My experience at Ironman Miami 70.3 was… let’s say, “unique”.
I was cited to be there promptly at 6am at the bike station, in order to receive instructions of what to do in order to help. As I got there I thought there would be a volunteer tent, or a place to receive directions. I had to start asking others volunteers to that I was there to help and to direct me to correct person, which was no where to be found.
While I was waiting, to see if the person would appear, I just had to grab a volunteer t-shirt by myself and continued waiting. Race started and I still was waiting to see what could I do to help. So I started to walk around the transition area and ask other volunteer in what could I help. I got kind of desperate, since I was there to help… and for FREE, but without any direction so far.
I went to the finish line and finally got around the correct person to give me directions. She put me with a group of other 6 volunteers and directed us to wait for another person to come and give us instructions. While waiting we saw the first wave of athletes getting out of the swim. I was impressed to see these pros rushing in turbo mode to T1 like if there were machines.
The second person to give us instructions came by and went away, and told us to wait. He came back and directed us to go to and help in the run, so placed us where a set of cones stood and to wait… again. As he came back he separated the group in two and I stayed with 3 people now. Our instructions were to indicate the runners where they should stay among the course, although for some reason the running course wasn’t even ready yet.
While waiting, I became acquainted with the others volunteers and for my surprise they were triathletes too, that were volunteering for the love of the sport. Larry was with his girlfriend and he had recently become an Ironman. Yensys is a Sprint and Olympic athlete that will persue a ½ Ironman next year. We shared some stories about the sport in general, we also surprisingly share interests in martial arts and even became Facebook friends haha.
So everyone waited, waited and waited. Even the local police had no clue about the running course for the athletes, and asked us if we knew. After taking turns to have something to eat (we were starving!) we decided to check out some of the tents that were among the finish line. The Ironman tent was maybe the one that was the one that had the biggest crowd and with the obviously overpriced items featuring the brand. I told the guys I was heading back to see if someone will appear.
As I headed back some other volunteers were placing the barracks that will indicate the running course. Larry and his girlfriend came back but we lost Yensys somewhere in the process (I later knew he helped the athletes finishing the race), and we were re-directed to go to somewhere else among the race course. Larry and company stayed near the finish line while I got to be at the start of the run after T2.
I had to direct the athletes to stay on course and giving directions. While I met other 2 people, they eventually had to go to help to the water station a few steps where I was. As the pros passed, eventually the age groupers started to swarm the “Run Out” section and I was there… all alone by myself to direct them. One of the athletes came back to me saying there was not enough people helping in the water station, later another one came back (and almost hit me) to me saying the water station was DRY. A spectator later told me that people were crossing the running course and one of them smashed to one athlete! I mean, how’s this even possible? The sad part, was to see athletes calling the quits, or asking for medical attention. Even the athlete that almost hit me called the quits and almost hit me…again!
Some of the organizer’s crew improved a water/Gatorade stations bringing golf carts with packs of water and Ironman Perfom, and people from the crowd started to jump in and help giving the athletes the vital liquids. Probably this was one of the nicest things I saw that day.
Around 1pm, there were not many more athletes leaving T2, so I was relieved of my volunteering duties. I grabbed something to eat (I was mega-starving at this time) and went home to crash.
It is sad that the inaugural Ironman Miami 70.3 was so much of a chaos and disorganized. For me it was frustrating to see and hear the complains of so many athletes in the race and without anything I could do to help. The complains didn’t stop there as many people have been bashing the Ironman Facebook page and website. The only good thing is that as for today, the WTC (the corporation that manages the Ironman) has respond to the hundreds of complains and decided to take charge of the organization of the event for next year and to also give a complimentary race entry to any of the 2011’s 70.3 races listed on their website. At least they have reacted to the people’s voice and are trying to amend the mistakes occur last Saturday.