And you thought only your athlete was going to get a workout on race day….Well, the tri wives will let you in on a secret – spectating and cheerleadering are not for the faint of heart in the triathlete support world. They take a lot of finesse and agility, especially if you have children with you. (Plus, you really have to love cowbells or at least tolerate them in the spirit of the day). They often start at dawn and go well past dusk. I truly feel these races are more stressful for the spectators than the participants.
That said, if you will be attending your first event, lucky you. I remember my first Ironman at Lake Placid. The music (Cold Play’s Clocks), the announcer (Mike Reilly), the adrenaline flowing in the athletes, the spirit of the crowd – it was such a rush. I took like a thousand pictures. I hardly left the race site and I was so nervous.
To this day, I never tire of the start of the event and really get into the spirit. If you get a chance, it’s also really exciting to see the winners cross the finish line. So, try to plan this into your day. I do have one word of warning – you will see and smell things during the course of the day you wish you hadn’t. It just comes with the sport, so get used to it. Enough said…..
It helps to scope out the courses with your triathlete before the race, so you know where the best vantage points are and they know where to look for you. On the bike course, there are “hot corners” where they have to slow down so you get a good chance to see them. My husband seriously tells me nothing keeps him going more than to hear me yell, “Go Carl, you can do it.”
Some people do choose to drive out to spots along the course – your choice. Just make sure you are at the finish line when your athlete comes in. It is a thrill not to be missed. Oh, also make sure you know what “kit” they are wearing and you may want to wear something distinctive, too, so they recognize you.
There will be a lot of down time in the longer races, especially depending on how many loops there are in the bike and swim courses and how fast your athlete is. So, be prepared to find plenty to do to occupy your time. If you have children, it’s best to do some research before you come to see if the town offers any children’s activities to keep them happy and occupied.
This could also be a deciding factor for your family in terms of planning your race schedule. In general, though, you pretty much can count on swimming as one activity and many venues have parks nearby with playgrounds. It’s probably always best to bring the usual video games, ipads, books, etc.
If you are the sole supporter of your triathlete, the day can be long and a little lonely. It really helps if you know people at the race, but I have been to more than one by myself. I actually befriended some local “strippers” (for the novice – they help take off wetsuits) I met the night before at dinner in Lake Placid. They let me hang with them race day and knew all the best viewing spots. But, when I’m alone, I bring books, go back to the room, go have lunch, talk to people – most everyone is friendly and happy to chat, or shop.
You will need to take breaks at some point. Some find any port in the storm, but it really helps if your hotel is close by so you can go back to your room. But, leaving the course for any length of time does require that you know what to anticipate in terms of your athlete’s times in each discipline and to know the number of loops.
This really doesn’t include the swim portion as most people stay until their athlete is out of the water and out on the bike. It can really be heartbreaking to miss them or to worry that something has happened, because you haven’t seen them pass by. You’ll also find a lot of people stay most of the day on the course just to cheer the racers on and lend encouragement.
In terms of food, the hotels generally have food available very early in the am or the rooms have kitchenettes, so you can at least grab a cup of coffee. Beware, however, that port-a-potties are pretty much your only choice at least for the swim and they have been greatly overused by the athletes or have long lines. Just saying…Not all of the swim venues have places to get something to eat close by, so know if you can last several hours without or just bring with you. Once the swim is over, you generally come back into town or go to your room, so food choices are wide open.
In terms of what to pack, a lot will depend on the weather. Sneakers or at least comfortable shoes are a must, as you may need to move quickly or will be on your feet for literally hours.
Mornings can be chilly so pack a sweater and pants. Make sure to check for rain or just come prepared with a packable raincoat and umbrella. It literally poured, and I mean drenching rain, the entire day one year in Lake Placcid. The stores were handing out plastic bags for people to wear. So, be warned. As most of the races are in the summer and shade can be in short supply, sunscreen and water are musts, along with hats and sunglasses.
Also, it can really help to have a portable phone charger, such as a Power/IDD,Duracell PowerMat or a solar charger, just in case you can’t find an outlet nearby!! Backpacks or cross-body bags are easiest, so your hands are free to take all those pictures!!! Which I guess implies you’ve brought your phone or camera.
Speaking of pictures. When you first start attending triathlon events, you will take a slew of pictures of your athlete. As hard as you try, if you’re like me, you’re more apt to get their backs racing by on the bike than that perfect shot at the finish line.
By your 15th race, however, taking pictures becomes much less important. My husband was so excited to see himself the first few races, but now hardly even looks at them. I still take a few, but it’s more of the spectators, the scenery, and my surroundings.
Whether you are attending your first triathlon race or your 25th as a spectator, it is exciting to yell encouragement to your triathlete as you see them fly by on the bike for 2 seconds after you’ve been standing in that same spot for 2 hours…….It really is.
Of note, The Sport of Spectating will become a regular feature on this site for various triathlon events. It will be specific to that venue and include helpful hints on the best viewing spots, general information, local activities, eating, and where to stay. We hope it helps to make your spectating day more worry free.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECTATING TIPS TO SHARE?
Sherry is one of the TriWivesClub and LifeDoneWell co-founders and contributes to multiple blogs. She is a former co-owner of the California Apparel News and had a career in the healthcare industry. Her passions include traveling, real food, the environment, and animal rescue/welfare. She lives a healthy lifestyle and has been a vegetarian since 1987. She and her husband are parents to two rescue pups and reside in Connecticut.