Having completed a few triathlons this season, I decided that it was time to give something back. I have seen the volunteers at so many races and I always make a point to thank them as often as possible. This time, I decided that the best way to say thanks would be to work beside them.I chose to volunteer at the Mightman Montauk, a 1/2 IM distance race in Montauk, Long Island. Montauk, by the way, was recently chosen as one of the ten best triathlon towns in America by Triathlete Magazine. One of the main reasons why Montauk earned that distinction is this very race itself. (I want to preface this by telling you that I am, in no way shape or form, an employee of this organization, nor do I receive anything from them.) The race is organized by the people at Event Power, they have been doing this for years and they always know how to put on a great race.
Race day was fantastic, although the weather did not necessarily help us. It poured on us for the vast majority of the race. There was lightning and thunder, wind and rain so strong that you could barely see, but everyone just kind of went with it and had a great time. There is something pretty amazing about seeing a triathlon from the “inside out.” I never knew what went on in the transition area when all of the athletes are out, nor did I ever think about the truly great people working feverishly behind the scenes to make sure all of the athletes are safe and comfortable.As in most things in life, it is the people that make the difference. There was the guy I met while I was body marking at 5:45 am. When I insisted he pull up his left sweat pant leg so I could write his age and number, he said, “that won’t work, I’ve got a fake leg on that side”. I made sure I remembered his race number and I looked for him later when I was directing cyclists and runners into the turn around. He was, of course, at the front of the pack and, although he will not remember me, he was my inspiration on my forty-mile bike ride this morning.I met another volunteer from Houston, Texas who travels to all of her husband’s races and while he’s racing, she volunteers. She knew all the in's and out's of race day and I was even more impressed when she yelled and cheered for everyone that went by.As I watched some of the volunteers, I was astonished by how passionate they were about what they were doing. One gentleman was running around and working so hard for the racers, doing whatever he could to make sure the race went smoothly. He did it all, from stopping cars and directing traffic to announcing people’s names as they crossed the finish line. I think he may have gotten a better workout than some of the athletes.The elite racers were amazing, but the most inspirational are the average age-groupers (I may be partial to them because, of course, I am the typical average age grouper at the back of the middle of the pack). Watching them slosh through the massive puddles and struggle to stay upright on there bikes on the slick roads all with huge smiles on their faces was extraordinary. Watching the parents carrying their babies across the finish line or holding their toddlers hands while running that last hundred yards always brings a smile to my face and a tear to my eye.This is the beauty of triathlons. In volunteering, I found the true joy of our crazy sport. The fun isn’t in winning or in gaining prestige and impressing others. The fun is all about being there. Soaking up the experience, enjoying the moment and being happy to simply be able to tri.As I went to my car to put on some dry clothes and got ready to drive home, it struck me that the athletes may never know about all of the work that people like that lady from Texas or the other volunteers put into this. I am so very thankful that now, there will at least be one racer who knows. Everyone and anyone that has ever raced in a triathlon should take it upon themselves to volunteer at just one event next season. It is an eye-opening and inspirational experience.
I am a high school history teacher. I live on Long Island with my wife,11 year old daughter Madison and 7 year old daughter, Cassidy.