Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Volunteer Report: Ironman Wisconsin 2008

Two nearly perfect weather years in a row (fingers crossed for just one more...) meant that volunteering for Sunday's race was a perfect way to spend a beautiful fall day. We had a whole gaggle of us at the State Street aid station - Brazo and his wife and kids were there, Erin and Chief of Stuff, and Megan and Cheese, along with myself and Amy. It was a huge aid station though, with tons of people, so we all just kind of found our way into the mix. Here's a shot of Team Brazo and Amy doing their thing (if you can pick them out amongst the sea of red shirts).

I hung towards the very back of the aid station with a collection of water and Gatorade, because I always appreciate one more option before the end of the aid station. I'd stand there and yell "Watuuuur! Gatoraaaaaaade!" and get into a kind of Wally the Beerman (well known beer vendor at Twins games, for those that don't know) cadence. Sometimes I'd throw in a "Buttscratcher!" just to keep it lively.

It was a ton of fun to just be among the athletes, to enjoy State Street in the sunshine, to be among Ironman. When my friends TriAl and Thomps came by, I'd run along with them and cheer my face off for them, so happy to see them out there, hanging tough and getting it done. Al said he couldn't feel his feet the first time around - the second time he said he couldn't feel his ankles. Ack. But, he got it done out there and finished in just over 13 hours. Thomps wondered the first time around if he'd blown it all on the bike, but the second time around he was looking really strong and said he got his second wind. He finished in just under 13 hours - a great day and huge congratulations out to both of them.

When our shift ended Amy went home to put D to bed, and Erin, CoS and I headed to the finish line to cheer on the finishers. The site of the IMWI finish line, with the Capitol in the backdrop - it's always pretty amazing.

All in all, a fantastic day and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

A few bits & pieces:

• Closed circuit to athlete walking through the aid station on his cell phone. Really? WTF indeed.

• You always kind of catch the latest gear that everybody's excited about. Last year was the first year I saw tons of aero-helmets on the course. This year there were LOTS of those knee-high compression socks on the run course. I wonder what the report on those are - they're supposed to minimize fatigue, etc. by compressing the muscles. Anybody tried them? Do they work? Cuz...they sure look goofy. As opposed to the rest of the wardrobe for this game which looks totally natural.

• Surreal moment of the day - some athlete passed by me, grabbing a Gatorade, then I hear from behind me, "Hey, are you Becoming Ironman?" I turn and this dude, in the middle of his Ironman, has turned all the way around to ask me that. I don't know if he recognized me from this blog or the video or what, but I say, a little stunned, "Yes I am." And he raises his fist - I cna't be sure but he may have given the universal sign for picking it up and setting it down and shouts, "Fuck Yeah!" Well that got me pretty fired up so I ran after him and chased him for awhile and shouted at him, "YOU WILL FINISH THIS RACE!" And he got a solid look of ass-kickery on his face and went charging onward. That was some kind of crazy.

• You know what's weird? State Street when it isn't dark by 5:00 and raining. I had no sense at all of where this aid station was in relationship to my own Ironman experience, even mentioning to Brazo when we got there that I had no clue where we were. I mentioned that to Amy when I was escorting her back to the parking garage at the end of the day, and she said, "This is where you said you were back in the game." (in the video, at about 4:45)

All I remembered from my frozen stupor was running down some hill, getting a Gatorade, then stumbling upon the team. In my mind it was kind of an empty part of the course, kind of wide-open - I think because there seemed like there were hardly any people out there at all (which, there were hardly any people out there at all, what with the monsoon and all). She pointed to the entrance to some little store, "this is where we all huddled together to keep warm." WEIRD. Weird, what one perceives vs. what's real, y'know? Especially in Ironman, where perception is pretty much what is real, if that makes sense. Anyway, the last two years this same lonely stretch has been bright and summery and just full of people, their shouts and noises bouncing off the buildings lining the narrow street to make everything loud and cheerful. It would be fun to experience that kind of energy as an athlete.

• The Ironman store at the village is sure getting elaborate - in a good way. This year, instead of the usual Ironman faire and smattering of triathlon goods it was really split into 2 different sections, one full of Ironman regalia, and the other a pretty fully-featured tri-store with Zoot, 2xU, Blue Seventy, TYR, the whole shebang. Shoes, wetsuits, trisuits, everything you could want for. Made perusing a ton of fun.

