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Volunteering at Ironman Florida 2012

by MealsAndMiles on November 4, 2012

*I’m having technical issues with my computer so I’m blogging from my phone again. Apologies is advance for funky formatting issues.*

Inspirational. Simply inspirational. I think that’s the best word to describe the hundreds of Ironmen I had the honor of assisting or cheering on at the Ironman Florida finish line yesterday afternoon/ evening.


We arrived in Panama City 2 hours before our designated volunteer time. At that point the majority of participants were out on the bike


And the pros were just starting their runs.


Even if you’re not the one racing, it’s hard to miss the spirit of race day in the air. Everyone was running on an emotional high, including my siblings and I, who were excited to be a part of something so big.


Since we were early, we headed to Mellow Mushroom for lunch.
My sister and I split the chef salad (with tempeh instead of ham)


And Thai Dye pizza (with curried tofu instead of chicken)


Then we headed to the finish line for our assignment.



We registered as “catchers,” but since the first finisher was still an hour out, we helped organize shirts and medals to fill in the time.





As the finishers got closer, we were given our first set of instructions.


Our job was pretty straight forward: as soon as the finishers crossed the finish line, we greeted them with a bottle of water and guided them through the finish line as they collected their medal, hat, shirt, and took their photo. They could lean on us for support and we were told to call for medical support if necessary. We were encouraged to get them talking and holding a conversation just to make sure they were doing good.



Gloves were passed out and worn.



It was kind of cool having one of the best seats in the house for the first place finishers.


The winner crossed the finish line just after 8:05 . He led the pack the majority of the race thanks to a smokin 4:04 bike ride – a new course record for the bike!


After the announcer interviewed him, he immediately started asking the volunteers for a phone so he could call his mom and tell her he did it. How sweet is that?



The first female crossed less than an hour later with a course record.


I noticed a lot of the pro athletes asking for a coke when they finished (including the female winner). My swim coach has told me many times how awesome coke is for triathletes, but this was my first time seeing so many professionals asking for it at a finish line. When I finished Miami 70.3 coke was the last thing on my mind, maybe I should have reconsidered?


Not too long after the first female crossed , the age groupers started coming in and things really picked up. It was an amazing experience helping Ironman after Ironman make their way through the finish line. Some needed to be supported, some wanted to walk on their own, some were veterans of the race, while others were first timers, but all were happy to be done.


I saw more than a few finishers collapse, but all were alert and still smiling when the medics arrived to assess them. The majority of finishers could walk – or I should say proudly hobble – out on their own.


Some finishers were so full of emotion, that I couldn’t help but tear up over they’re accomplishment too. They did a FULL Ironman! That’s huge!!


Our shift flew by way too quick. We were relieved just as the 11 hour finishers started coming in. We wanted to stay, but the finish line area is tiny and they were at capacity with the next round of volunteers; basically we were kicked out.


Don’t worry, we had a plan. We ate a quick dinner at a nearby restaurant.



Then headed back to the run course to cheer on runners who were just starting or finishing their second laps.


The race has a 17 hour cut off, so they had finishers crossing the finish line for up to 9 hours on race day! A good amount of participants were still finishing the bike portion as the pros were finishing the race and those participants were still on the run course when we returned. We wanted to cheer our little hearts out for them.


These were the athletes that truly inspired me because these were the athletes that looked like me. I saw men and women of all ages, shapes, and sizes about to finish the Ironman. They didn’t run the fastest runs, bike the fastest bikes, or swim the fastest swims, but they accomplished something less than 1/10th of 1% of the population can say they’ve done: they swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles, then ran 26.2 miles – they freaking did an Ironman!!


We were there when the 500,000th full Ironman finisher EVER (of official Ironman races) crossed the finish line.


Just goes to show you how few Ironmen finishers are out there.

We went back to our hotel room last night on cloud 9 (how could we not be?)
Then this morning we got up early to wait in line to do something crazy.










Ironman Florida 2013, here we come. πŸ˜‰

1 Laura November 4, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Why is coke good for triathletes?

2 Krissy @ Shiawase Life November 4, 2012 at 2:38 pm

What a great way to spend family fun time! πŸ˜€ So excited already for y’all next year!!
Krissy @ Shiawase Life recently posted..Blue Moon Wicked 10K recap!

3 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats November 4, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Ah I can’t believe it! I know you can do it, so excited for you!!!
Katie @ Peace Love & Oats recently posted..Combining Workout Schedules

4 Hayley @ Running on Pumpkin November 4, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Wow I am so excited for you! I already can’t wait to read your post next year post-Ironman πŸ™‚
Hayley @ Running on Pumpkin recently posted..In the City

5 Jean November 4, 2012 at 2:52 pm

I had a sneaking suspicion that’s how this was all going to end… Way to go!
Jean recently posted..Awesome Hikes Happen When Alarms Fail

6 Kayla @ Keep Moving Forward November 4, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Woohoo! So excited for you to be a FULL IRONMAN! Can’t wait to follow your training!
Kayla @ Keep Moving Forward recently posted..More Marathon Weekend Photos.

