Yesterday was a really fun day for me. It started out at Furman University relatively early in the morning. I was there to volunteer for the 'Tri to Cure' youth triathlon.
I was placed as a course marshall on the bike course. If you know Furman University, you'll know the mall area and you'll know the footbridge that crosses the road near the music building. I was stationed just uphill from this footbridge. The riders would be riding up the hill as they passed me.
I didn't really think about the significance of this hill - for me and most of my friends who ride from Furman frequently, this is not something that we even think about. However, I was to find that it is a significant challenge for some of these young athletes.
Since the athletes are staged and released for the swim based on their swim times, the first athletes I saw on the course were in the upper end of the 6-15 year age requirement. Many of these young athletes surmounted this little hill without difficulty. Some of them were truly flying up that hill. There are some talented athletes coming of age here in the Upstate of South Carolina.
I had brought my cowbell and had decided to cheer on every athlete as they passed my station. I had a great time doing this. My calls of 'GO GO GO GO GO GO!!!!' and 'GET MEAN WITH THAT HILL' and my personal favorite 'YOU'RE AN ANIMAL!!!!!' received looks all the way from 'is this guy crazy or what' to huge smiles that seemed to say 'thanks for cheering me on'. In fact, I might have had more fun than some of the athletes!
As the athletes passed my post, their ages got younger and younger. The hill was posing more and more difficulty for them so I continued with my cheering. I had two very memorable experiences out there.
The first involved a young girl who had to have been just at 6 years old. I think her bike had 12" wheels - she was a tiny little thing! She was near the back of a small pack of riders (and the younger kids were pretty much all over the road!) as they approached the hill. A couple of riders passed her as the grade increased and I watched as her speed dropped further.
Not quite half way up the hill, her speed went to zero and her eyes filled with tears. I felt so bad for her. I went over and gave her some encouragement (with my indoor voice of course) while giving her a little boost as she pedaled up the hill. As she got further up the hill, the crying stopped and she built momentum such that she no longer required my assistance. I sent her off with more words of encouragement and turned to cheer the next group of riders up the hill.
Not long after, I saw perhaps the coolest sight of the day. Here comes a little guy on training wheels! Again, this little guy must have just made the minimum age for the race. It must have been his mom jogging beside him giving him encouragement. As he started up the hill, of course I was there to cheer him on as well. As with the young girl, as the grade steepened, he lost momentum. However, his mom coached him to get off the bike and push. So here he is, this little guy pushing his bike up the hill.
That was really cool. I'm really glad I took those 2(ish) hours to help out with this event.
3 years ago