Volunteer for a race when injured

I know it sucks to be injured. And you probably don’t want to watch hundreds of people doing the thing you love, but are unable to do because of your injury. But you owe it to your sport. And more importantly, you owe it to your fellow athletes who I’m sure have volunteered (and maybe even saved your ass a few times) for races that you have run.

Here’s a recap of my volunteer experience for the Rockett’s Landing Tri in Richmond, VA.

When you’re injured, volunteering for a race is a great way to spend your weekend. With a bum hamstring, I decided to put in some serious hours this weekend with the Rockett’s Landing Triathlon in Richmond, VA. It always feels good to volunteer, but this time I learned quite a few lessons along the way… and am very motivated now to be a race coordinator next time.

Big shout out to Ginny for keeping me company for 7 hours on Sunday morning. It wouldn’t have been half the fun without someone to share it with.

Below, you can read about my experience this weekend at the Rockett’s Landing Triathlon, or jump on over to my separate entries about tips for volunteers at an aid station & tips for coordinating volunteers during a race.

Saturday before the Rockett’s Landing Triathlon

I was assigned to ride with the bike coordinator, Mike, while he drove the bike course Saturday morning. We marked the course with spray paint. Mike took down some notes on where to place volunteers with flags, and noted where he could get away with fewer than the recommend amount of volunteers (because we were running low in that department). We even swept the course with a broom.

Sweeping the bike course before a triathlon

I had no idea someone was actually responsible for doing this. In theory, it’s a great thing to do. However, for the detail-oriented, anal-retentive people, it’s probably not the best job. I think Mike and I swept many more pebbles than what was necessary. The course was clean, but it took us 2 hours to ride 26 miles… in a car.

Sunday at the Rockett’s Landing Triathlon

We arrived just before 5:30am. Of course, we were ready to go. But you can’t always count on having something to do right away. We waited around for 20 minutes before anyone really told us what was going on.

The rest of the day was a blur. We drove around for a while and helped setup the other stations. Then we arrived at our station, got it setup, and waited. Once the first runner came through, chaos ensued, and 5 hours went by in a flash.

How volunteering made me a more conscientious runner

  • It’s easier to pick up cups that aren’t smashed, so if you must throw them on the ground, do it away from the running area
  • You never know if/when the aid station might run out of cups, so if you can, refill the same one instead of using 3 or 4. The runners behind you will love you for it, especially on a hot day.

I’ll leave you with my favorite comment of the day…

Said a woman somewhere near the middle of the pack, and I quote, “I’ve never put a sponge in so many inappropriate places in my entire life.” Yeah. It was that hot.

Don’t forget about tips for volunteers at an aid station & tips for coordinating volunteers during a race.

    2009 3Sports Sprint Triathlon – Race Report

    The 3Sports Sprint Triathlon just outside Richmond, VA is a great entry-level triathlon. It consists of a 300m pool swim, 20k bike, 5k run. I continue to perform poorly on the bike, and excellent on the run. I always have spent more time on my feet than on my ass.

    300m pool swim, 20k bike, 5k run

    The course

    It’s identical to that of the HHHunt PowerSprint which takes place in May. So if you’re looking to see how you’ve improved from one race to another, these two are just far enough apart to get some decent training in-between.

    The Swim

    My swim was almost identical to the PowerSprint. I ended up being a few seconds faster. This race only had 10 seconds in between each swimmer (as opposed to 15 sec), but the pool was no more crowded than it was for the PowerSprint.

    The Bike

    I tried something new. I had my shoes already attached to my bike. When I entered T1, I threw on my shades and helmet, and ran barefoot to the mounting area. My feet were on top of my shoes (not inside of them yet), and I pedaled out onto the course. As I was coasting, I worked my feet into my shoes.

    Doing what the elites do = Fail

    I saw the elites doing this, so I thought I’d give it a try. It makes sense to cut down on total time because you’re putting your shoes on while moving, instead of while standing still. But it’s definitely something you should practice before doing it in a race. It took me almost 3 full minutes to get both shoes on, and one of them still wasn’t securely on my foot. It probably cost me more time than if I had just put them on in the transition area.

    My chain popped at about mile 2. Stopping, putting it back on, and getting back up to speed, probably cost me about 2 minutes total time. A little bummer, but the fact that I got it back on and successfully finished the next 10 miles is something I’m proud of. I’m far from the world’s greatest bike mechanic.

    The run

    Hot damn. I continue to surprise and impress myself. Completed the run in 22:54 (a 7:22/mi pace). I did take the bike a little easier, and focused on pushing myself on the run. But that’s still a great time for me. And it makes perfect sense because I’ve been running 40-50 mile weeks for the past 5 weeks. Training works.