• I got in line Monday morning to register for IMWI '09. Crazy. I worried that this would be the first year that it wouldn't get to online registration at all, and that they'd have to turn away some that were physically in line. It all turned out fine - there were about 800 people in the volunteer line, I heard a NA Sport rep say at the volunteer's dinner Monday night, and about 1500 or so in the regular line. I was in the first third or so of the Volunteer's line, and it went pretty smoothly. Still - either Ironman participation interest is going to start to plateau a bit, or we'll inevitably start to some kind of lottery system just for regular races. It's just crazy that people are lining up at 4:00am.

• I heard some other interesting things by eavesdropping on this NA Sports rep who was chatting with a long-time volunteer captain at my table. He said that in '05 it was so hot, and in '06 it was so cold, that they really spent the entire race-day in constant "emergency" mode. Always tackling really big issues on the course and relative to the race in general. Also, he noted, athletes, volunteers, and spectators alike tend to rally together in those really tough years even moreso than usual, so that small things that could be improved tend to get put aside or overlooked altogether. He said that the last 2 years of great weather have really allowed them to perfect the small details - which, he accurately pointed out - in it's 7th or 8th year should be what they're doing with Ironman Wisconsin. Things like distributing ice and sponges in the most sanitary fashion, for instance. I appreciated this, and thought it spoke well of NA Sports and how they handle all things Ironman, which especially on race day hurts my head with how complicated the whole thing must be. Good on you, all.

• I get that it's fun and worthwhile to kind of "brand" each race to its geography - like, Brazo's medal for IMKY was shaped like a horseshoe. Cuz it's Kentucky. Get it? But it's kind of boring for me that everything IMWI appears to be about cows. This year there were these cartoony cows on the t-shirts, which was all well and good, but then the Finisher's medals were also shaped like a cartoony cow. I'm not saying it shouldn't and wouldn't be cherished for what it is - but can't we doe something classier for a Finisher's medal than a cartoony cow? Must cows be involved at all? If it's between that or some god-forsaken wedge-of-cheese shape, then I guess I'll take the cow, but I dunno. Seems to me we could keep these things simple and classy instead of cute and goofy. Just saying.

• I enjoyed the volunteering and all - but my heart, and my soul, and my guts are ready to be on the other side of that cup of Gatorade.


J-Wim said...

It's funny - I said as we watched the swim that it was fun to watch and all but I really would rather be in the water than watching it.

I kinda liked the medals this year, but you are right about the cows being the only thing about WI people know. We grow corn and soybeans too, but a pod of soybeans on the medal would just look like a big clump of turds (just check out the signs marking the entrance to Evansville....) so I guess I would take the cartoony cows :-)

xt4 said...

laughing out loud at j-wim...

Team Brazo said...

Ya, I agree - no more freaken cows. We must be known for something better than cows. I will say that this years (2008) finishers medals were better than the one I got in 2007.

I'm not a drinker, but how about a draft beer or the capital or .. -- better than a cow.

robert said...

"As opposed to the rest of the wardrobe for this game which looks totally natural". - Funny stuff.

I actually liked the medal, but the finisher shirt is one of the ugliest I've ever seen.

KodaFit said...

Nice Report! If I could comment on the compression socks...

I'm not sure if I have the same thing, last year when I was struggling with Shin Splints, I purchased some shin sleeves to help me recover - I think they're the same thing. Up until that point, I'd rest 4 weeks, and within 1 week of light training they were back, very frustrating.

The sleeves reduce a lot of the vibration, specifically that which aggravates the anterior compartment, or whatever you call the part that gets affected. After 2 months running in them, I was able to take them off and have been relatively injury free since.

I have worn them on a couple of long runs... I think you need to train with them because it causes slightly different motion and so different muscle groups seem to engage. To be honest, I haven't noticed a whole lot of difference in my fatigue level on those long runs, with or without the sleeves. They're nice in winter when it's cold, since I prefer to run in shorts, but you have to weigh that against looking like a bit of an idiot. Comments have been made that I look like a rugby player...

Congrats again on getting in for next years race! I'm excited to follow your progress this year, and then the plan is to do it myself in 2010 - probably in Arizona or Idaho.

Mommymeepa said...

It was great to meet you at dinner on Sat. night. Wish you could have stayed longer, but that's ok. I volunteered as well. You can check out the first group of pictures on my blog. I will be posting my 6 hours at the finish line handing out medals tomorrow sometime.

