Saturday was the official start of the Ironman race season as Ironman 70.3 Oceanside kicked off. Athletes train for months at a time for these kinds of races and give it their all while they are out on the course. This year was my second time volunteering for this race, but my first year as the captain. We (Volunteer Captains & Staff) put in months of preparation for this race as well. We don’t do it for a spot to go to worlds to volunteer, we don’t volunteer because we expect to be awarded, we do it because we enjoy it. I volunteer at this spot because hearing an athlete say “Thank You!” is worth more than anything. You don’t know what they are thinking, but I know that they just swam 1.2 miles, they really just did it.
This is the 2017 Ironman 70.3 Oceanside Swim Exit/Entrance crew (minus the ones with a wetsuit) who without them I wouldn’t be as successful as I was at captain. Everyone braved the 48 degree weather at 5AM to be there early so that the athletes could get the attention from the staff. We were there for the athletes and not us. Our spot fills up fast since we are at the water and get to see friends who might come in, as well as be up with the Pro’s. So with that we might not always get some of the recognition that goes with some of the other area’s, but our area is by far the BEST. As a captain, I’m responsible for the area which includes the swim areas and making sure the athletes know where the start is and the warm up. It was a new start this year so we wanted to make things as easy as possible. All my volunteers absolutely nailed it. I was complimented by the staff at how well organized we were and how clean the area was once the swim was over. On a larger scale there was not one single complaint from the City of Oceanside about any area. Everyone on my team had their spots and owned it as their own. As a captain I have to be able to be fluid and go where the need is, as well as make sure my volunteers are ok and if they need anything. Everyone was fine through the entire portion and we were out of their by 10:30AM.
The best part about being at this spot is that you are right there for the athletes as they are coming out of the water. The energy is high and you’re swept up in the excitement of seeing everyone coming out of the water and you’re smiling which is really contagious. Even the athletes who might not have had their “best” swim smile instantly when they see you smiling and you’re helping them. This year because of the rolling start it was a steady stream of swimmers coming through. This was a good thing since there weren’t any big clumps and we didn’t get overloaded. However, when you’re in this spot you know there is the inevitable last few swimmers that are swimming against the clock. We are all there cheering for them to swim and make it, but the clock is relentless in it’s countdown. There are no timeouts or stops, you just have to swim for your life. Even though we already knew those who wouldn’t beat the clock every volunteer in the area (even from other teams) were on the docks cheering them in. I however had one of the toughest spots to be at. I had to be up with the race director letting the athletes know they didn’t make the cut off. Some people cried, and some people just shrugged and said “I gave it my all”. It’s still hard to hear that being told to someone knowing that I won’t ever know what that feeling is like.
I’ll be back again next year as a captain and I can only hope that I get the same amazing team year after year. Being the captain this year cemented what I thought when I first volunteered at this spot back in 2015. Volunteering at this race in this spot is without a doubt better than actually racing it, and I know a few people who feel the same after Saturday.