Ironman Indecision

Spoiler Alert: The decision has been made. No ironman this year for me. If you’re wondering how & why I came to my decision, read on, my friends.

I’ve been contemplating it for a while. Should I sign up for an ironman this October? I’m turning 30 next year, and I thought it’d be great to have completed an ironman before my 30th birthday—which is kind of ironic, because I couldn’t care less about age.

Conflicting Thoughts

One day it’s this. The next it’s that. Sometimes I go back-and-forth multiple times the same day. It depends on who I’m talking to.

Today started with more confusion, but quickly turned into clarity.

The Bike Ride

I began a bike ride with a friend of mine, and a dozen of her riding buddies. The original idea was to ride 50 miles. That’s an insane amount of mileage for someone who has never ridden more than 25 before. And these guys are veteran cyclists. Not all were blazing fast (although some definitely were), but they all knew what they were doing, for sure.

My mind spinning faster than my wheels

It didn’t take long to realize there was no way I could keep up. A few of them hung back with me to try and pull me back into the group. The red lights helped me catch up, too. The group calls themselves the “Gentlemen of the Road & Ladies of the Lanes,” and while I might fit in with my bedside manner, I certainly can’t hang with my lackluster cycling ability. Shortly after coming to this realization, my mind went to work…

An ironman contains a 112-mile bike ride. If this is what 32 feels like, I wonder what 112 is like. And after my 1500m swim at the Jamestown International Triathlon last weekend, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around a 2.4-mile swim (approx 3800m).

Basically, as it stands right now, completing each one of these two things (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike) would arguably be the two most difficult physical challenges I’ve ever attempted (and I’ve run 50-miles in the mountains & competed in the World’s Toughest Mudder).

Tunnel Vision, Proof & Quitting

I noticed myself drifting towards a mindset that I had 2 years ago, just before I quit ultrarunning. I had this tunnel vision that I had to finish a certain race, run a farther distance or tackle the biggest & baddest of obstacles. For what? To prove something? To be the best? No. I was never going to be an elite runner. That was never my intention. I had nothing to prove back then, and I have nothing to prove now.

Fun.

One of the greatest things that happened when I quit ultrarunning was the return of fun. Running was fun again. It was just as much a social experience as it was a training mechanism. I also learned to not be so hard on myself. There were no runs to skip… because there were no runs planned. I ran when I wanted to, or when others were running.

Physically Possible. Life Consuming.

Back to the bike ride…

I didn’t want the 32-mile bike ride to discourage me too much. I know my physical limits (and capabilities) pretty well. I’m not discounting the thought that I still had enough time this summer to prepare for & complete an ironman race in late October. Physically, I could do it. But the time & effort required would mean sacrificing many other things… other things that, over the past few years, I’ve come to greatly appreciate & incorporate into my life. Not to mention, the training I’d have to log to prepare for an ironman—well, it just wouldn’t be fun.

The iron-distance triathlon isn’t going anywhere. It’ll be there whenever I’m ready to tackle it. And right now is not my time.

This will free myself up to do other things—things that I have decided are important to me, but have neglected in the past.

  • Find a beautiful young lady, develop an incredible relationship, and do a bunch of amazing things together
  • Spend time with friends… and not work so darn much
  • Focus on growing my business… but only during business hours (see previous point)
  • Try new things. This world is so interesting, I’d be a fool to spend it doing something that I won’t enjoy.
  • Travel… to the world’s most interesting places

A pat on the back… and a reminder for all of us

Another decision that I’m not only happy with, but very proud of. Proud of myself for setting priorities, and actively making decisions to live out my life accordingly. It sounds like the most basic of concepts, but I didn’t always live my life with such intention.

If you take anything away from this, please re-read that last paragraph. And keep this in mind…

We don’t always make the right decision. And not everything we do in life will be fun. But everything comes with a choice. And, as it is your life, it only seems right that you should be the one making it.

Jamestown International Triathlon 2013 – Race Report

What an experience, to say the least.

