Sunday, September 30, 2007

2007 IMWI Volunteer/Sherpa Report Part 3

As soon as the cannon went off and families started clearing space around the swim fence, I worked on scoping out a picture taking station. This was definitely a case where my prior experience came in handy, because I knew the layout and ended up snagging a great spot right on the fence directly behind the wetsuit peelers. I figured the few seconds they'd pause to get peeled was the perfect chance to grab some pictures.

And I've gotta say, even with the 'pause to peel' factor, Robbie B's stripping crew was so fast it was actually pretty hard to catch pictures of our guys. For a lot of people, by the time I recognized them (soaking wet, sometimes still wearing swim cap) I'd get the camera up just in time to catch their back flying away towards T1.

Stripper Captain Tri Blogger Robbie B.

Taconite Boy getting stripped by (of course!) Tri-Mamma.
This also shows why it was so tough to get pictures. You can tell how far back I was, how many people I was trying to see through and a portion of the VIPs who were actually escorted inside the chute and blocked our view (this was taken after we finally got their self-important, oblivious butts to sit the hell down and stop completely blocking the view from the cheap seats.)

Stripper Tri-Mamma sending Greyhound on his way.

Iron Wil speeding from the stripping station towards T1.

Tri-Mamma wringing out her soaking wet shirt - stripper's occupational hazard!

The legendary Frank Farrar peeled and ready to tackle the bike.

I saw and cheered for and cowbelled several other Tri Bloggers - Stu and Roman and IM Able and on and on - but the pictures I snapped of them simply didn't come out. But I was still glad I got to be there for them, and even cooler was that some of them even saw me and waved back.

As soon as the swim was over I pulled out my phone to commence battle with the Madison Twighlight Zone of No Cell Reception so I could hook up with the Iron Sherpas and get my next assignment. It's really pretty frustrating - my phone will go from 2 bars to zero in the middle of a call... when I'm standing in the exact same spot. And because it's constantly struggling to maintain a signal, instead of holding a charge for a couple days the battery dies in 3 or 4 hours. And, of course, because I'm slightly outside my service area I'm charged extra for all that convenience and reliability.

Eventually got through to Iron Pol and Iron Mark and met up with them at the top of the Terrace, and then hooked up with 21st Century Mom and IronJenny! It was my first time meeting them and I hadn't realized I'd have the chance, so that was a definite treat.

Iron Mark, me, Iron Pol, 21st Century Mom, Iron Jenny

Our next task as Iron Sherpas was to locate a computer and wi-fi so the centralized blog could be updated with the swim pics. At a minimum some of us needed to off-load pictures to free up memory card space. Me, Iron Mark and Iron Pol decided to get my laptop since I was only parked about 3 blocks away and try the wi-fi at Starbucks right up the street.

On the way I couldn't help taking a picture of the Capitol building because it just looked so gorgeous.

While doing this I saw the 'low battery' warning and my heart stopped. It wasn't even 11:00 yet! They'd JUST finished the swim - there were two legs to go!! And I had fully charged it before leaving!!! This camera has held a charge for entire vacations where it was used for hundreds of pictures, so to say I was surprised and upset to lose my battery just a few HOURS into Ironman would be an understatement. More Madison Battery Sucking Twighlight Zone, I guess. And of course I had not packed the charger, because I'd never needed to before. Thankfully I was with the Iron Sherpas and we were all sharing picture taking duties, so I had them to fall back on. I was determined to get a shot of Iron Wil finishing, so I shut it down to conserve what was left and hoped like crazy I could squeeze another shot or two out of it 12 hours down the road.

We successfully offloaded Mark and Pol's pix to my laptop, but (as we'd feared) couldn't catch a Wi-Fi signal where we were, and (this should come as no surprise at this point)... my laptop battery was suddenly down to nothing (in a mere 30 minutes, from a full charge). And after seeing my misfortune, Mark and Pol wanted to recharge their camera batteries. We all agreed we were in dire need of electricity and hiked to Starbucks. Overpriced Wi-Fi was plentiful, but no electric outlets to be had. We decided to try our luck at Monona Terrace, figuring the odds were good a convention center would have a Wi-Fi situation. We were not to be deterred in our bloggy commitment to keeping the folks at home updated on the progress of our beloved athletes.

