I’m not sure what Ironman puts in the tonic they feed race volunteers, but it should be a staple in the diet of humanity. I have been to endless charity functions and goodwill events, but not many cultures detach from ego like Ironman volunteers.
They deliver the perfect balance of calculation and compassion. It’s the ultimate example of respecting the walk in someone else’s shoes.
This was my second Ironman and I can tell you with 100 percent certainty this is not a fluke. I was humbled at Wisconsin, now I reflect with a deeper faith in the evolution of consciousness.
From check-in to medal-distribution, the volunteers felt like a seamless extension of myself. They asked important questions with complete sincerity and served humility as an endless commodity.
On Saturday, the Louisville sky opened wide and the nicest woman patiently walked me through transition procedures in pouring rain. I couldn’t help but chuckle as she finished the speech with flat hair framing her face.
She stood in mud with a wide smile providing the most mundane details and it seemed like the happiest moment of her life. Just then her son walked up and she introduced him as a future Ironman. They both said they’d be cheering for me out in LaGrange and I believed them.
The Swim Start ran as smooth as a Swiss watch. The body markers were plentiful, and the guides were pointing out potential hazards on our way to the Ohio. When in the water, there didn’t seem like one time when there wasn’t a kayak in sight. It was all quite remarkable.
My first trip into the transition tent was an eye-opener. A sweltering, sticky mess of half-naked men preparing for a 112 mile bike. I simply can’t fathom how anyone could spend more than 5 minutes under that canvas, but these guys were incredibly patient and cordial, not to mention coming out of the woodwork with the precision of German engineers. Who makes these people?
Helmet, shades, shoes, check. I gave my bag to one of three guys begging for it and headed to my bike.
The sunscreen-volunteer-position has always puzzled me. On one hand, it’s a sloppy mess, on the other, you get to rub people’s bodies all morning. They were tactful, proficient, and professional in their technique.
I pulled my bike from the rack and something felt wrong. That’s when I realized I was still wearing my swim skin, which would have made for quite a story, but an awkward ride.
My first thought was to run back to my bag, but no less than two guys were there to do it for me. The skeptic inside thought my ROKA was a gone for good, but sure enough, it was resting peacefully in my bag later that night.
The aid stations on the bike course were absolutely perfect. Super long and full of expertly placed volunteers that knew how to hand off a bottle. Long arms, loose hands. I took water at the start, doused myself on the way through, then grabbed another for my bike at the end. Never came close to having a problem.
My second trip into the tent was just as pleasant (other than the fact that I had a marathon on my brain). I de-cleated, grabbed my visor, handed my chrono watch to the volunteer and he gave me my Garmin. I clasped it tight and the band broke. The volunteer casually held out my chrono and I put it back on for the run.
Oh, the run.
I am going to go on a limb here and say the Louisville run course volunteers may collectively be some of the most patient and well adjusted people on earth. From mile one, I was a complete mess and somehow they knew my language. They were plentiful in their praise and gracious in their actions. Whatever I needed was mine without a hint of hesitation.
Over the course of 26 miles the aid stations were oasis’s in my desert. Those orange shirts were the most welcome site of the day. They numbed the pain and gave me hope.
And the young lady who “caught me” at the finish line. Perfectly in tune with my disorientation. I stumbled, handed out hugs, forgot my train of thought. The whole time, she waited. She was with me until I took my picture and hobbled out of the chute. A perfect ending to a storybook romance with my new extended family.
Regretfully, I don’t remember the name of one volunteer, but if I run into one on my travels I will give them a resistance free hug to let them know how much I appreciate, not only their support, but the way they choose to live their life.