First off, this isn’t going to be comparable to St. Anthony’s Recap. It just isn’t.
About 10 days ago, John LeTourneau called me at work. He never calls me at work. He had a request for me to fulfill… Better yet, he had put my name down on a list and just needed to tell me where to be and what time to be there. I was OK with that, as I was in essence being LeTourneau’d by Mr. LeTourneau. Thats street cred you just can’t buy. To put that in perspective, imagine the Godfather calls you into his office and tells you your gonna do this thing. What are you going to say? No thanks! I can’t! How about Yes Sir!!
So it was, that my name found itself inked in on the line for timing chip dispersal at the Florida International Triathlon. I was to arrive at 4:45AM-5AM and proceed to find the Queen Bee, Ren Shrock.
Siesta Key can be a calm and eerily beautiful place at 4:30AM and this saturday morning is no different. The street lights cast an ominous glow upon the sidewalks and asphalt and set a scene of every hollywood movie’s lonely street. You can see the outlines of trees, but the sky is still covered in night and the only discernable change is the yellow broken stripes in the middle of the road that are appearing and disappearing like a strobe light in my peripheral vision. I literally have to lower the windows and crank some loud rap music to shake the sleepiness from my still REM-cycle-infatuated body. I’m sure the sleepy neighborhood appreciates some good Trick Daddy this morning. Who Wouldn’t? In case your wondering who or what Trick Daddy is or what he sounds like, then by all means, click here. <—–
4:45AM and I park at the Beach Resort I manage, which is about 1/2 mile from the actual race site. I load my trusty backpack and hike on over to the Siesta Parking lot which is lit up like the Shuttle Launch with High powered halogens everywhere. It looks like the landing spot for Angels or a going out of business sale for a carpet gallery! I put some tunes on the Ipod for the short walk and blend into the shadows the flourescents are creating on mother natures dark canvas. Singing some Josh Turner (Click Here <—), I lower my vocal volume when up ahead I see a Storm volunteer shirt alone waiting to divert traffic to the grassy lot. Its David Romine and he quickly explains that the county wants the grassy lot full before we start parking in the asphalt main lot. We wish each other a good day volunteering and I’m back on my way to find the elusive Ren.
5AM and I stumble upon the Transition area’s entrance, where its early yet and so the Storm members I see include Travis Ricks, Tanya Marvin, Mr. LeTourneau in the flesh, Race Director Dave Strehlow and Holly Urfer. We chat it up for a moment, but nothing can keep me from finding my Golden Ring, Ren. I press on and just past the swing sets, I see the pavilion and Ren is there with some familiar faces including; Mark Kowalski and Bryan Hoskinson. Ren tells me to go see Jaclyn Ohman already holding down the valuable chip hardware. I mosey back to the transition area and find Jaclyn waiting patiently. We exchange hellos and chat briefly about what today holds in store. Its a fun setting and slowly but surely, athletes walk up to our tables either confidently blurting out there race numbers expecting the forthcoming timing chip or others who may not have as much triathlon experience and stand silently or meekly get out their race data for us to verify.
At first we breeze through the competitors as they arrive in 1 minute intervals and soon thereafter, we get Steven and Matt added to our All-Star chip team. When things really pick up, we are rocking and most people get their chips with no problems. The only issue we encountered was Chip Numbers #427 arrived and lo and behold, his chip was not there. Immediately we rounded up the one and only John LeTourneau who headed over to the main pavilion to find the racer data and I’m sure, work on an announcement that like a Chinese tradition, would have brought shame upon our good name. So. Like. William. Shatner. I. Had. A. Plan. I left our table and ventured into the bike rack area, found Rack 420-429 and all I saw was #421, so I hustled back to our table to double check and see if chip #421 was given out. Ironically, I was scoping out some bikes earlier and thought, what turned out to be bike #421, ( A nice, trek concept 7, I believe) was a slick looking ride! So I remembered the rider as well, and as I almost eclipsed the transition entrance I saw the rider of bike #421, and glanced at his ankle chip, which read #427. Problem solved, CSI; Siesta Key! (This is pretty much exactly how the moment went <—– Click there)
The four of us were rocking timing chips like we were the Jabbawockeez on America’s Best Dance Crew. Jaclyn was all about speed, or crunking, Matt was thorough or Popping & Locking, Steve was a wildcard jack-of-all-trades, similar to a breakdance and I was all about Customer Service, which I guess equates to the Usher Glide or the Beiber Slide, either way its pretty cool.
Before we wrap things up, a few late, late stragglers arrive and amidst some tense chaos, they are denied entry to the race. Moments later, an unknown volunteer comes running around the pavilion area leading the tardy participants like a battle charge and they hustle to get their respective things (bikes, helmets, shoes, etc) and make it back to get in the race. Moments later, when they seem satisfied, the Race director had to put the kaibosh down on the late arrivals and end their day. (Ironically, we saw them all on the course for the run, so the good news is they got out there, one way or another! This surely amounts to good PR for the FIT Race, even though racers should always, always, always show up early as you just never know what obstacles, delays or wrong turns await.)
We bid our body marking friends adieu as Travis, Tanya, Hal Hammond and others head off to support other parts of the course and honestly after Hal’s St. Anthony outfit, I’m not sure how many times I will get to write Hal and support in the same sentence. I end up back at the Pavilion and Bryan H informs me I will be spending time with Jaclyn in the woods. I’m not sure what volunteering meant, but it’s looking up! In fact, I am coordinating the runners departure from transition to the woods, through the woods (to grandma’s house <— That's for Jaclyn, she earned it for all her great cheering!) and from the woods to the beach. (Great job by Mary and her CAF supporters as well!)
I grab Jaclyn and we head over to the area on Siesta by the bypass parking area, runners exit the area behind the tennis courts and we stand guard with the line of orange cones and our enthusiasm to guide them into the Siesta jungle that beckons them. This turns out to easily be the best part of the day as runners of all kinds move towards us, like salmon swimming upstream. We get to yell, cheer, uplift and exclaim all kinds of motivational, witty and laughable sayings to them, inlcuding; the aforementioned Grandma's house one liner, which I am not touching. Jaclyn has copyright on that one. We yell, "The hard parts over", "There's shade in the woods", "Your doing it, you are making this happen!", the obligatory, "Good job", "Nice Work", "Way to Go!", but easily my top choice filet mignon of motivation is the genre of cheering. We try Cajun, Hip-Hop, Country Twang, Rasta, but the best and most enjoyable was Southern Baptist Revival with Me as the Preacher and Jaclyn as the Witness, shouting, "Hallelujah" and "WooHoo!". SOUTHERN BAPTIST CHEERING FTW!
Before I know it, the runners are thinning out, the clock is pushing 9:30AM and its about time for me to return to my resort and start my saturday shift placating the vacationers!
I have a cornucopia of pictures from the Expo and the event, so I'll just post them hereafter and let you soak up all the photo goodness!
I swing through the finisher zone and congratulate AJ Bautch & Steve Geaux on their respective great finishes! 1st & 2nd places!
With a plateful of pizza, bagels, banana & an oatmeal raisin cookie, I am out of here!
What a great race for the Sarasota Storm, and all sponsors and athletes! I hope you had fun, because I sure as hell did!