Luckily the gamble paid off. We found a quiet hallway with outlets and a handy shelf just right for setting up a laptop station. Pol quickly discovered Wi-Fi was an option, but only if we ponied up 10 bucks for a one day account. Iron Mark and I couldn't offer our wallets fast enough - it was more than worth it to have such a convenient location and to not be lugging everything around downtown Madison. So while Mark and Pol worked on that, I curled up on the floor and tried to rest and let the discomfort in my belly subside. Running around downtown lugging backpacks and laptop computers had put a serious dent in my physical reserves.

From there, Mark headed out to catch the Verona Shuttle for optimal bike-course picture taking. Then a really nice guy (friend of Roman's, his name eludes me at the moment) joined Pol and I and we headed over to State Street to catch lunch and cheer the first runners on the course.

After inhaling some decadent pizza with the guys we went back to Monona and I left my beloved laptop in Pol's custody while he shot pics of our folks coming off the bike. I went inside to rest my legs and stretch out my poor achin' back a bit in the short time I had before my gear bag shift started.

Gear bags was just as fun as I remembered it, and this year was a lot more challenging because I was at the very front of the room instead of the back. I quickly learned that when you're up front you only have 2 or 3 seconds to find a bag before the racers zooms past, and I could barely keep up with my one station. In the back, there's enough lag time to cover multiple stations with little trouble.

It was even more fun this year because the volunteers were really into it, cheering and clapping and yelling for many of the racers. Made the time fly by for us, and the athletes who came in dragging a bit after the bike really seemed to enjoy the boost.

I got to see a lot of our people come through - Bolder and Simply Stu and Taconite Boy and Roman and Greyhound and I'm sure there were more. I got a hug from Pharmie and she showed me her road rash from the bike accident. I was thrilled to see Iron Wil come through, running and smiling and looking strong and focused. It was truly fantastic to see after last year's hypothermic T2 extravaganza and just know it was her year, and that she was going to conquer this race.

The only downer in T2 was seeing IM Able's gear bag was missing as soon as I arrived and knowing it was too soon for her to have come through. Since they only let gear bags be checked out early if someone has dropped for medical reasons, I was really worried something bad had happened to her. Even though I was sorry her race day didn't go as planned, it was a relief when I found out later she had pulled herself out due to illness, and hadn't been forced out due to a terrible accident or injury.

Iron Pol returned my computer just as my gear bag shift ended and then headed out to onto the course to run with some of our people. I stopped by my van for a bit to lock up my computer and recharge my phone for the 3rd time that day. Mark met me there to offload some more pictures, then we headed back to Monona. We commandeered one of the athlete checking stations and went through our team list, updating all their current stats and extrapolating potential finish times.

On our way to the stands at the finish we managed to bump into Wendy, and we hung out with her until she went to be near the family area for her brother Brent's finish. Then Mark and I chilled out in the stands for something like 3 hours. (He's one cool dude and I highly recommend, if you ever find yourself stuck in bleachers for 3 or 4 hours, doing so with him.) We were exhausted (he'd been at the site since 4:30 am, me since 6:30) and both facing drives back home that night, but we were determined to stick it out to see our team finish.

Our patience was rewarded with the finishes of quite a few Tri Bloggers, and I was even lucky enough to bump into Boomer and Kona Shelley in the stands just after his race. Boomer looked so great after finishing I couldn't help risking my battery to get a shot of him and Shelley, his intrepid Iron veteran escort for the evening.

After a few trips back to the Terrace to scope out the latest athlete tracker stats and some creative sign language across the crowd from Little Miss Runner Pants, we got word on Iron Wil and knew she was getting close. Just as we were starting to look for Wil, we were also treated to Pharmie's big finish.

After following her story for the last two years and being there for part of the insanity that was IMWI 2006, my heart was bursting when I finally saw Iron Wil come running down that chute with a huge smile on her face. I ran as fast as my 7 month pregnant bod would allow me to around the stands to the back of the athlete area, where I found Wil's husband looking through the gate at Wil hugging Pharmie. I told him the guards would let him in for his wife, and even though I knew I could get in (still wearing my Iron Crew shirt and special access wrist band) I stayed outside the gate and waited patiently. I felt like going in would have been an imposition on a moment between her husband and fellow finishers.

