Nope, unfortunately I wasn’t racing. This time, though, I worked run course for Ironman, for the very first time! As the run course assist for this race, it entailed various tasks, such as laying down cones (and getting good at dropping them from a gator without them falling over), as well as picking them up while driving at the same time [got a *lot* of practice in for the carnie olympics…just wait :)], delivering ice to aid stations, dropping off trucks at aid stations, getting our volunteers to the aid stations and set up, measuring the course, setting up the pro course, and so on.
Here’s a view of my office, Sunday morning around 5 a.m…
It was really awesome for the change of pace, to work an event, and with it not being merchandise, I felt a much larger connection to the athletes and it was so great to cheer them on! Sadly, I didn’t see many of my Ironman Foundation Newton Running Ambassador Triathlon teammates, but if anything, it really motivated and inspired me with my own training for Boulder 70.3 that I have looming ahead! (and IMLT, ahem ahem)…
But that said, (and that is a big BUT), I can’t talk about the Boulder Peak Triathlon without mentioning one thing that happened over the weekend that really sickened me and overall, made me pretty angry. From an event management standpoint, we rely heavily on our volunteers for the success of our event. During this event, one of the athletes checking in to pick up his packet was handed the wrong t-shirt size by a 15 year old volunteer. She had accidentally handed him a women’s large shirt, and he needed a men’s large. Instead of kindly asking her to switch his t-shirt out, instead he called her something like a “f*@*ing idiot!” to her face, in front of her mother, who was also volunteering. I don’t know the exact words, but he definitely used foul language, and in a derogatory way, directed specifically at this 15 year old girl. Who was volunteering her free time. For athletes like him. Everyone was shocked by this, and more importantly, the race director. Shortly after, in his words, he posted on the Boulder Triathlon Series Facebook page:
I want to make something very clear to those who like Boulder Tri Series. We had an athlete today curse at a young high school volunteer because she did something wrong with the T-shirts she was handing out. He has been disqualified and will be banned from racing in our Series for the next year. You can curse me out, but if you EVER curse out someone who is volunteering their time expect that to be the last time you race our events for a long time. Curse at a young girl….over a t-shirt issue……really! Thank a volunteer this weekend. They deserve all the thanks, send the complaints and foul language to me.
Good on you, IRONMAN Race Director Dave Christen. As someone who has gotten screamed at by athletes several times at Ironman races, I can’t say enough how glad I am that he stood up for her, and he stood up for what is right.
At Ironman Arizona a few years ago, the athletes’ special needs bags were placed in a particular area post-event for the athletes to pick up the next day. All athletes are made aware of the pick-up times and location for their special needs bags because all of the information is stated in the athlete guide–and additionally, this information is shared with the athletes at the Mandatory Athlete Meeting that is usually after the welcome dinner at all of the Ironman races. The special needs bags (which we tell athletes to only put things in there like food, a soda, snickers bar–essentially, not expensive or valuable items) are placed for a certain amount of time after the race, the next day, and then if they aren’t picked up, usually they get chucked. We can’t have volunteers and staff watching over these bags all day long, or for multiple days, mostly because we often have to clean up the area and need to vacate the space (often due to the city, and in this case, I’m sure that there was an agreement between Ironman and Tempe that we had to pack out by a certain time, the day after the race). An athlete had come to the area about 4 hours after the pick-up had ended, did not see his bags, and proceeded to find me at the Ironman Merchandise Store, because it was the closest tent to where the bags were located and it was associated with Ironman. He obviously didn’t find his bags and then proceeded to get very, very, VERY angry with me, screamed at me, shouted obscenities at me, (I can’t remember specifically what he said, but it was very strong and inappropriate language), insults so jarring that one of my local temporary staff members ran over to see what the commotion was, then told the athlete that he was appalled by the way that he was speaking to me, that he should apologize to me at once, and that he should never speak to a lady in this way–or any other human being for that matter. I absolutely appreciated my staff member speaking up and coming to my defense, because my mind was blown. I simply was in shock that he was screaming and cussing me out so angrily–and I didn’t even know what to say to it.
The athlete this past Saturday at the Boulder Peak that had such deplorable behavior reminded me of this previous Arizona incident, among many others that I have had on the volunteer/staff side, of triathlon. And sadly, it won’t be the last that we see, either as athletes or event management.
As athletes, and as a team member for the IMFNR Ambassador Triathlon team, our team’s motto is kokua, which is a Hawaiian word that can be loosely translated to mean:
kokua: to extend loving, sacrificial help to others for their benefit, not for personal gain
I can’t think of a better time to remember this motto and always be thinking of how we can make a very selfish sport into something much more self-less and one that does give back.
This incident this past Saturday will always remind me to train and race in the spirit of kokua, to take care of each other while racing and training, and to always, always, compete with integrity and to thank our volunteers!!!