I just got back from the 25th annual “Wildflower Triathlons Festival”:http://www.tricalifornia.com/wildflower/2007/ at Lake San Antonio, CA. Now, before you start to think I’m some super athletic triathlete, I’m not. I wasn’t a participant in the event, I was working for Tri-California, the production company that produces it. (And by working, I mean volunteering.) I’ve been volunteering at various levels for Wildflower and other events since 1999. Some events, like the San Luis Obispo Triathlon, I just show up and hand out water, then go home. Others, I take a day or two off work, travel to the Bay Area, and help set up and tear down the event. Wildflower is the big one, though. With 8,000 athletes and an estimated 40,000 people in attendance, it is one of the largest in the world.
While the event is produced by Tri-California for the Monterey County Parks Department, the race planning and volunteer coordination are handled by a committee of Cal Poly students. This student committee is responsible for all aspects of the race, from marking the course and setting up the aid stations, to recruiting and coordinating the 1500 Cal Poly students who show up to volunteer. This committee is how I became involved. They are guided by binders compiled by previous committees and assisted by Tri-California staff and the support team. The support team is made up of dedicated former committee members who continue to support the committee after they leave Cal Poly. This is how I continue to be involved. The committee begins planning in January for the event in May, and I keep in touch to offer support and answer questions throughout this process. While I started out on the swim course, these days I mostly support the communications team and the transportation team.
When it’s event time, I usually take a few days of vacation and go up to the lake early, to help with logistics and setup. When I lived in San Luis Obispo, this usually meant two or three days before the event, and the Monday after to recover. This year, since the drive time is a little more, I took the entire week before the event, and two days after (one to recover, one to drive). It was great.
What do I actually do at the event? Lots of different things, mostly _not_ having to do with computers. This is my vacation after all. Logistics is a big part of my job. Getting people and things to different places when they need to be there. This means I spend a lot of time driving. I can drive just about anything on wheels. I am one of a handful of people that drive the fork-lifts, from small warehouse models, to the big, blue Gradall extending boom truck we had this year. I drive 24′ box trucks and stakeside trucks. I drive pickups with varying size trailers. I drive motorcycles. I drive it all. All of this with 8,000 athletes and 35,000 spectators to worry about. All of this with one road in and out of the park, and that road is the race course.
That brings up another large part of my job. I am the Safety Coordinator for the event. This means anyone that needs to drive on the course during the event needs to talk to me. (Notice I didn’t say “wants?” The people who don’t need to drive on the course don’t event talk to me, because I’ll just say “No,” anyway.) I also coordinate motorcycle riders for the race officials and photographers that are on the course. This year, I didn’t have to recruit them (Thank you Meredith), which is great because I don’t do a very good job at recruiting. We use motorcycles because they are similar to bicycles in size and maneuverability, and they are a lot smaller than a car. On a two lane road course, this is key, they don’t need to cross the center line to pass athletes.
All of us on the support team also help everyone else do their jobs, take care of things that aren’t really part of anyone’s job, and fill in where we are needed. This means anything from building a projection screen for the slide show to helping check in volunteers.
This year’s event went very well. The weather was great, it didn’t rain and we didn’t run out of water. Everything seemed to go smoothly. I think we found the perfect forklift for the event, the “Terex/Genie 5519 (or 6622?)”:http://www.terexamericas.com/products/material_handlers.htm (we just need to add lights to it for night work). I made one exhausted dog (and her people) very happy by giving her a ride up the hill to the campsites. I got to be there when my brother came charging out of the water after his swim. The only downside was Monday. Several of us picked up a bug of some sort and spent the better part of Monday feeling horrible. I didn’t make it out of my trailer for the entire duration of Monday. It wasn’t until Monday night that the whole body pain subsided enough for me to identify individual areas of my body (mostly my back and diaphragm, oh, and my head) that hurt. It wasn’t until around noon on Tuesday that I was able to begin re-hydrating. I’ll spare you any more gory details. Before you get any ideas, this wasn’t just the cocktail flu, this was much, much worse. Several of the affected did not drink at all. Despite the sickness, this was still a great event. It seemed to go smoother than some years, and we all managed to have a good time.
I can’t wait for the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon next month!
fn1. My brother did compete this year. He has been a swimmer his whole live, but this was his first triathlon. Congratulations Scott!
fn2. Notice I didn’t say graduate? I didn’t want to exclude some of the most dedicated members of the support team. 😉