Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ironman from a spectator/volunteer point of view...

Now that I'm all signed up for Ironman Canada 2012 (which, is already sold out!!), I thought perhaps I'd reflect on my experience this year with ironman. Of course this is entirely from the point of view of a spectator and volunteer, since, I most certainly was not one of the over 2800 athletes that started out on the race on Sunday morning.

They played the national anthem. It was quite incredible really, listening to that, while all the hustle and bustle came to a virtual standstill. And, there were athletes running around everywhere trying to get all their last minute stuff done. Dropping off special needs bags, pumping up tires, saying goodbye to loved ones, getting wetsuits on, bodygliding those spots that just are troublesome, applying sunscreen, since the weather was hot and sunny and being out there for multiple hours would make the importance of sunscreen that much more so. First off went the pros. Professional triathletes. People who swim, bike and run for a living. How cool is that really!! It was neat seeing them enter the water and head off in search of the Ogopogo, or at least the first corner buoy anyhow!! Next up came the masses. The age-groupers. Just regular people out there to try this amazing feat. And there were a lot of them!! The anthem was played again, and then the original founder of ironman Canada was there to start the race. I should also point out, he runs the twitter handle for ironman Canada and was instrumental in creating a group of athletes that supported other via social media (Jeremy included). When the age-groupers started, it was quite incredible. There were arms flapping everywhere, really, they looked like salmon or something. It was a sea of flapping arms among the pink and blue swim caps. Pretty much everyone wears a wetsuit. Jeremy was in goggles and ear plugs as well. Off they went.

Next, was the epic battle of the tri-supporter. I wanted a coffee, and not just any coffee. I wanted a Starbucks. After all, I had been up since before 5am, and it was only just after 7am. And I didn't sleep well either, tossing and turning and worrying that Jeremy might sleep in or something (he, on the other hand, slept great!!... I like to think I took away those woes for him!!). So, I headed to the Starbucks on Main Street. The streets were busy, with people trickling over from the swim start to secure a spot to watch the first bikers go by. I found the Starbucks, and no kidding, there were probably about 40-50 people in line already. For a coffee. And, crazy as it may seem, I joined the line. In moments, there were about 20 people behind me. Oh, I will also point out that the Tim Horton's just up the block, was equally as busy!! I waited, I chatted, I waited some more. People walked past in disbelief at where the end of the line was. I waited more, slowly moving on. Soon, the pros started going by on their bikes. It was incredible. Truly. I was in awe. Lots of cowbells, cheering, and just a great spirit and energy in the air. I secured my mocha, and found myself a spot where I could watch the athletes pass. I was fortunate that my mom was watching the boys, so I was able to wait around and see Jeremy go past on the bike.

I should also mention that we were planning to go to Penticton for the weekend even before Jeremy won an entry because I wanted to volunteer and sign up for 2012. But, as Jeremy won an entry, it was even more exciting as there was a live person to cheer for that I actually knew. Sugoi actually gave away two entries, and the two winners both got a kit of Sugoi apparel to wear for the race, and it so happened to be the brand new, brand champion gear. It is very stylish and looked great. Anyhow, both Jeremy and JR (the other Sugoi winner), were wearing their brand champion clothes, so as the age groupers started wheeling past, it was very cool to see JR wheeling past.

The other thing, smart phones. Changes your whole outlook on the race. You can watch for splits and know when someone has crossed the mat for the swim into transition, the halfway point on the bike, the bike finish, the halfway on the run etc. So, between watching people go past, I was also checking for Jeremy's swim time, and a few other twitter folks I was rooting for. So, I had known that JR was out of the water, and a couple other people. And then, Jeremy's swim time came up, and I knew he was out of the water. Was SOOOOOOO excited as he was a wee bit nervous about the sheer enormity of the swim. And, his swim time was excellent for him also!! So, then, it was just waiting for him to get through transition and wheeling past on Main Street. And, then I saw his race kit, looking mighty fine. I cheered as loud as I could and my eyes were filled tears. I was in total awe at what he was doing and so proud of him finishing his swim. After he passed by, it was time to head back to the hotel.

I will point out that there was a lot of downtime for us in the afternoon. I had two little boys to entertain, and as awesome and amazing as Ironman is, for their attention span, I didn't want to push it and have them dreading going to races etc, so the afternoon was mostly about watching for splits on the various athletes I was rooting for. The favourite pro had an amazing nearly tragic story and it was awesome for him to win the whole thing!! And, the female pro winner broke the course record for the first time in over 25 years as well, so that was pretty awesome as well.

Oh, and being the main point of contact for Jeremy's fan club, meant that I had to update his progress on facebook, twitter, email etc, and really, that's a lot of work, not the same kind of work obviously as the athletes, but still!! And, of course, I just wanted to know that he'd made it. It was a brutally hot day, truly scorching. And the ride is not an easy ride. So, I was anxious to watch the splits!! Saw him get through the first split on the bike, and then it was a long wait until he finished the bike. In the meantime, I took the boys on a little hike, we had lots of fun. We also played a little Lego Pirates of the Caribbean. It was fun!! All the while, all those ironman athletes were pushing and working and you know what I mean!!

