last Saturday, and because Molly had signed up to volunteer also, she followed en route to my parents house in Cicero. Since my parents were nice enough to let us borrow the RV, but not trustworthy enough to let us drive their baby, they drove the RV and towed their vehicle while Molly and I followed in hot (code word for: super slow) pursuit. Actually I just don't feel comfortable driving it and they kindly offered to drive and set-up/tear down. I also joke about the speed but my Dad has this RV driving thing down, and he even got a compliment, while we were stopped at a McDonalds, from a complete stranger who had been following him. Nice, but creepy gesture. I love our drive up North because it is like visiting an old friend who you haven't seen in a year. We have a comfortable routine of places we stop and like to see what is new in the area. Overall from Fairport the drive is about 5 hours. 1.5 to my parents house, 1 hour to Watertown and 2.5 hours through small towns and back roads.

My parents have been to Placid during Ironman weekend and have talked about it for the last five years. We couldn't wait to get there and feel the electricity. Originally we were going up to volunteer so Rob could sign up for next year. Due to the fact that it sells out quickly (3-4 minutes for 2014) the best way to ensure a spot is to volunteer and then you are allowed to jump the line on Monday morning. Well Rob had to go and ruin everything when he proposed in January, so the timing and especially the money (over $600 bucks) wasn't going to work for now. We still wanted to go and experience it and I would recommend it to everyone, whether you are a fan of the sport or not. Once we passed Saranac Lake, which is the last major town before Placid, we started spotting cyclists and runners, everywhere!!   Once we got into Placid there were beautiful, athletic people crawling like ants. We go to Placid every year and I have never seen it with so many people walking the streets. We had to drive by all of the festivities, tents and transition area on our way to Wilmington and there was so much to look at it was hard to drive. From Placid to Wilmington the main route you drive is the route for the bike course. We saw hundreds of cyclists and we couldn't believe that so many people were riding the course the day before the race. We realized later that the majority of them were not people who would be participating the next day. Our caravan pulled into the KOA and I raced in ahead of Mom so I could pay, because I knew she would insist that they pay. Our site was located in the front row, near the office and we had camped at or near the same spot last year. Mom and Dad started setting everything up and we unloaded our stuff and learned the ways of the RV. Me the inside and Rob any business pertaining to the bathroom and plumbing.

After we were settled we all grabbed lunch together and then Molly, Rob and I went back to Placid so Rob could visit one of his favorite bike stores and Molly could visit with a friend who was competing the next day. We also got our plans in order for what time we had to get up and where we had to be for volunteering on race morning. We said our goodbyes to Mom and Dad, who got a hotel room for one night and hit the hay early since our alarms were set for 3:15am. Ugh!

Volunteering Recap Coming Soon!