11 Tips For Spectathletes

If you have a friend/spouse/significant other who is an athlete, there's a good chance that you have spent a weekend or two at a race, waking up early to cheer, stand on your feet, take pictures, carry around stuff for your athlete and eventually, finding yourself exhausting by the end of the event. Rain, heat, wind or shine, you have been there from start to finish and you know that spectating is hard work!

Although spectating makes for a long and tiring day, there's no better way to make memories and celebrate an accomplishment with someone who is close to you. Additionally, surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals or being around inspiring athletes can be very motivating. Although spectators don't receive medals, it's the spectators that help athletes get through the race (and make racing so much fun). In thinking back to all eleven of my Ironman events, it was the spectators and volunteers who kept me going during the low, dark times when I didn't think I could move forward with my tired body and kept me smiling during the good moments.

Because every athlete has his/her support crew (family, friends, teammates) to help out on race day, here are a few guidelines for your favorite spectathlete:

  1. Follow the plan - Athletes are pretty regimented and they typically have a to-do list (or rituals) that need to get done before the race start. In order to keep your athlete relaxed and stress-free, be flexible, calm and easy-going and be available to help out your athlete whenever possible.
  2. Be ok with a different schedule - Your athlete may have an itinerary for sleeping, eating and working out. This schedule may be different than what you are use to. For your athlete to get into his/her zone, try not to interfere with the planned (or changing) schedule.
  3. Don't ask too many questions - Athletes can be a bit unpredictable on race week. One minute they are happy and outgoing and then next they are jumpy, anxious and easily bothered. The rush of emotions that an athlete experiences before a race is hard to anticipate so it's best to avoid asking questions like "what time will you finish" or "are you ready" as some questions may bring self-doubt, anxiety or worry.
  4. Your athlete is not his/her normal self - It's easy to assume that your athlete is a changed person on race week and well, that's true. He/she is anxiously awaiting the event that he/she has trained for for many months and the time is finally here. Yes, your athlete will not be like his/her normal self and this ok. I assure you that after the race, your athlete will act more like him/herself but before the race, understand that your athlete may have a different personality, all in an effort to mentally and physically prepare for the upcoming race.
  5. Scope out the course - Review the course maps and walk/drive some of the course before the race to determine the best spots for spectating. Your athlete may suggest for you to be (or not to be) at certain places on the course. You can also ask experienced spectators who have been to the event before for a recommend place to watch your athlete in action. Make sure to understand the layout of the finish line area (and cross walks) so that you don't miss your athlete at the finish line.
  6. Track your athlete - Now a days, most events are using sophisticated tracking apps and systems to help you follow your athlete on race day. Understand the tracking technology ahead of time so that you can keep up with your athlete on his/her special day.
  7. Review the athlete guide - Although the athlete guide is designed for the athlete, many of your questions can be answered in the athlete guide. You can learn about the race course, race start and other important details that will help you out on race day.
  8. Be prepared for a long day - Although most spectators find that race day does go by quickly, it's still a long day when you consider when you wake-up until when you leave the race venue. It's important to dress appropriately for the day (anticipate a change in weather temps and conditions) and plan for idol time after the race when your athlete is recovering, waiting for awards or getting his/her stuff. Make sure to bring a portable phone charger to keep your phone charged all day, especially if using your phone for tracking and taking pictures. Research the area for places where you can rest, eat and explore during the race, but make sure you don't miss your athlete in action!

  9. Fuel and hydrate like a pro - It's easy to let several hours go by without eating or drinking. No one wants to be around you when you get hangry. Make sure to bring along plenty of snacks and fluids for your day and extra money if you need to restock your food/drink supply.
  10. Don't make assumptions - Anything can happen on race day. Don't give your athlete wrong information about a fellow competitor, tell your athlete where to turn on the course, give an update on his/her placement or make assumptions as to how his/her race is going unless you know that your athlete wants that information and it is accurate information. Give your athlete positive vibes all day and keep the cheers going until he/she crosses that finish line. Too much information/questions can distract/overwhelm an athlete from his/her race strategy but just the right amount of cheers (and supportive signs) can make for a fun day of racing. By now, hopefully you know how much energy to give your athlete. After the race, don't be quick to ask questions about the race. Show your support and excitement with a hug or a smile and give your athlete time to process the race. Eventually, he/she will be ready to give the run-down of the race.
  11. Dream big (with your athlete) - Your athlete may not always show it but he/she appreciates your unconditional support. Truthfully, your athlete likely feels guilty from all the time spent away from friends/family throughout the training and this weighs heavy on the mind before the race. Make sure your athlete knows that you support him/her and that all that training was worth it and you will be there for your athlete until the finish line. Show your athlete how much you believe in them by being there for them at the race (even when you don't feel that needed). The more support, love and excitement you give your athlete, the more he/she will be able to race to his/her potential. Hopefully your athlete will show you his/her appreciation after the race with a big THANK YOU. 


