By De Soto Athlete John Senger
After completing the Dopey Challenge at Disney in early January, I was looking forward to participating in the Dubai 70.3 in February as part of a relay team. I kind of wanted to do the whole thing as an individual, but my coach didn't think that was such a great idea. Instead, I joined a team from TiDubai as their cyclist. Unfortunately, about 2-3 weeks before the event, I strained my calf (which contributed to a sore lower back) and decided to withdraw instead of risk a more serious injury. I was petty disappointed in having to drop out of the relay team because I felt like I was letting them down at the last minute, and also because this is a big race right here in Dubai and not one to be missed.
Thankfully, I found another option for being involved with the race, which turned out to be very rewarding - I volunteered to be an on-course bike marshall, something this race has desperately needed for years. 29 of us from TirDubai had the privilege and honor of spending race morning riding on the back of a motorcycle as draft busters. We each followed and kept an eye on about 100 people on the bike course. Observing the same group of people for most of the race made it easier to watch groups and packs for a period of time before giving a warning or a card rather than making snap judgments when riding up alongside them. While there were still some clumps and groups of riders drafting off each other, the big pelotons and pace lines of previous years were nowhere to be found. Having a fleet of marshalls giving out a few hundred cards, including a two red ones for dangerous riding, tends to keep things fair.
Looking back on my experience now after a few weeks have passed, I'm still very glad I volunteered and didn't sit at home feeling sorry for myself and my injury. Being able to give something back to the sport, especially to the racers who made it very clear from their feedback afterwards that they greatly appreciated the fairness of the bike leg this year, feels really good. So good, in fact, that I'm already planning on doing it again next year.
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