Ironman Wisconsin opened its site for Volunteer sign-up yesterday.
This "little" event revved up my excitement and enthusiasm levels in a big way. It made the event feel so real for me, as opposed to just an arbitrary date looming out there some distance (okay, now 18 weeks) away.
Last year, Nat and I signed up as volunteers so we could a) get a first-hand, close up look at the action to see if, b) we wanted to have priority status to sign up for IM WI 2010.
I was a wet suit peeler. I helped the swimmers out of their wetsuits as they came out of Lake Mendota. It was a blast.
Nat worked the swim to bike transition area, helping athletes find their bags and get ready to get out on the bike course.
Later that day, we both worked the bike water stop at Mt. Horeb. Our shift was timed so we could see bikers as they were hitting that spot for the second loop of the course. That was a fun volunteer spot too and it also interesting/enlightening to observe the condition of the riders. Some looked great -- all smiles, having a blast. Others were struggling a bit, but not giving up.
Nothing we saw along the way that day turned us off from signing up for this year's event, so the next morning, we joined the long line of other volunteers to sign an application, a waiver and a great big check. And so, the Ironman adventure began.
The other fun thing about volunteering last year was seeing other friends: Steve and Pharmie were also signed up to be Peelers; I had just started reading Mike's blog and he posted his race number. When he got out of the water, I recognized his number so I got a chance to "meet" him in the peeling area and wished him good luck.
We also ran in to lots of other people, either participating or volunteering or just spectating. All just fun, fun, fun.
Well, THIS YEAR, as Natalie and I and Matt and Sarah and Patrick and Cathy and 2,494 of our other most close and personal friends are out there on the course, we will have a long, long list of friends waiting for us at various volunteer spots:
Marcia and Marty: Swim timing recorders. One of the first shifts for the day. They will have a chance to see everyone get out of the water when we are all still feeling "good".
Rick L: Will be out on the bike course. I look forward to seeing his omnipresent bright orange hat.
Beth and Bev: Finish line catchers from 6:00 till 9:00. Beth posted on her Facebook page that she did it so she could see me, Nat and Mike finish. I told her that Nat and Mike might finish before 9:00 pm but she was being awfully optimistic thinking that I'd be there by then...(gotta keep it real, you know....)
Carla, Angel, Tim and MY HUBBY: Finish line catchers from 9:00 until midnight. What a treat it will be to see them all as I'm coming down that chute! (note the optimism about finishing before the clock gets turned off in that last sentence....).
As any runner, triathlete or other sports person will tell you, volunteers can make or break an event.
We are going to have a crew of AWESOME volunteers on September 12th. Not just the just the great folks above, but all the others that will take part of their weekend to spend it out on the course with us as part of our day.
To each volunteer, especially my friends, I say THANK YOU in advance for sharing your enthusiasm and your time.
I may not be 'happy' when you see me out on that course. I may not be able to acknowledge you with more than a grunt and a pissed-off glare. I may be crying my eyes out. But know that my soul will be happy to see you and I am ever grateful that you are my friend.