*** many thanks to Mo Sayad for this race report [from a volunteer’s perspective] ***

Thought of sharing my first experience as a technical officer in Bahrain Challenge for whoever is interested…

Last week, I read an interesting post that changed the way how my long weekend was planned.

My weekend changed after reading a post by Paul Venn asking for some “draft busters” in Bahrain Challenge. I actually don’t know why I decided to go, but I thought of giving a helping hand if I could, get on a motorbike and run around some pros...

I was already having a great time because of the national day in UAE, the incredible weather and good wind for kite surfing and of course spending more time with Kati.

The day comes, and Bahrain is calling, Friday afternoon, clueless of what my role is, I head out to the airport, nothing out of the ordinary, easy check-in with emirates, no sign of athletes (obviously everyone is in Bahrain already) and I’m scheduled to arrive just after the briefing meeting starts. We have the funniest captain announcement and all is set. We move towards the run way and that’s it! Moments pass and we’re still there until firefighters rush towards the plane – not a very good sign. We finally discover that we have a hydraulic leak – not a great start! A lot of time passes and I know that my briefing meeting is over. I take the time to go through all the triathlon material and read all the rules ever written, so as a referee, I’d be aware of what’s going on rather than being a participant with 1 rule in my head “keep going”.

Anyway, to cut the story short, we’re off again, I meet 2 people who were on the plane with me who were trying to get to Bahrain for the same reason; Triahtlon. The gentlemen just sitting on the seat in front of me “Taka” & “Lisette”, two nice smiley people who shared my exact reason of heading to Bahrain – being a Technical Officer. We all get to the hotel and agree that we’ll meet at 4:45 in the morning for the race brief.

I head out in the morning with a familiar face from Dubai – Chris who happens to be a good friend of a work mate – he was there for the briefing and all but no one knows my role. So, I wait for the Head Technical Officer to arrive. At that point, I have already been given a whistle! Errr, first step in my referee career!

Finally, the Head Technical Officer shows up and gives me a referee Shirt, Tag and a “Yellow/Red” Card pack! Now, I feel really empowered! But still don’t know what I’ll be doing. Anyway, we are put in groups of 5 for the briefing – went through the roles and at a specific point, the Head TO started looking at me – it was about penalizing athletes for littering, yet he mentioned that it was accepted in this region to throw banana peels! Hmmm… but why look at me? And when I say looking, I tell you, he was just looking at me for a good couple of minutes talking on and on about throwing the banana peels!!! Is it because I’m an Arab representing the region or was it because he discovered my dark plan of littering the whole track with bananas!

The day starts and competitors start showing up, so I decided to practice my referee look and walk and I start patrolling around. I see a few faces I know from TriDubai and a few that I usually see in the races I’ve participated in. Some were really excited, some worried, some relaxed but overall, great vibes.

I head out to T2 where my role is set – I’m glad I didn’t have to do anything with the swimmers, since I already hate swimming! (had to find space to write this fact).

In T2, I was very close to some pro athletes, shaikhs and friends and I’ve realized the difference of time spent by the athletes, media and volunteers around – massive variance.

A few hundred meters away at the entrance of the transition, I see a guy who started throwing up, the poor guy collapsed for a few seconds, but then kept going. I was worried that someone would slip in the puke and I was expecting someone to cover the carpet with sand, but just before I finish the thought, a few others passed over it with a big smile that they’ve reaches this far; Nothing else matters!

I was excited whenever a TriDubai jersey passes me, even though I don’t know most of the people in it, but I tried to take pictures and encourage them with a few words.

I then see an old guy getting into T2; “Karl”, he’s just walking with no rush but looks exhausted already. I hand him a seat so he can change his shoes like all the rest of the athletes and a few volunteers try to help him out like what they do with the rest of the athletes in order to shave off a few seconds, but he’s determined to do it in his own speed and on his own. I have a quick chat with him and he tells me he’s the oldest competitor today – he’s 73. He goes through his stuff, gets out a mars chocolate bar and enjoys eating it with no rush, we take a selfie and he’s off for the last bit – a 21KM run.

After it was all done, I learnt a lot, saw different emotions and had a few good chats. But what stayed with me were the smiling competitors and Karl. Deep inside him, he is competing, he is pushing himself and definitely he is standing out! And even though for any spectator, he was just moving slow, he has decided to enjoy all this – take his time and smile to everyone. To me, this is the spirit of any sport, this is Triathlon! Compete, but don’t forget to enjoy it…