I had the unique pleasure to interview Race Guards team member extraordinaire, Rob Ferry, for our first profile on our Race Guards Spotlight
Rob was an original member of Race Guards, which launched in March of 2012. The first race was “Finish Chelsea’s Run” which was a 5k in Balboa Park that honored and encapsulated the amazing spirit of Chelsea King.
With no further ado, meet Rob Ferry, San Diego Race Guards team member and all around great guy.
Q. What made you decide to join Race Guards?
A. My decision to join Race Guards was an easy one based upon the opportunity to give back to the racing community in a fun and unique way. My involvement with Race Guards has enabled me to assist race participants in a way that ensures their safety and well being while helping them meet their athletic goals. Race Guards has also provided me the opportunity to meet people across the racing community while participating in all kinds of events. Even though you aren't racing while working on the Race Guards team, you still get to enjoy the race day vibe and all that goes with it.
It has been fun to watch the Race Guards concept evolve over the past four years. I remember the first couple of years we would get asked by race participants, "What is Race Guards?" and "Who are you guys?" Now during races, it is very common for participants to thank us for being out there on the course. The awareness of the Race Guards organization has grown immensely over the past few years. I think this is due to all the hard work by Andy Voggenthaler and his core team, but also all the volunteers who provide their time to make the Race Guards experience what it is today.
Q. What is your funniest Race Guards moment?
A. Two funny moments come to mind. The first was the Race Guards’ inaugural Finish Chelsea’s Run 5k in March 2012. We were all first time Race Guards and really didn't know what to expect. I remember before the race the Race Guards were asking each other, "What could go wrong in a 5k race? This will be a walk in the park". Well, as soon as the starting gun went off, we soon found out otherwise. Race Guards were busy with incidents throughout the race. After the race, all the Race Guards were excitedly sharing their race experiences. I think we learned a lot about ourselves that day and our ability to provide great value to the racing community. The moral of this story is never underestimate a race!
The second funny memory just occurred at the Oct 18 Esprit de She Triathlon here in San Diego. In this case I was lucky enough to lead a great team of Race Guards. During the post race festivities I saw two of our team members walking with a little 4 year old girl until they disappeared into the crowd. A while later, I saw the same Race Guards without the little girl, so I asked them what had happened. It turns out that the little girl was lost and couldn't find her parents. Someone had asked them for assistance to reunite the little girl with her parents. They took charge and a successful reunion was made. Moral of this story is whenever you wear the Race Guards jersey, you are a target for all kinds of requests for assistance.
Q. Which Race Guards moment is most likely to bring you to tears?
A. One of my more sentimental memories just occurred at the Portland marathon. At about mile 20 I first made contact with a 70 year old gentleman that was obviously hurting but just kept plodding along without any complaints. He was beginning to cramp and so we provided treatment and sent him on his way. At mile 21 we encountered the same gentleman and provided similar assistance, again no complaining on his part. Although he was hurting it was obvious that he was determined to finish the race and he was going to run, not walk. At mile 25 we met up with the same gentleman and he was really struggling at this time. I think his whole body was hurting but you could see the determination on his face that he was going to finish what he had set out to achieve. At this point I was just as determined as he was to get him to the finish line. I stayed with him for the last mile providing gentle encouragement. In the last 50 meters, I peeled off and let the gentleman finish his race in style with everybody cheering him on. I caught up with him post race and congratulated him on a job well done. He was so grateful for the Race Guards’ assistance provided to him during the race. That experience made my day and keeps me coming back. One of the race photographers saw us shaking hands and asked if he could take a photo of us. In hind sight, I wish I would have made arrangements to get that photo.
Q. What is your sports background?
A. As a kid I was always involved in the typical hand/eye coordination sports (football, baseball, basketball, hockey). In high school, besides the normal sports, I belonged to our school physical fitness team that competed in presidential physical fitness events with other schools. We became one of the top 20 teams in the nation and earned the opportunity to compete in Washington DC at the National Presidential Physical Fitness competition. I began my amateur triathlon career in the early 80's as triathlons became popular here in San Diego. I was always a "middle of the pack" participant but enjoyed the competition. As I get older, I have migrated more to trail running, mountain biking and open water swimming. I find that off road training and open water swimming is as much an adventure as it is training.
Q. Why do you train/ race?
A. Of course there are the obvious health benefits, but I think the social aspect and the opportunity to meet and train with people that have a similar outlook on life appeals to me. I was just commenting the other day to my fellow swimmers after a morning swim session at La Jolla Shores, that no matter what the conditions are, we always come out of the water smiling. There is something to be said about that. As I get older I find that training and racing provide me with an inner peace. Not to get to philosophical about this, but while training I find that this is my quiet time away from the everyday stress of our hectic lives. If you ever join me for a morning or evening training session, I will always make sure to stop to enjoy the sunrise or sunset. I guess this is my way of taking time out to "smell the roses".
Q. What is your favorite post race pig out food?
A. This is the question I should respond with "No comment". But, I'll bare my soul. Usually after a long race or a long hot day on the course my body is craving salt. I get the urge for a great cheeseburger, fries and a cold beer! After the recent Portland Marathon, the Race Guards team was sitting around post race talking about the race and how we were all very hungry. Someone said that they could go for a burger, fries and a beer and the whole group got excited and wanted the same. I laughed and no longer feel guilty about my post race cravings.
Q. How would you sum up your philosophy of life in one sentence?
A. "One life, don't blow it"
There is a Kona Brewing beer commercial where two Hawaiian guys are on the beach conveying the message about not working as much and taking the time to enjoy life. At the end of the commercial one of the guys says "One life, don't blow it". I love this statement. I think it applies to everything we do in life and the choices we make every day. I think I have always subconsciously tried to follow this wisdom. Isn't it sad that I found my life's philosophy through a beer commercial?
Q. Can you tell us a little about the Esprit de She race at which you were the Race Guards team leader?
A. The Esprit de She Triathlon San Diego is a Sprint and Super Sprint triathlon that promotes and encourages women of all ages to get out and exercise. The program is a charity that benefits Girls on the Run International, Ovarian Cancer Research Fund and the Challenged Athletes Foundation. So as you can see, this is a great race to support. I had a great group of Race Guards. Race Guarding a Tri has its challenges because of the transitions from swim to bike, bike to run and then the actual bike segment itself. Whenever you add a cycling segment it adds an element of opportunity for high speed accidents we don't normally see with running events. Luckily this race went off without any major incidents. The team of Race Guards supporting this race did an exemplary job!. My sincere compliments to the Esprit de She Race Guards team for a job well done!
Thank you, Rob Ferry, for a job well done with this interview. We are looking forward to seeing more of you out on the course at your future Race Guard events!