When life gives you a detour

On Saturday morning, before heading out for a 3.5 hour brick workout with Karel and Thomas, I came across a quote that spoke loudly to me. It read, "Good things fall apart so that better things can fall together." 

I think any athlete would agree that sports can be so exciting and fulfilling and also cruel and disappointing. But it's through the setbacks and failures that we develop a stronger and better appreciation for when things go well.

Although the sadness of not competing in the Ironman 70.3 World Championship hit me hard for a few days, my mind was ready to move on once the cuts and bruises on my face finally healed. Setbacks are normal and I believe that you can only gain experience, wisdom and gratitude by going through the hard times. Tough times make you stronger!

If you have recently experienced a setback in your athletic journey, I give you permission to be upset, frustrated and disappointed. Negative emotions are normal but make sure to not to blame others or yourself. Process what happened, reflect and learn from it and then, when you are ready, it's time to move on. Don't be afraid to talk to a professional (sport/clinical psychologist) if you find yourself depressed or angry (especially for an extended period of time) because of your recent setback. Talking through your thoughts and emotions can be very therapeutic.

To move on from my recent setback, I needed to return back to my normal work and training routine (after getting permission from my doctor to resume back normal training). Having my routine back, seeing familiar faces and being in my home environment really helped me move on from the missed race.

After much discussion with Karel, I knew that I couldn't end my season with a DNS at my big race of the season. To be honest, I have felt a little bit empty without closure to my 2017 race season. I feel like something was taken away from me and I had no say in the matter and now I want another chance to race. After all my doc appointments and labs came back normal and I got the OK to race again, Karel helped me organize my thoughts after I physically and mentally recovered from my blackout and I have finally selected another race for my schedule (which I will announce later this week, just to remove any extra pressure off myself as I am naturally competitive and love to race and share my race experiences with others).

Since my accident appeared to be blood pressure related, likely vasovagal syncope, I would like to describe my missed race as a detour in my athletic journey. Setbacks are bound to happen to us all and when you experience a setback, you have two options: See it as a road closed sign and give up on your journey OR take the detour route.

I am embracing my detour in life and moving on. Thanks to many positive messages, emails and texts, I will grow and learn from this recent experience and I look forward to new and exciting experiences and opportunities with my body.


IM 70.3 World Championship - race recap (Karel)

With Ironman Chattanooga in just two weeks, I was a little nervous about how Karel would manage his effort at the IM 70.3 WC as he is no stranger to giving a hard effort when he races. But I could tell from his attitude, especially after what happened to me on Saturday, that he was not going to take any risks and he was going to give a good effort, without leaving it all out there. Never has Karel raced a half Ironman just two weeks before an Ironman but there's a first for everything. 

I set my alarm for 4am and slooooowly, got myself out of bed. Karel went through his normal pre-race routine of coffee (espresso), bathroom, food (for this race it was oatmeal + granola + almond butter + frozen raspberries) and then a short jog outside to help him move everything through his system. Karel also sipped on a scoop of OSMO pre load in water before we left the house.

At 5:15am, we headed down to the race venue. Although I was still bummed about not racing on Saturday, I was excited to use my tapered and fueled body to cheer for Karel. I just love watching Karel race and I was also excited to spectate our athlete Alvaro for his first 70.3 World Championship.

After Karel pumped up his tires and placed his 3 bottles of sport nutrition (2 bottles with Levelen, 1 bottle with INFINIT) and Garmin on his bike, we walked back to the car for Karel to relax. With Karel being in the 3rd wave (Pros, then PC athletes and then Male 40-44), Karel had enough time to not feel rushed but at the same time, the early morning went by quickly before it was time for Karel to head back down to the water.

Prior to walking to the water, Karel did another jog warm-up to get his system going. Around 6:30a, we walked down to Ross's Landing, where we stood around until Karel walked over to the corral for the start of his wave. 

