Tuesday, May 28, 2013

About "The Spirit of the Volunteer"

When I first entered the running arena, it was my perception that all I had to do was train hard, register for an event, show up, run, finish and repeat.

Furthermore, when one begins the journey through the running or triathlon world, one could easily assume that races and events "just happen".

One may think that all one has to do is log in, pay a registration fee and everything else happens by magic.  One could not be so wrong.

As we all know, it takes a multitude of people, most of them volunteers, to put an event together.  Even those events that are organized by "for profit groups" rely heavily on volunteers.  As an example, Ironman Louisville alongside their paid staff, uses somewhere upward of 3,000 volunteers.

But as we know, the majority of the smaller events, the 5k's, 10k's and even some Half Marathons as well as  a host of Sprint Triathlons and Kid's Triathlons are organized by Non-Profit groups and they rely solely on the generosity of the volunteer.

I feel blessed that I have found my way into such a giving community.  I learned rather quickly, that my original perception was totally wrong.  So, I started volunteering for this was nothing new to me.  Along with my wife, as our daughters were growing up, we became extremely involved in Gymnastics and Soccer.  We have served on Board of Directors, we have organized fundraisers, we have done whatever has been necessary to make things happen.

Giving back to a sport you love, be it soccer, gymnastics, running, triathlon... or whatever your passion is, is one of the most rewarding feelings you could ever get.  It's like saying out-loud and publicly: "Thank You for allowing me to participate".

After my experience at Louisville Ironman 2011, I thought it my duty to return and volunteer.  My wife and daughter Juliana, joined me as volunteers.  We did "body marking".  This was the best, non-racing experience I've ever had at a triathlon.  We are returning this year, again to volunteer.  Next year, I'll be back again... but this time to race... or rather participate (there's a difference you know).

Over the past few weeks I found myself volunteering for a host of events.  From a local 5k organized by one of the most giving people I know, "Big Bubba" Perry to benefit "The Make A Wish Foundation", to The Nashville Kids Triathlon.  Here I got to work hand-in-hand with kids ages 7-14.  My assignment was the "transition area".  I told my friend Charlene, who is in charge of the Volunteer force for this event, that as long as she wants me, I'll be back year after year.

Early this year, sometime late January, maybe early February, I was presented with the opportunity to Direct a Race.  A Race Director?  Who Me?  Not in a million years.  This was beyond my scope of comprehension.  How could I be responsible for taking over an event going on its seventh year.  The previous six years were huge successes.  I did not want the responsibility or the pressure.

Or did I?

I discussed it with my wife and the only thing she said was:  "You're a natural for this. You will do great!"  Awesome, not what I was looking for!  A couple of days later, I received messages from friends telling me the same thing.  I think Monica conspired with them.  It had to be!

So I accepted.  I would be the 7th Annual Hendersonville Classic Race Director.  God Bless us all.

The event took place this past weekend in my hometown of Hendersonville, Tennessee.  And from all early reports, it was another huge success.

A success not necessarily because of my doings.  A success because of the people I was surrounded with.  Half of the previous year's organizing team would not return, so my first task was to find replacements... And boy-oh-boy did I hit the Jackpot with them!  All of them!  My new Course Director Heidi.  My returning Volunteer Coordinator Tom.  My new Water Stop Coordinator Melissa and my returning Participant Food Coordinator Marilyn. Add to this list Laura.  She's the Executive Director at Cumberland Crisis Pregnancy Center, the folks we do this for.  Without her and her team of, again, volunteers this could not have happened.

I cannot forget to thank my friends Sheila Y. who spearheaded the creation of this event some seven years ago and Tiffany H., last year's race director for having faith in me and willing to turn over, without hesitation, the reins of an event you worked so hard to get to where it is today.

We took a rough count the before the race, we estimated that well over one hundred and fifty volunteers blessed us with their time.  And we tried to add up the hours put in by these folks... we could not!

It is an amazing thing when you find a cause that moves you, a purpose that so drives you that you decide this will be your new mission.  I did not know I was looking for such thing, but I know I have found it.  So, as long as CCPC wants me as their Classic Race Director, I will proudly serve.

