Monday, April 15, 2013

We did it! The Iron Girl team survived our first race of the season in Clearwater!

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And what a week it was! I’m pretty sure I could sleep for the next two days straight and still not feel like I’ve had enough. I’ll never under appreciate how much work goes into making a race happen again. This was an AMAZING experience and I can’t wait to do it over and over again over the next 6 months!

I’m not even sure where to begin. My apologies for not getting more photos of the “behind the scenes” stuff. We were pretty much Go! Go! Go! with set-up and take down that I barely had time to take breathe, let alone take a photo. But I’ll try to fill in as many details as I can, since I found the whole experience fascinating and I know many of you will too.

I’ll back up to Wednesday since I didn’t really share many details. Do you remember that big truck we rented?

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That’s what we used to haul around all of the registration materials (i.e. goody bags, shirts, bib packets, volunteer shirts, table skirts, etc.). We had FOUR packet pick-up locations this week and we accepted late registration at each one of them. For each location we would show up two hours early to start the set up process so we were ready to go when folks showed up to pick up their packets.

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The first location was the most challenging since we were starting from square one. The two hours flew by and we were barely ready to go by the time registration officially opened. Check out that line!

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After that it was smooth sailing and we quickly got set-up down to a science. We went from pushing our limits, to being ready a full hour before we officially opened. Trust me, we’d rather be ready early than see crazy lines again.

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The busiest location we had was Fit2Run in the mall on Friday night. It was also the trickiest. We had to park in the loading dock in the back and take an elevator and a few hidden corridors to get all of our materials upstairs. Since we couldn’t bring our pallet jack, we had to get creative with how much we could pile on our dollies. It really is crazy how much STUFF we had to bring to each location.

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Can I just take a second to thank all of our amazing volunteers this week?! We seriously could not have done any of this without all their help. I thanked them every chance I got, but I still don’t think that was enough. They ROCKED!!

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Food! OMG, FOOD! I swear, I was constantly hungry this week and was eating whatever snacks we had on hand. Unfortunately all the chips, pretzels, and fruit snacks would only leave me craving another snack 30 minutes later – not good. I started bringing a lunch bag stuffed full of “healthier” snacks to try and curve my unyielding hunger. I had edamame, grapes, apple slices, Luna bars, mixed nuts, and yogurt that I munched on through Saturday and Sunday. Having my own snacks helped, but I know this is something I need to work on for future events. Some people forget to eat when they’re under stress, I’m definitely one of those people who does nothing but eats when they’re under stress.

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Saturday was expo day. It was kind of cool getting to the park before everyone else and help turn the field of green grass into a tent-covered site of booths. When we showed up our “registration area” was just a row of tables and chairs laying flat in the grass. With the help of crew members and volunteers, we unloaded the truck and began building our registration area from scratch. I learned how to put tents up, hang signs, work a generator so we could power our computers, drive a “gator,” and whatever else needed to be done.

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We built that. I know it’s not much, but I did get a sense of pride out of that. 🙂

Once the expo opened, my co-worker Natalie and I were in charge of late registration and answering any athlete-related questions anyone had.

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Want to switch from the half to the 5k? Know how many aid stations are on the course? Where the port-o-lets are? Register? We’re your girls!

One of our run clubs, The Fab 50, broke out in a flash mob halfway through the day.

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I want to do a flash mob!

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We wrapped up the expo around 4:00 and were the last group to leave around 6:00 after clean up. We headed straight to the hotel to shower, then to a nearby Mexican restaurant for fajita and some well-deserved beer.

Sunday was race day! By the CRAZIEST day of the week! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but holy cow was it insane. Definitely not in a bad way, just a very busy can’t-stop-to-catch-your-breath way.

It all started at 3:45am when my alarm went off. The team all met in the hotel lobby at 4:15 and we were on site by 4:30 (with large cups of coffee in hand). When we showed up there were already volunteers on site helping with set up (bless them!). Natalie and I found our way to the late registration table where we didn’t move from for three hours. We offered day-of registration for the event and I can’t believe how many last-minute registration we have. It was go! go! go! with people coming in from the minute we got there. We took the last registration about 15 minutes before the start and I felt like I could finally breathe again.

The half marathon started right as the sun was rising at 7:00am.

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The 5k-ers took off at 7:30.

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Once the races were off, we took down the registration area and sort of filled in where we were needed. I headed to the breakfast cafe and helped direct traffic. I think the pancakes were a hit!

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Around 9:00, Natalie and I were called to the stage to help with 5k awards (we also helped with the half awards at 10:30).

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The top three finishers in each age group received a necklace from Milestone Jewelry.

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And the first finisher in each age group got a Tag Every Bag key chain.

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Three cheers for Beth who took third in her age group (after a lengthy running hiatus). I felt honored to give an award to a friend.

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I COMPLETELY forgot to take a photo of the centerpieces in action, but here’s a view of the crowd and you can kind of see the jars on the tables.

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Kind of, sort of?

Anyway, next to the jars we had pads of papers and pens so athletes could write their race thought of the day. We wanted to started a hashtag campaign (#TodayI) and encourage participants to share what they accomplished today.

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After they wrote their accomplishment they could put them in the jars. We shared a few during the awards ceremony and through our social media channels.

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It was so much fun to read through them. I’m going to make a collage of them in the office today to share. So much inspiration came from those jars!

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Just before 12:00 I heard the announcement that our final finisher was coming through. We always celebrate our final finisher as much as our first and a good crowd was building in anticipation. My boss was already waiting at the finish line to hand off an Iron Girl goody bag to the finisher.

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And I was handed the finisher’s tape to welcome her in. Talk about a huge honor!

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Here she comes!!!

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Valerie SPRINTED to the end with the BIGGEST smile on her face.

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Then immediately turned to her friend and broke down in tears of happiness.

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This was her FIFTH half marathon and not the first one she’s come in a the final finisher at. Talk about inspiration! She hasn’t given up yet and has no plans to. She was already talking about her next race.

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And it was over.

Clean up took up just about three hours and the core Iron Girl team were the last members to leave race site. I drove home, showered, and immediately passed out on the couch.

It was definitely a cereal-for-dinner kind of night.

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I was in bed and tucked in before Rebel Wilson gave her opening monologue at the MTV Movie Awards. (p.s. LOVED her opening. I’m glad the Pitch Perfect cast got some love!)

I work with the best team. I was amazed all weekend with all their many abilities and talents. They KNOW their stuff and I was eager to learn anything they had to offer.

Next stop, Atlanta!

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