It is needless to say that during my seven months of adventure, I have had more than a handful of unforgettable moments. I have had that “ah-ha” moment as I sat speechless underneath a starry night sky while sailing through the sea trailed by a pod of dolphins. Or as I felt the rush of the wind meeting the sea as I stood on the surf board for the very first time.
I have certainly had those well planned out adventures, but there is also something to be said for enjoying a solo cup of flat white in a local cafe or taking your regular tram ride that leads to unexpected conversation and friendship.
Well, volunteering at the Ironman Asia-Pacific fell more along those lines of the unexpected.
As I was inspired by the ambition of athletes who had literally worked their asses off in training to attempt a 2.4-mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile marathon all in under 18 hours, I was happy to help out with race weekend! What I wasn’t expecting when I signed up, however, was how motivated I would feel as I walked away.
Given the task of traffic control, I along with my new Scottish mate were assigned the role of keeping beach traffic flowing on one of the last days of summer, while simultaneously keeping the pathway clear as the athletes entered into their last 1.5km. The best part of what might have seemed like a mundane task, was being able to individually cheer on every athlete as they entered into the home stretch.
After over 8 hours of intense physical activity, some had experienced muscle injuries, sprained ankles, or dehydration so bad that they weren’t completely coherent. But that didn’t matter. These athletes had put their blood, sweat, and tears into earning themselves the title of an Ironman, and so with just a mile left to go, they were going to finish!
What had surprised me the most, was that many of these athletes used up some of their last remaining morsels of energy to thank us volunteers for helping and cheering them on. Talk about being selfless.
As I ended my shift and made my way back to the finish line at the 15 hour mark. There was an interesting intensity floating through the air. Of course there was the excitement and the sense of accomplishment on the faces of athletes crossing the line. But, there was also the realities and severity of the situation.
Once the adrenaline started to wear off for some of these athletes, the danger started to set in, as their body had just experienced a beating of a life time. What was at one point a surplus of medical staff had quickly turned into a severe shortage of equipment and personnel. As you walked through the athlete recovery zone you could spot one flushed white face after another that was keeled over. Though a bit scary, all were eventually given the proper care along with their medal of achievement.
As I walked away, I felt this budding desire to do more. To accomplish something great. To achieve a goal. And though I am not quite sure what that next goal is, I do know that if someone can complete an Ironman in 18 hours, I can do it!
And to add to it all, I was given my big newspaper debut. Autographs will be sent out upon request!