    Smart (or dumb) training

    One other note to mention is that I ran 22 miles the day before the race. So I wouldn’t say I was well-rested, but when I needed them, my legs came through.

    This will probably be my last tri of the season. I’ll continue to focus on my training for the Old Dominion 100 in June 2010. I’ll most likely either continue training for ultra runs, or try my hand at some longer distance tris.

    The result

    300m Swim, 6:25
    T1, 1:27
    20k Bike, 43:12
    T2, 0:41
    5k Run, 22:54
    Overall, 1:14:38

    2009 Kinetic Sprint Triathlon – Race Report

    This was my first “real” triathlon because it included an open water swim in Lake Anna. The race as a whole was a lot more enjoyable than the shorter, indoor swim triathlons. The course was beautiful. The weather, near perfect. Just a great experience all the way around.

    750m lake swim, 18 mile bike, 5k run

    My first “real” triathlon

    I call this my first “real” triathlon because the swim was in an open body of water. A 300m pool swim just doesn’t compare.

    Clearly nervous

    At the start of the race, you could tell I was nervous. With 4 minutes before the start, I was standing on the beach, behind everyone in my wave, fiddling with my goggles. On my head, over my eyes, adjust the straps, back on my head, wipe off the fog… I looked ridiculous.

    The swim

    The water was 69 degrees (sounds cold, but it was refreshing, especially with a wetsuit). I hit the water and took it slow, trying to stay within myself. Overall, I did pretty well. I did have to float on my side about 4 times, and take 2 nice long breaths before continuing my stroke. Other than that, it was smooth (but slow) sailing.

    2 most important things I learned:

    • I had to look up every 6-8 strokes to make sure I was staying on course (made it really hard to synchronize my breathing)
    • A full-length wetsuit is harder to take off than it looks (practice would have helped)

    The bike

    The bike was a big improvement for me. I averaged 15 seconds faster per mile from my first tri (and this course was 8 miles longer). Still near the back of the pack in my age group. I’ve got a lot of work to do here.

    The run

    The run is still my strong leg. Jelly legs for the first mile, but I felt great for miles 2 and 3.

    Near perfect weather, low humidity, water temperature was good, great atmosphere finishing right on the beach by the lake. A nice dip in the water to cooldown.

    The result

    750m lake swim – 15:38
    T1 – 2:58
    18 mile bike – 1:03:47
    T2 – 1:18
    5k run – 24:44
    Overall time – 1:48:23

    2009 Smithfield Sprint Triathlon – Race Report

    This was my first triathlon… ever. I started with an easy one, where the swim was only 300m, and took place in an indoor pool. It was fantastic weather, and a beautiful, rural location. A much different experience from the standard road running race.

    300m pool swim, 10mi bike, 5k run

    My first triathlon… ever.

    The weather, beautiful. The course, a great one for beginners. Overall, a great first race.

    The swim

    I began the swim nervous. Butterflies kicked in with 4 swimmers ahead of me. We started in 15-second increments. To my surprise, after 100m, I had caught up to the woman in front of me. I ended up passing a total of 4 people before I exited the pool. If you’ve seen me swim before, you’d understand why this was a nice confidence booster.

    A lesson in transition

    I hit the transition area and couldn’t get my top on. This cost me about 15-20 seconds. I learned for next time, just wear the whole thing from the start.

    The bike

    The bike course was very flat with a few rolling hills. Mostly rural area, farmland, very little traffic, beautiful scenery. Maybe I spent too much time taking it all in. 37min+ for my bike time… ouch. But I knew this was my weakest area, so no real surprise. And my chain popped yesterday on a short practice run when trying to switch into the bigger gears, so I was tentative. I never touched the big ring.

    The run

    Solid transition to the run. Under a minute. I was worried about the jelly-leg syndrome I had heard rumors about. Going from the bike to the run using different leg muscles. I think I experienced it for the first 1/2 mile or so. After that, I fell into a nice zone and finished strong. For the remaining part of the run, I felt great. Finished the run in 24:07, a 7:45 pace. This is fast for me even on a good day.

    Overall, great experience. A little different than the standard running races I’ve been used to. But equally, if not more, fun. Looking forward to a few more this summer. Ironman still in my sights, but man do I need some serious work on the bike first.

    The result

    300m swim – 6:30
    T1 – 1:57
    10 mile bike – 37:47
    T2 – 0:59
    5k run – 24:07
    Overall time – 1:11:18