Virginia #35

May 1, 2011

Monticelloman – Olympic Distance



Hayes came on this road trip to help volunteer at Monticelloman, an Olympic Distance triathlon outside Charlottesville. She thrives around others who show excitement for her positive outlook on life and treats her with an equal outlook in return. We flew into Washington National Airport early Friday morning, picked out a rental car, and drove north on the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Hayes received a quick US history briefing based on the Lincoln and Washington Memorials across the Potomac River. We drove to Leesburg for lunch in its quaint downtown area then on to Front Royal, gateway to Shenandoah National Park. The views from Skyline Drive on the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains looked beautiful. At the Visitors Center we learned about the Park’s origin and natural beauty. Hayes stamped her National Park Passport to add to her collection. We stopped at a few turnouts along the way to experience the panoramic vistas, cooler air, and the regression of spring as leaves remained as leaf buds waiting for warmer weather to turn on the triggers for them to catch up with the budding foliage lower in the valley. We hiked short stretch of the famed Appalachian Trail before heading down to Highway 33 and turned west to Harrisburg and into Charlottesville.


On Saturday morning I did a pre-race day run sandwiched in between some stretching  then we drove out to Monticello, the Thomas Jefferson estate located ten minutes outside of Charlottesville. Hayes liked big and old houses. I liked President Jefferson. Wanted to visit the place since seeing its image on some of the Jefferson stamps I collected as a kid. The tour of the grounds exceeded both our expectations for beauty and admiration. Monticello was beautiful; especially with the clear skies, mild temperatures, and low humidity. We visited on a perfect non-storm day. The estate sat up high built on a hilltop which for the time was unusual for the exposure to the weather. Generally, other houses around the area and during that time period were built much lower down the hillsides. Such was the case with President’s Monroe house a few miles away. Jefferson’s foresight of placement on top of the hill and facing to the west allowed him in later years to watch the construction of the University of Virginia which he founded. And in a figurative sort of way, overlook the vastness of the Louisiana Purchase from France he secured for the US during his first term as president. Monticello was a reflection of Jefferson’s self-indulgence of quality furnishings and lodging much like triathletes self-indulgence of racing gear and races. Jefferson also displayed many artifacts given to him by Lewis & Clark’s they collected during their Corps of Discovery Expedition into the new US territory. Triathletes like to show off their finisher medals, awards, and race trinkets for others to be awed and inspired. Hayes and I left Monticello, awed and inspired by a great man of vision and leadership for the great America experiment, and drove over to the race site to get checked in for volunteering and the next day’s race.


At the other extreme of triathletes’ self-indulgence was the helping of volunteers at races to ensure our safe passage over the course, protection of beloved race gear, giver of fluids, provider of calories, and reporter of splits and finishing times. All of this so we can strut around the race areas in spandex, talk about how fit and fast we are, and show off our finisher medals to other people that just do not care.


Less than a week earlier I sent an e-mail to Carter Wiecking, who was in charge of the volunteers for Monticelloman, to confirm Hayes’ volunteer assignment. A couple of days go by without a response. On Friday she sends back an e-mail. Please note how dedicated and helpful the race volunteers are:   


Hi, Doug,

I'm sorry I didn't get back to you sooner; I live in the northern Shenandoah Valley and our power was out for a while after yesterday's tornados.


I was thinking we would assign Hayes to work the transition area of the triathlon. It's a nice assignment because it's central to all the action and easy for you as a parent to get Hayes there.


The transition area is the area where the racers change from their swim gear to their bike gear, and later from their bike gear to their run gear. They will have all their clothes and equipment and their bikes laid out in this area; we need to ensure that only the racers and the race personnel enter this area, so the gear does not get disturbed, or worse, carried off by someone who doesn't belong there.


We'll ask Hayes to station herself at one of the entrances to check that everyone coming in or going out has a race number.


The transition area opens at 7 a.m., when the racers will be coming in to set up their gear and bikes, but we won't need Hayes in place until 8:45 a.m., when the transition area is officially closed off to non-racers.


Does that suit both of you? Please let me know. If not, we could assign Hayes to work the bike course aid station later in the morning, but that is a little more difficult logistically...parking and timing are a little trickier.


Thank you! Looking forward to seeing you Sunday morning!


-Carter Wiecking


I responded to Carter stating, “You owe apologies to no one in keeping safe from the tornados and getting out of the turmoil afterwards…. Without (volunteers), the racers would not have a chance to race.”


