Monday, 31 July 2017

Volunteering at The London Triathlon 2017!

Last weekend, as I was in London, I decided to volunteer for the London Triathlon. It was a lot of fun but very tiring! I was based at the start and end of the cycle stint and it all got very exciting. 
Click here to watch the vlog or see below!

The first day I didn't really know what to expect and I got totally lost trying to get to where I was suppose to be. I was so late...well only 15 minutes, but I hate being late! My on time is 10 minutes early! LOL!

We got a packed breakfast and we were then taken to the venue. It was only a couple minutes walk but it was crazy to see the room and everything set up. We got welcomed into the staff room (one of many) and distributed our belongings before heading down to our separate locations. 
After a lot of cone moving - those things are heavy! - and placing signs, the course was finally ready. After a quick break, we were in for a long day as triathletes started coming. I began at the top with one of my fellow volunteers, silently warning to slow down for the turn.

I was defintely expecting more of a huge group of people but instead it was quite spread out and individually peppered out.
When it started to rain, there was suddenly a fairly big accident with 3 people falling almost simultaneously. By the time it reached 6 people in the space of literally a few minutes, Allan (my team leader) decided it was time to change the course. He put me down on the outside edge shouting for people to slow down while the course was altered. Despite this, there were still around 15 more accidents. Luckily, there was an ambulance located at the sharp bend so they were all dealt with quite quickly. I was quite impressed at how quickly most of them got back up and started racing to be quite honest. 
In the end we had to change the course. It was all quite exciting and at the same time crazy. We change the course multiple times. Put up signs all over and even had paramedics standing on the course. I ended up with the most important job and shouting to "PLEASE SLOW DOWN FOR THE CORNER! IT'S VERY SLIPPY! SLOW DOWN!". Honestly, I never want to say those words out loud EVER again aha. 

I was going to take a lunch break at one point but somehow, every one else had disappeared so there was no one left to take my place. But in all reality, I quite liked it. I actually felt like I was doing something useful; everyone kept commending me on how well as I was doing because I was still doing in 5 hours later with no break. By that point, some of the others had arrived back and I had given myself a headache. I took a quick break to sit down. One of the first aiders gave me a paracetamol and just as I sat down, someone fell. Allan came over and commented that that was the first since I'd started the job. I obviously felt guilty, so I jumped straight back in. 

As soon as we were finished, I headed off home. I was so tired and as I hadn't had any lunch - bar some chocolate - hungry. I left the house at 6am and got back at 9pm, after stopping for a Burger King at Euston. Quite literally, I fell straight into bed...
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Sunday started bright and early as I left the house just after 4. Instead of taking 3 tubes and a half an hour, I decided to take an uber which got me there for half past 4. Perfect timing! I helped myself to another packed breakfast and then enjoyed the wait before registering. Apparently I was too good yesterday. I was going to request to be inside because the rain silently killed me yesterday, while my throat was so coarse from shouting. Not only that, but I was absolutely exhausted.
Once again, we were ready and raring to go with our uniform and visibility vests. While I was the only one there originally to set up, when I came back to set up for the start, there was a group of cheerleaders who had finally arrived. They were such a nice group and we actually had a fair bit in common. We were also able to split the jobs so it was so much easier than yesterday.
By 9am, I had already been away 6 hours and I'd only had a couple of pieces of bread. I was starving and exhausted and I knew I was dwindling. One of the guys who had taken over the megaphone 'SLOW!', gave me back the megaphone just as someone had started to cycle up. As I said what I was saying, I began laughing and missed my message.

Seconds later, she fell and slid and...my heart broke. I felt terrible. I'd literally just hurt her and I was distraught. As crazy as that sound, I felt like this was my burden and all my fault. Despite all the signs and prior warnings, 2 other people saying to slow down...my job was the biggest.

I quickly gave the megaphone back...kind of rushed and ran off to get a drink. I was such a mess. Clearly I was hungry and tired so I disappeared inside, went to the toilet and then grabbed a cheese and ham toastie from the Costa. Honestly, I still felt terrible but at least I wasn't quite as shaken.

