Volunteer Recap and Lessons Learned

This is the only picture I took all day. That’s how hard I was working. Also, I’m terrible at taking pictures.

On Sunday, I was up bright and early (wait, it was before bright and early) to volunteer at Iron Girl Columbia.  I had to be at the race site at 4:30, which meant leaving my house before 4.  I had friends telling me I was crazy, but really, it was something I needed to do.  I get so much from volunteers at races that I need to give back.  Besides, volunteering at races is so much fun!  (Except for that early thing.)

Iron Girl Columbia is a sprint distance race, and the race gets a lot of beginners, but don’t let that fool you – this course isn’t a waltz.  The swim is .62 miles, the bike is a hilly 16 miles, and the run is 3.5 miles.  So it’s longer than your average sprint.  But it’s a great challenge.

I worked at body marking until I destroyed two different markers, then headed to swim finish.  I definitely learned a lot about racing at swim finish.  I’ve worked at the finish before, but I’m usually further back.  This time, I was at the edge of the water.  There were a bunch of people stationed at swim finish, and we’re definitely ready to deal with a lot of issues that come up.  Thankfully, we didn’t have to deal with any of them.

Well, there was one.  And ladies, I need to talk to you about this problem.  I was unaware it existed.

Our coordinator referred to it as “suit check” and then made his wife explain it.  Sometimes, women do the swim in looser fitting attire, and as they get out of the water, their top pulls down and there are boobs all over the place.  So we had to remind ladies to pull up their suits on many occasions.  I only got flashed once, so that’s a good thing.

But let’s give this some thought here.  If you’re doing the full race and not just the relay, you shouldn’t be wearing a top loose enough that it can fall down that much.  If you are, it’s clearly not supportive enough.  (I suppose there are likely women out there who don’t need a sports bra to run, but those were not the women we had to remind.)  Even if you’re wearing a sports bra, if you can fall out of it, it’s not the right size or shape for your body.

Yes, oftentimes when lady triathletes get out of the swim, they grab the top of their kit and bra and yank them up, because when you stand up and all that water drains out, it’s natural that your kit will pull down a bit.  But it shouldn’t actually be going anywhere significant.  I usually have to pull my top back up over my bra because it has slid down a bit, but the bra has gone nowhere.

So take a look at what you’re wearing and maybe consider something a bit more supportive.

Now, back to the race.  The volunteers at swim finish aren’t allowed to touch you, as that’s technically outside assistance.  The boat ramp was slippery in spots, and it was tough to not be able to reach out to help, but we wanted to follow the rules.  There was an older woman who I offered an arm to, and it wasn’t an issue, and if someone seriously needed help, we obviously would have provided it.

Unfortunately, this race had a hard time cutoff for the end of the swim, and there were still some ladies making their way in.  The last two ladies out of the water before the cutoff were probably very confused as to why we were screaming so much at them to keep swimming and practically shoved them towards transition.  But once the cutoff hit, Kristin and I walked further into the water and offered assistance to the ladies getting out of the water.  They couldn’t be double DQed after all.  But it was heartbreaking to watch.  One woman had two spectators waiting for her, and they knew she hadn’t made the cutoff.  I very much appreciated that they weren’t angry at us, instead they just kept cheering.  The woman exited the water and started crying because she was so overwhelmed that she finished.  Her friends were hugging her and the volunteer captain came over to give her the bad news, at which point, she just started sobbing.  They were awesome to be there for her and remind her that she had finished the swim, and that was a huge accomplishment (and it is!)

A few of the other people were angry (understandable), and the poor volunteer coordinator had to deal with their anger.  If you find yourself in this situation, remember that the volunteers aren’t the ones who made the rules.  In this case, it came from the police – we couldn’t let any cyclists out onto the road after a certain time.  The volunteers just often end up being the ones who have to give the info.

After swim finish, Kristin and I headed to the run course to cheer.  After about an hour of this, my energy was seriously flagging.  I had wanted to be there for the end of the race, but I was exhausted, and ended up leaving a little after 11.  I still had a great time and was so glad that I took the time to volunteer.  I’m definitely putting the race on my schedule for next year to volunteer again.

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