The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
Mohandas GhandiThe Mont Tremblant Ironman 70.3 and its big brother, the full Ironman, both have a special niche among the North American Ironman races. Located in the Province of Québec, the predominant language and culture of the Tremblant event is French, and this adds a unique atmosphere to the proceedings. Although almost everyone will speak fluent English to a visitor, the signage and background chatter are all in French, a reminder of the distinct identity inherited by the Québeçois on this continent.
On Sunday my daughter Laura and I spent six hours at Run Aid Station #12 (station d’aide #12), at 17 km into the run portion of the Ironman 70.3. There were about two dozen of us volunteers, handing out water, sports drink, pretzels, and other essentials to the 2,000 runners as they ran, walked, or staggered past. It was an inspiration to help every one of them.
|Laura in action at the water station.|
For most of the long day I filled up and gave out cups of water; maybe a thousand cups of water. We advertised our wares like vendors at an open air market.“Water!”
"Cola!"It was a warm, humid day so I got a lot of business. I also directed the runners for a while.
I always consider it a privilege to help out in the sport that has given so much to me, but we also had one extra motive this time. The two of us are entered in the full Ironman in August - which is two loops of the same course the athletes were doing Sunday - and we wanted to get a feel for the layout of the event. It is a beautiful course; one of the best I have ever seen. We watched the swim, checking out the long walk to the start and the long run out of the water to transition; the day before we had ridden on some of the bike course, where my Garmin clocked a 17% grade on one of the hills, not too long, mercifully; and we walked the hardest part of the run course up to our aid station. I say “up” because the first three kilometres of the run are all uphill. Now we know. Lots of hill training in my future.
Having been in the shoes of those triathletes more times than I can count, I know the criticality of the volunteer crews. The event would not just be more difficult or less enjoyable without them; it would be simply impossible. Whatever the number of athletes in a race, there are usually twice that many volunteers, performing services from bodymarking at dawn to lifeguard duty during the swim to picking up the garbage after everyone has gone home, and everything you can think of between.Some of the volunteers at our aid station were not athletic types, and might never participate in an event like a triathlon themselves. But there they were, supplying nutrition and hydration, and cheering on the runners with shouts of “Good job!”; "Bravo!";“You’re looking strong!”; “You’re amazing!” They were there because of their true admiration for the athletes and what they were trying to do; and because they wanted to be part of a special event celebrating body and spirit.
There was a purity of attitude that moved me. Not once did I ever hear anyone question why anyone would want to race in a long distance triathlon. Not once did I hear anyone demean or diminish the efforts we were witnessing by using the term “crazy” to describe thousands of runners who streamed past our station. From my fellow volunteers I sensed only admiration and support for the dreaming, planning, training, dedication, focus, and perseverance needed to get to the finish line.We should all experience such undiluted positive energy at least once in our lives, no matter what we are trying to accomplish.