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Behind the Scenes at Athleta Iron Girl Clearwater

by Meghann on 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. πŸ™‚

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!

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

1 sara @ fitcupcaker April 15, 2013 at 9:59 am

Pitch Perfect was such a funny movie, I loved it! Cereal for any meal is OKAY with me! Looks like you had such a fun day with great weather!
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2 Mary April 15, 2013 at 10:10 am

You have an AMAZING job. That looks like a crazy manic hugely busy but super fun weekend! It’s really made me want to go and volunteer at some more races this Summer. πŸ™‚
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3 Courtney April 15, 2013 at 10:17 am

What an incredible experience! I’ve volunteered at a couple small races and was amazed at how tired I became just by monitoring traffic and cheering on runners. Three cheers for volunteers and race officials alike! πŸ˜›
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4 Michelle @ Sojourn of Grace April 15, 2013 at 10:17 am

Wow, thanks for sharing this! Your new job seems really amazing and a great fit for you πŸ™‚ This is neat for me to see what goes on behind the scenes at a major race. And what inspiration to see the final finisher come in! Thank you to your team that helped celebrate this woman’s goal of finishing her half marathon. That is awesome that you guys celebrate the final finisher the way you celebrate the first finisher!
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5 Haley April 15, 2013 at 10:21 am

Sounds like you had a great experience. That is definitely something I’d love do someday. I ran the half and this race series was one of the best. Tough course, but awesome pancakes.

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6 Beth April 15, 2013 at 10:31 am

Woohoo! Thanks Meghann! I LOVE the necklace. I can’t wait to wear it. Great race and the pancakes were a hit with me for sure!
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7 Karen April 15, 2013 at 10:33 am

Looks like a fun and busy weekend! Glad you are loving your new job. Seems like the perfect fit!

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8 Emily @ The Swallow Flies April 15, 2013 at 10:33 am

That looks like so much fun! I think I would LOVE every aspect of helping organize/staff/facilitate/run/plan/etc. a race like that. Tell your peeps that if they ever open a headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, I’m their girl. πŸ™‚
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9 Mary April 15, 2013 at 10:34 am

Ditto to this near me in the UK!!!
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10 Marilyn April 15, 2013 at 10:42 am

I def felt the adrenaline and excitement in your recap. I have yet to run my first race, and reading this really charged me up for it. Thanks for featuring the final finisher. It was really moving/inspiring.

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11 Emily N April 15, 2013 at 10:43 am

Great work with your first Iron Girl of the spring/summer!
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12 Kaleigh Leach April 15, 2013 at 10:47 am

You totally have my dream job! I love this post and can’t wait for Iron Girl Atlanta!!
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13 Emily April 15, 2013 at 10:49 am

Wow, what an awesome weekend! So glad to see while it was a busy weekend, you are still loving the job. That’s what it’s all about πŸ™‚ Seeing these behind the scenes posts are so fun too!
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14 Courtney April 15, 2013 at 10:55 am

I’m literally crying at the thought of the last finisher celebration, the woman who did it, and the fact that you get to be such a great part of this. So glad you found this job!!

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15 Kelly @ Kelly the Culinarian April 15, 2013 at 11:10 am

Love all the photos!

I’ve volunteered at several races (big and small) and moved away from doing that because it’s such a draining experience. I was knocked over by a runner who wanted in a specific corral (which was not what they registered for) and was yelled at by a finisher for not knowing what place he was in. These were separate races. Now I am extra courteous to the volunteers who are sacrificing their time so we can have a great race.

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16 Meghan @ After the Ivy League April 15, 2013 at 11:55 am

Looks like such a fun event! Love the #TodayI campaign idea, I bet there were so many inspiring accomplishments!
Meghan @ After the Ivy League recently posted..The Hardest Run of My Life

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17 lisa fine April 15, 2013 at 12:07 pm

So, so awesome Meghann – congratulations on a great race day! Thanks for sharing the behind the scenes with us.

My fiance and I dream of starting our own race one day (hopefully soon!), so posts like this totally fuel my fire.
lisa fine recently posted..the day i ran 17 miles.

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18 Katie @ running4cupcakes April 15, 2013 at 12:12 pm

I still need to watch Pitch Perfect – it souds like such a good movie! And nice work this weekend. . . I am tired just reading about all the stuff you did!!
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19 beka @ rebecca roams April 15, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I am glad I saw you on Friday night! I had a pretty darn great race considering and I LOVED the race and how organized it was. Thanks to you and the team for a pretty near flawless race experience πŸ™‚ This is such a perfect fit job for you – enjoy every day!
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20 Hope April 15, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Not fair to make me tear up at work! πŸ˜‰ Go Valerie!!!

