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Monday, August 1, 2011

Calgary 70.3 Ironman Volunteer Report

All in all a super fun day…

Calgary Ironman Website
Calgary Ironman 70.3 Results here.

Traci dropped Nathan and I off at the Truck rental place at 4pm on Friday then we took the 2 mini Hinos up to the North side of the city to load up the aid stations. That went pretty well, and armed with our experience from the Calgary marathon volunteering weekend, we took the trucks home, confident we were ready for Sunday morning.

I got up at 4:30 on Sunday morning and put together some water bottles and snack, and by 5am I was out the door heading to North Glenmore to set up the aid stations. Nathan was already there when I arrived right at 5:30 and Doug (run captain) had the last few items for the trucks. I was able to find a coffee at the T2 admins station, so that helped, and then we were ready to go. Aid station 2 was just a few meters from the start finish line as is was a pretty diabolical out and back run course that had the runners passing the Run finish twice before mercifully crossing the finish on the 3rd pass.


Great for spectators, suck for racers. It was the worst later on in the day as it was so hot and the last 1/2 of runners had to deal with that heat head on. I walked over to this area later in the day and just couldn’t imagine running past the finish while having 4 agonizing km left to run yet.

I took a few shots of the start of the day and our drop offs. We don’t have to set the stations up, just deliver them to the right place. These folks have the unenviable task of getting the T2 drop bags in the right place. As this is a point to point race, the racers have to rely on the volunteers setting up the transition here.


What a typical drop off looks like. Tables, garbage pails, cups, water jugs, Drink mix, gels, shade tent, sponges, cookies, first aid kit, and on and on.


Nathan in his mini Hino! lookin’ good!


After dropping off AS 2, I was walking back to the truck and saw my shadow in this beam of sunrise. Cool huh?


Doug mentioned at one point how the main group of volunteers were all runners, and that helps when explaining things like route planning and general race setup. He entrusted me to set up this tricky part of the course. There is a traffic lane on the left, and a 2 direction run course on the right with 3 separate entry and exits in this area. I got a gold star for this.


After we set up the North side, we hopped in the 2nd truck and set up the South side. This photo out the window of the truck shows the general scenery of the run course.


We were done our drop offs with plenty of time, so we stopped for an egg mcmuffin and another coffee, so that was good. We got back to the other side with about 45 minutes to spare until we had to report to our intersection for our marshalling duties, and ended up shuttling a few people to their locations too. It’s not illegal in Canada to move people in the back of a 1 ton cube van… is it?

Volunteer Steven was waiting around for us when we arrived, and after the first of many cone placement adjustments, we settled into a very long day of traffic control. Our corner was probably the most tricky one as it was only 600 meters from the start and finish line and actually crossed itself. T2 and the run start was down the road on the right, while the finish was down the road to the left. Steven spent the day telling the runners coming from the start that they were to stay to right and yield to the finishing runners, Nathan hung around right at the crossover and ensured the runners went the right way and I spent the day down the road warning the runners that they had to go through the cone chute and take the left road. I made sure I spoke loudly, clearly and with as few words as possible, knowing that some runners may be operating on less than a full brain tank with only 600 meters left in this tough race. I am sure they appreciated the gesture.


Just to put a fine point how awesome the venue here is, there was a deer that spent  most of the day crossing over the course in front of runners, pleasantly surprising most, and startling some!


Being here early has it’s advantages too. We had a visit from this very curious little fawn and its Mama before the runners came through.


So, we were pretty amazed with how quickly the lead male runner was upon us, but it was pretty slow for a while after him. The first few pro guys were there and gone, but then we had a pretty long wait until the women. I think for me it proved that I should stay a mid pack runner. It is very lonely at the front. (like I have the option, haha!)

All I can really say about being out there all day is that every one who passed by us were inspiring in a thousand different ways. There were racers who were relaxed, struggling, in pain, funny, appreciative, quiet, slobbering, grunting, run farting (you know, step-fart-step-fart), walking, swearing, laughing, shuffling, eating, and generally showing the distance they had already covered. I haven’t been around triathlon before and I kept reminding myself that even though the racers were in the first 600 meters, their demeanour was well earned over the previous 57 miles.

Here are some pictures from the day:


Toward the end of the race, once the bike course was closed and no more runners were starting, I took a walk over to the edge of the valley rim and took this photo. Its the weaselhead bridge and is part of the race course. some people don’t appreciate it as there are pretty significant hills to scale, but I have raced and ran this route many times and the scenery and general awesomeness of the area make up for any hill here.


After heading over to the southside to pick up the aid stations there then dropping of the first truck for unloading, we walked back to the second truck and finally got to see someone cross the finish line. note the time. Talk about guts. There were 5 other runners out on the course still and we got to see and encourage each one. The run course had been closed for some time by then, but the race org let them finish, and even provided them with support in the way of a sweeper bike person, they left the roads closed past their permit, and left the clock running right until the end. One of my good running friends happened to be the final runner across the finish line, and I am so proud of her for her fortitude and sheer will to finish this race that she started so many months ago. I imagine she is disappointed in the finish time and by being last and the fact she didn’t get an official time, but I am sure in the next weeks and months she will take great pride in this race, and how she kept moving in the face of so many obstacles. I do know for a fact that there are a great number of people in Calgary that are so proud of her. I know I am!


Pretty tired, Nathan and I went out and picked up the last 2 aid stations, got all the stuff back to the clean-up area, turned in our radio and took the trucks back to the rental store. Traci was there to take us to Nathans truck and then it was home time. I was feeling pretty good, enjoyed a nice supper, but fell asleep for the night with Andrew at 8:30.

The day couldn’t have gone better. I had great company all day, made some new friends, gained a great appreciation of a sport I really still don’t understand, and felt good about helping out. One thing I did different this time around as opposed to the Calgary Marathon day was I wore minimal shoes. At the Calgary Marathon I wore my NB 1063’s and almost couldn’t walk after being on my feet all day. This time I wore the Merrell Barefoot Trail Gloves and came away with nothing more than really stinky feet. I was sockless for the day, so you can imagine how stinky the ol’ dogs would be after 12 hours in 30 degree heat all day.


Good times. Congrats to all the racers, Congrats to the Org for a fantastic event, Congrats to all the volunteers.

Next blog, I answer your questions…


  1. Looks like a great day, Neil. That deer would've been a great distraction for me as I was running. Beautiful pictures as always!

  2. Now THAT is a race I'd love to volunteer for... any IM event!