  • I got to see 3 of my best friends from DC (who all rocked it, by the way)
  • Talked to an awesome volunteer who is looking for a Fall marathon (oh, hello Richmond) and might consider doing her first tri soon (if nothing else, jump down to read the write-up about her)
  • 2 really nice support guys with paddleboards and kayaks helped me out in the water
  • I passed a bunch of people on the run, and put down a very respectable 10k time (run recap)
  • My bike tires stayed inflated, which is a huge victory in-and-of itself (bike recap)
  • …Annnnd I didn’t drown (full swim recap)

Truth be told, there was a little more to it than that, so let me break it down for ya.

The Anticipation

It probably won’t come as a surprise to most of you, but the swim was my main concern entering the race. For starters, I had nowhere near the training that I should have had. Swam in open water a total of 2 times this year, and maybe only another dozen in the pool (all of which were fall shorter than the 1500m we had to swim in the race).

And on top of my lack of training, I just don’t do well in the water. I’m a land guy. Always have been. And if I can’t plant my two feet solidly on the ground, I get a little nervous. Throw me in a river with strong current, ask me to locate & navigate around 2 buoys, travel a total of 1500m (more like 1600m for my swerving self), and drop a 1-hour time limit on me… and I get A LOT nervous.

It also doesn’t help that my buddy calls me the night before, in Richmond, and says that the river is moving at 6.5mph. And minutes later, my friends from DC (who LOVE swimming, btw) just talked to a race official at the hotel, who told them, “Oh, yeah. The swim is definitely still on.”

Holy Freakout, Batman!

The Swim

Now that all that is out of the way… I walk up to the beach with my buddy, Nick, since we’re starting in the same wave together. Although I know there’s nothing more I can do at this point, I’m still not the least bit comfortable with what’s about to happen.

I talked to myself the entire 20-minute car ride to the site, going over my game plan.

  • Goal #1 – Just survive the swim. As long as I make it out of the water… mission accomplished.
  • Goal #2 – Don’t get a flat. As long as my bike was operational, I knew I could physically get through the bike (albeit slowly).
  • Goal #3 – Make up some time. Leave it all out there. Give it everything I had left in the one discipline I knew I could smash.

And yet, here I am, 2 minutes before the start, freaking out like a 3-old-year with a spider crawling up her arm.

“Oh, crap! Did he just say, ‘Go?!'”

Lucky for me, the water near the shore was really shallow. We were able to walk the first 50, 60, maybe 70m or so. I took advantage of every. single. step.

I tried to stay as far up-river as possible, because I knew the current would be pulling me down river. And I had to stay to the right of the turn buoy.

Yeah… that didn’t work. My lack of swimming prowess, combined with a fairly strong current, threw a wrench in that plan. I found myself about 100m from the turn buoy, and completely down-river from it. I grabbed onto a paddleboarder for a minute to gather my thoughts.

“I don’t know if I can do this. I can’t fight the current. I didn’t train enough. My form is already shot and I’m not even halfway there yet. I might have to call it quits.”

I looked at the paddleboarder and said, “Alright, I’m gonna give this a shot.”

He said, “I’m right behind ya, man. Go for it.”

So I swam almost directly upstream, expending way more energy than I realize I had in me, and made it to the turn buoy… at the same time all the women who started 12 minutes after me made it there.

Typically, I would love the idea of being surrounded by 30+ beautiful, athletic women in swimsuits. But there was nothing typical about what was happening to me right now.

Once I made that first turn buoy, it instantly gave me confidence that I could at least make it back to shore. The thoughts of quitting quickly disappeared.

I coasted on the short down-river stretch, and eventually made it back to shore. The really shallow water I mentioned on the way out… I totally forgot about it. So when I was still 50 or so meters from shore and my feet unexpectedly hit the ground… Hallelujah!

One last thing… On the way back into shore, I knew how strong the current was, and I was really proud of myself for compensating. I learned my lesson on the way out, and took a much better line than many others who I saw much farther downstream as we were approaching shore.

Goal #1 accomplished. 1500m in 38:05

The Bike

Nothing too eventful on the bike. I didn’t really take it all that easy (at least in the effort I put forth), yet still found myself at the bottom of my age group. So goes it when you buy a $1500 tri bike & don’t ride it for 3 years. But I kept both tires inflated, and nothing broke.

I tried to push myself whenever I could. Part of that was because I was so elated that I made it out of the water. The other part was just me being competitive.