I urge each and everyone of you, no matter where you are in life, no matter how busy you think you are, take time to give back.  Volunteer if even for one event per year.  You will make more of a difference than you can begin to imagine.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

About Rev3 Knoxville

I could be brief and to the point and say that this was, by far, the "toughest race I have ever done", and I've done a couple of tough ones (Ironman Louisville and Ironman 70.3 Branson come to mind).  But that would be no fun, now would it?

When I say "tough", I mean physically, mentally, emotionally, and any and all other "...ally" you can imagine, all wrapped up in one little 4+ hour package.

The events leading up to race day mostly revolved around the weather.  It was apparent very early in the week that the conditions for race day would, how should I say this nicely, what's that four letter word I'm thinking of?...  stink!

First of, the water temperature was expected to be below 60ºF., Waaay bellow comfortable levels. Per an email received from Rev3, they predicted the water temperature to be somewhere in the mid 60º's.  I think they were messing with our minds.

My good friend Johanna who lives in the Knoxville area, posted this photo on my facebook page on Thursday:

Knoxville Weather Forecast for Race Weekend

and as you can see, it was not looking good.  Right about this point, we (the family and I) had come to the understanding and had accepted the fact that we "were going to get wet, very wet."  Oh yeah, and it would be "cold, very cold".

We left home on Friday afternoon, soon thereafter the rain started.  And it never stopped.  Never. Ever!  Okay, maybe here and there for about two to five minutes, but no more.

We went to get registered and pick up our packet on Saturday morning.  Waited for our daughter to arrive and then went to pick up her packed.  Then we walked to the river.  We wanted to see what the condition of the water was.  Water temperature was around 59ºF.  It was not predicted to get much higher than that.  At the athlete meeting, it was "highly recommended" that everyone use a wet suit.  And with that having been said, there were some triathletes who jumped in the ice cold river, on Sunday morning, without a wet suit.  Did someone say "Triathletes are Crazy People"?
Later on that afternoon it was time to deliver the bikes to transition.  What a pleasant surprise to find that transition was inside a parking garage.  Yes, covered transition.  This would come into play big time race day, for obvious reasons.  Okay, maybe not so obvious... it would keep our gear dry.  To me this is huge! And because transition was covered, we brought our entire gear and left it there overnight. In the morning, there was really nothing to bring, except water bottle and wet suit (which we put on at the hotel). Another great surprise was to see the set up.  Each athlete would get their place to rack their bike with a "box" next to it to put their stuff in; to keep it in one place.

My wife's spot as well as mine were at the end of the rack.  This added extra room to work with.  Our daughter's spot was two or three from the end, but as it turns out the person next to her did not show up so she had extra room as well.  When you're taking off a wet suit, this extra area to work with is a welcome sight.

My coach Barry Baird, is one of the most encouraging people I know.  Always has something to say at the right time.  This weekend was not different.  However, he did send me a couple of extra text messages with more pointers.. perhaps he knew something I was only suspecting...


We woke up at 5:30 am.  Transition would close at 7:45 so we didn't have to be there so early.  I slept well.  The girls did not.

It had rained all night.  It was raining, at times pretty hard when we left the hotel.  We put our wet suits on before leaving the hotel in hopes we would stay warm.  It worked.  Kind 'a.  The walk was about 1.5 mile to transition.

It was around 6:45 - 7:00 am when we arrived at transition.  It's a guess, but I think I'm close.  At this time some of the first Half Rev3 swimmers were coming out of the water.

Mauricio, Juliana and Monica before Oly Rev3 Knoxville
 The usual buzz around transition was taking place; nervous chatter, small talk, pleasantries amongst athletes. Good Lucks, See You at the Finish Line, etc.   I saw several familiar faces in the crowd.  My friend Kennette who was obviously concerned and somewhat nervous was one of the first friendly faces I recognized. I tried to express a few words of encouragement.  Hope they helped.  Also hanging around was Robbie from X3.  As usual he had great words of encouragement to throw my way.  Thank you RB.  Outside transition, battling the rain were Robert and Eddie, also with X3.  These two I saw, or rather heard, several times during the race.  WOW, guys!  You two rock!


Oh my goodness, where do I begin.

Photo Courtesy of Eddie Farrell & X3

We made our way through the crowd to swim start. We stuck our hand in the water to gauge the temperature.  Yeah, like this really would give us an accurate reading.  My wife thought it felt great.  I though she was nuts.  Our Juli said nothing.