Al getting ready for his first 70.3 WC but playing it smart as he also has IM Chatty approaching. 

Karel was a little worried about not being able to get into the water before the race as his pre-race swim has been a ritual for him to get a good feel of the water and to adjust the wetsuit but I brought a bottle of water for him to pour inside of his wetsuit so that he could avoid the "sucking" feeling of the wetsuit being tight on the chest when he entered the water. Karel received his swim cap after entering the corral and lined up in the sub 30 minute group of men in his AG. 

It was awesome to see the pros go off and then the PC athletes and before we knew it, Karel was in the water (still loving the Ironman tracker app!). With this being a rolling wave start, a small group of athletes dove (or jumped) into the water every 15 seconds. 

After wishing Karel good luck and to have a great race, it was time for my spectating duties to begin! 

It was fun to have so many Trimarnis out on the sidelines to cheer - including Kona, the furry spectator. Campy stayed back at our rental house so that I could put all my energy into Karel. 

I couldn't believe it when my phone chimed to let me know that Karel was out of the water in 30 minutes! I was thinking that Karel would be happy with sub 34 minutes but I knew he would be thrilled with his 30 minute swim. Karel said that the current didn't feel too strong in either direction but he was certainly swimming faster (per his Garmin) on the way back to the swim exit. Karel was surprised that he felt so good in the water and even more shocked that he was passing athletes as soon as he dove into the water. What a great confidence booster, especially since Karel has been working so hard on his swim for many years. 

Since my athlete Meredith was spectating on Saturday, she knew all the hot spots for us to go in order to see the athletes on the course. After we saw Al, we waited a few more minutes for Karel. We caught Karel after he grabbed his blue bike gear bag and ran up the ramp to the changing area and quickly after, we sprinted our way to the bike out area to catch Karel get on his bike. As Karel was running to his bike, he took in 1 Enervitene cheerpack. 

It was impressive to watch Karel do his first ever flying mount on his bike and naturally, he looked like he had been doing it all his life. I guess being a former cyclist has it's benefits - anything on the bike feels/looks natural. 

Cheering squad!
There wasn't a lot of waiting around after Karel got on his bike because I wanted to watch the professional men run up the hill as they started their run. I walked to my car to grab a snack (PBJ sandwich and a yogurt) and then walked to the hill under the blue wooden bridge. 

While we watched the pros, I was keeping track of Karel on the tracker and I was really impressed with the bike ride that he was having. In most of Karel's races, his back is his limiter as it tends to tighten up as he pushes, which keeps him from riding the race that he is capable of riding. Although he had some back tightness in the last 10 miles of the ride, Karel felt really good on this bike course. He told me later on that he just loved this bike course and it was just perfect for him as it suited his riding style. There were lots of opportunities for Karel to sit up and get out of the saddle and other places to use his skills. In addition to his liquid sport nutrition, Karel had a pack of Skratch chews, 3 HOT SHOTS (in a squeezable flask) and an Enervitene cheerpack. He did not grab any other water or nutrition on the course. Since the first chunk of the bike course is very similar to what we ride on in Greenville, SC, Karel was really happy out on his bike, which made racing a lot of fun for him. The weather was cool in the morning but just perfect for the 56 mile bike ride. Karel never felt too hot or cold.

After Karel got off his bike, his running legs came to him rather quickly and he settled into a rhythm for the first out and back section out of the transition. I was shocked to see Karel in 14th place off the bike and I couldn't wait to share this information with him when I saw him. Although a part of me was worried about telling him that he was close to being in the top 10 of his age group because I didn't want him to dig too deep, I knew that Karel would process the information and be smart with his race effort. Somehow, Karel always knows how to put together a great race. 

We gave Karel a big cheer as we saw him run up the hill and he looked calm and in control. After the race, Karel told me that he just loved the run course and he felt great all day. Since our terrain includes lots of hills where we run, Karel put himself into a familiar environment and just settled into a strong effort, without taking any risks or digging too deep. 

As I saw Karel finish up loop one of two after crossing the bridge I noticed on the tracker that he was moving up in his age group. Although there were some faster guys in the top 5, I was feeling confident that Karel could move into the top 10 - which would be a huge accomplishment, seeing that there were over 400 guys in his age group. 

