Volunteering at Ironman Arizona

A couple of months ago, I decided that Ironman Arizona would serve as my debut Ironman race. I’ve chosen this race location because of the flat bike course and occasional wind, both similar to training in Nebraska. I flew into Phoenix, AZ on Saturday to volunteer and sign up for the race.

I flew through Salt Lake City
I flew through Salt Lake City

On Sunday, I showed up to my aid station at Noon to begin my five-hour shift. In case you couldn’t guess, the theme of our aid station was ‘superheroes’ with some volunteers decked out in costume. I sported some batman socks that had capes (ala RGIII).  Ironically, nobody dressed up as Ironman. It was hard to tell who was in charge (Batman, Superman,  Captain America?) So I just hopped in line and started passing out water bottles. There were four choices for nutrition at our station: Water, Ironman Perform (a sports drink), Gu Gel, and Bananas.


Here’s a tip for grabbing food/drink from a bike aid station. Point at what you want and also YELL out what you want. Most people got the first part down, but  when you point, we can’t really tell which person down the line of 30 people you are pointing at. You may make eye contact with me, but I can’t see your eyes (everyone is wearing sunglasses).

After about 30 minutes, I was directed by a gentleman in a purple cape (who was apparently in charge) to pick up the water bottles that bicyclists had discarded. Picking up trash alongside of the course has to be the worst of the volunteer jobs. You know who else gets to pick up trash on the side of the road? Prisoners… convicted felons…and at least they get money for cigarettes when they do it. At one point, I was bending over to pick up a water bottle when a lady tossed her half full (or half empty depending on how optimistic you are) water bottle beaming me in the head. That might not sound that bad, but you must understand that that 16 ounce projectile was traveling 18 MPH. She would emphatically apologize on her next loop saying ‘this is really late, but sorry!’


Picking up trash, I had to find ways to entertain myself. We had a giant trash can, probably 4 feet in diameter, that the cyclists could toss any trash into. Apparently, biking 112 miles causes triathletes to forget all of high school physics, specifically that whole momentum bit. They would ride by, maybe 2 feet from the gigantic trash can, toss their water bottle, and miss horribly.


I’d say the shooting percentage was comparable to Shaq shooting free throws. They may have forgotten about Newton’s Laws, but they didn’t forget their Fig Newtons. Whatever gives you calories I guess!


The most entertaining part of the afternoon was a lady who decided to drive down our bike course in her Toyota Corolla. Fortunately, she was quickly pulled over by the police officer working the intersection. It might be time to take away Grammy’s license when she disregards traffic signs, ignores a police officer directing traffic, runs over an orange traffic cone, and attempts to complete an Ironman via motorized vehicle.


We did have one scary moment at our station when a lady reached across her body to get some water, causing her to lose her balance and go crashing to the ground. She lay motionless for a minute, requiring medical attention. The ambulance came, but in a true HTFU moment, she got back on the bike and finished the race.

Bike Crash

After 5 hours of work, I was beat, but came away with what I truly desired, a blue Ironman Arizona volunteer t-shirt that would serve as my ticket into the priority lane the following morning at the registration tent.

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