Monday, June 2, 2014

Certified "water stop" volunteer

This weekend I earned my "water stop" certification at the Off the Rails sprint triathlon in Roanoke, Virginia. This was the inaugural year for this race and since I couldn't yet race, I was more than happy to add a new volunteer experience to my recent and growing list that includes road marshaling/cycle cheerleading and aid station/gravel shoveling/peanut butter and jelly making. Plus it gave me the chance to see my friends racing and to cheer them on!

Since Equipment Coach Bryan can expertly and carefully top off flooded lead acid batteries, he volunteered as well, to be sure the cups were filled *precisely* to the same level (half-full) and that they all had the same specific gravity. (Note: batteries are not used in most solar electric systems, only for off-grid and grid-interactive battery backup applications. Read more here.)

He could also watch the Solar Connexion logo go by on many Roanoke Tri Club kits.
The cups were filled and aligned with expert precision, some flowers added to dress up the table, and we were ready!

Volunteer coordinator Joe Hanning had suggested we might want to bring bikes since the stop was 1.5 miles down the Greenway so we did. To avoid any temptation to really "ride" I brought Grant's too-small mountain bike and Bryan brought his vintage steel road bike. (We forgot don't try this at home.. but we rode slow and safe.)

We told the runners the water had
 as we handed it out from our very scenic spot at the turnaround on a bridge.

Nearly everyone took water, nearly everyone stopped running or walked to drink, and nearly everyone threw their cups carefully into one of the three trash bins along the way. So tidy!

The repeated stopping-for-a-long-time-to-drink drove me a little crazy and I felt myself getting anxious and wanting to urge the racers on. "Gooooo!" I was yelling in my head, "It's a RACE not a cocktail party!!!" But I stuck to positive encouragement. I could see everyone was working hard regardless of pause or place or pace.

It was estimated that this race had 30 or 40% first-time triathletes. Kudos to the organizer Michael Clark of Roanoke Parks and Rec for creating such a welcoming race. He faced some logistical challenges along the way but things came together really nicely.

In keeping with the "Off the Rails" theme, a Norfolk and Southern train passed by as we finished up. It's in the pic just past the trees. I love trains, I think it's in my blood. My grandfather (my dad's dad) was a railroad engineer on trains 47 and 53 for Conemaugh and Black Lick Rail Road, the short line railroad for Bethlehem Steel.

We were rewarded with exceptionally nice race shirts. Race tshirt orderers: take note, this one's a definite winner! Why? Very soft cotton blend (beats cheap technical ts), and bold, eye-catching but subtle tone-on-tone graphic. The fitted women's cut was a bonus.

After the race we went back out on the greenway and fastidious Bryan had us peeling up the directional tape and helping to move supplies off the bridge. I draped a bag of trash over the top tube and had to pedal like a frog.

I had WAY too much fun on my kid's too-small bike (which is also too small for him since he is now taller than me). My legs and glutes paid the price on the real training ride I had to do later.

Not too many tri-bikes have this convenient bottle/cup/flower holder in the front!

I have really enjoyed volunteering over the last month and that is something I certainly want to keep in the mix. However, it is finally time for me to start shifting my focus to racing again. It's three weeks till my first 5k (should be interesting since yesterday was my first continuous 20min of running) and just two months until Nationals. That's not a lot of time and I have quite a bit of work to do to get enough fitness just to survive double-race weekends in July and August. But I'm feeling good and fresh and hungry!!