I decided to head to the bottom of the starting hill where the job isn't quite as fatal (so to speak). Sophie was as sweet as ever and came to see if I was okay. She's got such a sweet soul. I was happy and cleared my head until Allan persuaded me to go back to my post. I'm not sure he knew what had happened but at least he was still grateful for me being there.

There was about a half an hour break at midday while the course changed slightly and the group of elite prepared to come down. I was so thankful for the slower turnaround compared to yesterday. It was much easier to survive the day.

Sophie and Allan had come to have lunch with me and Sophie is literally the kindest, most down-to-earth person. I think if I knew her in reality, I would totally have her as a best friend. We literally just chatted about anything and everything. It's how I've always wanted my sister relationship to be but I know it never will be.

Before long, it was time for the start of the elite racing. By this point the cheerleaders had returned from their lunch break. Understandably, they all came together and knew each other so they went to meet another group of friends. We went to watch some of the women leave and as they neared the finish line, we raced down to our positions. I thoroughly enjoyed them racing past. It was all quite exciting! It's such a difference in pace!
It felt like eons but finally, the elite women began returning. It started with a small group of three but at the same time, it was a group! It was all very exciting and I didn't even notice that a camera was following them until after the shpiel began. Ooops.

A while later, the leaders of the male elite triathlon arrived. As soon as I saw them approach, I gulped. There was at least 20 triathletes and all of them were clumped together, side-by-side. Ignoring the fact that the corner was ridiculously slippery (it had rained again), it was also extremely narrow. It may fit three cyclists at a push but defintely not five-by-five.

I just knew there was going to be an accident and of course, my biggest fear came true when hardly any of them listened. In all honesty, I'm leading a race, I'm probably not going to slow down (too much) but boy oh boy. Unfortunately, the very front two cyclists slid and of course, the whole of the pack rode over them, albeit suddenly with breaks on. With my position being the way it was, it wasn't a great view point of the accident but it was defintely a relief to see the two men getting up.

It was very same-y for the rest of the afternoon and luckily we finished earlier than expected. We took down the route and the signs before clearing and sweeping the roads from debris off the race. I'm not sure where some of the others went but there was only 2 of the cheerleaders, Sophie, Allan and me left.

I walked back to the venue with Sophie and I felt so bad. I hadn't realise she was also the team leader for the running area! She still had so much to do!
I wanted to have a quick look around the venue and it was nice to see all the little places that they offered both participants and guests alike. I walked through from the finish line to the timing dome, recovery zone dome with yoga and then the electrolyte drinks (non-alcoholic!). It was all very well organised.
When I went to the finish line, I saw some volunteers struggling to put the tent down so I quickly offered to help. After counting out some medals for the final 8 competitors of the day, I finally found Sophie to say goodbye and left to go home. It wasn't quite as late as yesterday but still, after another long day, I was ready to sleep for a week. I left the house at 4am and didn't return until well after 6pm.
I would defintely recommend volunteering if you get the opportunity. Just go prepared! Take layers and coats just in case you are outside. One of the girls got soaked in the rain and ended up shivering to death. Her and her sister had to leave to get warm because it was all a bit worrying for a while.

It's such a rewarding experience and also an inspiring one. There was a group of triathletes called The Weekend Warriors who do as many triathlons as possible in the space of the weekend. I was so confused that I was seeing so many repeats until Sophie enlightened me!

There was one young man who smiled at me everytime he passed and I yelled my announcement. Of course, then I realised why he was so familiar! Because he'd done 7! Another lady, wasn't the fittest of people by the looks of her but boy is she my new idol. She did 5! After sliding on her first round she joked with me everytime she went round. She took it at her own pace completely but she did and was in no way the last, ever. She thanked me everytime and apologised for not listening the first time. Bless her...

See you at the triathlon next year! But will I be participating or volunteering? Stay tuned! HA!