Toughman Half Iron - Recap from the Bike Course

As my knee injury earlier this summer caused me to pull out of my last few races this year, I decided to help my friend Rich and I worked the bike course for the Toughman Half Iron triathlon this past Sunday.  I've know Rich for a number of years, and train with his tri club.  Rich is also the race director of the Toughman triathlon, and the mastermind behind it's inception 3 years ago.

It was a little tough mentally on Saturday as we were out marking the bike course - putting up signage and chalk-painting the roads.  I had a few moments where I would think back to last year (when I raced the Toughman) and would think that I should be home resting and hydrating.  But, alas, not this year.

So, Sunday morning my wife JL and I headed out early to our section of the bike course and awaited the other volunteers so that I could assign duties and positions along our section of the bike course.  It was really a perfect day for racing.   Cool.  Overcast.  Dry.  Really just about idyllic conditions.  My volunteers started to arrive and once we were all gathered I went over the key points that were covered in the race captains meeting the previous day: What corners were going to be troublesome, where traffic was going to be an issue, and what corners we would have police assistance. 

I sent everyone on their way, and JL and I waited with another volunteer at our section for the race to get underway.  We were located at about the 24-25 mile mark of the bike course.  I had a sheet of the estimated arrival times for the leaders, both overall and for the subsequent waves, and as the time for the estimated arrival of the leaders came upon us, we split up and headed to our stations. 

Here came the leaders.  Damn….these guys were really moving.  The leader came by and I barely saw him as I stopped cars from coming out of a parking area and waved him through.  He was just a blur with the sound of his disk wheel announcing his arrival.  The gent in 2nd place at the time came through a few minutes later and was really dropping the hammer as well.  Ah, to hold a Pro Card and to be able to devote more time to training!

Then, things got nutty.  As the bulk of the athletes came through it was an hour-plus of constant activity.  Cars and traffic (not everyone as understanding as I would have liked) were getting thick.  We were stationed just outside a popular deli - a favorite oasis for us on long rides.  But also apparently a favorite early Sunday morning stop for coffee and a New York Times.  When I said that people weren't always as understanding as I would have preferred, I wasn't kidding.  A few people, when I asked if they could park across the street instead of in the parking area directly in front to avoid delays and for the safety of the athletes, looked at me as if I'd asked them to chop off one of their hands.  Upon their departure they were quick to spin their tires and spit gravel up as they departed to show what a massive inconvenience the extra 2 minutes had cost them.  No matter.  The primary objective was the safety of the athletes and that's what drove every action that morning.

In the end, even circling our section of the course behind the sag-wagon to pick up signs was fun.  We got back to the race site and were able to see some of our friends who had raced (a couple nice finishes, including a first place AG win for my good friend K.C.) and had a chat with our friend Rich - who finally looked much more relaxed as his 3rd year of Toughman was shaping up to the biggest and best so far.

Bottom line: If you're an athlete and you compete in running, triathlons, bike races, whatever… need to volunteer for some local races.  Not just for the fact that it's good to pay back the effort that others have put in so that we can race safely, but for the fact that it's actually a fun and rewarding experience.  I can't tell you how many athletes, while zipping by at 20+ mph would give a quick "thanks" as they went by.  Even one of the top 10 through my zone gave me a thumbs up as he screamed past.  It's important to realize that races of any size can't go on without volunteers.

A final congrats to my friend Rich.  The Westchester Toughman was a great success, again.