7 Kristine November 4, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Whoa, is it really $682 to do an ironman?!

8 Emily N November 4, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Holy crap you guys! Looks like in addition to being a newlywed you have got like a year of VERY intense training to do! Congrats on taking the plunge!
Emily N recently posted..Week 1 of Non-Training

9 Sarah November 4, 2012 at 3:10 pm

AHH so proud of you!! πŸ™‚ You’re such an inspiration, meghann!! <3
Sarah recently posted..Day 307-Well, today was interesting. I woke up to go teach a…

10 Carolyn November 4, 2012 at 3:12 pm

So excited to read about your journey!!!
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11 Jennifer L November 4, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Wow… can’t wait to see all the training! You guys are tough!!
Jennifer L recently posted..Welcome πŸ™‚

12 Kassidy November 4, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Congrats! You’ll do awesome, good luck in training!

13 Kaitlyn November 4, 2012 at 3:41 pm

YAY! So excited for you! Out of curiously, how far out do you have to start training for a full?! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

14 Sara@RunningInPinkProject November 4, 2012 at 3:42 pm

No Way!!! Thats amazing! My mind is boggled by even the thought of that. Im just hoping to successfully run a 1/2 but Im obviously in a very different place/stage. πŸ™‚ I cant wait to see how this all turns out for you. Good Luck!!!
Sara@RunningInPinkProject recently posted..My Weekend In One Sentence…..

15 Erin November 4, 2012 at 3:43 pm

I kind of figured that’s why you guys were volunteering πŸ™‚ Looking forward to following your training.
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16 Cher @ Weddicted November 4, 2012 at 3:53 pm


And I’m curious about the coke, too?
Cher @ Weddicted recently posted..Friday Favourites: Winter wedding

17 Courtney @ Journey of a Dreamer November 4, 2012 at 3:57 pm

OHHHHH MAN! You’re doing a FULL IRONMAN?! I’m so inspired. I’ve been working on figuring out how to get a bike to start doing training because a half ironman is in my 3 year plan. I should probably start swimming too… But how awesome is that, i’m so excited for you!!
Courtney @ Journey of a Dreamer recently posted..Looking for Pretty Amazing Bloggers

18 Cole November 4, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Wow! Chills

19 Katie @ Talk Less, Say More November 4, 2012 at 4:08 pm

NO FLIPPIN’ WAY! That’s awesome! I’m already cheering for you guys!

And what a cool opportunity to volunteer. I should really do more race volunteering (or ANY because I haven’t before) but I’m already so hooked on RUNNING them (after 1) that I just want to be involved in that atmosphere more. πŸ˜‰
Katie @ Talk Less, Say More recently posted..Bash That Cold

20 Katie November 4, 2012 at 4:08 pm

OMG! Hooray!

21 Caroline November 4, 2012 at 4:14 pm

What a great thing to volunteer for- I’d love to be a part of something like that. The energy at the finish line must have just been out of control! Congrats on signing up for something HUGE. I can’t imagine doing something like that, but it’s certainly impressive!
Caroline recently posted..Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon Recap

22 Chelsie @ Balance, Not Scale November 4, 2012 at 4:17 pm

When I saw this on Twitter I actually got SOOO EXCITED for you!!!! And you have a full year to mentally and physically prepare. That’s awesome! You’re such an inspiration, Meghann!! I’m really, really glad you’re going for it! I truly believe that you will join that less than 0.1% and I hope some day to join you as well! πŸ˜€
Chelsie @ Balance, Not Scale recently posted..SES #11 β€” What Doesn’t Kill You

23 Laura November 4, 2012 at 4:27 pm

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24 Meghan November 4, 2012 at 4:36 pm

So cool! I would love to be at the finish line greeting all of the amazing athletes! Best spot, it’s gotta be!
Meghan recently posted..Long run…15 miles!

25 Jessica November 4, 2012 at 5:09 pm

You are brave lady! Let me know if you want to ride together. πŸ™‚
Jessica recently posted..November Means New Beginnings

26 Katie November 4, 2012 at 5:15 pm

AHH I wanted to volunteer for Ironman Florida but I completely forgot about volunteer registration and by the time I remembered it, raceday volunteer spots were completely full πŸ™

27 shanin November 5, 2012 at 11:23 am


You know they can always still use the help. Especially at finishing during the 9 to midnight shift. Many didn’t show up. If you come to finishing around 9 pm and ask to help, they will slap a yellow shirt on you and show you what to do. We left at 9:30 pm and there weren’t enough volunteers to fully relieve the second shift. Many were exhausted, but you know what, we weren’t the ones running an Ironman so at some point of the day you just have to say, “suck it up!” That last shift is the most exciting, too!