I still cranked out 40k (24.8mi) in 1:19, which equates to 18.8mph. Very happy with that on how little training I put in.

The Run

As was the case with the 4 sprint triathlons I did several years ago, I always get passed by a bunch of people on the bike. The only difference this year… longer distance meant even more people passed me.

But the beauty of a triathlon for me, is that I’m a good runner. I probably passed 90% of those same people on the run.

I averaged 7:48/mi, and finished 10k in 48:29. My legs felt like poop from mile 3 on, but hey, nice job guys. Real proud of ya.

The coolest part of the run (literally, the coolest) was the turnaround point. I love running. I love volunteers. I love kids. And I love water, especially when I’m hot & thirsty.

There were a bunch of kids offering a “splash” at the turnaround water stop. How can you say no to that? So the first one completely misses my face & drills me in the chest. I saw the rest of the kids getting jealous because they wanted to splash someone too. Again… how can you say no to that?

Long story short, I got splashed 5 or 6 times, everywhere from mid-thigh to my face, all within a stretch of about 30 feet. I ran the last 3 miles a bit soggy, and uncomfortable, but you know what, the kids loved it, and even a few other racers smiled. That’s worth more than any finishing time I’ve ever put up.

The Volunteer

While my buddy Nick & I were standing about 50 yards from the finish, cheering on Amy (his wife) and Erica (aka: E$), I started talking to the awesome volunteer on the corner. She’s a runner, but was always a bit nervous about the swimming & biking, so she’s never tried a triathlon.

I’m not the kind to force anyone to do anything, but if she enjoys being out here cheering us on, and she loves to run, my guess is, she’d enjoy herself with a triathlon. So I gave her some ideas on training, and which races to start with.

Low & behold, she actually looked me up online after the race. Her name is Kelley. She just recently moved to Williamsburg, and hasn’t found many running buddies yet. But she told me she was looking into doing a tri, and also asking about marathons in the Fall. I think I know of a good one 🙂

I love my friends. I love triathlons. I love volunteers. And people are awesome.

And I finished with a total time of 2hr 51min… but honestly, who even cares?! I finished.

Race photos online here: http://www.birdseyeview.net/cgi-local/ImageFolio42/imageFolio.cgi?search=051&cat=Triathlons/20130608_JMI/&bool=and

2010 Napier Realtors Sprint Triathlon – Volunteer Report

After speaking up about my dissatisfaction on 2 different occasions volunteering at RMS events, I had a chance to do something about it. Here’s my report on being the Volunteer Coordinator for the Napier Realtors Sprint Triathlon in Midlothian, VA on Oct 10, 2010.

After writing a letter to the former Richmond Multisports (RMS) volunteer coordinator, the owner of RMS, Laurie Mehler, gave me a chance to coordinate all volunteers at the Napier Realtors Sprint Triathlon on Sunday, Oct 10th.

Now that I have seen first hand what it’s like behind-the-scenes of a triathlon, I have a different perspective. While I still believe I did a better job than the 2 previous races I volunteered for, I was far from perfect. Here’s a recap of how the day went.

Race day setup & check-in

I arrived at 5:30am & began setting up the volunteer check-in tent. I got t-shirts, water, Clif Bars, etc. ready. Double-checked that I had everything I would need. And to my surprise, the first high schoolers started arriving at 6am (15 minutes early).

Mistake

I had different groups of volunteers checking in at different times. I did this so they wouldn’t be standing around with nothing to do, however, it was way too difficult to keep track of.

Next time

I’ll ask all volunteers to check-in 2 hours before the race starts, and I’ll run a 15-minute orientation session & walk-through of the transition area. I’ll also have one of my course captains (either run or bike captain) to man the check-in tent while I’m meeting with the volunteers.

Volunteer assignments. Why bother?

I’m very organized, and this race was no different. I had assignments for every volunteer. Everything was planned out… and of course, nothing went according to plan. There were positions I needed volunteers for that I had no idea about until 5 seconds before they needed to be in place. A spotter to ride with Jim Napier in the pace car. An outgoing person to sell merchandise. Extra swim volunteers.

Next time

I would still assign vols to the bike & run course. But for everything else, I’d just ask them to show up 2 hours before the race, and plan on being there for 5 hours.

