Saturday, July 7, 2012

Putting on the Zebra Stripes

Putting my desire to race on the shelf for three more weeks, tomorrow I will be a USAT official (my first of two races as a Category 4 official) at the Aquaphor New York City Triathlon.  Despite the title of the post I will not be wearing the traditional black and white referee uniform (which is reserved for the head referee) instead I'll be sporting a bright red USAT polo and navy hat.  After an afternoon of meetings and athlete briefings I am ready for a good night's rest before an early (even by my standards) awakening.  

My role tomorrow will be to help officiate the Para-triathlete (PT) division and to enforce any penalties on the Elite division which were not able to be enforced during the bike.  Scanning the room at the PT briefing left me awestruck.  I was surrounded by athletes with a variety of impairments who clearly live life with a glass half full.  Instead of letting their disabilities hold them back, they rise up and take on challenges that many able-bodied folks don't even consider attempting.  Along with their handlers (who are able to assist in specific activities during the race but can't help move them along) they will swim 1500 meters, bike 40 km, and run 10km.  I made a mental note to learn more about the handlers and find out what it takes to work with a PT athlete. The next meeting was for the Elite athletes where the USAT head referee spent some time detailing the rules which are particular to their division.  

Our role as officials consists of a variety of responsibilities.  In addition to enforcing the rules of the USAT we are also representing the organization and will spend the morning making sure athletes understand the rules for the event.  My desire to officiate comes from one thing and one thing only.  I do not look forward to having to penalize any participant; in an ideal world I would never have to report a violation, but I know that won't happen.  Instead I look forward to my time spent in the morning roaming the transition area.  I will arrive at 4:00am, well before the majority of athletes (transition opens at 4:00am).  For most of the morning I will be present to check for equipment violations but also to answer any questions that racers might have.  Being only about a year and a half from my first event (but having come so far in that time) I enjoy the chance to help others as my fellow triathletes and officials did for me not too long ago.

I remember almost signing up for this race as a participant but balking at the hefty price tag; at least now I'll get an inside peek at the event and surely I'll race it in the years to come.

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