28 Meghann November 5, 2012 at 11:29 am

I wish we would have known they needed volunteers at 9, we would have stepped back in in a heart beat. They were overloaded when the 6-9 shift came on, but I could see where people wouldn’t show up (or sign up) for the late shift. And I agree that the last shift would be the most exciting. πŸ™‚

29 lisa fine November 4, 2012 at 5:17 pm

That is awesome. After your half ironman, I knew this was probably coming at some point. I’m sure it was even better to volunteer knowing you’d be signing up for next year. I assume you and your siblings are all in?

The Coke makes sense to me. After my first half marathon (Disney Wine & Dine), ALL I craved was soda, and grabbed a Sprite at the finish line. A Coke sounded good to, for sodium and sugar, but it was late at night and I didn’t want the caffeine.
lisa fine recently posted..going on here

30 Debbie B. November 4, 2012 at 5:27 pm

How exciting! I can’t even imagine during a full ironman although I would like to do a smaller version one day.

31 Liz November 4, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Damnnnn, Meghann… that’s awesome! Looking forward to reading about the journey πŸ™‚
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32 Jennifer V. November 4, 2012 at 5:34 pm

One of my girlfriends ran this yesterday! It was her first! You would have just missed her though. She finished in 11+ hours. Her husband though finished in just over 9 hours so maybe you “caught” him! They are AMAZING!!!! And good luck to you next year! I can’t wait to follow along!
Jennifer V. recently posted..Silent Sunday

33 hilary November 4, 2012 at 5:39 pm


34 Kelsey November 4, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Congrats on registering!! That’s awesome. Kelly’s hair looks so pretty in the last pic of you 3.
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35 Katie November 4, 2012 at 6:04 pm

WOWOWOWOWOWOW!!!! How exciting! You’ll do great!

36 Courtney November 4, 2012 at 6:12 pm

I can’t wait to follow along with your training while I am training for IMAZ 2013. I couldn’t convince anyone to do it with me, so I’m excited to have a virtual training “buddy”. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

37 ash bear November 4, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Congrats! I’m so excited and pumped for you! Maybe I’ll have to make a trip down for it, if it’s not the same weekend next year. If it is the same weekend then we’ll both be running marathons! πŸ™‚ Also, is it really $682?
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38 Victoria (District Chocoholic) November 4, 2012 at 6:40 pm

You are going to love every minute of it.

(That’s a lie. You’ll love about 70% of them, though)
Victoria (District Chocoholic) recently posted..A Boston Visit: The Changing Chocolate Scene

39 Laura November 4, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Oh amazing!!! Can’t wait to follow your journey to Ironman!!

40 Natalie @ Free Range Human November 4, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Wow! That’s huge! What a fun year this will be for you!
Natalie @ Free Range Human recently posted..More Than The Miles

41 Alex November 4, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Gah!!!!!!! So flipping pumped for you!!!!!!!!
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42 Carrie @ Fitness and Frozen Grapes November 4, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Ahhh, holy cow–so exciting, Meghann!
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43 Meaghan November 4, 2012 at 7:40 pm

CONGRATULATIONS! I’m so excited for you that you registered for your first full Ironman! I volunteered at Ironman Lake Placid this year and registered on site for next year’s race – it’ll be my first full Ironman as well. I can’t wait to cross that finish line in 9 months time!

44 Brittany @ GOtheXtraMile November 4, 2012 at 7:58 pm

Ahhh, you are so awesome!!! So excited for you πŸ˜€
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45 Elisabeth November 4, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Wow!!! Congratulations on signing up for the full Ironman πŸ˜€

46 cathy@1970kikiproject November 4, 2012 at 9:23 pm

what a super-exciting adventure for the next year – way to go on signing up!!
that would be so inspiring to volunteer at the finish line!

47 Anne P November 4, 2012 at 9:51 pm

OMG! You guys are rockstars – can’t wait to read about the training and eventually the race recap! πŸ™‚
Anne P recently posted..A Sunset D.C. Monument Run

48 Camile November 4, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Oh wow!! I cannot wait to “see” you guys rock the full ironman in 2013 and join the ranks of the proud few who have accomplished this! =)

49 Steph @321delish November 4, 2012 at 10:20 pm

So freaking exciting. I’ll be there to cheer you on! (or maybe catch you??)

