Monday, April 2, 2012

Liquids Coordinator

The Ironman Triathlon World Championship is the initial and ultimate Swim – Bike – Run event.

This type of race (tri-sport) was stated in Hawai‘i and was essentially created for bragging rights by combining the 2.4-mile Waikiki Roughwater Swim, 112-miles of the Around-Oahu Bike Race, followed by the 26.2-mile run of the Honolulu Marathon.

It started on O‘ahu, but its home is now in West Hawai‘i on the Big Island.

For 13-years, I was its Director of Aid Stations (1990-2002.)  We had about 4,000 volunteers and over 30 bike and run aid stations for the 1,200 contestants.  We also had a cadre of coordinators to help oversee the operations.

Each year, I made a point of trying to add another coordinator to my list.  It was more of a challenge and game to think up new ideas for “coordinators.”

This was not only to help spread out the work load, but, more importantly, it was a way to get some of the race swag to more people (coordinators received a special race shirt, had full access to all areas of the race and were invited to special parties.)

Speaking of parties, in the early years it was like pulling teeth to get coordinators to a race planning meeting.

Then, I finally got it.

I started to have wine tasting as a part of the planning meeting.  Not only did everyone show up (early,) they all asked when the next party, errr … meeting was.

This led to my attempt to get a wine person listed as a coordinator for the race (adding coordinators was a big deal to the race (given cost, etc,) so nothing was taken for granted.)

After extensive explanation of the importance of proper hydration in the race, etc, etc, etc, ultimately, the race director agreed to add a “Liquids Coordinator” to the Aid Stations roster.

However, little did they know that these “liquids” were meant for us, not the contestants.  We had a perfect person for the job, Jack Squires, who lives in Napa Valley and managed a cork company. 

However, in offering Jack the job, little did he know I had devised an elaborate practical joke for his initiation.

I worked with the race Medical Director, Bob Laird, on “including” Jack into a series of medical meetings Bob has with his medical crew prior to the race.  They had some seminars dealing with medical concerns related to hydration, etc. 

Bob agreed to sign a letter I wrote inviting Jack to the seminars – we also included reams of medical reports and other paperwork for Jack to review prior to the meetings.

Little did Jack know that I arranged all this with Bob.

Jack diligently reviewed the paperwork prior to getting to Kona.  I recall several phone conversations with Jack after the invitation, where he questioned whether he wanted to participate, or not.

When Jack arrived, we let him in on the joke and told him there were no seminars to attend and he really had only two rules to follow in the Aid Stations Operating Manual, (1) make sure there is plenty of wine for the Aid Stations Coordinators and (2) never forget rule #1.

Of course, we snuck in our own wine into various race parties (some were “alcohol-free.”)  Carbo-loading party is Thursday night of race week – it also was the beginning of our major Aid Stations party.

We’d pre-party at Carbo; then, leave early to go to the Liquids Coordinator’s Party.  Jack did waaay good with those – lots of Napa’s finest.

As a payback to the early prank I played on Jack, over the years those parties also turned into a series of gag-gifts giving to me.

I have to admit, I was particularly fond of the blow-up doll and shark hat given to me at those parties (I still have the hat, but ditched the doll.)

I had a call from Jack a few weeks ago.  He is now vacationing on Moloka‘i.  He returns home today and I will be meeting him at the Honolulu Airport, during a long layover on his return flight.

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