We're all in one big hurry. Hurry up to get to work, hurry up to get home and hurry up to get to the end of the work day. As triathletes, that hurry up attitude carries over to the swim, bike and run. We are constantly looking for ways to improve our split times, transition times and up our rankings in the final results. Sometimes, that leads to looking for a competitive edge that may be outside of the rules.
Swimming is a little easier to grab a draft of a stronger swimmer and ride the wave to T1. Short of holding on to someone's foot, getting penalized for swimming is hard to do. Sure, you could get caught up using a pacer for the run, but really, how often does that happen? The big ticket to a time penalty on the Tri scene is drafting on the bike. It's tempting to ride up to the wheel of a stronger rider and let them break the wind while reaping the benefits of speed with less work. That happens to be a big NO NO for Ironman events. So much so, they dedicate motorcycles with marshals to troll the bike course to catch people in the act and penalize them.
That's where we caught up with Chloe from Running with a bottle of wine. She recently tweeted and blogged about being a course marshal for the 2011 IMFL bike course. We were interested to see what goes on the mind of a marshal and what kind of person signs up to perform such a conflicting task. You love the sport so much, yet you are ready and willing to penalize the very people you race with.
We had a Q&A with Chloe, and here's what we found out.
Q) How did you end up marshaling for the race? Did you sign up to volunteer and that's where they placed you? Did you request it?
A) - I've been marshaling for the past four years (except for last year because I raced). Since I live in PCB (race location) the person in charge of the marshals rounded up local triathletes to help out.
Q) Why did you volunteer to begin with?
A) - Are you kidding? I would not miss IMFL weekend for the world! It's so much fun to volunteer and 'give back' as much as you can. I love it.
Q) Did you feel like you were utilized properly when you volunteered?
A) - Yes, we had specific meeting times and locations both the night before the race for a pre meeting and the morning of. Very structured, well organized, and informational. They wanted to make sure that every marshal was aware of what they are looking for – which includes drafting and safety.
Q) How many hours did you spend riding the motorcycle?
A) - Around 7 hours was the total this year. Every hour or so we would get off at an aide station to get water and stretch out the legs.
Q) How many penalties do you think you gave out?
A) - This year around 30. Thankfully the huge packs of drafters were not as evident as previous years.
Q) Is drafting a large problem at IM distance events? We've all heard stories about events with very little marshaling and riders racing the course in packs instead of on their own merits.
A) - It depends on the race. Since IMFL is so flat and one large loop (instead of two like other 140.6 events) there has been problem with drafting. But this year it was not quite as bad. Us as marshals can only do so much - it's up to the racer to race their own clean race.
Q) Did you get any arguments from those you penalized?
A) - Every now and then people get mad. But you just tell them their penalty, show them their card, make sure they look at you and understand. Usually we just pull away after that. I understand the stress and pressure of racing a 140.6- but there is no since in arguing.
Q) What was the worst reaction?
A) - The guy who said I was not a triathlete and did not know what I was talking about (as he was about 10 inches from a rider’s rear wheel).
Q) Any penalties you wish you could have taken back? Maybe got a reply to be sure if you could like pro football?
A) - Nope. We really watch and make a judgment call on what is going on before we give the cards.
Q) Did you get any perks from volunteering?
A) - YES! Food. Clothes. Hats. It's totally worth it.
Q) Is marshaling something you would recommend to others looking to volunteer at IM events?
A) - No doubt. You get to be in the middle of everything and really see the good and bad of the race - specially the 140.6 distance. But you can't be afraid to act like a cop - because that is what you are doing out there. Make sure everyone is playing fair and most of all, being safe.
Ryan Falkenrath writes the blog falkeetriathlon.blogspot.com, married father of two young kids, owner of two dogs and trying to balance life, work and multisport. Ryan has participated in multisport events since 2001 from 5k's to Half Ironmans. Ryan is also the Kansas City Endurance Sports Examiner and you can read more of his triathlon thoughts HERE and he collects race reviews at www.Triathlon-Reviews.blogspot.com. Contact Ryan at: email@example.com or follow him on @TriJayhawkRyan.