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.

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