So this weekend is the Coeur d’Alene Ironman. I’ve volunteered almost every year of its existence (I believe it started in 2003). I was out of town a year or two, and one year I just watched, but otherwise I’m one of 3000 volunteers who make the race possible. (For those of you unfamiliar with the event, it’s a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run. The race starts at 7am and ends at midnight. There are milestones you must meet to continue racing – be out of the water by 9:20am, off your bike by 5:30pm, and finish running by midnight. If you miss any of those points, you cannot finish the race.)
It’s one of my favorite events of the year. I love the energy the athletes bring to town, love knowing that my minor contribution helps them pursue their dreams. Love watching the pros hop across the finish line like they haven’t completed a 140.6 mile race in 8 hours. Love watching the amateurs struggle across the finish line at 11:30pm, their families and the die-hard fans (of which I’m one) urging them on.
I’m always amazed that I watch the start of the race at 7am (3000 people diving into the water from a small section of the beach – the water froths and foams as arms and legs fly), watch the last person leave the water at 9:20am, get a coffee and wander around town watching the bike race, eat lunch, watch the pros finish the run, go home and nap or shower or have dinner, come back at 9pm, and there are folks who are STILL racing – still doing the same thing they started doing at 7am. It’s – well, it’s amazing.
I admire their strength, their persistence, their drive, their commitment – although I think they’re all nuts. I think they’re even MORE nuts when they limp into the registration tent Monday morning and sign up for next year’s race (someone likened it to giving birth, then getting pregnant again the next day). I wish I had their single-minded desire to achieve the unachievable. I wish I could swim 2.4 yards, let alone 2.4 miles! Or run further than to the corner to make the light.
Anyway, today I did my volunteer stint, helping the athletes fill out their medical waivers. In years past I’ve kept spectators out of the water during the swim, registered folks on Monday morning, and applied sunscreen before the run (now THAT was a hardship…not!). Now I’m free to watch the race on Sunday. Some folks see the whole day as a nuisance, because many roads are closed and it’s a pain getting from point A to B. I’m so surprised that folks don’t want to be a part of it, don’t want to soak up the energy and the excitement, don’t want to watch these crazy people follow their dreams.
So that’s where I’ll be on Sunday. It’s supposed to be in the low 70’s and sunny – perfect race-watching weather. (The lake, on the other hand, is hovering around 56 degrees – NOT perfect swimming weather. Luckily, I won’t be swimming.) If you’re in the area, come on down and watch the race. You can watch it online, and I believe it’s even on television. Me, I’ll be the one with the latte in hand, screaming and cheering the crazy people. Many volunteers sign up for the race the next year; I’d like to just find the courage to follow my dreams, as they do theirs.
Here’s to Sunday night, and to athletes stumbling across the finish line as the announcer declares, “Jane Doe, You. Are. An. Ironman!”