Updated: Jan 16, 2020
by Liesl Begnaud
To the friends and family members of those training for triathlon, this article is for you!
We know you might consider triathlon training, for any distance, to be crazy. You have probably noticed the changes that go along with it.
When your family member starts in the sport of triathlon, they may invest quite a bit into the gear that they need to swim, bike and run. Then, you notice you are adjusting your life schedule as they start to get up at 5 am and get home at 8 pm for early morning and/or late night workouts. You may even find yourself doing more of the grocery shopping and cooking at your house, otherwise no one is eating. You support your loved one day in and day out as they prepare to swim, bike and run. This goes on for weeks and sometimes months.
If you are a friend of an athlete, you support your friend and encourage them in their quest. You might even offer to ride or run with them. But as they start adding training to their schedule, you notice that you may need to find other friends to join you at that late night concert. Your athlete friend doesn’t seem to have as much time for you as they swim, bike and run more that you can ever imagine, but don’t worry, they will eventually figure out how to re-balance it all.
They are working to make huge changes in their life and go after new goals. It can be hard, but in the end you always want the best for them. And you want to be there to celebrate with them on their big race day!
Here are some tips to help YOU, the spectator and supporter when it comes to race day.
Manage the logistics. Your athlete will be thinking about you the spectator and will want to try and make sure you are going to get to the right place and know where to be before, during, and after the race. Prepare for race day by knowing the layout of the venue.
Determine your cheer stations. Go to the website of the race and learn the race course. There usually is a section on every online race site that gives you turn by turn directions. This way you will know where they are riding and running so you can plan your cheer stations. I always recommend you stay off the roads. While it might be nice to see your athlete on the bike course, remember they speed by once and you might miss them. Driving around on the course or around the area to get to the course just causes traffic congestion too.
Know the transition area. When you get to the race venue, walk around the outside of the transition and see where your athlete will come in from the swim, go out on the bike and go out on the run. Look around where you can stand to cheer them on.
Understand the rules of the race. Your athlete can not receive ANY outside help. You can’t hand them anything on the course, you can’t help them change a flat tire. Spectators are not allowed in transition or on the course in the finish chute.
Plan your day ahead of time. Bring water, food, and a chair. Triathlons can last a long time and standing can become exhausting. Remember to bring your own toilet paper. Sometimes port- a-potty run out during the day with lots of spectator use. If you are in it for a half or full distance triathlon, do your research about where you can go grab a bite to eat while your athlete is on the bike. Some races have spectator friendly zones for the day, take advantage of those. Make sure you understand the parking restrictions for you and if you can go in and out of the race zones. Wear comfy shoes.
Get time estimates for each event from your athlete. This will help you be able to see them come out of the water or approximate when they might get back from their bike. Know what time or wave your athlete is in. Some races provide athlete tracker information on site or on an app or the web page.
Spectators and supporters on the course are THE motivation most athletes need. Ring a bell, hold a sign and cheer them on. While you know it’s a lot of work out on the course, its hard work cheering too.
Thanks for all your support during training and race days. Your athletes appreciate you more than you know!