Another jam packed few days of announcing, teaching, and more in the books this weekend, and a few things came together to help me realize just what a lucky guy I am to be a part of this HFP Racing family.
Most of you know me as ”The big guy in the red shirt” behind the microphone at the HFP racing events. Some know me simply by my voice, as you may have heard it at various sporting or charity events. Still others know me as their self-defense instructor, and that voice when directed at you can be a powerful tool and a helpful reminder. Announcing at HFP racing events started out as a favor, and grew into something truly life-changing for me and my family.
Announcing is an incredibly fun job! Another HFP staffer filled in for me Saturday as I was triple booked at other events (that doesn’t happen often!), and was relieved when I showed up at the HFP race site. “I’m glad you’re here” he told me, “This announcing job is really hard.” Really it’s unfair to call it a “job” at all, as it’s so much fun. Granted, waking at 4 AM on race day, being polite when I don’t want to be, and being informative and cheerful until the last finisher has crossed the line doesn’t always come without some effort, but it is truly rewarding work, and I’m happy to have it.
After announcing a charity hockey game a few weeks ago, one of the players stopped me in the hallway and said “I don’t know why you do this, but thanks for doing it.” Why do I do it? I can tell you, it isn’t for the money – but it IS for all the things I get that money simply cannot buy. I get to be involved in some pretty special moments. I get to be the one they come to with that special recognition when their son or daughter is struggling to the finish line of their first race. I get to be the one who gets the note from a husband to convey a special message to his wife as they race together on their wedding anniversary. I get to be the one to revel in the excitement of watching a Pro triathlete podium a special race, and I get to be the first to congratulate that man or woman who dropped 100 pounds over the last year and changed their life with triathlon. I get to be the first one to welcome that Wounded Warrior back to active life as he or she hits the finish line after rehabbing an injury, and I get to thank that warrior and all his brethren for all of us. I have seen some pretty special moments, and each one is burned in and has become a part of me. I call you people my “family” because you are, and I am richly blessed for it.
For me it’s also a bit of the “hair of the dog that bit you” concept too. I was terrible at public speaking early on. I can remember doing presentations for school and community organizations and being reminded just how bad I was, and how I needed to improve. I was awful, and I knew it. So I started asking to perform parts, or to read aloud, or whatever would help me to get better at not panicking in front of a crowd. Hard to believe…but true! (Insert your “shocked face” here). That initial fear jumped back in my throat the first time Shannon asked me to help at an HFP race, but with a little practice and the patience of you, our racers, I hope I’ve gotten a little better. I still strive to improve every race.
Another key point to working with HFP is the concept of a total team effort. I try to be anonymous (or as much as possible) at races, as I intentionally don’t announce my name at races, as there is no need for it; so it makes me laugh when people come up to me and ask “are you Shannon?” No, I am not, but that’s OK. I try to be invisible. I think that’s what made the finish line such a highlight of my day this weekend at the Armco park triathlon. As you know, when you register for a race there is a section for you to document those special things that you want everyone to know under “Announcer Comments”. Those comments splash up on my announcer screen as you cross the finish line. This comment splashed and not only made me smile, but made my day as the racer stopped in the finish chute and chastised me for not reading it on the mic. Alice said later: “HFP’s announcer always makes the extra effort to personally recognize athletes, whether it’s their birthday or their first effort at that distance. He’s like the Midwest’s own Mike Riley, and it’s great having a familiar voice call out my name when I cross the finish line. There have been HFP races where I’ve placed in my age group and races where I’ve been one of the last people on the course, but Rich always acknowledges my crossing of the finish line with enthusiasm. It makes my day.” The “Mike” in question is Mike Riley – the official voice of Ironman, and the voice that literally every triathlete wants to hear someday call their name (including me) with “You are an Ironman”. Unfortunately there isn’t much to compare between me and Mike Riley, as Mike is a professional with thousands of Ironman finishers under his vocal belt; I am just a guy in a red shirt talking with friends and family, making sure everyone has a safe and fun race, with some good natured heckling thrown in too. Thank you for your kind words, and thanks for recognizing that we do work hard to make sure you have a safe and fun race. Remember to remind us of your special accomplishments under the “Announcer notes”, or just come to the tent on race day and drop me a note. It doesn’t matter to us if you’re first, fast, or last – everyone should feel like family at the race, and if we have any say in it, we’ll make sure of it.
See you on race day!
– Be sure to “Like” the HFP racing page on Facebook too, and connect with us there if you like. We will often use what you post there to help recognize you at the races.