And you thought only your athlete was going to get a workout on race day. Well, the TriWives will let you in on a secret – spectating is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of finesse and agility, especially if you have kids in tow. (Plus, you really have to love cowbells or at least tolerate them in the spirit of the day). That is why we are here with helpful hints so that everyone wins on race day and most importantly, that you all have a lot of fun.
If you are attending your first event, you are in for an experience. Sherry – “I remember my first full race at Lake Placid. The music (Cold Play’s Clocks), 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. 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…..
Most important point: Do not let your athlete cross the finish line without you there. The benefits for the family are just too great. That triumphant athlete becomes a role model for hard work, a healthy lifestyle, and a stick-with-it/can-do attitude.
Here are our top 10 hints for races with kids no matter what age:
1. Don’t go at 4:30 AM with your athlete. Pack up the kids and show up at the race just before T1 closes and your athlete has time to hang out at your preset meeting place.
2. Scope out the course with your triathlete for full and half races. You will know where the best vantage points are and they will 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. Some people do choose to drive out to spots along the course – your choice.
3. Know what “kit” they are wearing. It’s also a good idea for you to wear something distinctive, so they recognize you.
4. Don’t plan to do it all for shorter distance races. Stay put if possible in the race area. This makes it easier to hang out in the “village” and near T1/T2 and more fun for the kids to see your athlete and get high 5’s and kisses; no sweaty hugs please. Trying to get to a “viewing spot” on the course can be disappointing, if you don’t know exact times and places. Your athlete will buzz by after you just spent all that time trying to get there.
5. Be prepared with a tribag. Just like your athlete has T1/T2 bags packed with special needs, you need them, too. Must haves:
• Phone charger
• Coffee/tea carafe filled to the top
• Breakfast to enjoy once your athlete leaves on the bike
• Water or your drink of choice
• Snacks, snacks, and more snacks
• A change of clothes for the crew
• A blanket to sit on; DO NOT bring chairs and other bulky items
6. Take advantage of what the race has to offer. While your athlete is out biking and running, set your watch to their expected times for viewing. (Have your athlete look at the course and give you a list of mile markers and T1 and T2 viewing sites and a range when you should be at each spot). Most races will have areas set up for the kids to play and vendors often offer free giveaways. Let the kids collect it all; you will be surprised at how that cheap bead necklace will create pure joy, milk it!
7. Meet old and new tri friends. Seek them out! Look for other “single by triathlete” families with children the same age or older and start moving their way; introduce yourself and let the kids take it from there. No need to be alone. Let the kids have fun with their new friends, but don’t forget to watch the clock, so you don’t miss your designated times. We promise you will have these trifriends for years. This is how the three of us met and are now planning next season’s Rev3 event.
8. You will need to take breaks at some point. 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 requires 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.
9. 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
10. 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 us, 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. Our husbands were so excited to see themselves the first few races, but now hardly look at them. We still take a few, but it’s more of the spectators, the scenery, and surroundings.
If you are the sole supporter of your triathlete, the day can be long and a little lonely for a full race. It really helps if you know people, but we have been to more than one on our own and survived just fine. Sherry actually befriended some local “strippers” (for the novice – they help take off wetsuits) she met the night before at dinner in Lake Placid. They let her hang with them race day and knew all the best viewing spots. But, when you’re alone, bring books, go back to the room, have lunch, shop, or talk to people – most everyone is friendly and happy to chat.
Our husbands seriously tell us that nothing keeps them going more than to hear us yell their name and “you can do it”. To see the kids with signs of encouragement is just the best.
Whether you are attending your first triathlon race or your 25th as a spectator, the fun and excitement is always there, but the stress doesn’t have to be. Heed our sage advice and most importantly, remember to be at that finish line and ready to hang out after the race with your athlete; the energy is amazing!! Hugging is optional…..
We hope this helps to make your spectating day more fun and worry free. Have a great day at the race!