Ironman 2019 was on the weekend I was to commence travel for my deployment overseas, whilst I could of completed it in Taupo and then headed to Auckland Airport, it obviously wouldn’t have been fair on my family. Upon return from deployment several months later, I knew I would be to unfit to do Ironman 2020. Being a stubborn git I know I could of still made it to the finish line, for the free Finishers T-Shirt after all, but elected to give something back to the event that changed my life and still provides a focus to train for each year.
As such, I decided to not compete but to offer my services as a Volunteer. I rocked up to Taupo arriving at 7:30 AM on Thursday 05-Mar-20. After an hour or so the other volunteers and management arrived and we prepared to run the Registration tent. This was to be a lot of fun to see all athletes come in from all walks of life, the highlight was catching a quick hello and photo shot if able with the athletes that I knew. Of course I scored a free Volunteers T-Shirt which was great, but it was pleasing to meet and greet athletes ranging from Pro’s who were very welcoming and great to talk to, to first timers who in some cases were a bundle of nerves. Registration was to close at 1700 hours (5pm) and of course just as we were wrapping up a mini-bus of Japanese athletes turned up, so we processed them with an interpreter in some cases.
Friday 06-Mar 20 I was in the bike racking arena, fortunately it was overcast so not too hot and also not raining. The athletes would turn up with their bikes, which are inspected by officials before being allowed to rack them in our area. We would meet an athlete, and take them to their allocated bike spot based on their race number, they would also have their compulsory race (kit) bags to check in for the next day, which was to be their bike bag of their clothing to change into after their 3.8 Km Swim and their run bag to change into after their 180 Km Cycle, to prepare themselves for the marathon run of 42.2 Km’s to finish the day off. You could be assisting a high-end professional athlete who competes in Ironman for a living, or a first timer who is too nervous to take in what you are saying, showing them the layout of the new transition and talking them through how the bags will be handed to them as they run through transition each time, and explaining the entry and exit points. Whenever I saw an athlete I knew, I would ask their Volunteer if I could take them through, it was a lot of fun being on the other side of the fence.
Saturday 07-Mar-20 was race day. My car was on loan as my wife headed of see family the night before in the Waikato, so I was up at 4 AM and walked into the Ironman area in central Taupo from Acacia Bay. Arriving to flood lights and watching athletes do a final check of their bikes, etc before they headed down to the swim. My shift started at 4:45 AM until about 7:30 AM and I was very much a runner for athletes who had forgotten stuff for their race bags, this however also gave me the opportunity to head to the start line to see the Gun start the event, and an opportunity to catch up with friends competing. At 9:30 AM I was on shift in the Ironman Operations Room. This was a great set up with a bank of TV Monitors and Radios watching the event from a variety of locations to track not just the leaders but various points right up to the last athlete. The radio was going non-stop as the ambulances were getting dispatched when athletes would come a cropper of their bike or crashed and burned during the run. My shift was supposed to finish in the Ops Room at 12:30 PM, but my replacement didn’t show, so I stayed on until almost 5:00 PM then left them to it as my wife returned with my car, so we headed out to watch the event. She could see me twitching knowing I wanted to be out there, stand by Ironman 2021.
Sunday was a rest day after three days of Volunteering, then it was the Volunteers Dinner on Monday night, which is a way of Ironman NZ thanking the Volunteers for their time. Overall it is a blast and if you ever get the opportunity to be a Volunteer at an Ironman event you will love it, or if you’re thinking of doing an Ironman, it’s a great way to get a feel for it.
John Humphries (Aka UltraHumps, Aka Humps).
UltraHumps was writing weekly blogs as he continues his journey and raising funds for Charitable causes. But he has taken a wee break, but continues to contribute on an occasional basis.
Read Humps last article here: