Patrick Brewer is a behind the scenes kind of guy.
Athletes gear up at the starting line, their race number already starting to wash away with the sweat of just a warm-up in the hot summer sun. At least a couple of hours later, they make that final stomp across the finish line — worn down, but not defeated, by the threesome of physical feats they just endured.
The swimmers, cyclists and runners, they are the ones in the limelight. Rightfully so, says Brewer. It is their day, they trained hard to be able to endure a triathlon meant to test their physical and mental limits.
Brewer is the Marble RV Corner Brook Triathlon’s timer. If anybody has even noticed, he has been there every year since 2009. Most every athlete checks the time of their course completion as they break the barrier. How long did it take them to conquer the course that has been identified as one of the world’s toughest by some of the sport’s best internationally?
But, whose time is it exactly?
Brewer logs each participants name into the system and allots them a race number. He hopes the event’s participants pre-register online to help reduce his workload on race day. He has already spent a few hours the day before helping the organizing committee with the race set up. He was at the starting and transition areas about two hours before the gunshot getting everything ready.
The pistol blasts, the swimmers splash and Brewer is running in the other direction. It’s off to the transition area where swimmers will later be mounting their bicycles — the drip of Glynmill Inn Pond water soon to be replaced by sweat.
“I make that run up and down the transition area more often than any of the athletes,” Brewer said with a smirk, talking about his race-day duties as a volunteer.
The Corner Brook man is a timer. It began when he was 11 or 12 years of age, he believes. His father Gordon Brewer is a Hall of Famer for Cross-Country Newfoundland and Labrador. There were a lot of events for the young Brewer — a skier himself — to find a timer in his hand.
These days there obviously doesn’t have to be snow on the ground for him to be cataloguing race times. His reputation on the ski course soon spread to the triathlon circles. Now, he also can be seen — if you look closely enough — at cycling events, both road and mountain bike, and running races.
“With the exception of a couple of months throughout the year, there is rarely a weekend I don’t have something on,” Brewer said.
Much like a statistician, timing is an acquired taste. The draw to it is not easily explained or described.
“Some people have called me a ‘techie’,” Brewer said. “I guess that has something to do with it.”
However, that doesn’t explain the willingness to show up a day before the race for the set up. It has nothing to do with him being one of the last volunteers on location every year for the clean up.
“There is a satisfaction to helping put something that big off,” he said. “It does sound a bit cliche, but there is also a sense of community in it too.”
So, Brewer sits back at his table after the final triathlete crosses the line. The clock can stop for the final time now. He takes a look at that final time and again tabulates it in the system. He could easily win an argument that it is his time. For every foot that slams against the asphalt at the finish line, he gives out one specific number of his time. That number then becomes somebody else’s time.
Brewer is just fine with that. He is a behind the scenes kind of guy.