She came out soon enough and gave me a great big hug and I couldn't help crying. It's hard to explain how you can be so proud of someone else's accomplishment... maybe it's a testament to her warm, open heart and brilliant writing, that she has brought so many of us together and impacted us so deeply.

Then I pulled out the camera and used the last of the battery to get the picture that mattered most that day:

After seeing Wil head off to handle post-race logistics, Mark and I agreed we were done. Even though we knew Frank Farrar was maybe half an hour out, we just didn't have anything left to give. Besides, I knew I could always see Frank finish on YouTube. We quietly skirted the madness of the finish line in search of our cars.

I was a few miles outside Madison, driving in the dark as I watched the clock count down to midnight with a twinge of regret that I wasn't watching it from the stands. But I'd been up and around for 19 hours and had nearly a hundred miles to drive. I'd put myself through more than enough that day, especially for being 7 months pregnant. Besides, I'd seen what I'd gone to see, spent time with wonderful people and gotten more enjoyment out of the entire weekend than I'd thought possible considering my physical limitations. So, once again, I told myself "there's always next year."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

2007 IMWI Volunteer/Sherpa Report Part 2

I have no idea how Ironman hopefuls sleep the night before a race, because just as a volunteer I tossed and turned all night with anticipation. My watch alarm went off, predictably, just as I'd finally dozed off, forcing me to drag my groggy self out of bed and face the 5-am-ness of it all. Even though it's ridiculous o'clock to me, I knew on Ironman race day that sleeping until 5 was a lazy man's luxury and that a lot of folks had long since arrived at Monona Terrace.

I got parked in the limited access volunteer lot with no trouble and made my over to the Terrace. I couldn't help stopping for a moment to stand in the still-being-constructed finisher's chute, imaging the day I'll have my chance to run it for real.

Leaving the chute and heading for the Terrace I bumped into Wendy, watching with envy while she got a steaming hot cup o' coffee. (I know it's perfectly safe to have a cup or two once in a while, but the day was already going to be logistically challenging enough with a baby stomping on my bladder every 20 minutes, so I figured throwing caffeine into the mix would be the epitome of stupid.) Then we walked and chatted our way to the Terrace, parting ways at the entrance to head for our predetermined Iron Sherpa Swim Leg Picture Taking Posts.

Because I was wearing a crew shirt I knew I could cut through the building, where I had every intention of taking what I think of as the "pregnant priviledge" and using the real bathrooms instead of the public porta-potties.

What I didn't realize - because I'd slept in last year with a nasty chest cold and missed the swim start - was that the reason they keep people out of the building before the swim is that the athletes turn the halls into one giant transition area.

I weaved my way in and out of the masses of fit, neoprene-clad bodies, keeping my head down, trying to look like I belonged there and feeling more than a little bit guilty for being in their space. As luck would have it my illegal jaunt brought me face to face with our team, who had just lined up for a group shot. I couldn't get my camera out in time to catch the team posed together, but I managed to get a couple of individual pictures and a few quick hugs before they headed down to the water.

Simply Stu displaying his typical exuberance.

Iron Wil looking more than ready to go, accompanied by the uber-cool Mr. Wil.

Around 6:30 I joined the mass of athletes migrating towards the swim start. I quickly realized the spot I'd originally planned to take pictures from wasn't precisely on the swim exit like I'd thought, but I decided to work it out later. Because I noticed this poor, lone security guy trying vainly to keep a path clear for the athletes being blocked from the side entrance to the swim start by hordes of oblivious spectators intent on forcing their way to the fence to get a good view. So I - and shortly after that another off-duty volunteer - set ourselves up along the path and spent the rest of the time before the cannon waving in athletes who should have already been in the water (many of whom simply couldn't see the entry due to the crowds), firmly shooing spectators out of their way, and explaining to confused spouses clutching morning clothes bags to where they could drop them off.

In between guiding grateful athletes and getting dirty looks from pushy family members who didn't seem to believe me when I informed them they could not actually go into the swim chute, I managed to notice the glorious sunrise. And, of course, get all choked up as it hit me where I was and how happy I was all these amazing people were granted such a beautiful day for this race.