Made the short walk to the place where we would jump... yes, jump in the water.  Again I saw several familiar faces, again we all exchanged words of encouragement. (Kennette, I told you you would be fine, didn't I?) I went ahead of Monica and Juliana.  My wave would start five minutes before theirs.  This would be the last time I'd see them until the finish line.  Or so I thought.

And off went the pros.  Somehow it didn't look like they were moving as fast as pros usually move.  We would soon find out why.

There was a wave before mine.  The men under 40 went.  Then it was our turn.

We made our way to the dock, and cautiously I "jumped' in the water.  It would be a mass start.  Yikes.  I've never done a mass start.

Let me tell you one thing.  NO matter how prepared you are; how much you've warmed up, how much you have taken deep breaths to help prevent hyperventilation from the cold water... it still felt cold.  Extremely cold.

I was planning on swimming my way up to the start, about 100 yds from where I jumped in the water to warm up, but the gun went off.  "WHAT?  We're off, oh...."  And I started swimming.  And I was going no where.  Literally going no where.  The current.  The dang current.  This is why the pros weren't moving as fast as they usually do.

Okay.  Time to think. Think fast.  What do I do?  I've never practiced this, I've never been in this situation.  What do I do?

I remember the wise advise from Coach Barry.  He said "Above all, relax"  So I took a deep breath and composed myself.  Tried to relax as much as I could.  I knew that I had to turn my strokes quicker than I'd like to, but if I didn't I would go backwards.

And so it went.  The swim up the 400-500yds to the turn buoy.  Took about 30 minutes. Do the math, that's pretty slow.  I had used everything I had just to get there.  My heel (left, the one with plantar) cramped, my calves had cramped, everything was hurting but I made it.  The second buoy, the one that would turn us down river was just feel away.  It looked like it was just feet away.  I was thankful.

The swim downriver was awesome.  Half way through when I turned my head to the left to breath, I saw and recognized my daughter. What an awesome sight. Nothing else mattered at that point; the cold, the current, the pain, nothing.  The same current that I fought on the way up, brought me home.  It took just slightly over 10 minutes to swim the rest of the way, another 1000 yds.  Yes, the current was that strong.

As I arrived and was pulled off onto the dock, I cramped again.  It took the life guard about 2-3 minutes of stretching my toes to get the cramp out.  Once out I was gone.  I ran to T1.  Ran like I have never run before.  At the boat house, I almost passed out.  Still can't figure out why, but I didn't and I was fine the rest of the day.  Outside the boat house were Eddie F. and Robert P.  yelling and screaming encouragement.


Not much to be said here, except that the total T1 time was slow.  Not sure if the time spent getting my cramp our was added to swim or to T1, but it doesn't matter.   I put on my cycling gear, had a bite to eat and off I went.


Photo Courtesy of Eddie Farrell & X3

The dry clothes I had put on were no longer dry.  And this was just coming out of the parking garage where T1 was located.  The rain was coming down good and hard.

Made my way out of Knoxville and into the County.  And not that we were not having fun yet, but this is where the real fun (in the bike, for I had had enough fun in the water) began. 

Olympic Rev3 Knoxville Bike Elevation
The course, as you can see is very challenging at best on a good, dry day.  Add to this race day conditions and it made it that much tougher to navigate.  After about two miles, I had to take my glasses off because I couldn't see.  Without my glasses, I still couldn't see, so there you have it!  Wet, windy, hilly and blind!  Now, that's the recipe for a great ride!

On this race there was no chance of drafting.  That is of course, you didn't mind the water spray from the back wheel of the bike in front of you going up your nose.

The hills were tough.  However you knew that the descents would be slower than normal because of the conditions.  You could not take any chances, so you rode your brakes going down (this reminds me, I have to check my brake pads, see if there's anything left).  Going up is where you had to take some chances to make up some time.  This strategy worked great for me, but not so for a lot of triathletes.  On the two toughest climbs there was a tremendous number of riders walking their bikes.  I had never seen anything like this.  The hills were tough.


Bike to Run was faster than Swim to Bike.  Not fast, but faster.  I had brought a change of jacket and socks.  I changed both and it felt great.  The dry clothes lasted, once again, about 39 seconds.  But still worth the change.