Communication

This is basically all I did for 5 hours. Cell phone in one hand. Walkie talkie in the other. When I wasn’t talking to the RMS team, I was shifting around volunteers & instructing them on what to do.

I owe a lot of credit to Matt Kirkendall, David Kunnen, Patrick, Barbara & the rest of the RMS team. We worked together extremely well.

Lesson learned

You can’t over-communicate when you’re on the race production team. If you’re wondering whether you should repeat yourself… than you should.

Teamwork

I had 4 incredible course captains. Lori Perez, Tom McMahon, Laura Perry & Vicki Hottle surpassed even my highest expectations. I felt like the 5 of us had known each other for years, and you would’ve thought we’d all done this many times before. I couldn’t have done it without you guys.

Summary

It was a long day & a lot of hard work, but I truly had a great time. To be part of a team of ~10 people who put on a successful triathlon with over 600 athletes, that’s something special. The RMS team is a great group of people who love the sport of triathlon, and love helping others achieve their goals.

I owe a huge thanks to the Tucker High School track team, and their coach, John Amoroso. They supplied 25+ volunteers for the event, and Coach Amoroso owned the mic as the race announcer. The James River XC team also supplied 15 volunteers.

Volunteer Coordinator responsibilities – before the race

Weeks before the race

  • I personally emailed every volunteer who signed up online
  • I created a spreadsheet with all the volunteer information
  • I secured 4 course captains: transition, swim, bike, run
  • I assigned each volunteer to a specific area (and many were assigned to multiple areas)
  • I dropped flyers off at REI & Starbucks to solicit more volunteers
  • I found 2 motorcycle marshalls & a PA announcer (not easy to find, btw)

One week prior to the race

  • I finalized race maps & spreadsheets for each of my 4 course captains
  • I attended a team meeting at ACAC Fitness Center to review the course setup

Saturday before the race

  • I helped with setup at ACAC, and got all final questions answered
  • I didn’t sleep but maybe 4 hours because my mind was in full-out race mode

You might enjoy my short list of tips for volunteer coordinators that I wrote before this experience. I’ll be sure to post a more in-depth checklist at some point.

Exciting updates about running & triathlon

A few exciting updates, including 2 big races in 2011, and a great opportunity for me to coordinate all volunteers at a local Richmond triathlon.

A few exciting happenings going on in my life right now…

I’m running again

The hamstring has healed. I gave it 6 full weeks of doing nothing, and it’s finally ready to get back out there. I’ve been running for a week & a half now. I still haven’t gone over 15 minutes, but today I was running at a 8:00/mi. pace, which for me is a great sign.

Marathon Training Team? What’s that?

I signed up for MTT back in March. I was only able to attend 2 weekend runs before my hamstring injury. With only 2 months left until the Richmond Marathon in November, I’ll finally be able to get out there. Either next weekend or the weekend after.

2 big races in 2011

100-mile revenge at Umstead

I’m officially registered for the Umstead 100-mile endurance run in April 2011. This will be my 2nd attempt at running 100 miles. The course is a 12.5-mile loop repeated 8 times. It’s more flat, and the course is mostly crushed gravel roads, so it should be an easier 100-mile than the Old Dominion 100 I attempted in June.

Tough Mudder at Wintergreen Resort, VA

This is right up my alley. 7 miles up & down a mountain, through freezing cold water, mud, under ropes, over walls, through tunnels. They say the average competitor takes 2 1/2 hours to finish 7 miles. Here’s the best video I could find to sum it up.

Tough Mudder Video

Volunteer Coordinator for Napier Realtors Richmond Sprint Triathlon

I blogged about my poor experiences volunteering at the Pink Power Tri & Rockett’s Landing Tri. I even created a list of tips for race coordinators in charge of volunteers.

Now I’ll be able to put it all to good use. Laurie Mehler of Richmond Multisports was generous enough to listen to my feedback & give me an opportunity to lead the volunteers for the Napier Realtors Richmond Sprint Triathlon on Oct 10th at ACAC in Midlothian, VA.

Volunteers, get ready for a much better experience. If you’re interested in volunteering, you can signup here.

That’s all for now. I’ll see ya out on the trail.

