Aren't they supposed to be marking the athletes and not each other?????

Aren’t they supposed to be marking the athletes and not each other?????

The TriWives would love to share with you a story of how one of our families became hooked not only on triathlons, but on finding a way to give back and actually have fun in the process.  We believe that volunteering at races, whether as a family or as a solo supporter, is a great way to meet people, get involved, and show your appreciation to the race site communities.  To get kids involved is no easy feat – read how we did it and maybe your family can, too……

Many partners of triathletes pass through various stages of “enlightenment” on the journey from the dream of racing to reality.  I liken these to 12 step programs.  My personal steps went something like this:

  1. Triathlons will be so much fun and he is so happy training and working so hard for the “A” race.
  2. Wait, I thought you were  just doing a little local Olympic race and then we could go for a family brunch after….
  3. How much are you spending on that bike?
  4. Why are you getting up at 4:30 am and will you be back for breakfast?
  5. You have to do a brick on Sunday?  What the heck is that????
  6. We’re vacationing where?????
  7. How many magazines can they honestly write about this sport??
  8. Our friends really don’t care that you’re deciding between Asics and K Swiss sneakers, nor do they know who Craig Alexander is.  I want to be invited back for dinner.
  9. Are the Go Daddy signs done?  We need more cowbells…..
  10. Isn’t it about time to pick the races for next year? Can we see which races Carl & Guy are doing?
  11. Bags packed, let’s go, it’s already 4:30…..
  12. We’re vacationing where?  Lake Placid and Cedar Point sound really fun…..

Eight years ago my husband decided to do triathlons.  This quickly became a family activity by default and to be honest, a very good thing for our family dynamics.  I first thought triathlons were going to be a passing fad for my trihubby, but as soon as I realized they were here to stay, I had to change my thought process, develop a new attitude, and after that, repeat with the kids; triathlons after all, are family affairs.

Crossing the finish line as a family

First, my husband and I quickly came to understand the value this sport could have on our health, well-being, the community, and personal experiences; triathlons are not just “a race”.  We traveled to sites, both for day trips and vacations around the world, realizing what these towns and cities were providing us with and we wanted to show our appreciation.  Even at our local races here in Austin, we knew we could do more.

Does this sound familiar on race day – kids getting up before dawn to stand in the dark and then wait, and wait, and wait…not happy children and ergo, not a happy mom!  You do have the option of staying home while your triathlete goes to the races or you can tag along, for better or worse.  We believe, as parents, that there is great value in supporting each other and although our kids might be grumpy now, later they would appreciate these early mornings.  At least that was our thinking…..

How did we make it work; we volunteered.  We surmised that if they were involved and kept busy, they wouldn’t have time to stand around whining – not saying MY kids ever whine….We started at a local race as a family the week before the event, stuffing swag bags.  We had a great night and met equally great people and felt a part of the community.  Volunteering not only felt right, it was fun, and gave us a clearer insight into the triathlon lifestyle.

You can even be a suntan lotion applyer

The volunteer coordinator asked the kids if they would like to help race morning, directing athletes from body marking to T1.  Much to my surprise, they said yes.  It was the best!  For their efforts, they were given free breakfast tacos, a cool t-shirt, and glow sticks to direct people with.  It got even better when happy triathletes said thank you and gave them high-fives; they really felt a part of it all.  Our shift came to an end when T1 closed and we headed down to the swim start.

On the way, the volunteer coordinator saw my kids and asked if they could help out at the finish line giving out cold towels and again, they said yes.  As I watched them from a distance, smiles on their faces, yet serious about the task at hand, I knew we had found an activity we could all enjoy.  At the end of the race, this time it was not us waiting for our athlete to finish, but David and I waiting for our kids to come out of the volunteer tent with THEIR pizza…

Since that first race, the kids have volunteered at numerous events and continue to seem genuinely engaged.  It has even crossed over to local community organizations.  Here are some tips I can give you to start your kids out volunteering:

  • Don’t let them be bike catchers. There is no need for them to have to worry about $10,000 bikes!
  • Do not put them in harms way – theirs’ or the athletes’.  You know if your kids are mature enough to be in places like bike aid stations, as one wrong move can cause an accident. Of note,  the minimum age for a Rev3 volunteer is 12.
  • Volunteer early in the day so you can see your athlete cross the finish line.
  • Make sure you read the volunteer guidelines carefully before you sign up and stick to the rules;  don’t just assume doing something is okay.  Rev3 Restrictions, Requirements, & Rules will provide all this information for their races.
  • Go to any volunteer training sessions offered.  Rev3 even has a video on how to set up an aid station.
  • Know there is also “room for advancement”, such as to a Volunteer Captain in the coming years…
  • Our favorite places to volunteer at any race when starting out are body marking and transition.  At a full distance race, swim to bike transition is good, but stay away from changing tents!!!

Volunteers at the finish line

Of course, you don’t have to be with a family to participate.  This is strictly my experience.  Volunteering as a solo supporter is a great way to have something to do on race day and not feel all alone.  When you don’t know anyone there, this provides a way to meet people and maybe have someone to hang out with for the race.  It doesn’t have to take the whole day and will leave you plenty of time to see your athlete on the course.

It has now been six years since we started volunteering and my kids always bring their school forms home to have signed for volunteer hours; they have way more hours than they need;  and ask if they can sign up to volunteer.  Our attitudes have certainly been adjusted…..

Happy to be part of a triathlon family…..

In fact, this morning at 5:30AM, I had a room full of sleepover teenage girls that had to be woken up, fed, and gotten out the door.  See, they were volunteering at the finish line at a local Olympic distance race this morning.  I stayed home to write this article…..