Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The things you see at Ironman finish line!

What a day!  Ironman 2015 is in the books...

Sunday was just a perfect day for it too.  It was cool, in the 70's, sunny, no chance of rain - a gorgeous day!  1000% better then last year when it was 102 degrees! Oh mercy.

I was so excited to get to the area & learn what I was going to do for the day.

Ricky was going to help as well, but poor guy works so hard & needs fresh legs & energy for Monday so he decided not to do it - so he let me off on 4th street & headed home to relax....

I'm never one to meet strangers so I went in & registered in  - got my t-shirt & we had to wait for the orientation.

The 2 leaders came & told us what we would be doing & how important it was that we be full of energy & support because a lot of these people travel from all over the world & have no one there for them at the finish line - we could be the only support they have. That just made me so sad to think about....

& then she passed out a stack of  Thank You cards that the athletes filled out for the volunteers... how neat is that...we passed them around & read them... its always so cool to be volunteers for people that appreciate the time & energy you are giving to help them along.

Thank you note:

We all got assigned to our areas & off we went down the finish line shoot....

The chip retrevial people was a small group - only 7 of us... me, 4 other ladies, 1 teenagers who was a son of one of the ladies & 1 guy.  We were instantly chatting up all things Ironman... especially because the guy just finished the Chattanooga Ironman & was up to see his friend do the Louisville one.  He was full of the coolest info about the race & we loved hearing his experience becoming an Ironman. 

He was from Georgia & 2 of the other ladies were from up north, New Jersey - & had drove down just to volunteer the finish line & to feel it out because they wanted to register the next day for next year's event.  How cool is that?  They have done half Ironman's a few times & wanted to up their game.  One lady will do her first Ironman at the age of 50.  That's so inspiring to me.

I was like a silent little squirrel sitting there listening to all the talk between them all - talks of the many MANY marathons they've all one (one did Boston the year after the bombing - that story made me teary eyed)  - talks about bikes & seats & other weird bike parts - talks about swimming & bubbles on strokes & ... I'm just sitting in awe of it all....

It was really cool though because the young man - I got to have some really neat talks with him. He is getting ready to propose to his girlfriend & we got talking about marriage & weddings & engagement rings... when he found out I do wedding photography, he wanted to know more about that & I showed him some pictures... it was just really fun.  He actually put his number in my phone & wanted me to send him wedding info ... wouldn't it be cool if I ended up driving down to Georgia for his wedding? :)

Start of finish:
Everyone waiting for this party to get started
(That guys head in the left corner is my new buddy... those ladies he's talking to are the NJ gals)

Then it was a little bit of waiting... the director came up to us & told us he messed up the timing in our emails we had been receiving & we were actually all an hour early.  It ended up being just fine because the talks we had passed the time... & they had a live shot on the transition area from bike to running & we sat & watched that for a bit...

& then we got word the winner was just a few minutes out...


Finish line:

Talk about electric ... There's just something awesome about a winner crossing the finish line....

& we were SO CLOSE TO HIM...

He was just the kindest guy.  So thankful to everyone for helping - shaking hands with everyone. I got to pat his back as he went by...

& then - yeah - his timing chip - that's what our group was there for.

One of the ladies did this same thing the year before & her son was a pro at getting down on his knees really fast & yanking these things off.  He didn't get to do the winner the year before so we let him take the winner this year.

After the winner, it was go time for us volunteers... the athletes started rolling in.

& yeah, see that picture above & that squatting down to their ankles... that's what I did... for 4 hours.

OH MY GOSH. I know I shouldn't complain after these people did 140+ miles - but come on... all the bending & squatting?  Let's just say, my right quad is still sore from all the up & down... #iamawimp 

It really is amazing to be at a finish line... an Ironman Finish line is a whole other level...

here's just some highlights of the day

* You could tell some of the athletes who were out of it.  We had to yell for medic a few times when you could see BLANK in people's eyes & knew they were going down in a heartbeat. 

* There were also athletes that crossed that finish line & their energy was so high, they just kept running.  We had to pretty much grab them & force them to stop so we could get their chip off them.

* People safety clip & duct tape those timers on their ankles. That's not fun getting them off.

* We had to wear gloves because how wet the athletes are & like I told someone, God knows if they've peed on themselves & it ran down their leg ... yeah, give me gloves. Again, not fun to take off safety pins with medical gloves on.

*  I had a lady that had blood running down her leg onto her chip & into her socks.  I asked if she was OK & she said that it was from chafing in between her legs. OH DEAR LORD - that's gonna hurt for awhile.

Finish line chaos:

*  A few of the athletes, when I would stop them to get their chips off, would literally grab me & hug me.  I thought, these are the people who have no one.  I was happy to hug them as long as they needed, telling them how amazing they are.  & then I'd get their chip off of them, hug them again & on they went.