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21 Hayley @ Running on Pumpkin April 15, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Your new job seems absolutely perfect for you! I would love to volunteer for local races and see the other side of it!

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22 Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs April 15, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Wow — sounds like you had quite the week!
It must have been really interesting to be behind the scenes for the first time — sounds like a great experience!

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23 Michelle April 15, 2013 at 1:46 pm

That’s awesome that you celebrate the last finisher! Coming in like 5th to last at ZOOMA in Jan was SUCH an eye-opening experience for me. They were pretty much packing up the finish when I came in and while they still announced my name, it was a VERY different kind of finish. Everyone should be celebrated for running (or walking) 13.1!

Sounds like a great weekend – congrats on your first (of many) races.
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24 Presh April 15, 2013 at 3:56 pm

I agree that everyone should be celebrated!!!
Especially after doing something so amazing!
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25 Annette @FitnessPerks April 15, 2013 at 1:49 pm

I loved Pitch Perfect too–so funny!

WOW. What a job you have! Dang girl–looks fun & tough work!
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26 Katie @ A Full Plate April 15, 2013 at 2:03 pm

It was a great race! This is the second time I’ve done IronGirl and I love it. It’s so awesome how you all celebrate the final finisher…those photos brought tears to my eyes!
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27 Elizabeth @ Positive Change April 15, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Such a col, amazing and rewarding job! I love how you celebrated the last finishers! What a great feeling for everyone involved.
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28 Hollie April 15, 2013 at 3:49 pm

This is amazing. I would absolutely love doing something like this. I love organizing events and I especially loved the last runner in. I want to race but I am so scared of coming in last. Seeing how you guys honored her makes me not as scared to give it a try.
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29 Presh April 15, 2013 at 3:54 pm

So so awesome!
I would love to be apart of something so amazing!
The pancakes looked yuumy!!
There were like 50 women from my running group there and they say the race was great!!
Kudos to you all!
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30 Billie April 15, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Just seen the Boston marathon explosions on TV. Please be careful.

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31 Renee April 15, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Wow! It’s incredible what goes into a race. I would LOVE to be involved in this—pretty much my dream job would include running somehow.
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32 Caroline Calcote April 15, 2013 at 6:46 pm

It was great to get to see you a couple of times over the weekend! The race was great and all of the TBB made note of your centerpieces πŸ™‚ Good job Iron Girl!
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33 Allison @ With Faith & Grace April 15, 2013 at 7:39 pm

I loved that note you featured! Power to the She indeed!
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34 Rhi @ Hummingbird's Song April 15, 2013 at 8:25 pm

That looks like such a fun event, and I love all the little finishing touches! xx
Rhi @ Hummingbird’s Song recently posted..10 Lessons from my First Half Marathon.

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35 Carli April 15, 2013 at 8:39 pm

What an amazing event! You guys really know how to put something together. Oh, I love Valerie’s story! I wouldn’t be afraid to be last if I had someone cheering me on. It is truly inspirational that she never gives up.
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36 Karen :0) April 15, 2013 at 9:00 pm

What a fun and rewarding time you had!! Looks and sounds like an amazing race series. I will definitely check them out if they are ever near me!
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37 A Strong New Me April 16, 2013 at 2:06 pm

I haven’t run a race in years, and this made me miss the energy and the feeling of community and the excitement! Just might have to start training for a race πŸ™‚
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38 Megan April 16, 2013 at 5:21 pm

That picture made me cry. Amazing.

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39 Beth @ Running with the Sunrise April 16, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Oh my goodness, I LOVE that you have a tape for the last finisher! I have so much admiration for the back of the pack racers and it makes me sad that sometimes they don’t have as many people cheering them on along the course and at the finish line. I’ll definitely have to look into the Iron Girl races in the future. πŸ™‚
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40 [email protected] April 17, 2013 at 7:20 am

Ive never looked into this series of races before but now Im tempted. Looks like a fun time!
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41 Molly April 18, 2013 at 1:39 pm

The race was awesome! Love love loved it. My mom and I both ran the 5k and had a blast. I loved the pancakes and the big purple signs we could take pictures with the best πŸ™‚ great job m&m on your first time behind the scenes. I’m jealous you get to follow this race series over the next half year! Enjoy πŸ™‚
Molly recently posted..Athleta Iron Girl 5k

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