SEBRING — The Heartland Triathlon is two days of fast swimming, cycling and running. But if you really want to see some speed, stick around after the race is completed, as the clean-up crews get everything taken down, put away and cleaned up in lightning-fast fashion.
“It takes longer to set up than it does to tear down,” said Legacy Bicycle’s Dan Andrews, race coordinator and Heartland Triathlon co-founder. “It takes us about a full day to get everything set up and laid out the way it’s supposed to be and it takes about three hours to tear down. The hardest thing about tearing it down is all of the volunteers are so tired from working since 4 in the morning, but they suck it up and wave a magic wand and before I know it, everything is cleaned up. We have the sheriff’s inmates come down and they take of the final heavy lifting because we’re all pretty tired.”
There were a few new wrinkles this year compared to previous years, with some of them recognized by people and some of them not — although all of them helped make things run a little bit more smoothly.
“The sheriff’s department really stepped up this year,” Andrews said. “They did a great job coordinating with all of our road closures and everything. We brought on a safety coordinator this year, Scott Kaplan, and he really helped with the communication between all the different agencies and he acted as that middle man for me, which really helped. I think the athletes’ overwhelmingly positive and I think we’re ready for year 15.
There were also new timers for the event and Andrews said he was extremely pleased with how that went.
“It worked out phenomenal,” Andrews said. “We hardly had any timing glitches. Jacob (Smith) and his guys with RaceSmith did a great job. The kids race was flawless. The adult race is a lot more complicated because there’s so many moving parts within it with dualathlon, aquabike, relays and so on and he pulled it off really well and we’re amazingly happy with that.”
But one thing that was evident both days — and the reason why the event is able to take place according to Andrews — is the number of volunteers who help out on a consistent basis.
“It’s the 160 volunteers that make it work,” he said. “And the groups within those volunteers. We have about eight different organizations that come in full force.
“The Sebring volleyball team was amazing. Those gals came in — 33 of them I think it was this year — and the awesome part about that is even after working, all of them went to the circle and all 30 of them ran in with the last athlete, so that was pretty cool.”
Andrews said it’s a great situation for everybody involved, as the groups receive a contribution for helping, while also earning some community service hours.
“It gives us a good, energetic group,” he said.
Andrews said along with the volunteers, he couldn’t get by without his core group.
“They give not just four days of their life the week of the event, but throughout the year,” he said. “They go to events and help market the event. It’s all of those people who make it happen.”