What a weekend! We planned to make this trip way back when they initially announced Ironman Chattanooga (seriously, forever ago), and signed up for volunteer positions in the women’s changing tent back in February. I originally had a pretty big group going, but it ended up only being two of us (because life?). We still had a pretty great weekend.
In the name of not spending a lot of money, we drove over Saturday morning (after an 8-ish mile long run for me). It’s only a little over 3.5 hours from Greenville, so we probably could have even made it a day trip if we had wanted to (a really long one). Anyways, we arrived in Chattanooga around 2 pm and stopped by our hotel before heading downtown to the race site. I managed to get a hotel in August; there wasn’t much left, but the one I got turned out to be a pretty convenient location. It was right near Lookout Mountain, so we had easy access to that area and it was less than 10 minutes to downtown. It wasn’t very nice, but we were only there one night.
Then we headed down to transition to figure out where we’d be volunteering the next day. This was kind of a fail, because when we went to volunteer check-in to get our shirts they sent us away and told us to come back 5 mins before our shift on Sunday. We both agreed that this was a terrible idea because our shift started at noon and the volunteer area would be a disaster halfway through the race, but whatever. We left and walked around the area to see where the different legs came in and out of transition before going to do some sightseeing.
We saw the Choo Choo.
We did not see Rock City.
But we did at least drive to the top of Lookout Mountain which was pretty cool.
After dinner, we debated on whether we wanted to spend the morning at the race or do something touristy and decided to take the Incline Railway to the top of Lookout Mountain. This was pretty cool! Plus I had a little nerd moment about it since it’s a mechanical engineering landmark.
Finally, we went down to the race – well before our shift so we could make sure to get our shirts and instructions. Getting downtown was super easy. The road closures in the downtown area were minimal and there was $3 all day parking at the Choo Choo with a free shuttle/half mile walk to transition.
We made our way back over to the volunteer check in tent, where we were told that we couldn’t get our shirts or wristbands again and needed to wait for our volunteer leader to come over. We stood around like idiots for a few minutes before I asked again (pretty insistently this time) that they at least let us get into transition and they finally agreed. Lo and behold! Our leader was in the transition tent with our shirts and lunch. I ate a whole bunch of pizza (and oatmeal cream pies) which I am so glad I did because the afternoon was super busy. Our volunteer leader told us we would not be too busy, but I think she was only thinking of it in terms of how it was for T1 because it was crazy.
While we waited, we got to watch most of the pro men come in before the 1st woman came in:
She was way ahead of everyone else! Women started trickling in for another hour or so, then all the age group women started coming in – the next 3 hours were exhausting! I put on compression socks, tied shoes, pulled on bras, put vaseline on people feet. You name it. The changing tent is an incredibly rewarding experience, but definitely not for the squeamish! It was gross. We started out with gloves but they soon got in the way of trying to pin bibs on or tie shoes and by the last hour, most of us had given up on trying to be sanitary and were grabbing some anti-bac as we ran from one person to the next. But. It. Was. Awesome. I got to interact with so many people – some were good and just wanted to get on with it, but some wanted to stop, breathe, and chat for a bit and it was really great to try and be their biggest cheerleader. I also got called a lot of really nice things: angel, god-send, wonderful person, etc.
The bike cutoff finally came by and it was kind of sad to think that anyone still out there wouldn’t be able to continue. We cheered on the last few people to come through transition as loud as we could! Unfortunately, my friend and I had to be at work Monday morning, so we had to take off as soon as our shift was over to drive back to Greenville – this also meant that I wasn’t able to take advantage of Monday morning registration…The good news is, the race didn’t sell out, and I’m in!
I would definitely love to volunteer at this race again though. It obviously won’t be next year ;) but it was such a great experience – I think the changing tent is one of the most appreciated positions, but the most understaffed! (If you want a workout with your volunteering, sign up to be a bike runner. I’m pretty sure those guys ran a marathon on Sunday)
Anyways, I’ll end this crazy novel. Anyone have any awesome volunteer experiences to share?