RMS volunteer coordinator, you’re 0 for 2

A letter to the Richmond Multisports’ volunteer coordinator detailing my volunteer experience at the Pink Power Triathlon in Midlothian, VA. My one and only suggestion for improving the experience at your next race… Pick Me!

Dear Richmond Multisports volunteer coordinator,

Your run course captain has failed… again. You are now 0 for 2.

Based on the fact that you didn’t choose me to be a captain, I’m guessing you missed my volunteer report for Rockett’s Landing. And your run course captain clearly missed my tips for coordinating volunteers during a race, being that he failed to show up. I should have been more clear in stating that

“I like to sleep in on Sunday mornings” is not a highly sought after quality for volunteers of any kind.

My Pink Power Tri volunteer experience went a little something like this

I arrived promptly at 5:30 – just like you asked – ready to lend a helping hand. You promptly checked me in (which was appreciated), but immediately told me to “sit tight” until my captain arrived. I knew right away he wouldn’t show.

So I waited… more volunteers arrived… we waited… and waited. 50 minutes later (yeah, five-zero), at 6:20, one of your staff finally asked us why 20 volunteers were standing in the grass, doing nothing. Then you tasked the backup run captain with instructing us on what to do.

He wasn’t much of a backup. He had no map & very little idea what to do. He grabbed a large, laminated map, started pointing to random intersections and sending us off one by one. He said,

“We’ve got a small road here… uhh, looks like a sub-division… [pause] … someone raise their hand.”

That was my assignment.

Although, I’ll tell you, you owe that man a big thank you. Tom McMahon did a great job, all things considered. Before the runners were out on the course, he drove around making sure we had water, and gave us his cell phone number, just in case.

I don’t know what it is with the run course, but y’all just can’t seem to get it right. Mike West is 2 for 2 being the bike course captain. He did an excellent job at Rockett’s Landing, and again today at Pink Power.

I can’t tell you how to coordinate an event. I’ve never worn your shoes, so I don’t know what it’s like on race morning. But I can offer suggestions on how to make your events (more specifically, the volunteer experience) run more smoothly, and I sincerely hope you take them into consideration.

I’ll even make it simple. One suggestion. All that I ask.

  1. Make me the run course captain for Napier Realtor’s Richmond Sprint Triathlon on October 10th

… and I’ll take it from there.

Just as John Fogerty said many years ago, I now say to you. “Put me in coach. I’m ready to play.”

Running Wild,
Dave

Low Dough Triathlon – Race Report

A quick recap of the 2nd annual Low Dough Triathlon, held at Robious Landing Park in Midlothian, VA. No entry fee. No t-shirts. No awards. No nothing.

Just a free triathlon experience, great for beginner triathletes & experts alike.

Last year, a few friends of mine hosted the first annual Low Dough Triathlon — no entry fee, no t-shirt, no awards, no nothing. Choose your own distance in each of the three disciplines. It was their way of providing an opportunity for Amy to get one triathlon under her belt before she raced a half ironman for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. What a great opportunity.

Today marked the 2nd annual Low Dough Tri. 8AM arrival at Robious Landing Park in Midlothian, VA. We would officially kick things off around 8:45.

It was as close to a real triathlon as you’ll get for no entry fee.

  • Dave manned a clipboard with everyone’s name, and checked after each transition to ensure we didn’t lose anyone
  • Course maps were distributed at the race start
  • We had a safety kayaker & turnaround buoys for the river swim
  • Transitions were setup in the parking lot (other than the bike locks, it looked somewhat like a true transition area)
  • Everyone had the co-race director’s cell phone numbers (OK, so this probably made it not like a real tri)

The Swim

Choose your own distance. There were 200m, 400m, 600m & 800m options. We even had 2 buoys to mark turnaround points, and a safety kayaker. After a group picture on the floating dock, Tom counted down from 3, and we were off. (I don’t even think half the swimmers heard him.)

With my bum hamstring, I only participated in the swim, and took off after it was finished. But here’s a quick take on the setup for the bike & run.

The Bike

There were 2 different courses. The long course was 7mi out & back, for a total of 14mi. You could do that once or twice.

The short course was a 3.5mi loop. You could do that up to 4 times.

