Sunday, June 26, 2016

Who's that guy on the mike??

So there's Awesome Molly, who runs events in town...I volunteer a lot for her stuff, 'cause it's fun and she pays well.

For example, she gave me this little gift in lieu of my requested box lunch...


Anyhow....USA National Duathlon Championships were coming to town, and the organizers wanted a second person to help with the announcing chores. They asked the local tourism board, who promptly asked Molly...

who promptly volunteered me, saying I'm the right person for the job.

uh, thanks...except I've never done any race announcing.

Is this what it feels like to lie on a resume? Except it was her lie, not mine!

I was somewhat apprehensive, but they had me at "We'll give you a shirt, food, and $200."  Besides, I needed to push my limits a bit. And they told me I'd simply have to read the names of the finishers, and maybe some sponsor plugs. I can do that.

They didn't need me there until 0700 on Saturday, and the venue was less than a mile from my house, so I took my time getting ready. Of course, I heard the first public address announcements starting at 0530; no doubt my sleeping neighbors heard that as well!!

Typical Oregon forecast: 38F in the morning and climbing to 80F. One of the staffers at the announcer's booth was shivering while dressed for the warmer temps, so I gave her my fleece: i had 3-4 layers on and was already warmed up.

The road crew did a great job with setup:

Lots of expensive bikes in the transition zone:

The head announcer is a great guy named Tim, very well organized. He gives me the drill...and part of my job now includes working the sound board!

See that iPod on the right? Yes, it's an iPod Classic, probably 10 years old. Anyway, Tim has lots of race playlists ready to go. While he gave instructions to the racers on the starting line, I cued up the tunes, then let 'er rip two minutes before the gun.

My apprentice gear...

Announcer Tim is perfect for the job; huge enthusiasm, great radio voice, and he knows all the top racers by sight...he sees many of them on a regular basis around the world. And he looks just like Frank Underwood....or Kevin Spacey! Tim also has the energy of basketball announcer Dick Vitale. 

He walks down to the starting line about 100 yards away and gets the waves moving. I'm sitting next to the timing guy, who starts to look confused. And i realized what happened: Tim started one wave 5 minutes early....the six waves all had varying intervals between their starts: 10 minutes, 15, 10, 10, 15. The timing guy had to do some quick reprogramming, but all was right with the world in short order. 

The race format is 10k run, 40k bike, 5k run. Leg-sapping hills on all segments, too. These folks are going to be hurting...but the race leader does the first hilly 10k in 35 minutes; he's going to pay for that later. 

Sure enough, he fades back into the field, while local favorite Matt Lieto crushes the bike and cruises thru the final run portion. 

Oh, the announcing....I thought i was simply there to read off the prompter. Uh uh...after talking with the lead announcer before things got going, he realized that i could converse without tripping over my tongue, i have a pretty deep knowledge of sports information, and I'm some kind of an athlete myself. So he engages me in conversation over the open mikes...."So Nick, it looks like our racers will have their work cut out for them today. What do you think?"

Pause. Seemed like hours, but it was only a couple seconds. Ok, I'll dive in. Pretty soon, I'm talking about the first Ironman Triathlon back in 1978 and the possibility that Bend resident Jesse Thomas will shortly become the first American winner in Hawaii since Tim DeBoom fifteen years ago. 

I love this!   NBC, the color man...

After Lieto wins and regains his senses, I see him walking behind our platform. I say to Tim that 'we' should interview him. 'We' meaning, Tim said, "Great idea! Go do it."  So there I am, the neophyte, interviewing a newly crowned national champion for all the world to hear. 

Or at least the ones within audible distance. 

A couple of Molly's co-workers come walking up. They wanted to see what the commotion was about...and they wanted to know what idiot woke them up at 0530 with his microphone....nope, wasn't me. And yes, the race organizers had a permit!

As the racers finish, we read their names off the laptop: 

Announcer #1: "Spike Johnson, a Bend cardiologist!"
Announcer #2: (loud whisper) "That's MY cardiologist!"

(I was announcer #2)

Hard race with the hills and wind. Winner Lieto said that he hid in the trees about a half mile from the finish and tried to relieve his knotted hamstrings. Fortunately, he had a lead of several minutes. 

Did i mention the swirling winds? The entire finish line gantry came crashing down at the end of the second race, and the first couple of finishers had to cross the line and shimmy their way through the fence. 

Didn't get a real-time picture of the damage, but all this stuff was a pile of rubble

At packet pickup the day before, one of the athletes posted disdain for his fellow competitors who picked up their race numbers while decked out in tri gear, Ironman tattoos, even aero helmets! Then I noticed that the same guy posted paragraphs about his racing experience for the announcers to read at the finish line. Hmmmm...

Announcer Tim's wife ran track at the University of Oregon, and both of them will be going to the Olympic Trials there in a week. I hope we can get together for dinner!

Highlight of the day: Sister Madonna Buder of Spokane, 86 years young, finishing yet another race. She's a world record holder: the oldest person ever to finish a full-distance Ironman Triathlon. She been quoted as saying, "I train religiously."   Oooof!

Very neat day. 9 hours without sitting down, so i decided to skip my run. 

Good call. 

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