Ironman St. George as a Volunteer

My view of the Ironman St. George swim course.
Last year I took a trip to southern Utah to watch the first Ironman St. George.  I was blown away my the magnitude of the event and determination of the athletes.  This year I went down to volunteer as kayak support for the swim.

I got to Sand Hollow at about 4:15am on Saturday and met up with the 50 or so other kayakers who would be watching over the swimmers.  We were broken up into teams and assigned to specific areas of the course.  I joined a team that was at about the halfway point of the swim.

One of the pro triathletes.
For an open water swim nerd like myself, it was an amazing experience to watch the swimmers from the water.  The elite athletes were amazing.  The looked so fast and smooth in the water.  I counted the stroke rates for the leaders, all of which were above 70 spm.

Lead swimmers following the SUP.
There were some very fast swimmers in the "amateur" group as well.  I was able to help a couple people who were having trouble.  One guy was from New York.  He got a leg cramp and signaled for help.  I pulled my kayak over and let him hang on until he was ready to go (completely legal I might add, since I did not paddle forward).  After the majority of swimmers had passed my area, I was asked to pick a swimmer who was lagging behind and follow them in to the finish.  I followed a guy who was probably in his late 50's.  He would swim 10 to 20 strokes, stop, and then swim 10 or 20 more strokes.  At one point near then end of the swim he stopped and asked to hang on my boat since he had a leg cramp.  The guy was with a group of four or so swimmers who just made it under the cutoff time.  These are the most inspiring athletes to me.  They aren't the pros (we all know they can finish the race), they are the amateurs, the ones who struggle and find a way to push through to the end.  I have never seen someone so determined as a woman swimming in the group with the guy I was keeping an eye on.  She just made the cutoff time, but I could tell that she was giving 100%.

Mass of potential Ironmen (and women).
It was an incredible, inspiring and FUN experience.  I hope to volunteer as kayak support or in some other area next year.

I learned some things from the kayak leader that will be useful for our kayak support team for the Great Salt Lake Marathon Swim.  Speaking of which, we still need a few volunteers to be positioned along the 1 mile course.  All volunteers will get a nice t-shirt in addition to the warm fuzzy feeling that comes from helped someone out.

Of course I had to get in the water to swim.  Unfortunately, with two young boys, I wasn't able to get in the water until 8:30pm.  By that time it was already getting dark and I was only able to swim for about 10 minutes.  The 62 degree water felt refreshing after my kayaking duty, but was a little chilly that late in the evening.  I made the mistake of not wearing a cap and was surprised to get "brain freeze".  I didn't realize what a difference a thin latex cap can make.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for being out on the swim course. You volunteers where amazing! Sorry I couldn't stop for a chat ;-)

Unknown said...

Thanks for volunteering. I would volunteer for the Great Salt lake swim but I will be doing the Boise Ironman 70.3. Good Luck!

Josh said...

Good job on your Ironman finish! Your race schedule looks pretty full this year, good luck with everything!