Come Sunday morning, everyone will see hundreds of athletes pounding into the surf, paddling swiftly through the water, pedaling powerfully down the road, and running across the finish line at the Grand Haven Triathlon and Duathlon.
What they won’t see is the tireless work by Lisa Highstreet and the nearly 200 volunteers she rounds up each year that goes on behind the scenes.
Highstreet, a lifelong Grand Haven resident, has served as the coordinator of volunteering for the triathlon the past three years, and she has motivation to continue in that position for many years to come.
“I keep telling (event organizer) Ron Knoll that I’m so happy to do it every year, because every year I get to work it, nobody can ask me to run in it,” Highstreet said with a laugh. “If I don’t work it, I’d be forced to compete, and I’m not ready to do a triathlon yet, so I’m going to keep going as long as I can.”
Highstreet is definitely not adverse to endurance athletics as she ran a marathon a few years back.
“I figured the next logical step would be a triathlon, but right now, I enjoy walking my dog,” she said.
Highstreet said the most volunteers are needed along the triathlon route, making sure to keep the course free of unwanted traffic.
“The main thing we need on race day is just people, bodies, on the race course to make sure a driver or a motorcyclist doesn’t get in the way of our racers,” she said. “We go from the YMCA all the way down to Port Sheldon near the power plant, then come back to the Y, and then they run out to Harbor Island and back.
“We need bodies on intersections to make sure the racers get the needed right-of-ways.”
Police are stationed at the busiest spots along the course. Many intersections are occupied by the same people year after year.
“It’s a great thing for people who live along Lakeshore Drive or in downtown Grand Haven,” Highstreet said. “They can walk to their post, drink their coffee, cheer on the racers.”
While more volunteers are needed along the race route, the biggest need for this year’s event is for packet pick-ups on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.
“On Saturday, we have packet pick-up from 1:30-3:30 or 3-6, and packet pick-up and body marking on Sunday morning from 5-7:30 a.m.,” she said. “We also need a group of people to take over a water station on Harbor Island from 8:15-11:15 a.m.”
Body marking is a popular volunteer opportunity because of the opportunity to interact closely with the athletes.
“”It’s really inspiring to hear their stories and just to be around the athletes,” Highstreet said. “Most of the athletes don’t want to have Sharpie on their body overnight, so that’s a big job the day of the race. We need a few dozen people to mark bodies for two hours beginning at 5 a.m.”
Other volunteers are needed on the water to deal with the swim portion of the event. Kayakers and paddle boarders as well as those on personal watercraft will line the outside of the swim course.
“If someone needs to grab onto a kayak if they lose their breath, get a cramp, feel like they’re going under, it’s nice to have kayakers to supplement the marine patrol and the lifeguards out there.”
Anyone interested in volunteering their time this weekend can contact Highstreet on her cell phone at 616-502-1242.
There is also a link for volunteers on the Grand Haven Triathlon and Duathlon website, grandhaventri.com.