50 Annette @FitnessPerks November 4, 2012 at 10:38 pm

SOO very cool!!! Very excited for you guys πŸ™‚
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51 Anne November 5, 2012 at 12:49 am

You are such a ROCK STAR Meghann !! You definitely live life to the fullest and it’s inspiring. Just as awesome is doing it with your siblings. What a blessing to be soo close and share these incredible experiences together !!

52 Vita November 5, 2012 at 1:20 am

Wow, Full Ironman!!! Meghann, you’re such an inspiration! Always full of energy, always happy and motivated to do things. This is a great blog to read in the morning (I always read it with a cup of coffee and it makes a great start to my day). Good luck with everything!

53 Army Amy* November 5, 2012 at 1:44 am

When you said you were volunteering, I thought this might be why. Congrats on taking the plunge! I recently read “Your are an Ironman” which follows 5 people training for a full Ironman. It’s very inspiring. Might be worth checking out.*
Army Amy* recently posted..Novel Progress: 3 Days

54 Meghann November 7, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Thanks for mentioning the book! I just downloaded it and can’t wait to listen to it on the drive home. πŸ™‚

55 Amanda November 5, 2012 at 4:42 am

Very cool post! I didn’t know there were catchers for the finishers.

After watching all that, how could you NOT sign up for a full iron man? Go you! You’re gonna do great, I’m already looking forward to the recap!

56 Marjolaine November 5, 2012 at 4:49 am

Ah ah ah ! GREAT !!! That is such an inspiring challenge. And it s so great to see you ll do it all together. I cant wait for you to take us in your journey to the ironman through your posts about the training, your thoughts, your doubts, the race itself… etc… πŸ™‚

57 Reenie November 5, 2012 at 7:59 am

WOWZA… go ~ ~ I can’t imagine even doing a 1/2!! HA!

58 Tami Washenko November 5, 2012 at 8:54 am

Yay! Congrats on your IM registration!!! You are going to have a fantastic time with all of it!!!!!!

I’m excited to follow your journey!!!!!
Tami Washenko recently posted..Random Friday Facts

59 erin November 5, 2012 at 9:26 am

I had a blast cheering and sherpa-ing at #IMFL this year, too! What an incredibly inspiring day!

My friend Jeff was the 500,000th finisher! His seventh 140.6 finish + 53rd marathon. Amazing.

Congrats on signing up for your first iron{wo}man! I’m doing my first one next year, too… Canada! Good luck with your training!

60 Ali November 5, 2012 at 9:27 am

Congrats on signing up & getting in for your first Ironman!! I’m signed up for my first full next year too! (Ironman Wisconsin) Volunteering for an Ironman is such a rewarding & inspiring experience. Glad you had fun & I’m looking forward to following your journey.

61 Beth November 5, 2012 at 9:45 am

OH man Meghann! I got goosebumps for you. I know about three other folks who volunteered and plan to make this their first as well. God bless you crazy kids! I’m excited to watch all of you finish next. I’ll probably end up volunteering myself….oh brother. lol!
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62 Jackie @ MomJovi November 5, 2012 at 9:59 am

Wow, girlfriend you are CRAZY! Awesome crazy, of course, but still crazy! Can’t wait to read all about it and I love all you Anderson sibs. You’re all too cute to do all these events together. So cool.

Jackie @ MomJovi recently posted..Wreck-It Ralph and the (Painful) Childhood Memories It Brought Back (Review)

63 Samantha Angela November 5, 2012 at 10:21 am

You guys are insane! In a good way.

When does the training begin?
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64 Lindsay November 5, 2012 at 10:50 am

Whenever I get done with a long run, I always crave coke. The sugar, the fizziness, the caffeine. All is good for my body! Then a chocolate milk! πŸ™‚

65 shanin November 5, 2012 at 11:18 am

We were there in finishing at 5:30 (race time 10:30) as the second shift (I ended up writing bibb numbers as they came in–stressful) so we must have seen you (but not really seen you). I love your pictures and recounting of the events. We started as wetsuit strippers and beach crowd control at the beginning of the race (7am) and were riding on a high nearly the whole day (pooped out at 9:30 pm so didn’t get to see the end). A-mazing. Thanks for your blog and good luck in 2013! We’ll be there again, but again in our yellow shirts (or whatever color they have us volunteers wear) to chear you and all the other ironman hopefuls on!

66 Alyse November 5, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Somebody’s gonna need a new bike, ASAP.
Alyse recently posted..Steppin’ Away

67 Meghann November 5, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Yep, pretty sure ole blue will NOT hold up for all 112 miles of the full πŸ™‚

68 Elina December 10, 2013 at 4:52 am

Hahahah, I started crying over this post. SO, SO, SO, SO, SO COOL!! I feel like all I want to do now is to volunteer at races.

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