Saturday, June 07, 2008

Danskin, Year 10

This weekend is the Austin Danskin Triathlon. The Danskin Women's Triathlon Series is a series of triathlons held in eight cities around the country each summer. This is Austin's 14th or 15th year to hold the event, and we have one of the larger races in the country with just over 3,000 women participating.

I've been working on the race as a committee member since 1999, and four years ago I got hired on as paid local staff, which meant I took on a lot more responsibility. For the past three years, I've been threatening to make that year's race my last, but this year I really think I mean it. A full decade of working on the race is a nice amount, a good round number. Plus, by the time the race rolls around next year, I'll have four kids. I think I'll have enough on my hands.

The first two days of Danskin weekend are traditionally the hardest, physically. This year, however, I don't have much to do today - which is when National comes in and does their thing in terms of banners and signage. I ran some stuff out to the Expo this morning, and I'm leaving in a few minutes for Costco to buy 1000 each of granola bars, peanut butter crackers, and small bags of cookies. I'm not sure my car will hold everything.

Yesterday I was out at the race site just putting out fires and supervising the workers who were putting up bike racks and fencing and scaffolding. I spent a lot of time driving a golf cart around checking on things, taking it as easy as possible, given my "delicate condition." Even though I didn't do much physical labor, I enjoyed watching the hustle and bustle that goes on out there. There's an air of determined productivity that I thrive on.

The highlight of the day was getting to drive Sally Edwards, who is a bit of a legend in the Danskin world, to her hotel. She is just the nicest person and so much fun to talk to. She asked if Austin was still weird, and I don't think I had her convinced until I explained what the Republic of Texas Bike Rally, which is happening at the Expo Center next weekend, was. I think she decided that having 40,000 bikers show up for a weekend qualified as weird.

It's amazing to me to think of how much the Austin Danskin race has changed in the 10 years I've been working on it. When I started, the race was out on Lake Travis at Camp Chautaqua, which is a now-closed private park next to Pace Bend Park. The site was so small that we could only fit about 800 participants. There were no good areas for spectators, and parking was terrible. We also only spent one day setting up the race site.

Now we have more than 3,000 participants and an equal number of spectators. Parking is a breeze. We also spend two full days building the venue, and breaking down the site takes a lot longer.

Back in the day, all the work was done by volunteers - putting up bike racks, setting up scaffolding, hanging banners, tearing it all back down again, picking up all the trash. Now we have paid laborers out there doing the grunt work, which makes life so much easier for everyone involved.

So tomorrow, I'll be up at 4:30 am and headed out to Decker Lake for the big event. Every year I cry a few times from the sheer energy and joy of the event. It is inspiring to see so many women, of all shapes, sizes and abilities, out there doing something so positive and healthy. Many of them have never done anything like it in their lives, and it truly is a life-changing event for them. I'm proud that I get to do a little bit to make that happen.

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