Thursday, March 6, 2008

Drafting, Blocking, Doping, Cheating - Our Case for Why YOU Should be a Race Marshal at Ironman or USAT Races

Every year I hear (and I'm sure you do to) complaints about race marshals. We all know what comes next..."They don't know the rules", "I wasn't drafting", "I didn't know that rule", "I wasn't drafting, he was blocking", "She is using her asthma inhaler beyond her Rx" (stupid and dangerous by the way), "There weren't enough marshals to control the drafting (Clearwater/Kona)", "They (marshals) don't like Europeans." That one cracks me up - some of the marshals are athletes from Europe so it makes no sense.

There are three types of cheater. ONE: The one who would cheat regardless if anyone was there- blatant. Like the littering call I made at Ironman Wisconsin when a M35-39 looked right at me on the motorcycle and still threw his empty bottle and gel wrappers into a corn field. As a marshal who is also a racer, I told him that if he went back and picked up the garbage I wouldn't penalize him. He shook his head no...he would take the penalty. We (my driver and I) went back and picked up the garbage so Ironman wouldn't get a nasty gram from some person who lives on the course. TWO: The person who cheats when they think nobody is there. You know what I find funny about this? These are the people who complain to the ref. "I wasn't drafting! You didn't see me!" blah, blah, blah... Why the hell do you think races are going to BMW motorcycles? They are significantly quieter than a Harley and we can sneak right up to a pack like a unmarked police car! THREE: What I'll just call "the ignorant". The less offensive is the guy or gal who is out there and doesn't know the rules. really should know the rules of the road BEFORE you head into a mass of 2,300 people who are freaked out, stressed out, full of energy and adrenaline and are going "fast". Here is a link to the USAT rule book.
Take a read and you might learn some new rules. The other type of ignorant is the person who pops any kind of drug during the race looking for that "bump" and the person who is using hGH as an "age remedy" or andro...etc. First, the person taking the inhaler too much. Do you understand what you are doing? In an Ironman, you are racing (let's say 10 hours +). You over use your Rx for an inhaler - what did you do to your body? You taxed it in an already over stressed state ( and your lungs won't go from a two lane road to a six lane super highway because of an inhaler. Is getting to Kona/Clearwater/the Olympics worth your good health? If you answer anything other than NO! might want to get your IQ checked. One guy I know popped a psudeofed (sp?) on the second loop of Ironman Wisconsin in 2004. By mile 19, he was on the side of the road shaking uncontrollably; dumb by his own admission today but he was trying (desperately) to get back to Kona and almost died. He really understands now.

Ironman and USAT are looking for a few good men and women to be race marshals. I said "OUR case" in the title of this blog entry. I say that because if you aren't part of the may just be part of the problem. Or as grandma said, "When you point your finger you have three fingers pointing back at you." If you are planning on racing for a long time you need to get out there and marshal. Triathlon, as a sport, needs its own racers with a passion for this sport to get out there and police ourselves on the course. You see...if you race and you marshal...I'll bet that you marshal like you'd like to see a race marshaled. You wouldn't make some calls and you would make others. Thus improving the race experience and the sport of triathlon grows.

I feel very strongly that ALL racers should be REQUIRED to volunteer at one race every three years or loose their "license" to race until you volunteer. My reasoning is when you are on the other side of the fence at a race your perspective changes dramatically.

All races are looking for volunteers. As a race marshal, you get a box seat, catered...and parting gifts (swag). The biggest gift that you get (which you cannot put a price on) is more knowledge. You will see what is happening at these big races and be able to advise others about "what happens when..."

I will be a race marshal at Ironman Arizona, Ironman Wisconsin, (maybe Ironman USA), and Kona in 2008. I'm not asking for you to do all these races...but how about one?

Help clean up our sport.


  1. I was looking for the link to the USAT rule book. I'm curious. thanks for posting. Seeing as I have yet to race in one -- my first one scheduled for this summer -- I think I have some leeway.

  2. Thank you for this... this is great. You have inspired me to look into being a race official. You are right - there is so much we can do to give back to the sport. I like to volunteer at races - that has really changed my perspective. I have never considered being a race marshall... until now. Thanks Bob - I look forward to meeting you in Arizona!