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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Volunteering at Rev3 Cedar Point

Several people have told me that the best way to learn about longer triathlons is to volunteer, so I did just that.  I've looked up all the Ironmans and have realized that there are not many "close" by.  And by close, I mean within 2-3 hours driving time.  The idea of doing such a large race somewhere that I am not familiar with freaks me out...I need more friends that want to do triathlons!!!  Then I came across Rev3.  I'm sure you've heard seen me mention them before.  After looking into their races, reading about them on blogs, and watching their age group videos, I fell in love with their race series for one main reason- they are family and athlete centered.  They welcome families and want them to be part of the day.  They celebrate EVERY athlete, not just the serious/winners.

It was about a year ago that I found out that Rev3 does a 70.3 and 140.6 at Cedar Point.  For those of you not from around my area, Cedar Point is the best amusement park in the world.  I'm not just saying that- they really have been voted that designation.  I've been to CP numerous times growing up.  The park is about 1.5-2 hours from my house by way of the turnpike.

Since I'm not ready to DO a 70.3 this year, I thought I would learn more about it by volunteering this year.  I waited until they posted positions and then I signed up for three- packet pick-up, swim exit, and finish line.  Needless to say, I was excited!

Last Saturday I left mid-morning to get to CP in time for my first shift.  I got there well in advance so that I could find my way around and take a few pictures.  This year the race wasn't as big because it wasn't a pro-race.  I was a little sad because it did seem to lack the "big" race atmosphere, but knowing that it was only an age-group race, I understood.  Several people told me that the "expo" was a lot smaller this year because of that.

 Walking up to the expo, you can see the roller coasters in the background!

The finish line being set up!

Rev3 has huge semi's with their name on it.  

I worked packet pick up and for the most part the athletes were very nice.  We tried to keep everything moving to help them get everything they wanted quickly.  At first I was working with some older people from the center of aging who were volunteering.  They were sweet, but they didn't have much knowledge about triathlons and I think that frustrated the athletes checking in.  After their shift ended, the few of us left all knew about the events and we could move them through everything and answer their questions.  I was one of the last people left working as the pick-up ended.

I stayed at my sister's house for the night and my alarm went off at 4:30am.  It was EARLY!  I guess at least I wasn't waking up to DO the triathlon.  Due to the high winds, there was a rip current in Lake Erie so the swim portion was moved to the bay (the other side of the peninsula) and that meant that athletes would have a 1/2 mile run to transition after coming out of the water.  It wasn't ideal, but it was better than having to cancel the swim portion.  Rev3 allowed them to stash shoes at the water exit and it would be my job to keep spectators away from the shoes as the athletes came out.  

The start of the shoe area....this was early on in the stashing, but the time all of the athletes got there, it was much more of a shoe mess!

This is where the swim was supposed to be:

I took this picture the day before when I got to CP.

I have to say that most spectators were nice about us asking them to NOT walk through the shoes and to go around.  A few were confused and some just ignored us.  The people that were the rudest?  The athletes!  The full Rev (140.6) went off at 7am and some of the faster athletes were coming out of the water before the 1/2 Rev athletes started their race at 8:30.  The 1/2 athletes were still putting their shoes down and then wanted to stand around IN the shoes as the full athletes were coming out frantically searching for their shoes.  We tried to politely ask them to move to the other side where everyone was lining up.  Most complied with a dirty look.  A few screamed at us.  One got in a volunteer's face and thumped his chest like a gorilla.  I'm not sure what that was about- I think he was trying to tell her she should stop acting like she was the king of the jungle, but all it did was make us think he was a jerk.  

Like I said, MOST people- athletes and spectators, were nice and moved out of the way quickly like asked.  The race was off and running.  It was really neat to see the elation of some coming out of the water.  Some people were upset with their swims and we only saw a few quit for the day.  The swim was still choppy and COLD even in the marina.  

The last person out of the water happened to be someone on the same tri team as me.  She had several injuries leading up to the race, felt under-trained, and just wanted to finish.  When she came out of the water we formed a chute of clapping people to welcome her back.  She was blue and shivering, but she kept moving.  

I had some time to walk around before my shift at the finish line and I enjoyed watching some of faster athletes coming back from the bike to transition.

This is what transition looked like the day before:

This is what it looked like the day of while everyone was out on the bike:

Finally the athletes were about to come back from the run and it was time work at the finish line.  We started un-wrapping the medals and getting everything set up.  Working the finish line meant we saw everything and anything.  Some athletes were elated to be done, happy to be given their medal and cold water.  Others came back mad about something that happened during their race.  One man came back yelling, "This is Bull S***" at us and pointing his finger in our faces.  He claimed that he didn't know which way to go for the aqua bike finish.  Rev3 had 950 volunteers that day... most places were WELL marked and staffed.  HOWEVER- it is the athlete's responsibility to know the course no matter what.  He was just plain rude to everyone.  

We had a few athletes pass out as they finished, some throwing up, and some smiling ear to ear.  The Wind on the bike really made each and every one of them suffer. I can't imagine being out there on the bike.  What I did notice is that there were athletes of all shapes and sizes.  I really thought that a bigger event would mean that everyone would be the serious athlete with the $6,000 or more bike.  Yes, there were mostly really expensive bikes and very serious athletes, but there were also back of the packers like me.  

The one person that made the biggest impact on me was a younger girl who was overweight (like me!), but obviously working very hard at improving herself.  As she came down the finish cute she began to cry and almost was embarrassed to finish crying.  I'm sure she didn't see me, but I started crying too.  Crying because I knew where she was at.  She had the courage to start and the will to finish.  It's because of people like her that I am inspired to do something like Rev3 70.3 next year... not the uber-fit guy winning the race.  

I was able to see my teammate finish too:

It was a very neat experience.  I'm so glad I was able to volunteer.  The Rev3 staff were all so nice to the volunteers.  They gave us all great direction.  Some places I have volunteered before left me feeling lost because no one seemed to know what we were supposed to do or where we were supposed to be.  Not Rev3- they had everything organized.  The staffers talked to us like we were part of the team.  Many of them introduced themselves to me during down times and asked questions trying to get to know me.  They all seemed genuinely interested in my story and cared about who I was.  They all seemed to LOVE what they do- even if it wasn't their full time job.  They loved working for Rev3 and sincerely cared about the experience of every athlete.  Some day, I hope I'm one of those athletes they welcome across the finish line!


  1. Thank you for volunteering!! It's definitely cool to see the race from the other perspective - definitely on my to do list!

    And sorry you had to deal with some questionable folks :( It always saddens me when I see a fellow competitor being a jerk to the volunteers who are taking time out of their day to make someone else's race day possible.

    What's next on YOUR race list!?!

  2. Thanks for stopping by Maggie! Like I said, MOST people were so nice and many, many said thank you to us. It's always just a few that seem to think they deserve something more. I was just surprised it came from athletes who would want the same respect when they are coming out of the water or down the finish chute!

    My next race is actually next Sunday when I'm running the Detroit Women's Half marathon. It's a 1st year race. My Tri season is over, but I think my goals will be set around Tri's instead of just running next year! I'm so excited.

  3. What a cool experience. I love that you totally related to someone running the event. Very cool!

  4. Thanks for volunteering, I am a big believer in giving back to the sport.

    Sorry to hear that you had to experience some of the not so nice of our sport.