The opportunity to house sit for a friend on Hawaii’s Big Island just happened to coincide with the week of the Ironman World Championships.
This event brings more than 2,000 of the world’s best triathletes to Kona, filling up the small town with an abundance of energy, excitement and anticipation.
During the days leading up to the race, Kailua Bay was filled with swimmers, and Ali’i’ Drive was a colorful assortment of cyclists and runners motoring from sunup to sunset.
The energy was contagious, and the fun of swimming out to the espresso boat and watching the underpants race were just some of the unique and enjoyable events I experienced.
Ironman Hawaii is a massive undertaking for this community, and the residents of Kona come out in droves to be a part of the more than 5,000 volunteers who make it happen.
Before leaving for the trip, I signed up for a volunteer slot that suited me. I chose the finish line because I love the energy and excitement of the crowd, and the rewarding interactions with these amazing athletes.
As a “finish line catcher,” my job was to support and walk with the athlete through the finish area past food and beverages and the medical tent before leaving them in the post-race area.
Catchers work in pairs first draping a finisher towel over the athlete’s back and then walking on either side, literally supporting them through the transition area.
Most athletes, although exhausted, were lucid and able to walk without assistance; others needed our support and were appreciative of the help.
A surprising number of the finishers were chatty and excited after finishing, and would share stories about their experience and how they qualified.
The “pros” take around eight to 10 hours to complete the race while age-groupers typically finish in around 11 to 14. There is a time limit of 17 hours.
Racing for that many hours, especially in the heat, humidity and wind of the Big Island’s west coast, can sap even the most seasoned triathlete.
My volunteer slot left me time during the day to catch some of my friends who were competing and cheer them on.
Ben Hoffman, whom I met and interviewed back when he lived in Durango, was racing in the pro category and had a stellar day finishing second overall.
It was so exciting to follow his progress and be able to take pictures and encourage him through transitions and the finish.
Cathy Tibbetts, a Farmington resident, was competing in her 10th consecutive Ironman Hawaii. She had a great day in spite of the wind that she and most of the other triathletes referred to as “brutal.” She was able to finish the race in 13 hours and 30 minutes and place fourth in her age group.
It was truly inspiring to walk along Ali’i’ Drive shortly before the cutoff time and see the racers who had been out on the course for almost 17 hours giving it their all to finish in time.
The crowds lined the course until the very end, cheering these Iron men and women as they closed in on the finish chute and completed this epic event.
Email Marjorie Brinton at firstname.lastname@example.org.