Sunday, July 17, 2011

Volunteers Make a Difference for Weekend Warrrior Athletes

They did refer to us as "athletes" yesterday at the Tri for Fun series in Pleasanton. I like to think of myself as an athlete, even if a late bloomer. Bob and I signed up for a sprint distance triathlon at Shadow Cliffs Regional Park, but as the event approached we both developed a respiratory bug and nearly backed out. I decided since it's supposed to be "for fun," nobody would fault me for skipping the 1/4 mile swim and I planned to jump into the 11 mile bike ride and 3 mile run, even if I wheezed and coughed the whole way--that's a weekend warrior, right? After 4 days of feeling lousy I was sure we were no longer contagious--just experiencing the after effects--so as long as my body could do this it would be fine.

When I saw the competitors riding old Schwinns and hard-tails, the endorphines started to pump and sick or not I wanted to at least beat my last-year's time. Bob had filled my tires to maximum capacity, so I whizzed past most of the ladies in my 29-49 age group, even some from the younger group who started five minutes earlier. To play fair, I hadn't started until the middle of my age-group pack transitioned to bikes. This event is made possible by dozens and dozens of volunteers all along the course. As I rode past the Palm Event Center and adjacent vineyard, a red light and stopped cars told my brain to wait. I reluctantly slowed a bit, but a yellow-vested race volunteer held the traffic, motioned me forward and sweetly called out, "We're doing this for you!" At the next intersection, an older gentleman pointed the way and told me and another rider, "Good job, ladies!"

The volunteers were generous in their comments, as most of us were really pushing ourselves at various forms of fitness and could barely respond. They kept encouraging anyway. Smiles came from the volunteer course monitors as I transitioned to the 3-mile run along trail at the park. I didn't know how I was going to be able to do this, with post illness and now tight calves from biking. I tried to eek out a "thank you" to some of the volunteer cheerleaders, remembering the last time I stood on the sidelines to inspire weekend athletes at the end of a half-marathon. Some volunteers just do the bare minimum and man their post; others go out of their way to call out a cheer or two, even when we don't respond. It's not that we don't want to thank them, we're just spent and trying to finish the race! Every On Your Mark race-day volunteer who encouraged me yesterday deserves a big hug. They told me "Great pace, you're almost there," or "You look strong," and even at the end, "It looks like you could do this race twice!" They had no idea of the bug I had battled just to show up, and to finish, but without their positive words I would have wondered why I even tried. Instead, it was a thrilling experience, and I will be back for another Tri for Fun next summer. Perhaps some of you looking for a fun way to get involved will give it a try and sign up as a race day volunteer to make a difference for us weekend warrior athletes!

Want to try community service helping with a triathlon or other sporting event?
  • Tri for Fun Series, by On Your Mark EventsPurpose: To further the sport of Triathlon.
  •, Mark and Kandee Aiton
  • List of 2011 Events,
  • Tri For Fun #1: 3rd Saturday in June, Tri For Fun #2: 3rd Saturday in July, Tri For Fun #3: 3rd Saturday in August
  • What: 400 yard swim, bike distance 11 miles, 3.1 mile run.
  • Shadow Cliffs Regional Park, Pleasanton.

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