For the past 6.5 years, Karel and I have spent many of weekends on race courses. I've always felt we make a great team because we both share a similar lifestyle with different passions. Well, different passions until this May when Karel decided to embrace the challenge of triathlons after racing competitively as a cyclist (in Europe and USA) as a top cyclist.
Watching Karel race in cycling races was so exciting and I loved the energy and vibe at cycling venues. Unlike triathlons, I never knew if Karel would finish a race for a crash, bad luck or not having the legs to keep up with other teams/riders was always a "what if" scenario. But nevertheless, Karel never stopped enjoying cycling races....he just wanted to a new challenge.
In triathlons, Karel has been my #1 fan (tied w/ my parents) and he helps me reach my full potential. When I have doubts, worries or fears, he keeps me calm and gives me the confidence I need to succeed.
This weekend we are heading to Venice Beach, FL for the Rev3 half iron distance triathlon on Sunday. Karel is racing, Campy and I are spectating.
I've received several questions as to why I am not racing or if it will be hard to not race while watching Karel. Absolutely not.I gave everything I had at Branson 70.3, I am not injured, not over trained/burnout and I am enjoying focusing on an upcoming half marathon. All good reasons to not feel the need to test myself or prove anything just to share another triathlon with Karel.
The best part about being a spectator (athlete or not) is being able to make memories and celebrate with someone else....without having to be in the race. Watching someone race can be very inspiring, motivating and exciting and should not be done with jealousy or spite. Although Karel and I both share a triathlon lifestyle together, I am looking forward to being on the sidelines and feeling the energy of this event.
Being a spectator can be exhausting. Also, for anyone doing an event or distance for the first time, spectators (ex. family/friends) may feel draining as you prep your mind and body for the big day. Certainly we need our support crew on race day but it is important that our biggest fans follow a few guidelines so that you (athlete) can execute your race day plan and put all your hard training to the test.
1) Stick to the plan - athletes will likely have to-do's on the days leading up to the race. In order to keep the athlete relaxed, don't try to change the tentative schedule.
2) Eat on his/her schedule - an athlete is going to know what foods work best and when to eat them. Don't encourage an athlete to try new places or to stick to your eating routine. Likely, an athlete is going to prioritize digestion and eat to allow for a happy GI system on race day.
3) Don't ask too many questions - athletes can be a bit jumpy on race week.Wanting to know how they are feeling, if they are ready, if they know their finishing time, why they are doing this, etc. can bring self-doubt to an athlete or can bring anxiety on the days before a race. There's nothing wrong with wanting to give positive energy to an athlete but be careful of your words as athletes are often on-edge on the days leading up to a race (they still love you but they can't always control their emotions and words).
4) Review the athlete and spectator guide - almost all your questions can be answered in the program guide (often found on the race website). Course maps, race day schedule and other important details/rules for spectators can be found in the guide and can be very helpful for a fun race day experience. Also, use technology such as Iron Trac app, live tracking on the race website (if applicable) or connect with friends who may be "watching" the event online.
5) Be prepared for a long day - no matter the distance of the event, you will likely be up early and there will be idol time throughout the day. Be sure to bring plenty of food and water and dress appropriately as the weather may change between 5am and 10pm. Expect extra time for awards and to allow an athlete to properly recover post race and expect to wake up early as most races start very early.
6) Be a superstar spectator - once an athlete is out on the course, he/she will need your help to get them to the finish line. Dress in fun costumes, make t-shirts and signs and give a loud cheer. Bring a camera and wear comfortable clothing to move quickly to spot your favorite athlete along the course (Just don't support them by giving them anything during a race or running along with them as that can be a DQ for an athlete or penalty). Come up with funny phrases and avoid any phrases that may discourage an athlete. Also, do not give wrong information. Don't tell athletes where to turn or how far they have left in the race, unless you are positive the information is correct. Often, athletes are in a zone and too much outside information can distract and overwhelm an athlete. But, if an athlete is a few miles from the finish line, get out your loudest cheering voice for he/she will likely need it.
7) Don't bring up time goals - A successful race is best told from the athlete, not from a piece of paper. Even if an athlete has a time (or place goal), allow the athlete to give his/her race report before asking about places and times. Sometimes the best performances come from overcoming obstacles rather than finishing with a PR.
8) Have a finish line plan - Certainly, the finish is the most exciting part of a race. Don't miss your athlete at the finish! Encourage your athlete to communicate with you about estimated finishing time just to have an idea as to when they may finish. When all else fails, be sure to snap a pic in the last 1-2 miles of the race and have a designated spot to meet your athlete post race.
9) Dream big - There's a reason as to why your athlete has decided to participate in this race/event. Be inspired by his/her commitment to dream big and don't take that away from him/her. Even if an athlete has a "bad" day, don't discourage your athlete from having big dreams. Every athlete is bound to have a bad race but hopefully, it doesn't have to be his/her last race. The more you support and give love to your athlete, the better he/she will feel about him/herself on race day. Many times, athletes will feel guilty that they are too selfish or spend too much time thinking, training and preparing for a big race (not to mention the money spent on races/training). Although a balanced lifestyle is important, communicate with your athlete that you enjoy being their #1 fan and can't wait to be out there on race day to make memories with your favorite athlete.