Posted by: pursuingsub17 | September 2, 2011

Giving back to the sport

I keep promising a race report for the Sylvan Lake half iron. It will still happen. I’m not sure whether I just can’t relive the experience or I’m just too tired for a long report.

In the meantime, I have another triathlon experience to report about – volunteering. I volunteered for the Element Women’s Only last year as a lap counter for the pool. It felt good – I was a little envious watching the girls and had wished I signed up but it did feel good giving back to a sport that has literally picked me up out of the gutter. So when I volunteered in the massage tent at Ironman Canada this year, I have to say, I left with admiration for the age groupers, affirmations of my path in life and epiphanies for new goals. It was a great experience and it felt good to give back.

I was a little nervous at first. A few years ago, I decided that as soon as my debt was paid off, I was going to go back to school to be an RMT. Volunteering in the massage tent this year would be a great learning experience to see if I would like massage therapy as a career. I had no intentions of signing up for Ironman 2012. I knew after my half distance this year that I still had a few things to work on. But Marc was volunteering to sign up (as well as give back of course!) so I decided this would be a good experience. It was.

I met the most incredible people. We worked the 8 to midnight shift and given the scorching heat that day (plus 38 celcius), we were expecting a lot to show up around that time. There were 40 of us – some RMTs and some just like Marc and I who took a crash course to help out. Listening to everyone’s stories – where they came from (as far as Mexico, Oregon and California), why they were doing Ironman, if it was their first or not, what the conditions were like out there (smokin’ HOT). It was cool listening to people’s strategies and great for me to learn some tips and tricks. They really wanted to talk and a lot of them were almost more appreciative of the opportunity just to talk their experience out as they were to get a massage. Each time I wrapped a silver emergency blanket around their shoulders, put their medal back on and said “congratulations! You did a great job!” I’d get a smile back and a thank you and it just warmed my heart.

These people were amazing. One thing I realized about my last half iron race is that it’s the age groupers who are doing everything they can just to hang on and persevere that really win the crowd. They know how to dig deep. This isn’t easy for them. So when they are having a tough time out there, they have to really win that mental battle to finish. Someone crossing the finishline at 16:59:59 deserves that medal just as much as someone achieving a pr of 12 hours. Even the ones who were pulled off the run course were heros in my heart. It’s a great feat.

So I came away with a great respect for my fellow athletes – and an affirmation (something I’ll discuss in my race report) that sometimes it isn’t just how fast you did the race. It’s the journey and the people you meet along the way that is most important. Volunteering and giving back to the sport I love has taught me that. You really learn something about yourself by volunteering – and you develop a stronger bond with strangers who share your passion.

I’m definitely going to do an Ironman – probably 2014 after my massage therapy program. I’ll probably be better prepared – and maybe the goal of just finishing so I can say “I’m an Ironman finisher!” is good enough for me.

Hopefully you’ll see my race report next blog!


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