She was more worried about the racers getting what they paid for on Sunday than her own life when being blown around by a tornado and her life in danger. And us racers, well, we knew little about what the volunteers were faced with and expected full delivery of what race volunteers are taken for granted on race days

Hayes and I met up with Carter at Saturday’s check-in. Her story helped explain why two freshly ground tree stumps existed on either side of the walkway up to the front porch of Monticello. A tornado took out two, two hundred plus year-old trees on the grounds. The third significant storm system of April crossed through the Mississippi River Valley and into Virginia during the last week of April. That storm was the most extensive and deadliness of the three. That was some wind storm she survived. All but a few of the next day’s racer had a clue Carter, the organizer of the volunteers, stayed focused on caring more about helping them than of herself.

Race day came early as always. The starting area was on a beautiful sandy beach with a flat lake to dive into. The horn sounded followed by joyous sounds from athletes and spectators. The first wave competitors trotted towards the water with muffled sounds of feet pounding the sand to water’s edge. The water temperature was in the mid 60’s which was great swimming in a wetsuit. The lake water was also clear and clean. The splashing sounds of full bodies hitting the water were heard first and then the relaxing rhythm of air bubbles being pushed out the mouth and plopping sounds as arms dropped with each new lift of a stroke forward filled my ears. The first triathlon of my busy season began.


The transition went smooth. Saw Hayes when entering T1. This was her first time volunteering in the transition area. Thought for a split second she would laugh or worse, freeze when seeing me. Hayes directed me towards my bike where I dropped off my wetsuit, goggles, and swim cap and exchanged them for a helmet, sunglasses, and bike jersey. My bike shoes were already in the pedals arranged parallel to the road held steady by rubber bands connected to components on the bike frame. I lifted the saddle off the bike rack and headed out of the transition area in the other direction Hayes was now pointing to. Before I could exit she was already talking and pointing out the exit to other racers. Hayes took the assignment seriously for me and every other triathlete who entered the transition at Lake Monticello.


I pushed the bike across the mount line and jumped on, took a few pedals and then slipped my left foot into the left shoe and followed with the right foot into the right shoe. The process went easy even without practice since my last race over six months earlier. Thought I would do poorly on the bike leg because a few days before the race when I kept on getting dropped in my Spin class. This was only the second time on a bicycle outside since November.


Minnesota, where I was working at the time, experienced a long winter and was getting snow on May 1st while I was outside some 1,000 miles away swimming, biking, and running in the beautiful southwest Virginia countryside.


The undulating terrain made for a challenging bike course but the race director compensated for the 1,000+ feet of elevation changes with smooth roads and limited vehicle traffic which provided safe riding conditions. These descriptions of roads were more of the exception in the Chicago area than the norm. The run course took us along the lake and across the dam. Luckily, there was a full cloud cover by the time the run leg started since there was minimal shade along the course. The race seemed low key but was filled with some strong swimmers, steady bikers, and speedy runners. Everyone was friendly. Most racers gave and received encouragement from each other and spectators alike.

Carter appropriately assigned Hayes to the transition area. She handled her three hours of responsibilities well and independently. The guy Hayes shared her assignment with gave some guidance but quickly grew bored as Hayes pointed the racers in and out the right gates. He complimented Hayes as the only volunteer who did not leave her post. She was her social self in giving directions. She guarded their equipment while they were on the race course and checked numbers on the bodies to ensure a match to bike number as they pulled them out of the transition area after the race. She talked with competitors giving encouragement and credit for accomplishments. During the slow periods she talked to family members about how she volunteered at other races and she has been to many other races to watch her dad compete.


We didn’t stay for awards after the race ended because we had to rush out and pack up the bike, shower and drive three plus hours in a full on traffic jam to get back to Dulles Airport near Washington DC. To my surprise and in a real class act we already received an e-mail from Carter before the plane left the ground:


Subject: Thank you again!

Date: Sun, 1 May 2011 18:33:56 -0400

Hayes volunteering -- Dear Doug and Hayes,

I was thinking of you on my own trip home today, hoping that your flight home goes smoothly. Doug, I hope you had a bulkhead seat so you can stretch those post-race muscles a little; Hayes, I hope you had a fun flight and some time to rest after all your hard work today.


We were really blessed that both of you came out today, to race and to volunteer. We couldn't have staged a race without both kinds of support.


It was a joy meeting both of you. Thank you for coming out this weekend!



Carter Wiecking


Next time you race, thank a volunteer. Collectively, they work harder and under more pressure than the competitors.


Thank you Carter Wiecking and the every other volunteer that helps out at races!


Results: 6th overall. 1st in age group

Doug Morris

Coach of Exceptional Outcomes

Palm Trees Ahead, LLC

Tel: 1.630.457.7889

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