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Massage Today
March, 2008, Vol. 08, Issue 03

"The World's Largest Massage Team" Visits the Big Island

By Lynn Wind, RMT, LMT

Imagine spending your day under a large circus tent with 150 of your friends, massaging some of the finest triathletes in the world. Imagine spending your day under that tent at the edge of a beach on the sparkling blue waters of paradise, also known as Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. You, too, can enjoy this same experience. Join us next year when we celebrate the 20th anniversary of "The World's Largest Massage Team." We'll be attempting to establish the world record for the Guinness Book of World Records as part of our anniversary celebration as "The World's Largest Massage Team."

In 2007, precise coordination was required to provide massage for the Ford Ironman World Championship triathletes in Kailua-Kona. As in years past, members of "The World's Largest Massage Team" traveled from around the world - New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Russia and Japan as well as from the mainland - just to volunteer to be a part of the post-race massage team on Kailua Bay.

The Ford Ironman World Championship race is considered the most challenging triathlon in the world. Months of preparation are needed to make this a smoothly coordinated event, involving volunteer team directors from medical doctors, nurses and paramedics to chiropractors and physical therapists. And that's just the race-day volunteers.

For the entire race, more than 5,000 volunteers provide support for the triathletes and the race from beginning to end - coordinating the swim, bike and run areas; manning 30 aid stations along the course; managing finish-line race timing; providing course emergency medical assistance; building the race course and finish-line staging; community relations; and an endless list of much-needed tasks.

Robert Calvert, past owner and creator of Massage Magazine, started "The World's Largest Massage Team" at the 1988 Ironman. In 1990, Robert passed the team coordinator baton to Peter and Lynn Wind, owners of The Hawaiian Islands School of Massage, and they have been coordinators of the team ever since. This is the 29th year of the Ironman World Championship Triathlon and the 27th consecutive year massage has been provided to the athletes.

The goal of the massage team volunteers is to help the triathletes make a smooth transition from a high-energy athletic performance to a resting state and provide a positive experience of massage for each and every triathlete. Volunteers accomplish this through massage for general relief from exhaustion, hastening the elimination of toxins, introducing fresh blood into the muscles, soothing and relaxing the nerves and muscle tissues, and providing tender, loving care.

Each triathlete swims 2.4 miles, bikes 112 miles and runs 26.2 miles, all under the scorching Kona sun. The earliest race finishers, the elite triathletes, are competing for approximately nine hours and the masters group is out on the road up to 17 hours. When the athletes arrive at the massage table, it's their first opportunity to lie down and not expend any energy. They are exhausted and suffering from sore muscles, at the very least. Sports-trained chiropractors are in the massage tent, available to assist in any emergency. Luckily for the triathletes, little assistance was needed this year. The massage volunteers provided massage to more than 1,200 athletes. International volunteers offer their services for translation as needed, sporting visors listing the languages in which they are fluent.

Thanks to the extreme generosity of Tomas Nani, owner of Earthlite Massage Tables, more than 100 massage tables and chairs were set up for use in the tent on race day. Tomas then offered the tables for sale after the event - offering a great savings for Hawaii-based therapists, as the cost for shipping goods such as tables to the islands can exceed $120.

The team also includes escort volunteers who greet triathletes after they receive their finish medals, lead them to the massage tent and chat with them on the cool-down walk. Team greeters manage the traffic in front of the massage tent, greeting each triathlete and escorting them to an available massage volunteer. During peak arrival times, triathletes collect as a group outside the tent and massage volunteers raise their hand to let the greeters know they are ready to give their next massage.

All volunteers are issued an Ironman T-shirt, worn on race day, and everyone receives an invitation to the Massage Team Mahalo (Thank You) Party and the Ford Ironman World Championship Volunteer Mahalo Party.

Post-race sports massage training is provided as part of the team orientation held prior to the event. All volunteers are cautioned to be alert to signs of faintness, light-headedness, delirium, chills, nausea, severe cramping and dehydration. We're told not to work deep, but rather provide a soothing massage with tender, loving care. After an event such as this, triathletes are very vulnerable to trauma. Invasive or inappropriately performed massage may cause injury. The advice is to go slow with light to moderate pressure to calm the nervous system, relax the muscles and increase circulation. Be relaxed and focus on the effects your work is having on the triathlete and create the best possible positive experience of massage.

The event wrapped on Sunday with the Massage Volunteer Mahalo Party offering loads of fun, excellent homemade food and great raffle prizes donated by local Hawaiian merchants. The grand prize was donated by Earthlite Massage Tables. Two very lucky volunteers went home with a new massage table and chair. Finally there's cleanup. Sheets, empty oil bottles, massage tables, chairs, trash - it all needs to be packed up, moved out and gone by noon on Sunday. This also takes a crew of volunteers to get it done.

The Ford Ironman World Championship offers volunteers the opportunity to touch the world by helping total strangers achieve their goals. Ironman not only brings people from all over the world to Kailua-Kona, it also brings the West Hawaii community together for a day of Aloha.

Come join the fun this year on Oct. 11, 2008 in Kailua-Kona and be part of "The World's Largest Massage Team." You too can have the experience of a lifetime!

By the way, Lynn and Peter Wind have been asked to bring "The World's Largest Massage Team" experience to the inaugural Ironman China Race, April 20, 2008. They are asking for any interested volunteers to join them and experience the Ironman event in sunny and tropical Haikou, China.

Information regarding the race is available at and soon will be available at Hope to see you there!

Lynn Wind is the co-owner and president of the Hawaiian Islands School of Massage. She looks forward to bringing a team of volunteers to the inaugural triathlon event in China in April 2008.


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