There were some who only showed up to bike, and they were gracious enough to help the rest of us with the swim, and take some pictures. The 3.5mi loop was great for a few of the beginners training for their first sprint triathlon this Fall.

The Run

The run was a 1mi lollipop on a dirt trail that paralleled the river. Run it once. Run it 10 times. Whatever your legs desired.

Postrace

Tom had his boat, and rumor has it, there was some celebratory wakeboarding after the race. You can’t even get that with an entry fee.

Summary

What a great (inexpensive) opportunity to get a real triathlon experience, with some really great people. We had about 15 or so participants, and I hope to see that number grow each year. I also hope I can participate fully in the event next year.

If you’re in Richmond & would like to know more about this event, especially if you want to participate next year, just let me know. I’ll make sure you get the invite.

Tips for coordinating volunteers during a race

These are some ideas I came up with on how to better manage & coordinate volunteers during a race, particularly when managing aid stations on a run course. I’m not an expert, and have never coordinated a race myself, but if you’ve ever volunteered for a race before, I think you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

Preface: I have never coordinated a race – or any part of a race.

I am simply a volunteer who has observed several coordinators, wasted countless hours going back-and-forth and been low on supplies numerous times throughout an event. I have no experience actually doing anything that I’m about to mention, but here are a few things I would try.

Most of these suggestions relate to aid station setup on a run course, as that is where most of my experience has occurred.

Multi-task & improvise

If you can’t do this, coordinating a race is not for you. If you think about one thing at a time, forget it. You’ll be late dropping off supplies, volunteers will be confused & frustrated, so on and so on.

Things never go exactly to plan. When they don’t, you need to improvise. If every minute of every day is planned out for you, please stay at home, pull out your planner, and proceed with your day… as scheduled.

Ice

Put one person (maybe two) solely in charge of ice. Especially on a hot day, you need truckloads of ice. And on a really hot day (95+), running out of it could mean heat stroke for a runner.

Scope out local 7-elevens, grocery stores, etc. that will be open during the race. Map them out. Give that map to your Iceman (that’s the designated person for ice. He’s the Iceman.). Have him do ice runs non-stop, for the first 1/2 of the race.

And everyone should have the Iceman’s phone number. He’s kind of a big deal. Speaking of phone numbers…

Create a spreadsheet with responsibilities, locations, phone numbers

I realize many volunteers sign up the night before, and some just show up the day of the race. I guess a good lesson there is to keep an open schedule the night before so you can make last minute arrangements. But I know you can do a better job than most of what I have seen.

Include phone numbers of important people.

  • You
  • The overall volunteer coordinator for the event
  • The Iceman (see above)

I would even ask the volunteers on race morning if some are comfortable sharing their number. Put one person in charge of each station, write their number on the spreadsheet, and give it to the head people of the other stations.

What else to include on the spreadsheet:

  • Names of volunteers, along with location where they will be
  • Approx. time of first runner arriving (underestimate to be safe)
  • Emergency contact numbers
  • Number of jugs, tables, cups, etc. at each station

Scout the course the day before… and morning of the race

Drive the course. Take notes.

  • Where is a good spot to setup the table? The tent?
  • Are there any abandoned cars (or other vehicles) that might obstruct the course?
  • Is there any shade? A place to escape the sun?
  • Is the course in good, runnable shape? If weather has been bad lately, there could be rough spots you could warn runners about before the race.
  • Is the course clearly marked?
  • Where’s the best place for a course marshall to stand?

Provide a course map to all volunteers

Runners will ask questions about the course, both before the race and during it. And volunteers will not have answers… unless you give them answers. A well-drawn map can be very helpful.

Go over a few specifics. Or print a handout.

Assume your volunteers have never done this before. Why? Because many of them haven’t. And the veteran volunteers won’t be offended when you go over the “basics.”

  • How much sports drink powder goes in here?
  • How many gallons are these jugs?
  • Do I hand them the cups or leave them on the table?
  • What do we do if we run out of cups?
  • Where do the runners turn once they come by here?
  • How far until the next aid station?
  • 1 jug of water? 2 jugs of Gatorade? 99 bottles of beer on the wall?
  • If someone is injured, what do I do?
  • How do we know when it’s over?

