2011 TOUGHKids and TOUGHMAN Triathlons
On September 10th and 11th I had the opportunity to experience triathlon in a whole different way. I was not a participant, but employed to help produce the event and it was an eye opening experience that I will not soon forget!
On Saturday the 10th, I had the privilege of serving as the Race Director of the TOUGHKids Championship Race. This was the culmination of a four race series for kids that had events in Connecticut, New Jersey, West Point, and finally in Croton-on-the Hudson.
The age groups were 4-6, 7-10, and 11-14. The distances for each were 20yd swim/run, .5mi bike, 100yd run (4-6), 100yd swim, 2.5mi bike, .5mi run (7-10), and 200yd swim, 5mi bike, 1mi run (11-14).
Having never been a Race Director before, I was a little nervous at the start, but the rest of the race staff were such great professionals, I really just felt like an actor following an excellent script. When the script is good, the acting is easy.
The first part of the day started shortly after 6:30 am when Jonesy, Paul Huddle, and I set up the race course with cones, red duct tape, and spray paint. Jonesy just gets things done, plain and simple, and Paul has so much race production experience from his days setting up Ironman events, and more, it was hard not to be intimidated. They were such great guys though, that they immediately made me feel comfortable, so I could make executive decisions on how the course would be set up. Normally, course set up would already be done, but since there was so much rain that flooded the park, changes had to be made on the fly. Even when you think you have everything set up for a great race, you never truly know until the race is underway.(more on that in a minute).
The race got underway after a tribute in honor of the 10th Anniversary of 9/11. I gave the pre-race instructions, and we were ready to go. The first racers were the 4-6 year olds. They were able to have one parent help them through the entire course. It was great to see all the little ones go! The next group were the 7-10 year olds. Everything started out great there as well, but quickly got hectic. They had to do two laps of the bike course. Unfortunately, the way we set up the turn around created some traffice jams by the bike mount and dismount. As I mentioned, sometimes you just don’t know until the race is underway. I had to make a quick change to the course before the 11-14 year olds got started. They had to complete 4 loops, so without the change it would have been even more challenging to prevent traffic jams. Thankfully, the change worked great! Big thanks to the staff that helped make that happen.
At the end of the event, all kids made it through safely, and a good time was had by all. I was tired, but very satisfied with how the race went. I have great ideas for how to make next year’s event even better, and have a new respect for race directors, organizers, staff and volunteers everywhere.
The next day was the adult race. It was a half ironman distance race, which means a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mi bike, and 13.1 mile run. It’s a challenging distance on any course, but this is the TOUGHMAN, so it was a little tougher than most. I had no direct responsibilities for this race, so I just made myself available where I was needed. As it turned out, I was given the job of training the Maxim Girls(models representing Maxim magazine) to be wetsuit peelers(of course we called them wetsuit strippers…pun intended.) I was simultaneously envied and made fun of by most of the male staffers, Jonesy and Paul most of all. I just considered it a reward for all my work the day before. Once the “Girls” were “trained,” I took the job of getting all the swim waves together and in place to start the race.
Chatting with many of the racers as they waited for their wave to start is always a fun time. From racers having pre-race anxiety, to those quietly kissing a loved one for luck, and others just plain excited, each person will experience the race a different way. I just tried to make them all smile, motivate them, and hopefully, take the edge off the nervousness of waiting for their waves to start. Each wave went off smoothly, so I went over to check on the Maxim Girls to see how they were doing. Everyone at the wetsuit peeling station were having a good time. Of course, “the Girls” got a lot of action from the male athletes, one of which actually tried a pick up line by telling a “Girl” that they had met before. I laughed in disbelief that he would even think to do that during a race… where’s the focus, man?!!
From there I helped at the bike mounting area trying to keep everyone clear to get on their bike and get rolling. I was amazed at how many people had their cell phone out texting people before they got going… I mean, REALLY??!! If any of my athletes ever do this, I will confiscate their team uniform!
Later on I self-appointed myself the job of keeping the runners clear of the cyclists when they returned from the run and bike respectively. There were a number of situations where I had to keep runners in line to prevent collisions with over enthusiastic cyclists wanting to get to transition fast. Then came the oddest moment of the day for me. There was a bandit runner on the course! I saw him coming fast and yelled for him to get off the course, but he didn’t stop. I ran and pushed him off the road, and chased him a little further, but stopped because I didn’t want to run into athletes starting out on the run course. Thankfully, he was off the course and didn’t cause harm to any competitor. I was so angry that I yelled into the radio for someone to “take him out!” Smartly, no one did, but I did give him a piece of my mind later when I saw him leaving. Some people just don’t get it.
In the midst of all I was doing, I was still able to cheer on my athlete, Andrew who was doing his first half. He did great in the swim and bike, but suffered a bit on the run. Overall, he still beat the time he wanted to beat and I was happy for his accomplishment. Great job, Andrew!
By the end of the race, all the staffers and volunteers were tired, but we still had enough energy to help run in the very last finishers of the race. There’s nothing like seeing these athletes that have been out there for more than eight hours dig in for one last push to the finish. It was inspiring to see them not give up even though you knew they were suffering. It felt great to escort them through the finishing chute. All of the athletes are now officially TOUGHMEN, TOUGHWOMEN, and TOUGHKids! Congrats to you all!!!
I am tired and sore in a much different way from competing, but ultimately incredibly satisfied with what we(race organizers, staff, and volunteers) were able to accomplish; a great race and experience for all the athletes involved. So, the next time you complete a race, please make sure to thank all the volunteers and staff for all the hard work and dedication they put in to make sure your day is memorable. I know I will!