Perfect Ironman sunrise.

TriBoomer was one of the athletes who happened to pass by while I worked this impromptu volunteer post, and I managed to get a quick hug and picture before he hit the water.

TriBoomer looking ready to go!

Then came the National Anthem, and more happy tears hidden behind my sunglasses. I couldn't help thinking about how lucky we all are to have been born here, and to have lives so full of blessings that we can freely choose to spend our time doing what we do, and in doing so make our privileged lives even better.

And then the cannon fired.

Easiest Donation You'll Ever Make

Ten years ago I did a research presentation for one of my biology classes on cord blood donation to support stem cell and treatments for many diseases. Since a full decade has passed, I assumed that cord blood donation would now be a routine procedure when giving birth.

Boy, was I ever naive to think that something cost free and pain free that can save lives - and if not done simply ends up in the garbage - would become a common practice. Silly me.

The nurse teaching the prenatal class said it wasn't available unless you're doing the thing where you pay a small fortune to have it privately banked. I just want to donate it for research and/or public use. WHY is that so hard? For several weeks I've been quite frustrated and not sure how to proceed.

I brought it up at my check-up today and my midwife said that she literally received information on an organization I can donate to yesterday, and had I asked the question any sooner she would have had to tell me it wasn't possible.

I rushed home and checked their requirements, and luckily I am still outside the 4 week minimum before my due date to start the process.

So, if anyone out there is pregnant (or knows of someone who is), please consider donating your cord blood to a public bank. You could save the life of a child with leukemia or other heritable disease.

If you're in the Chicago area, you can visit to learn more.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I Know, I'm a Baaad Blogger

I finally got the IMWI pics downloaded and sized for the web. Should get posted tomorrow. I know. I'm terrible. But I'm just so BEHIND on everything.

Before I get to the final IMWI post, I just wanted to take a moment to wax hormonal about how important family is and how wonderful it is to have the opportunity to forge relationships with distant relatives.

Since the trip to Minnesota earlier this month I've been corresponding with a wonderful older woman (and her 92 year old mother!) who belongs to a branch of my husband's paternal side of the family we had been previously unaware of. (This was particularly upsetting because it turns out they used to have annual family reunions and never knew to invite us!)

Anyway, she was quite happy to learn that I'm interested in the family history and has been providing me with priceless names and dates so I can dutifully record them in the family tree software. (My MIL is also sending her old family photographs so she can help us identify the people, which is a huge help.) I just got a letter from her saying she found an 11 page family history document dating back to 1824!

So, yay for family. I love that I'll be able to show my baby how deep the roots of his family tree go, and that I was lucky enough to meet this wonderful lady who obviously cares as much as I do about the family history.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Uncommonly Good Customer Service Experience

A couple days ago we received our fancy schmancy new stroller travel system (long story why we couldn't stick with the one the MIL bought used we originally thought would work) and after getting it all put together and discarding the packaging, the Geek noticed a tear in the canopy.

I stressed about it for a while, thinking about what an unbelievable hassle it would be to recollect all the packaging from the various recycling containers, disassemble all the pieces, and reship a 4 foot by 3 foot by 3 foot ginormous freakin box.

But this morning I got my head on straight, took a good look at how it was put together and realized it should be a simple matter of replacing a part held on with two simple screws. I called Graco, told them what happened and gave them serial number. They haven't even received our product registration card yet, but in less than 5 minutes, no questions asked, they shipped me a replacement part.

Definitely a company I will continue to do business with in the future.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

2007 IMWI Volunteer/Sherpa Report Part 1

Sorry for the delay in this post, work and catching up on real life stuff after several consecutive weekends of travel had to come first...

I headed to Madison at lunchtime Friday and arrived at my friend's place with just enough time to unpack the van, stretch a bit and spend a few minutes snuggling with my host for the weekend.

I kept Gonzo (aka the sweetest cat on the planet) company in exchange for free crash space at my buddy's place 5 minutes from Monona Terrace.

This year the trip felt vastly different from last year, all in good ways. Last year was an incredible experience I wouldn't change for the world, but being who I am it was also a challenging experience, because I don't like not knowing. And it didn't matter that (with the exception of that nasty sinus infection) everything went well last year and I had a fantastic time - bottom line is I went into it blind and that always makes me tense.