Again, great to meet you and I cannot wait to see ya next year when I'm out there volunteering.


Anonymous said...

Fuck Yeah!! The race makes you crazy, I don't usually shout that at people but I was pumped up.

I recognized you from your blog and was so pumped up when I saw you. Your attention to detail is awesome and it helped me prepare for my first IM. Thank you. I will be volunteering next year so that I can do it again. You can bet I will be cheering you on next year.

I may be up in Madison over the next year to train. I would love to hook up for a beer, coffee, workout and talk Ironman with you.

Doug Bottorff

xt4 said...

Doug!!! You're awesome dude, how did your race go? I hope you finished - you were looking good. It was FANTASTIC to share an Iron-moment with you for sure. I'll look forward to you on the course next year when I'm back at Ironman.

Definitely let me know when you're planning on being in Madison - we'll for sure try and get together. Kickass!

Steve Stenzel said...

I've thought about compression socks for myself, but I've never talked to anyone who's used them The SEEM like a good idea...

And OMG! Wally the Beerman! You belong in MN.

This post has made me want to get back out there for IM. Pharmie and I may come out next year! We can be on opposite sides of the Gatorade!

Buttscratcher? Buttscratcher!!

TriSupporter said...

Great recap. I have yet to finish mine...I couldn't believe how busy we were all weekend getting Rian ready. Then race day...OMG I don't remember you saying anything about how spectators would be exhausted.

Your blog was a huge help to us in preparing. Thanks!! It was an unbelievable experience and next year I think we're going to volunteer. We spent the run portion by the hill by the was a great spot...not many fans but you get to see your athlete 4 times in two loops.

Look for us cheering you on next year!

M said...

Dude, totally saw that guy on the cell phone - I remember looking at Cheese and mouthing "What the f***?"

I wonder about those socks too - I couldn't believe how many people had them, and even considered maybe trying a pair out - but let's be serious - I'm pretty vain. I can let others look like goff balls.

And while I too like to be on the other side of that Gatorade cup, I will be more than happy to be handing it out to you next year!!!

Triteacher said...

Hoooooey! You're in for 09 - awesome.

(I liked the rest of the reportage too, FYI. ;-))

RunBubbaRun said...

Yeah, I have a friend who wore compression sock at IMKY, he had a good IM run, so I guess they worked.

Hopefully NA events don't become just lottery events, that would be no FUN..

Yeah, Hopefully I'll be able to scream and chase you down next year. Look forward to it.

Kerri said...

What up! Hope the boy band is doing well. I became Ironman on September 7th, as did Valerie and Rian(Tri Supporter). We were blessed with such fantastic weather. We printed out your 'two cents' and brought it with us to IMOO. It was so helpful, so thank you so much for doing that. I'm hoping you will have another two cents after next years Ironman. We will volunteer next year then get in line at 4am on Monday to sign up and do it all over again. Best of luck training!

Anonymous said...

I'll be out there next year handing you a cup of Gatorade with Megan. As much as I'd love to be on the other side with you, the hubby and I need to take a year off from it and tackle it again in 2010.

I wear compression socks at night to bed - it is more of a sleeve vs. a sock and they do help. I have less soreness the next day after a long run. Now I have never worn them for a race or a training run yet, so not sure how they feel/work 'during'...

Here is a link for the ones I bought...however, I am sure you don't want pink, so look in the men's section.

R. Jeffrey Davis said...

Chris, sorry for such a late comment but I wanted to add my 2 cents worth on the compression socks. At Oceanside I met the folks from CEP. At first I thought the socks were gay and you would NEVER get me to wear them. Over the next 20 minutes or so I warmed up to the idea and even wore them during the run. They help. I've worn them for any long runs and leave them on afterwords for a bit. You can read more about them here:

They even have a number of studies that they've done. Check them out.

ng2000 said...

Valuable resource of volunteer news summaries:

Daniel said...

I stumbled across your videos on you tube and now your race report and volunteer report. Interesting stuff as I prepare for IMWI '09 to be my first IM.

"It's just crazy that people are lining up at 4:00am."

True! Even crazier that it was actually Midnight when the first guys got in line. I got there about 1:20am and was the 3rd non-volunteer in line. The two guys at the front had watched the final finishers right before midnight, before heading over to stake out their spot.

See you at the starting line!

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