Thursday, October 21, 2010

Spectating Kona!

Here’s the Kona spectator’s taken me this long to recover from spectating - that is one tough job!  I have spectated a couple of races before Kona, but spectating training for an Ironman is a completely different animal!
The day started out early.....3:15am.  Troy, Sonja, Sonja’s dad Eric, and I headed down to the Pier - Eric and Troy to get primo seats on the sea wall for the start, Sonja to relax and focus before the big day, and volunteering at the body marking tent for me.  
As I headed into the tent, I was stunned at the 4am turnout of volunteers.  Sure, it is hard to find people to get up that early to do this job, but these people were enthusiastic and ready to go!  I quickly found my table and marking partners, had a meeting with everyone, and then bodymarking opened at 4:45.  Game on.
The athletes trickled in at first and I even wondered if I would actually get to put anyone’s numbers on.  I saw PIC get marked and gave her a hug.  I saw Richard and wished him well.  And then the onslaught of athletes came.  It was a whirlwind and I saw every emotion with these racers.....the calm ones, the athletes so nervous you could just feel it, and everything in between.  I saw the pros come in with the cameras following their every move.  And then it was 6:15 and we were released to go watch the start!
Me and Richard in bodymarking

Bodymarking in action - serious work folks!
Little did I know when I volunteered, a nice little perk is that you get access to the pier including the transition area and a fantastic place to see the swim start.  WOW!  I was able to squeeze in between some people and wait.  The cool/strange thing about the Kona swim start is that they don’t give you a countdown, the last time I heard was 2 minutes to go.  And then all of a sudden, the cannon went off and it was a flurry of swimmers getting going.  I managed to place myself right by the cannon and got a pretty cool picture.
Transition before the start

The swim start

Someone actually rode this bike - it's a fixie!

My specially designed volunteer shirt
The sun was coming up and as I sat on the pier, it was getting hot out.  Let the sweating begin!!  I decided to hang out on the pier to watch the athletes come in from the swim.  I positioned myself right where they would run right by me and right across from PIC’s bike.  Andy Potts was out first and was off!  It was a thrill to have everyone run right by and cheer them on.  I cheered for all my friends and peeps and then transition was almost empty except for the lonely Chrissy bike.  As I headed off the pier, Mike Reilly was getting everyone to cheer for the last swimmer to come in and beat the cut off time of 2:20, it was going to be close.  He read her bio, she had open heart surgeries, a cancer survivor and a couple other horrible ailments, and the clock kept ticking.  Everyone around was yelling, she had all the volunteers on paddleboards around her cheering....but she didn’t make it.  I watched as the official told her she missed the cut-off by 20 seconds, she collapsed on the stairs.  I’m pretty sure everyone witnessing this shed a tear or 2, I know I did - it was heartbreaking.  
It was time to catch up with CV and Ang, hydrate and spend just a couple of minutes off our feet.  It was only 10 and I hadn’t had a proper breakfast or anything to drink - I was headed for a bonk before the athletes were off their bikes!!  A stop at Lava Java took care of that.  The helicopters were now positioned over transition so we positioned ourselves to see the first pros to come by.  They all came and went and we cheered for each and every one of them.  And then the age groupers started coming and we cheered for them too.  Did I mention it was hot??  Sonja appeared and we cheered her, she looked great and even had a smile on her face.  
Macca at mile 1

Everyone say it with me....Norman!!!
Sonja at mile 8
Man, I was getting tired and tired of being on my feet.  I was doing a pretty good job of hydrating thanks to nuun but now where was the bathroom?  This spectating stuff is tough!  The corner of Ali’i and K-something or another was another activity spot with athletes coming down and coming back to head up Palani - around mile 8.  This was the next spectating spot and once again, I kept cheering - it was just too darn exciting!  A bit later, we heard the helicopters and knew the pro men were heading in!!  According to twitter and, Macca and Raelert were head to head battling but when Macca came down the hill he was all alone.  He had put on the afterburners and shot out ahead of Raelert.  He turned the corner onto Ali’i, looked back, and he knew he had won.  He pumped his fist and then ran to the finish.  It was amazing to see his face and his intensity.  Raelert came by just a minute later and then the pro field started trickling in.  Another helicopter alerted us to the pro women coming in....and sure enough there was Mirinda Carfrae rounding the corner onto Ali’i, looking back and then holding her hands to her face with an expression of I did it, I’m going to win Kona!  
It was time for the spectators to fuel again (and recharge the iphone battery) so I headed in for a bit.  We kept watching Sonja’s splits and then figured it was time to go back to our watch spot, plus we wanted to get a picture of an amazing athlete....a guy with prosthetic legs and a missing arm.   Simply Amazing.  We had just headed back up the hill when I saw Sonja (man I love Trakkers green, I can see that color 1/2 mile away!).  She was flying down the hill, I looked at my watch...10:16ish with about a minute to the finish.  Her face was all sorts of emotions and I was nothing short of a proud PIC to see her.  She came to Kona with a plan, she executed that plan, and she beat even her own goals....well done!!  
The spectators job was not done though.  I saw Richard off as he headed up Pulani and I knew he would make the cut-off, he was in good spirits, joking and smiling.  Then I cheered for everyone coming down (love having the name on the bib).  The sun was starting to set when I headed home with Troy and Sonja, showered, refueled and headed back to the finish line.  It was a party there and unbelievable the amount of cheering and support these last finishers had coming down the chute.
Crea, Sonja and me having fun at the finish!

Party at midnight!
Finally, it was midnight and I’m pretty sure Sonja had more energy than I did.  I was exhausted and she’s the one who raced.  This spectating job is tough stuff so be sure to be extra kind and loving to your supporters when you race!

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