This year I knew where I was going, I knew who I was going there with, I knew what to expect and when to expect it. Color me OCD, but this made for a calm and happy Siren. Even dealing with the little inconveniences of road construction and traveling pregnant wasn't too bad because I felt like I had a handle on everything.

I went to the 4:00 Tri Blogger Meet-up on Friday and I was thrilled to see old friends and meet new ones. There was much joking, taking of pictures and general camaraderie. I was especially excited to finally meet Wendy, and I must say I was taken with her immediately. She's one cool lady and I encourage anyone who has the chance to hang out with her sometime.
(Back Row) Bolder, AJ, Laurie, Wil, ?, Greyhound, Pharmie, Steve, Thomps, Rural Girl, Me, Wendy
(Front Row) Chris, Bubba, Simply Stu, Erin, Brent
My apologies to the bloggers who's faces I can't place! (If anyone can help me with the missing names that would be great!)
Photo credit - Mr. Wil

Ironman Powers.... ACTIVATE!!

I'd assumed more or less correctly that people would make plans for meals and general hanging out at the meet-ups, but had completely forgotten that wouldn't apply on Friday night because of the Athlete's dinner. I was kind of kicking myself for forgetting this very obvious thing and wondering if it was too late to get a ticket when Wendy let me know that she and Brent had already talked about it and had an extra ticket on hand for me! (See what I told ya? She's a seriously cool chick!)

So we all trooped into the Terrace for dinner and managed to score a table all together; thus continued the general merriment of the day.

Pharmie, ?, Laurie, Bolder, Rural Girl, Stu (sorry for the names I left off!)

Simply Stu, Wil and Mr. Wil

Tac and Greyhound

Towards the end of dinner I realized no one had yet heard from IM Able, so we called her and discovered she was shopping at the Expo one floor up. A few minutes and some jumping up and down to be seen over a crowd of 3000 later, Steve in a Speedo and I were mauling her with bear hugs and dragging her over to the rest of the gang to sit with us for the meeting.

Sidebar: At dinner I heard rumors of an Ironman onesie at the Expo, and suddenly life as I knew it could not go one until I owned one. So while the athletes listened to the course talk I slipped out to snag one for the Little Geek. Of course, they were already completely sold out.

After the athlete meeting we all went off in search of a good night's sleep.

Arrived at the 8:00 am volunteer meeting with time to spare - no small miracle for me! While looking for my captains I ended up correcting some other captains as they misinformed the entire changing room crew about when the bike course closed and when their shift would end (this is NOT a small detail, you'd think the captains would have a handle on it!), then went to the gear bag room to find my actual captains.

My OCD extra packing paid off big time as one of the volunteers asked at the end of our meeting why the bag number sequences weren't on the BACKS of the signs as well, so the volunteers could actually, ya know, do their jobs. The gear bag captain (a friendly, intelligent well-organized guy who is by far the best captain I've worked with so far) said he would try to make that happen.

After the meeting I told him I'd brought paper, markers and tape for just such an occasion and he seemed very relieved that I was willing to take care of it for him. Another couple of very nice women jumped in and we had both rooms done in about an hour.

Ever since Mishele K brought it up, I'd been thinking hard about doing the Gatorade swim at 9:30 that morning. I'd heard anyone could do it, even wannabe Ironmen, and was serious enough about trying it I had my transition bag in the van with my suit and a change of clothes. Plus, I thought it would be kinda funny for the pregnant chick to jump in with all the Iron Folk.

I went down to the water but didn't see anyone I knew (I was hoping I'd magically recognize Blogger Mishele K, but you know how that goes) and got intimidated. I still went all the way down to the water and dipped my feet in, only to discover there's a reason every single person around me was in a wetsuit. Since I have to keep little things like my core temperature and my baby's safety in mind, I decided to bag the swim. I can always do it next year.

