The hosted a volunteer rally Thursday evening at the Assembly Steak House in Englewood Cliffs in preparation for its leading role in the 2012 Ironman U.S. Championship, the first-ever Ironman competition in the New York City-New Jersey metropolitan area, which is set to place on Aug. 11, rain or shine.
The Chamber’s Ironman committee has signed on nearly 100 volunteers to help man its aid station and spectator area near the corner of Hudson Terrace and Bruce Reynolds Boulevard and perform other tasks, but organizers are looking for a total of about 150 people to help out, said executive director Margaret Maclay of the Fort Lee Regional Chamber of Commerce, who, along with board and executive committee member Craig Weinstein, is co-chairing the Ironman committee
“Who’s ever watched an Ironman competition before?” Maclay asked volunteers Thursday. “We’ve got an Ironman competitor with us tonight.”
Maclay was referring to Elliot Albirt of Fort Lee who in Lake Placid, NY last year and was on hand Thursday at the Assembly, one of the many sponsors of the event, to help rally the volunteers and offer a firsthand perspective.
“When someone would fill my water bottle, when they would give me a banana or chicken broth or whatever it might be, no one can really express how grateful they are to you,” Albirt said, adding that he’s also volunteered at Ironman events.
“When you see what people go through and what they’re doing and that they keep going, where you guys are, at about mile 16 or so, people are already going to be spent,” Albirt said. “They’re going to be struggling.”
He said volunteers, especially those at the aid station near the end of the of the race, where athletes are just about to get on the George Washington Bridge and make the final push into New York City, play “a huge part in helping them get to the finish line.”
“Whatever you do, whatever you say to them, you’re really going to be part of something special,” Albirt said. “You’re helping someone, in a lot of cases, achieve something that maybe a year or two ago they would have thought impossible, and that’s complete an Ironman distance.”
Volunteer coordinator Sheila Moore went through the duties and responsibilities of Ironman volunteers and what people can expect from now through the end of the race. Included in Moore’s presentation were details about setting up, manning and taking down the Chamber’s two sites: the runners’ aid station and the Chamber’s event site.
“I just think it’s so awesome, it’s so amazing that you all have come to rally together for [the event],” Moore told volunteers.
Weinstein told them about the event itself, for which 3,000 athletes are registered, reiterating a lot of . By the time athletes who are still in the race get to the Chamber’s area, for example, they will have already completed the 2.4-mile swim in the Hudson River and the 112-mile bike ride on the Palisades Parkway and have less than 10 miles left in their run.
“There will be athletes participating from all over the world,” Weinstein said. “These will be the finest triathletes in the world, many of whom will compete in the Olympics in London.”
Weinstein called the nationally televised event “a great opportunity for Fort Lee,” which is why the Chamber of Commerce is taking on such an active, leadership role, he said, and why the Ironman organization “entrusted” the Chamber with the aid station, which he said “they believe is the most important.”
In addition to the aid station, the Chamber will be hosting a big party on race day, complete with vendor booths selling food and beverages and bleachers set up near the aid station on Hudson Terrace. There will also be a DJ on hand all day to entertain the thousands of spectators expected to attend.
“The average athlete brings three family members and friends to come watch them at a triathlon,” Weinstein said, noting that that’s true when such events are held in other places, but that with this year’s U.S. Championship taking place in the greater New York City area, that number could be even higher.
“We’re really, really expecting this to be a great day for Fort Lee,” Weinstein said. “The entire Ironman world—the eyes of the Ironman world—will be focused on Fort Lee that day. This is really, really a big deal for people that do participate in running, swimming, bicycling or all three.”
Kenneth Bruno, board president of the Fort Lee Regional Chamber of Commerce, told Patch he expects the event to be “great exposure,” not only for the Chamber and Fort Lee, but especially for the local business community.
“They’re going to have cameras everywhere so you’re going to be televised,” Bruno said. “There’s going to be unbelievable press, unbelievable coverage, and all the local businesses in that area are going to flourish if they open on that day.”
He added, “Fort Lee is going to be all over the world for that one day.”
Although he admitted he doesn’t know whether the number is accurate or not, Bruno estimated, based on what he’s heard, a crowd in Fort Lee alone of about 15,000.
Fort Lee resident Andrey Postoyamets, who works for CUNY’s Brooklyn College, said he found out about becoming a volunteer at the on Main Street in early June. He said he wasn’t sure at the time if he could commit, but something prompted him to find a way.
“It’s great that this is happening in Fort Lee,” Postoyamets said. “Of course I’m not an ironman myself, but I thought it might be interesting [to help out]. And it happens that my family is away for the summer so I figured I have to find time to volunteer for this event.”
The Ironman U.S. Championship is Aug. 11, and the Fort Lee Regional Chamber of Commerce is still looking for volunteers. For more information and a complete list of sponsors for the event, visit the Chamber online. You can also download a volunteer brochure or a vendor/sponsor brochure from the website.