Wow! I am exhausted. I currently have supporter's hangover from Ironman Melbourne - I have no voice, I am dehydrated and I am so sore I feel like I have done a 100km ultra.
The day started at 7am when we went down to Frankston to support friends and watched the swim start. It was my first experience of a rolling start and I gotta say - from a spectator point of view - it was an anti-climax. The last age groupers just got into the water as the pros all finished their swim - that's how long the swim waves went for. As an athlete, I would say that if you are a strong swimmer, you would not like it either as you want the drafting of faster swimmers. If you are not a strong swimmer, the wave starts were great. You took your position amongst your group and went into the water 6 at a time. After the swim, we then walked to the swim finish to watch some athletes come through. It was traffic and luckily we saw a coffee truck and bought a bacon and egg roll and coffee to tie us through.
We then walked up to see people entering into the change tent. We saw plenty of people we recognised and cheered them through. When the traffic subsided after 40min or so, we could then cross the path to grab our bikes and headed back to the car so we could head to the bike course view area.
We decided to go to the Ferntree Gully Road view point in front of the massive BP station. I know from experience that the bike course is a lonely one and the cheers really helped. We saw a few people we knew along the Eastlink freeway when we drove up and gave them all toots on the horn. We noticed a slight northerly and based on the people flying by towards Frankston and the faces of the people who were struggling on the bike as they head towards the tunnel. We didn't (and couldn't) stay there for too long as we needed to be at Mentone Aid Station at 12 for our shift.
The earliest athletes were scheduled to arrive at Mentone by 2pm so we had 2 hours to prep the aid station. We arranged lollies and pretzels into small cups, cut fruit, opened bars, lined and filled water buckets and degassed coke. I placed myself at the front of the aid station to welcome athletes towards the aid station. I was also standing there to guide athletes towards the 2nd set of toilets if the portable one was occupied. I rang my cowbell and yelled out names from 2pm through to 7pm. A solid 5 hours and now I have no voice.
Considering that I was only suppose to be there from 12-3, staying there and yelled out names until 7pm, I did a pretty good job. Once one of my friends went through Mentone, I got on my bike, rode home, took a quick shower and drove up to St Kilda.
There were several athletes I recognised and tooted my horn in a cheerful manner. I loved it! Once I parked my car at the Great Provider, I rode my bike down the course to see if I could spot my friends. I spotted a dozen or so which was good. Unlike previous years, the path along Brighton through to Elwood were no lit at all which was stupid! You could not see where the path was and it was just dangerous!
I hung around my friend so she could see the path in front of her and lead her through from Brighton through the Great Provider and let her go with 2km to go. I then headed back to the Great Provider to wait for more athletes. I went home at 12 as I was feeling tired and the caffeine was wearing off.
I was so inspired from volunteering and I understand what it is like to be inspired and then wanting to do the event in 12 months time. Some people who spectate really have no concept of what a 3.8km swim, 180km ride and a 42.2km run is about. Not only is it a huge event to get your body and mind through, the training hours leading up to the event can also take a toll. Don't even get me started on the people out there who state on their social media pages about "I am going to do Kona in 2015, 16, 17" like it is an event that you just "enter" into! I have spoken about this before but I guess they will learn through other means that you don't just "do Kona"....
Anyways, rant over. I do love supporting this event and being amongst friends. I would do it week after week if I know that friends of mine are racing - it is about supporting your friends - they need you on race day!