Went to the 11:00 Blogger meet-up, which was smaller than the night before because most of the athletes were taking care of race check-in business. One highlight was meeting Kona Shelley, who just radiates joy and friendliness. Another exciting moment for me was finally meeting Tri-Mamma and The Tribe, out in force to support Taconite Boy. She's as warm and wonderful as everyone says and I was happy to finally cross paths with her in real life. Luckily I also found Mishele K there, who told me she'd actually gone swimming at 7 (hence the not finding her at 9:30). I had a really nice time chatting with her as we wandered around the Terrace taking care of a couple things, then we parted ways.

4:00 Saturday I met with Iron Sherpas Iron Pol, AJ, Wendy and Iron Mark to make plans for picture taking locations and centralized blog updating. Even though I could feel myself getting achy and tired and cranky and generally starting to feel the long day and being 7 months pregnant, I really really hope I didn't come off too badly with these wonderful people. I was very much looking forward to working with these guys to help keep the blogosphere on top of the adventures of our fearless athletes!

After a light dinner we all headed our separate ways to turn in early, with plans to be at the swim start and early Sunday.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Eat Your Heart Out Norman Borlog

While eating Second Breakfast late this morning I was telling Wonderful Husband how some of us had been laughing over the weekend that Ironman triathletes and pregnant women basically adopt the eating habits of Hobbits.

He thought about it for a second, then joked that the solution to world hunger was obvious: everyone should stop training for Ironman : D

His suggested slogan: "Save Food. Do an Olympic."

[I swear I'm going to get pictures up from this the fabulousness that was Madison this weekend. This post is a five minute break from writing an imminently due article I'm sick of looking at. Once it's turned in I can come back to writing my blog for free!]

Monday, September 10, 2007

Home Safe

Arrived home at 2 am after a 21 hour day, exhausted but happy. Report on epic weekend at IMMoo to follow as soon as possible - but first real life stuff like work needs to be attended to.

Aside from some technical problems (Madison appears to be a twilight zone where NONE of the batteries on any of my crucial travel related electronic devices - phone, laptop or camera - will hold a charge!) and moderate pregnancy-related aches and pains, I had a great time. I renewed my love for the sport and reconfirmed for myself that yes, I really do want to do this crazy thing.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

How to Check Our IMMoo Racers

Iron Pol, Mark, AJ, Iron Jenny, 21st Century Mom and I are doing are best to get pictures uploaded and posted as we they're taken.... had some WiFi and computer battery challenges but we got creative it looks like we've found a way to post reliably.

As I type this I'm standing maybe 50 yards from the crowds screaming for the lead male pro as he tears into T1 after smoking the bike course. It's a GORGEOUS day and our beloved bloggers look like they're having a great time. Hundreds of pix already taken, we're trying to post a few representative images as the day progresses....

Check them out at:

IMMoo 2007 Blogspot

Team Race Athlete Blog

Friday, September 07, 2007

Madison Bound

I'm throwing my bags in the car and getting on the road... Hope to see everyone at the meet-ups!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Insomnia Blogging

It's almost 5 am. I've been unwillingly awake since 4.

I still find it inconceivable that many of y'all consider this prime training time. When the baby kicks my bladder and I have to get up to pee at this ungodly hour I do think of you.

Sometimes even with envy, I think of you - envy that anyone could have the mental and physical ability to function as a human being at this hour. Then I snuggle back under the covers and sleep for 3 or 4 more hours.

But tonight it appears the whole pregnant insomnia thing is winning. So here I sit, squinting at a far-too-bright computer screen at ridiculous o'clock so I won't wake my poor husband with all my tossing and turning.

*SIGH* I wish warm milk didn't make me gag.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Stuff I Wish I'd Known Before IMWI

Some of you might remember the novella I wrote about my volunteer experience at IMWI last year. While I enjoyed every single second I worked for the race and for the athletes, I expended a huge amount of energy in sheer frustration at the lack of certain aspects of volunteer organization.

While I'll never be able to fix some things - like the way a volunteer captain's brain works - there were a few things I learned I could have done myself that would have solved some problems that cropped up as the day progressed. As I was putting this list together for my own race weekend preparations, I thought some of y'all who will also be part of the Madison contingent might find it helpful...

