The caffeine. Thank goodness for the caffeine. While it is nice on race day, it is mandatory the couple of weeks prior. On race day, there’s enough natural adrenaline to get anyone up. Plus the athletes exude enough nervous energy to power a small city. But two weeks before is the worst. You’re still working long days but you don’t even have the expo vendors around yet to keep you company.
And the “to-do” list never seems to get any shorter. Is everything ok with the city? Does everyone have the schedule for the road closures? Everything good with the volunteer coordinators? Definitely want to make sure they’re ok. Seriously, thank heaven for the volunteers. They make the race in more ways than one. Not only do they provide, food and drinks to the athletes, they are some of the best cheer leaders you’ll ever want to meet. More often than not, they are athletes themselves and they can really appreciate what’s happening on the course. Plus, they seem to know just what to say when someone is struggling. Which is important because, on occasion, they may be the only people cheering on the back half of the course.
Ultimately, this is a labor of love. It has to be to work this hard. Because, by the time she shepherds the last finisher crosses the line, she will have been up for almost 24 hours straight. She will have dealt with the press, city officials, athletes that are wound up tight as a steel spring and dozens of issues ranging from lost timing chips all the way to medical emergencies.
So, who is this hyper-efficient, hard-working, individual you ask? Why it is the Race Director. In our opinion, the Race Director or “RD” may be the single most important individual in the entire triathlon ecosystem. Now, don’t get us wrong. All the constituents must work together and they are all very important. The manufacturers produce the gear, the retailers sell it, the media covers the event and the athletes run the race but we can’t help but love the RDs.
Over the years, we’ve gotten to know quite a few and as a group, we have found them to be hard-working, genuine and entirely committed to ensuring a great experience for the athletes. Oh..and did we mention hard-working? We did? Well, let’s just say it again to make sure we get the point across. They work incredibly hard!
Since they do so much of the work behind the scenes, we thought it would be fitting to start a series called “Coeur Salutes” and to profile a few Race Directors. So, today, we’d like to introduce you to the RD for Oceanside 70.3, Iron Girls 10K/5K and the Life Time Oceanside Championships. Please meet Gina Thomas!
Coeur: Hi Gina. Thanks for chatting with us. First, did you or do you still race?
Gina: I don’t race, I participate…LOL! Mostly ½ marathons right now as my boys’ sports have really kicked in and I enjoy watching them do what they do. And I can “gut” those ½ marathons if need be. It’s too hard to give the time for an Ironman distance right now and keep my family going.
Coeur: So, speaking of family, tell us about the team.
Gina: My hubby Steve of 15 years, son Mike age 14 & son Matt age 12 (btw ran my first marathon pregnant with him), and three dogs Peaches, Kaiser and Mona, all rescue dogs
Coeur: That’s quite a group. Now, how long have you been a Race Director?
Gina: Going into my fifth year, five years prior as volunteer director
Coeur: So, what’s the story behind your progression from volunteer director to RD and why did you decide to become an RD?
Gina: I didn’t! I was the volunteer director and assisted at a number of events in various capacities so when the RDs were moving into other roles, they had put my name into the mix. Good thing I didn’t know what I was getting in to until I was already knee deep in it!
Coeur: Well, we’re glad they got you in! So, what is the most rewarding part of being a Race Director? And what is the most challenging?
Gina: Rewarding, making relationships and deepening them each year. Challenging, when you’re called out of your comfort zone to handle a variety of situations that maybe you aren’t as well versed in…but that is where growth comes in
Coeur: I’m sure. Now, I’d suspect that as an RD, you eventually see a bit of everything. What is the funniest thing you've seen/experienced?
Gina: Having a guy ask me if he could move up in the wave chart so he’d make his wedding on time. Didn’t happen but definitely prayed for his marriage…she must be a patient one. Oh, and we can’t forget when the sea lions decided to swim with the athletes one year!
Coeur: Wow! The sea lions must have caused quite a stir. So, on the flip side, what is the scariest thing you've seen/experienced as a Race Director?
Gina: Hearing that one of my ops managers felt the breeze of a pro athlete coming in on their bike as he was getting the attention of an outgoing athlete who had his head down and was at the same spot…had he moved just a hair, ugh!
Coeur: In the bit of spare time you have, what do you do for fun?
Gina: Watch my boys play their sports, run 5Ks as a family, camping, hang out in my backyard by the pool reading, gardening & home improvements