Next up we were heading out. I packed all our noisemakers, glowsticks, diaper bag, snacks, drinks and away we went. Part way down (we were at Apex Mountain about 30km from Penticton up a winding mountain road), I realized I had forgotten Jeremy's post race recovery drink. It was the one thing he had asked of me, and I didn't want to let him down. So back up I went. Then, I get to the halfway point and realize I have the diaper bag, but not the glowsticks, cowbells and other noisemakers. I was in tears. And, up again I went and got those. In the end, we parked, loaded up the stroller and headed to the intersection where I was volunteering traffic control. There wasn't quite as much time as I was hoping, so didn't get to grab Jeremy's stuff. Cheered on athletes for a few minutes and then took up my posting for the next hours.

Pretty soon, saw JR run past. That brand champion gear is really good looking and with only two people in the world wearing it that day, it was pretty distinct!! I was amazed at the absolute variety of people. There were fat people, skinny people, muscular people, ordinary looking people, young people, old people and everything in between. It was incredible really. And all of them, with only 2km left to go before being declared an ironman!! Oh, and also interesting was the variety of expressions on the athletes. Some were smiling, some were focused, some were in obvious pain, some were exhausted, some looked like they could go on forever. It was very interesting. Some were walking, some were running, some were shuffling, again, pretty much anything goes there!! I continued to check the phone as I wanted to see that Jeremy had reached the halfway point of the marathon (yeah, don't forget, it's 3.86km swim, 180km bike and 42km run). The thing about ironman, is you are kind of chasing the clock, at least the first time. You know you have 17 hours to finish and that's it. There are various checkpoints that if you don't make it past, you get pulled. And one of those checkpoints was the halfway point of the run, you have to reach it by 9pm or you get pulled. Luckily, at about 8:11pm, Jeremy had reached the halfway point. At this point, I knew, without any doubt, barring some medical emergency, he would finish. He had almost 4 hours left, and only 21km to do it!!

I finished up my volunteer time, and then decided to get Jeremy's bike and gear. This would save us extra work later and then when Jeremy was done, we could celebrate his victory without having to worry about all his stuff, and when I say all his stuff, I'm not kidding, it was a lot!! There were 3 bags full of stuff, everything from a wetsuit, to all sorts of clothes, a bike pump, bike shoes, helmet, various bottles of drinks and food. The guy sure didn't pack light!! He kept his options open cause wow, it was a lot of stuff!! So, I was balancing his bike, 3 bags of stuff, that didn't really make it easy to get the bike quickly to the car!! Oh well, I also started kind of freaking out that I might miss him go past. I mean, rationally, I knew I had the time, but every moment away from the course was a moment he could have gotten past and we'd have missed him. Bike went into the car, along with all the bags, and then I moved the car a little closer, since we were parked so far away!!

Met up again with mom and the boys, and cheered on all the people going past. Fielded messages, texts etc updating people who were curious how it was going. And then, off in the distance, I spotted that awesome SUGOI Brand Champion gear. Seriously, he was a way's away, but it looked like it could be him. The only thing that threw me off was his white compression socks. I knew he had compression socks, just didn't realize they were white. He was power walking and looked great. He was one of the people who seemed to be in good spirits. He stopped very briefly to give us hugs, we cheered him on, and off he went for his final 2km.

Oh, and I should mention, brutal!! The athletes turn a corner, and they can see the finish, but instead of going to the finish, turn the opposite direction and finish off their 2km along the shore and then turn around and come back to the finish. It might not seem like much, but after all the kilometres they've already logged, to be that close to the finish, it's one of those salt on the wound kind of moments. We moved closer to the finish, saw him go past, watched his finish on the big screen and then met up with him. It was actually pretty neat, the group he'd done most of his long rides with, and the camp in July with, and open water swimming with, the coach was one of the finish line catchers, so he was able to congratulate him and stuff. I was totally impressed. What amazing dedication to the people you worked with all year!! I'd use Vitalize in a heartbeat based on that alone!!

So, there you have it. My amazing husband, is now an ironman. He has had a passion for ironman most of his life, never truly believing he'd do it, since up until last year, he couldn't even swim. But, he put in the time, the effort, the energy and On August 28th, 2011, he became an ironman. I am married to an ironman. So proud. So amazed. So in awe at what he did!! Great job!! It sounds especially cool when it's Sebastian saying, "My dad is an ironman!" Or ask Sully, what is dad, and he says "eyeman". You've made us proud Jeremy!! Great job!!


  1. Even though I was there for it, your telling of it brought tears to my eyes. A wonderful achievement by Jeremy, and I am sure that next year, you will be become an Iron... woman?

  2. wow it must have been so azimg o see him come across that line. can't wait till next year when you go! sandra