Stuff To Do Differently This Year
- There was a distinct lack of signage in certain areas that desperately needed it (for instance, something to distinguish between the Men's and Women's changing rooms!) and NOBODY had even basic supplies on hand to rectify the situation. This year I'm sticking these things in my backpack.
- The race was supposed to provide "Race Support" signs for vehicles working the course. These were either not provided at all (hence needing to make own) or provided with no means to attach them to vehicle (hence needing tape).

Cell Phone/Phone List
- Station captains had no way to communicate with workers. I insisted on my group providing their cell phone numbers to the captain and vice versa. This saved our butts in a big way.
- Not having any idea where any of the other tri bloggers were/when volunteer shifts were finishing/when people were getting together for meals/when racers were passing critical checkpoints or finishing was very frustrating. This shouldn't be a problem this year for the Tri Bloggers in attendance as plans are well under way to make this aspect organized and enjoyable.
- I have Verizon Wireless and noticed last year I didn't get reception inside Monona Terrace (I did get it just outside the doors). Other people seemed to have no trouble inside. Just food for thought.

Working Stations
- Unless it's obvious they've got a handle on everything, do not count on your volunteer captain to have organized things completely. If anything about your job involves coordination with other volunteers, make sure you A) identify the exact people and introduce yourself and B) make detailed plans between yourselves on how you will manage whatever it is you're supposed to do/hand off.
- Many volunteer workstations are woefully understaffed (for example, the gear bag return from 9-midnight has all of ONE person signed up, and it needs at least a dozen or more) and will gladly accept even last minute volunteers. If you have time, see a need/get recruited by a captain and are ready to lend a hand, you can walk up to the volunteer tent and they'll give you a crew shirt.
- Even though part of signing up for a volunteer station includes providing your t-shirt size, for some ridiculous reason last year that information evaporated and it was a free-for-all in terms of sizing (and anyone who needed XXL or bigger was completely SOL). If this happens with your station try the volunteer booth, you might be able to trade for the right size.

General Assistance
The racers are not allowed to accept help from people, but things I've seen and heard have made it sound like they can accept the loan of something like a bike pump to help themselves. The rule the volunteers were given was "you can't give any assistance to any ONE racer that you wouldn't give to EVERY racer" (i.e. no special help for your friends). Little things it's easy for us to have in our cars (if we're, for example, sitting on the side of the bike course with a camera) that could make a big difference in someone's race day.
It also doesn't hurt to keep a few plastic bags on hand (and a sharpie to label the contents with) in case an athlete you know "accidentally" drops something like a jacket that's gotten too warm and you "just happen" to pick it up for them. Not that we'd do that. Cause it might be considered special assistance. I'm just sayin I'm gonna have some plastic bags in my backpack.

Mosquitos As Big As Your Head
Bring bug spray. Seriously. It was quite the issue last year.

This isn't so bad if you're a spectator and have a car handy, but if you're walking around or working a station it's good to know. Plan on having all your stuff for the day (or specific portion of the day) in a comfortable backpack. Don't count on having the time/inclination to drag yourself back to your vehicle for things like jackets or extra beverages.
It's a good idea to keep any papers you need through the day (maps, etc) in a baggie or a separate pocket. Even if it doesn't rain, rubbing against your cool, refreshing water bottles for 17 hours can erase a good portion of their content.

Spectating/Getting Around
-Print out maps of everything and carry them in your backpack. Even if you know your way around, someone in invariably asks for directions and it's easiest to point to a paper. This totally saved me last year, when I discovered even the information booth ladies couldn't direct me where I needed to go.
-Use something like Google Maps to plan out specific places to watch from and to figure out a route to get there on race day (i.e. when roads are closed). If possible, inform racers ahead of time where these cheering stations will be (I think the Sherpas might be working on something like this.)
-If I had them, I'd bring binoculars for spotting racers far enough down the road that we have time to get ready to cheer for them properly. My experience so far has been squinting at someone until they're right on top of me going "is that them?!" and then barely having time to yell their name as they fly by, not necessarily aware of my existence.

If you're a triathlete (or live with one) you are already miles ahead of the average volunteer at this race in terms of having a clue what's going on and where things are logically located. Many volunteers are sweet, wonderful folks who just happen to live in Madison and are happy to lend a hand as long as their job doesn't involve actually knowing stuff. If someone asks you a question (and they invariably will!), feel confident about giving them an answer because you're almost certainly right.