I’m no stranger to working at events on the weekend as part of my internship. So when Mika texted me on Friday informing me we needed people to volunteer in Stamford on Sunday for the KIC It Triathalon, to benefit youth from troubled backgrounds, I figured, “Why not?” When she told me I needed to be ready to head over there at 4:45 AM, however, I did a double-take.
I solved the problem in a manner I was accustomed to as a college student: I took a big nap on Saturday and proceeded to stay up all night until 4:30 rolled around. I ate a bowl of cereal and made the 7-minute walk to the Harlem store and met up with my boss, Jackie Donovan, to drive over.
My biggest accomplishment of the day was not falling asleep until I was safely back in the comfort of my own air-conditioned apartment room, but of course that pales in comparison to the accomplishments of the 300+ triathletes that crossed the finish line after three to four hours of intense swimming, cycling, and running. My own personal triathlon consisted of sitting, eating, and complaining about the heat. (I came close to—but didn’t beat—my personal best, in case you were wondering). I also got to pet some cute dogs.
Fairway’s role in the event was to provide a huge amount of food for the athletes and volunteers before, during, and after the race. We brought energy bars, bananas, grapes, sandwiches, pasta salad, and gallons upon gallons upon gallons of water, which I’m pretty sure was all consumed.
And before I talk about the athletes, I need to shine the spotlight on the volunteers at the event. They spent days, weeks, even months before the triathlon registering the triathletes, setting up the course, and planning for every single detail that could go awry. They also probably woke up earlier than I would have had to if I’d gone to sleep the night before.
But the main attraction of the day for me (besides handing out free t-shirts!) was watching the triathletes do their thing. For those unfamiliar with triathlons, they vary in distance, but this event was a 1.5k/.9mi swim followed by a 40k/24.8mi cycling leg and finally a 10k/6.2mi run. Historians think that triathlons date back to the 1920s in France, but the modern, American triathlon arose from some swimmers and runners feuding in Hawaii over who was more athletic. A Navy commander tried to settle the debate by pointing out that cyclists tended to have higher oxygen uptakes, and before you knew it, it was ON, and the three warring parties constructed an event to settle the score once and for all.
The race started at 6:30AM. I didn’t get to see the start or the swimming leg, but I did witness the triathletes transition between cycling and running. There were professional triathletes as well as amateurs participating in the event, and all of the pros as well as a sizable number of the amateurs had the transitions down to a science. I watched as they pedaled into the last hundred meters of the cycling leg, unstrapping their specialized shoes before slipping out of them and leaving them attached to the pedals. They then dismounted and ran barefoot for about 25 yards before racking their bikes and slipping on socks and running shoes. Most of the frontrunners spent less than a minute in the transition stage.
The triathletes consisted of men, women, folks as young as me and those as old as their late 60s. The most impressive thing I saw was a paraplegic triathlete with a specialized bike for the cycling leg and a sleek, three-wheeled chair for the running portion. I don’t know what his final time was but I’m sure it was faster than what I could have done.
Overall, it was a fun, inspiring, exhausting day where Fairway got to make a difference and help some very dedicated people do two different things: improve themselves and improve the lives of children and teenagers in need of support.