When to show up race morning

Three facts of life. Most races are on the weekend. Many races start early. Many volunteers like to sleep in on the weekends.

But if you have most of this stuff prepared beforehand, you don’t need them there at the buttcrack of dawn. Sure, you don’t want to try and time it exactly perfect. But don’t waste their time either. If they feel their time is wasted, they won’t come back next year.

Give volunteers a thank you gift

And no, the free t-shirt does not count.

I realize this might not be in the budget. Check with sponsors. What do the racers get in their race packets? Could you spare an extra 50 or 100 gift certificates or 20% off coupons? What about the racer no-shows? Give away their free stuff.

At the very least, you better be sending them a thank you note of some kind when the race is over. The sooner the better. Heck, type it up the day before. Have it ready to go. Just add a few things about the specifics of race day, and send it later that night.

In closing

I’m sure I left out some things. If you have suggestions, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Aid station tips for race volunteers

Here is a list of tips when working an aid station or water stop on a run course. I cover some general tips, races in the heat & dealing with elite runners. I’ve also included a checklist for volunteers on what to bring.

Here are some aid station tips for race volunteers that I learned while working the aid station at mile 3 of the 10k run during the Rockett’s Landing Triathlon.

General aid station tips for volunteers

  • If you can’t fill the cups fast enough to keep up with runners, take the lid off the gatorade jug and just start scooping
  • If you can’t hand runners cups, it’s better to make sure they are filled. Put the table in a spot where they can grab it. They would rather have to pick up their own full cup than have you hand them an empty one.
  • If a runner is not responding when you ask them what you can get them, and they look out of it, they could be deaf/mute. Don’t just assume they are suffering from the heat. But of course, when in doubt, air on the side of caution.
  • If a runner is holding out her water bottle, please ask her what she wants, and offer to fill it for her
  • Don’t fill the cups to the top. 3/4 or halfway is fine. They will only knock half the water out of the cup if you fill it to the top.
  • If you have Gatorade in your cup, yell “Gatorade.” If you have water, yell “Water.”
  • Keep the sports drink at one end of the table, and the water at the other.
  • Create your own tasks. You won’t always be told what to do. So look around, see what needs done, and do it.

Aid station tips for handing out water in the heat

  • For a really hot, humid race, water is more popular than the sports drink. You can never have too much water or ice.
  • During a hot race, be prepared to pour water down someone’s back, or ice into their tri suit. Someone will probably ask for it.
  • If you can spare it, keep some ice separate in a cooler by itself. Some people will ask for ice only to put in their hat and/or shirts, shorts… basically anywhere it will fit.
  • Volunteers… REMEMBER TO DRINK. It’s easy to hand out cup after cup, and forget about yourself. Please remember to stay hydrated.
  • If you have a tent providing shade, offer it to the runners. They might not think to stop, but once you offer it, they realize it’s a great idea.

Aid station tips for handing out water to the elite runners

  • Practice your cup handoff  before the elites get there. They expect (and have earned) water to be handed to them. They will be traveling very fast. And they will not stop or slow down to get it. Handoff is crucial.
  • For many of the first runners you see, only fill the cups halfway. They will knock half the water out of the cup when they grab it from you.
  • For the faster runners, all volunteers should offer up water, 15-20 ft. apart. If the first handoff is dropped, and even the 2nd and 3rd handoffs are dropped, the runner could still be able to grab a drink.

Volunteers. What should you bring with you?

  • Shorts/Pants with pockets
  • A copy of the course map and/or transition area (you are likely to get questions)
  • Dry clothes/shirts to change into, especially if it’s hot
  • Sunscreen
  • Folding chairs (you won’t use them once the runners start coming through, but you might have 30 minutes to an hour to wait before they do)
  • Refillable water bottle (so you don’t have to use the cups)
  • Snacks. Most races will have bottled water for you, but don’t count on any food.
  • Towel. Keep in the car. Use to dry off and/or lay over the seat.
  • A semi-empty trunk and/or backseat. You may be asked to transport supplies.
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat/visor
  • Hand sanitizer (…especially if you are having the post-race finger foods. You will get nasty dirty.)
  • Swiss Army knife (or even a simple pocket knife)