Karel was running super steady and it was impressive to track him throughout the 13.1 mile run. With every mile as the race went on, it seemed like Karel was getting stronger and faster. Since Karel was saving one extra gear throughout the race, he put it into that extra gear just for the last 3 miles. Because of the wave/rolling start, Karel was not sure where he was in his age group but that really wasn't a focus for him as he was racing. His goal was to put together a solid race to build confidence for IM Chattanooga in two weeks.

For sport nutrition, Karel used Precision Hydration 1500 (in two flasks) and 2 Enervitene cheerpacks (in 1 flask) throughout the race. He wanted to use LEVELEN on the run but because Karel was not able to access his gear bags on race morning, he used the Precision Hydration instead. Karel did not use any coke/red bull on the course as he felt energized all day.  He felt very comfortable out on the course (temperature wise) and only used water to sip on and cool his neck a few times throughout the run. 

With Al being just a few miles behind Karel, we secured a great spot at the finish line to watch Karel (and then Al) run down the magical red carpet and across the finish line. A few guys went by and finally, there was Karel. 

In typically Karel fashion, he was running strong. Later I told Karel that he was less than 30 seconds away from 6th place! He joked "oh man, maybe I should have ran harder."

After we met up with Karel, he looked really good. Not too beat up and walking semi-normally. I told him about his 8th place finish and he couldn't believe it. He was in shock that he was 8th in his AG, especially on a day when he felt in control and so good all day. Karel felt like not having any pressure on himself to perform well and not digging too deep really helped him pace the race and put together one of his best half Ironman performances. 

For the last part of Karel's race, I completely forgot about my face and the accident which kept me from racing on Saturday. I was just so happy for Karel that he had such a great day of racing. Although Karel was really sad for me that I could not race on this course, we are a team and when one of us succeeds, we both feel like winners. Teamwork makes the dream work. 

Karel had a few nice words with Jesse Thomas after the race and then we got a picture together. 

Karel wasn't interested in any food after the race so he drank a Cheribundi recovery drink that I had brought for him and about 30 minutes later, he sipped on a coke to keep his blood sugar up. It wasn't too long after Karel finished that Al crossed the finish line.

It was so much fun to share the race with Meredith, Natalie, Peggy, Leyla, Leigh Ann, my mom, Stephanie and Laura, along with others that I saw on and off the course. Thank you Stephanie G for some of these pics! 

Race Results
Swim: 30:34
T1: 3:28
Bike: 2:30.29
T2: 2:23
Run: 1:26.35
Total time: 4:33:28
8th AG (40-44)

The IM 70.3 World Championship was an incredible experience. Even though I didn't get to race, it was still one for the memory books. Since we returned home, I have had blood work, BP testing with my sport doc and an EKG with a cardiologist. Everything came back good and I am otherwise healthy, minus the scary blacking out episode that occurred on race day. The docs contributed it to getting up to fast with low blood pressure. Hopefully just a one time accident. I also received the OK to resume back normal training and permission to race again this season!

Since the race, Karel's recovery has been going well as he gears up for his last race of his season. As to be expected, he has waves of feeling good and then being tired but his recovery started just a few hours after the race when he had on his training plan to do a 90 minute EZ spin to help flush his legs.

Now that the 70.3 World Championship event is behind us, we have to get ready for another trip to Tennessee. On September 24th (two days after Karel turns 41!), it's time for Ironman Chattanooga! 


A BIG thank you to our 
2017 Trimarni sponsors and affiliates:

-Run In - for helping us with all of our running needs
-New Wave Swim Buoy - for keeping us safe and seen in the open water
-Mg12 - for helping our muscles stay relaxed
-Clif Bar - for quality ingredients in quality sport nutrition
-Cheribundi - for providing a safe, natural and delicious way to reduce inflammation
-Veronica's Health Crunch - for the most delicious hand made crunch - ever!
-Infinit - for customizable sport nutrition
-Levelen - for helping us optimize our hydration needs through sweat testing
-Hot Shot - for keeping Karel cramp-free!
-Solestar - for maximum stability, better power transmission
-Boco Gear - for helping us race in style
-Canari - for the most comfortable, functional and stylish gear
-Xterra - for the fastest wetsuit ever (so fast, Karel is now beating me in the swim!)
-Alto cycling - for enginnering the fastest race wheels
-Swamp Rabbit Inn and Lodge - for keeping our campers happy with perfect lodging options
-Salem Anesthesia - for your Trimarni support