An Olympia couple had the experience of a lifetime over the weekend when they acted as "catchers" at the finish line of the Ironman World championship in Kona, Hawaii.
Lori Evans and her husband Dave applied to volunteer six months ago and were selected to work as a team to catch or or grab the athletes as they crossed the finish line.
The couple was in the "backstage" viewing stands to see Pete Jacobs break the tape as the first finisher.
"We were trying to fathom the endurance both mentally and physically of the grueling event," said Evans.
The 31-year-old Jacobs, second last year, finished the 2.4-mile ocean swim in Kailua Bay, 112-mile bike ride through the scorching lava fields along the Kohala Coast and 26.2-mile run through Kailua Village and out onto Queen Kaahumanu Highway in 8 hours, 18 minutes, 37 seconds.
Evans said at the finish line, some athletes wanted to bask in the glory, have their pictures taken with the 100 or so cameras waiting for them, and cheer along with the crowd.
"Others are so exhausted and grateful for the end," she said. "And others start to cry as they realize what they did."
The couple "caught" athletes from Austria, Australia, Germany, Italy, Brazil, New Jersey, Fort Lauderdale, Washington DC, Switzerland, Argentina, and one from their hometown of Olympia - Matt Smith.
"We heard how grueling the race was ... the heat, the headwinds during the cycling competition," said Evans. "Some competitors were in a daze, maybe disbelieving that their hard work had come to a finish, for now."
Evans said there were finishers in their 70s and even 80s. And a woman who had one leg and one lung finished the race.
"As I ended the day, I was thinking of the athlete from Austria who we wished a good nights sleep. He responded with 'my body wants sleep but my legs won't quit.'"
"What we witnessed was inspiring and a testament to the human spirit and the powerful endurance we all possess," said Evans.