This is a different kind of race report…..since I didn’t race. WHAT didn’t race?!? Nope. It takes many, many, many volunteers to put on any size race from a sprint to a full Ironman. While I am racing I try to thank the volunteers and officers on the course when I can but why not give back by volunteering yourself? I absolutely love hearing about the successful races other athletes had and the smiles on their faces. In general, volunteer positions are only 2-4 hours with just one task and then you can move on to another volunteer position if you want or be done for the day. Some of the most fun positions are aid stations, traffic stops, and finish line but there is a LOT more that goes on behind the scenes to get a race ready. I want to preface and mention the following is NOT a typical volunteer role and is above and beyond the call of what a volunteer typically does for a race. Not all volunteer positions are flashy and glamorous. Except friends who saw my Strava activities for marking the run course most athletes had no idea what I and other volunteers did behind the scenes. That’s ok, it’s not about people knowing what you did, it’s about YOU knowing you made that athlete’s race better. Shaver “Mile High” Triathlon Sunday, September 18th is put on by a family owned company, Sierra Cascades Multisport Productions. Check out their next race here.
Assistance with race prep and finishing packing a trail of race equipment started Friday at 6pm. The goal was to be to Shaver by 9pm which didn’t happen. There was one less vehicle to transport perishable food items to the race which meant rearranging the contents of the trail to fit the food items. By 5am we were rolling and departing Fresno. I was a passenger in the truck towing the race trailer so thankfully I didn’t have to drive with no sleep. When we arrived in Shaver we set up a few barricades and caution tape to mark of the parking lot we would set up transition in just a few short hours. We then drove to the cabin the core crew was staying at in Shaver. I got 3-4 hours of sleep before heading out to set up the bike course turn and turn around signs. Luckily this is a very easy bike course since there are only a few turns to get out to Dinky Creek Road and it’s an out and back. This is the start of one of my favorite hilly rides (Shaver to Wishon Dam). Next was helping with whatever needed to be done at transition and packet pick up until the run course was marked. My primary job for set up was to verify the run course was marked sufficiently and the course was correct, a fresh set of eyes always helps. When the run course markers were done and placing swim course buoys I headed out on a mountain bike. This run course is half trail and half asphalt so a mountain bike was required if I wanted to finish checking the course a little faster than running it. This was my first time every being on a mountain bike and I almost eat it multiple times. I almost went the wrong way twice and had to correct myself twice so I told the course markers the flags were a little lacking in some place and needed to be more consistent and denser. The second time checking the run course I walked so I could add or re-position flags. There were only a few flags I had to re-position that were hiding behind a stump or where I thought it was leading the runner’s sight the wrong way. I finished the run course markings at dusk and last for the day was to prep my vehicle for the next morning. We got back to the cabin about 8 and my sister made us a delicious chicken dinner. I finally made it to bed by 9pm.
Did anyone else notice Friday and Saturday blurred together? Yeah that wasn’t fun! My Sunday started at 4:30am to get dressed and out the door by 5am to drop off both the bike and run aid stations. There was only one aid station at the end Olympic turn around that was a bottle exchange and gu. I needed to actually set up this aid station but the tent was brand new and a too stiff for me to set up on my own so I had to just leave it to finish when the volunteers came. Next were the three run aid stations in Camp Edison but I just had to drop off the aid station equipment and thankfully did not need to set it up. Next on my schedule was a volunteer debriefing at 7am. I made it back to transition with about 20 minutes to spare so I found little things to help with and some friends that were racing to chat with.
At the athlete debriefing I found out my bike turn around volunteers were a no show. We had to pull our only general volunteers to cover the Olympic turn around aid station.
I had them follow me out to the turn around and helped them put the tent up. On my way I verified all volunteers were in their assigned positions and knew what to do. Next was waiting for the last sprint cyclist to exit transition so I could be a sweeper behind her.
As I passed volunteers I told them this was the last cyclist and they only had athletes returning now. She was a trouper on the hills and after she turned around I continued to the Olympic turn around to relieve the volunteers and sweep for the last Olympic cyclist. I caught up to her on the last few miles and discovered she was on a mountain bike! Wow! That is a tough course to do on a mountain bike. Once we got to the turnaround I helped the volunteers pack the aid station and took it in my car. I easily caught up to the cyclist again and follower her to transition relieving the volunteers on my way. The last cyclist started her first loop at about 11am.
I was able to take a short break during her second loop to get some lunch from the athlete area. I was originally supposed to be a sweeper and ride a mountain bike behind her but decided to get a head start on clean up and walked behind her picking up course markings. One of the regular runners volunteered to help pick up the run markers and it bad clean up go much faster. I called it a day after picking up 800 orange flags, tons of green arrows, and 8 staked signs. Finally made my way to the cabin for some lunch from a local pizzeria by 2pm. At this point you’d think we were done….nope. We still had to drive the trailer to the warehouse, drop off the rental truck. We were finally “done” at 9pm when we sat down to our traditional post crew lunch….dinner….at dog house grill.
Ok I’m tired just typing all of this. That was a lot of work! But hearing feedback like “the run course was over marked” made it all worth it. I hope you consider volunteering at your next local event that you are not racing in, maybe not to the extent that I did, maybe just one or two of the “fun” positions. Races could NOT be put on without the help of all the volunteers.
All photos are by Sierra Cascades’ AMAZING race photographer, Darryl Ploen.