For the second day in a row, I saw the sunrise as I drove to an event.
Transition area at sunrise
We arrived at Brushy Creek sports park at 7am for the Hotter Than Doo Duathlon, and the parking lot was full. Athletes had arrived early to check in their bikes and get organized in the transition area. We changed into our volunteer shirts and hopped on a cart that would take us down the trail to our water stop on the running course.
I learned a lot about the duathlon this morning. Thanks to my friend at You Signed Up for What?! I had a basic understanding of the event, but I also performed a fair amount of Googling on my phone during lulls in the action. I learned that today’s race offered two distances: the Sprint distance consisted of a two-mile run, 10-mile bike, two-mile run. The Olympic distance was a 5K run, 30K bike, and 5K run. Our water stop was at Mile One, which was also the turnaround point for the sprint distance; the Olympic distance runners continued on for another .55 miles to the YMCA before turning back.
We set up our Sprint Turnaround Here sign, filled water cups, and waited for our first runners. It didn’t take long–only a few minutes after the 7:30 start, some superfast elite racers came thundering down the trail. They grabbed water without slowing down or breaking stride–it was impressive.
The first out-and-back leg, quite a few runners declined water. It was still early and not brutally hot, although we’d gotten a brief thunderstorm last night and the humidity was high. After everyone came through the first time, we reorganized, moving our table and coolers to a shadier spot on the other side of the trail. Unfortunately we could not escape the gnats. Holy crap they were relentless little biters! At one point I looked down and counted ten of them clustered on the back of my knee. They buzzed around my ears, and twice those suckers flew up my nose. There was no escape.
As the morning got hotter, we gave water to a couple of recreational runners as well. I don’t know about y’all, but I’m not gonna turn away someone running in the August heat just because they’re not wearing a race number. And there were a fair number of regular this-is-my-Sunday-long-run folks out here–duathlon racers had to dodge other runners, walkers, cyclists, and dogs as they followed Brushy Creek trail. Several passers-by asked about the event and we shared our newly-Googled knowledge.
It WAS hotter than doo, yes.
Pretty soon, those on their third legs of the race started appearing–first, a handful of super-fast sprint racers, and then the leading Olympic-distance runners. The guy who was in second place lamented about the runner he was chasing, “Was that guy even breathing hard? Please tell me he was breathing hard.” He was indeed breathing hard–it was hotter than doo out there.
Few declined water, and some took two–one to drink, one to dump on their heads. Three or four guys asked us to throw water right in their faces! And honestly, this was the most polite bunch of racers I’ve ever encountered–they not only thanked us when we handed them water, they thanked us for volunteering. Most of them tossed their cups in or near the garbage can, although I didn’t mind picking up the few cups that ended up on the ground either, ’cause I know how that goes at a race.
Finally, the last runner came through with one of the race organizers as a bicycle escort. She said that she’d signed up for this knowing it was going to be a huge test–her only goal was to finish–and she stuck it out the whole way. After we handed her a couple cups of icewater on her last return trip, the cart came to get us and our equipment; we got back to the start/finish line in time to watch her come in. She’d been walking a lot of that last leg, but as she made the final turn, a couple of young girls ran out to meet her, and they all ran in together. She was one tough cookie, and I’m glad I got to see her finish. She even got an award–shaped like a turtle–for being the final finisher.
All in all, I had a great time. I’m happy I could help, and I enjoyed seeing people of all ages and ability levels out there kicking ass under a blazing August sun. The event was well-organized and everyone was super-friendly. But next time? Bring bug spray.