As I left transition, it took about 4-5 minutes to realize that I felt good.  I had a feeling that this would be a good run.  Perhaps the fact that I couldn't go all out on the bike, and the legs were not totally spent, had a lot to do with how good they felt.

The course was flat.  This helped.  BUT, water puddles had built along the route in several places.  At first I tried to avoid the puddles but it came to a point when enough was enough... through the puddles I would go. The shoes were saturated and heavy.  I could feel the weight of the water starting to make a difference  The socks were also saturated but the feet felt dry.

I had the opportunity to see more familiar faces on the run course.  First was Mike D., then Juliana who was sporting a big grin on her face, then Jim S. and Kennette.  Mike D. and Jim S., were running the Half so they had a ways to go.  I was glad at this point had had chosen the Olympic.  I looked for but did not see my friend Charlene.  Missed seeing her out there.

The second most memorable moment of the day (and I'll get to the first one in a minute) happened on the way back, around mile 5.  From a distance I could see my wife going out.  As I got closer all I could see was this HUGE smile on her face.  When she recognized me, she gave me the two thumbs up.  When we met each other, we just hugged and kissed right there in the middle of the course.  As we went our way, I turned around and yelled "I'll see you at the finish line".  Again, she gave me a smile and the two thumbs up.  Nothing could have topped this.  Or so I thought.

The finish line couldn't have come any quicker.  I was ready to call it a day.  I could hear the announcer from a distance, so I knew I was getting close.  As I approached the finish line, I saw more familiar faces, once again there was Eddie and Robert (I swear, they were every where), I also saw Jess and a few other.

Entering the finish line stretch was wonderful   I knew a tough day was over.  I hear the announcer say "Mauricio Sanchez from Hendersonville, TN" and I crossed the finish line.  Got my medal, tee shirt, grabbed a water and sports drink, then went off to get some food.  All I could eat was a chocolate chip cookie.  Dang, it tasted good.


I could not wander around for too long for I knew my Juliana would not be long, so I ran back to the bridge so meet her.

And then there she was.  I ran up to her and we proceeded to run to the finish line together.  WOW!

Mauricio & Juliana at Finish Line

Crossing the Finish Line for the Second Time... DONE!

Note to Tri Dads:  If you ever have the opportunity to do this with your daughter, or son... YOU DO IT!

Now it was time for us to go back and wait for mom.  We made our way back to the same spot where Juli and I met and waited for Monica to come by.

Then she did!  Again, all smiles.  We joined her and ran to and through the finish line together.  The Three Of Us.

Juliana, Monica and Mauricio crossing the finish line

We heard the announcer say:  "Monica Sanchez... and family!  Looks like a Family Affair"  Yes, it was!

Note to Tri Moms, Dads, Husbands, Wives, Sons and Daughters... If you ever have the opportunity to do this with your family.... YOU DO IT!

Crossing the finish line, for the third time with Monica and Juliana... PRICELESS!

Before I forget, I'd like to send a special word of thanks to our friend Tiffany D. for capturing these photos for us.  You have no idea what this has meant to us.  We are forever greatfull.  Thanks a million times!

As I've said on facebook and twitter and earlier on this post... this was one tough race.  Regrets I have none.  Would I do anything different?  Probably not.  Would I do this course again.  Probably yes.  But will probably wait a couple of years before going back.

Up until now my long distance triathlons have been the Ironman variety.  Not for any specific reason.  After this weekend's experience, Rev3 has earned a convert.  I think that they did a tremendous job keeping everyone informed and most importantly safe, under these extreme conditions.

Not only that, but Rev3 welcomed our family to their family in a tremendous manner.  Read this article if you have not.

The fact that they allow family to run through the finish line together is a huge plus for us.  I kind'a understand why Ironman does not, but this makes a difference.


If you are really interested in my overall time, I know you will find your way to it somewhere.  I for one, on this race, did not pay close attention to it.

My goal is to always be in the middle of the age group.  At this race I was 8th out of 9.  Okay, I must confess however... the 9th person was a "no show"

So what's next for us?  RC Cola and Moon Pie 10 miler on June 15th. This time all four of us will be racing.  Yes, that's right, our daughter Marcela will be joining us for the fun.  But until then, I'm staying out of the rain!