* FAVORITE MOMENT!!!! One man, he crossed, we got his chip & next thing we know - his whole support team is on the side of the fence. All wearing his bib number on shirts.... & someone hands him a phone & its his kids on Facetime - wearing the same Bib number shirt & they are telling him now much they "love you daddy"... & then we see the crowd part, & there is a man who had to be in his 80's... the athletes grandfather.  He got up to the fence slowly & put his arms around him & just started SOBBING.  Next thing you know - the whole family is SOBBING.  There had to be a story there, but let me tell you, me & our chip retrieval gang all started sobbing with them.  One of our volunteer gang offered to take a picture of them all together & they gladly accepted.  It was just the most amazing moment to witness.  When grandpa let go - here came grandma... & again, the tears.  That was one proud family.... Team Craig #76 - my favorite support team ever!

 * some people aren't meant to work with others.  There was one guy on the medic team that yelled at me when I tried to help a lady with a wheelchair with an athlete in it, get over a hump that was protecting electric cords.  The man YELLED at me that the nurse should be going backwards.  Sorry - she was going forward & jamming it into the 'speed bump' - I didn't tell her to do this - I was just trying to help her.  The guy pointed his finger at me & said, "Let them turn it around" - I kindly said, "She was going forward, I was just trying to help" ... a little later, another nurse did the same thing - went forward.  I just stood there & watched & then just looked at that man on the side & said, "I guess you don't want me to help, huh?" as the lady almost pushed the athlete out of the wheelchair because she couldn't get it over the hump... geez dude. Train your medics if you want them to do it a certain way

* It got so busy that I started not seeing one athletes face - I was just staring at their ankles to make sure they didn't get past me with a timing chip. I can tell you all about their socks & shoes though.

* Compression sleeves over a timing chip really bites. You know how hard it is to get those babies up & down - we would have to pull them down to get the chip off, but pull them back up so they could get their picture taken.  That required team work.

* One of the top 4 women that came through, she looked like she just came off of a fashion shoot - her make up was flawless. What is this magic?  Where can I get some?

* You can tell the age of people by the writing on the back of their leg.  When people would finish we were trying to guess their age - let me tell you - this race wipes you out!  I'm sure its because of dehydration because everyone looked sunk in in their cheeks.  We thought one guy had to be in his late 60's... saw his leg, he was only 41.  That happened over & over.  They all need that magic from the lady above.

*  It really amazing to see all the types of people that cross that finish line.  Not what you expect an Ironman to fit in a body type... I love that.  Just shows that anyone can do this if you put your mind & dedication to it!

Before I knew it, it was 8:00 & the 2nd shift was coming on & we had to train them on what to do... & then we were free to go.  I almost wanted to stay but the finish line was getting really crowded & I didn't want to be in the way.... plus, Ricky had to drive all the way back down to get me & I didn't want him to have to be out too late... so I just took my time, soaked it all in a little bit more & headed to the end...

Finish line:
The finish line is down at the other end... this is the path the athletes had to walk to get their finishers gear & their pictures taken...

I waited for Ricky in this area & watched the athletes get their things & meet up with family & friends... & I had to laugh because I said it looked like a clip from The Walking Dead...

all the limping, all the slow motion, all the groaning...

yep... really similar :)

I wonder if Ironman's are where that idea came from...

Next year, I know my knees can't handle doing this gig  again, but I do want to be the 'catcher' - someone who is the one person that sticks with the athlete from the time they cross the line through the whole process of getting their stuff, getting their picture taken & help them on their way..

I may even take off the day after so I can stay until the very end - those midnight runners that are trying to hard to make that cut off.

Ricky got downtown to pick me up & I went home - glad to be a part of such an amazing event in my own way...

& then turned on the live feed to see right where I just was...

& listen to the sounds all night of "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN" ...

what a cool thing to hear for these amazing people.


  1. I love how you paint such a wonderful picture with your words ;) I really feel the frantic grabbing of the chips and how busy it all was. It is so wonderful you volunteer. I think I would sob from exhaustion, that is a lot miles!

  2. sunday was a gorgeous day, wasn't it? so bummed i didn't get to volunteer this year, but i am definitely doing it next year!

  3. I loved all these details! From the thank you notes to how people hugged you to how it was a team effort to get the chip off under compression socks--what an adventure! I'm sure it's nice to know that you were a part of the whole experience for so many athletes.

  4. What an amazing experience! I felt like I was right there with you by how you described everything. I even had a tear in my eye as I read about Team Craig #76. Wow, there were still people coming in at midnight? Did they start at different times? What time did the first group start and what time did the winner come through? I'm just curious wht the average time is?

  5. Loved reading this! It so awesome you volunteer your time for this. And I agree that would be super cool if the guy from Georgia calls you to do his wedding photography:)
    I totally feel for you, 4 hours of bending and crouching down, geesh.. You'd think they would have had chairs and stools for the finishers to put their foot up on while you guys sat and clipped them. I don't think I have seen many races that make them bend and crouch like that. So I give you extra props, that probably was killer!
    That's too bad about the angry medic, maybe he was just having a bad day and taking it out on others, which is unfortunate!
    That is great they staggered you so you didn't have to be there the entire time while they waited for all the finishers:)
    So fun, I bet you were an awesome bit of cheer for them to finish too! Applause to you my friend!!!

  6. This post made me smile! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  7. This is so awesome!! I think being a catcher would be incredible. So did you like this better than last year working in the changing tent?

  8. I bawl like a baby watching the IM Championships in Kona every year. I can't imagine what it would be like to be there live and in person. So amazing!!


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