Spectators Are Athletes Too

Spectators are athletes…..Spectathletes.

It’s worth remembering that in pretty much all circumstances, we triathletes have a support crew around us. This can include a coach, physios, nutritionists, family and friends. This blog has been written as a little homage to those long suffering souls who come and watch us at races, cheer us on and generally help us to get prepared and be at the start line on time.

Before I had embarked on my first triathlon, I had done some running but nothing of any particular length and when my personal support crew had come with me, the maximum time he had to wait for me to finish had been about an hour or so (this is all presuming he wasn't actually running with me). It doesn't take too long for an hour to pass (about an hour, I suspect), but seriously, a walk from the start of a run to the end and then a quick cup of tea means the time passes nicely.

Fast forward to my first triathlon. It was a sprint distance (400m swim in a pool, a 20k bike ride and a 5k run) and suddenly the stakes were higher. For starters, it was definitely going to take me longer than an hour and a half....and the difference between a triathlon and a running race is the fact that it is actually three races in one. In a running race, you arrive in your kit, you rock on up to the start about 10 minutes before the gun...and then you go.

Here is a brief summary of what happened at the beginning of the day:

5.30am - Wake up

6.00am - Eat breakfast and get in the car

6:45am - Arrive at the venue

7:00am - Register

7:30am - Transition opens so I can take all my stuff there

8:00am - Leave transition after having set up all my stuff, so my bike, helmet and bike shoes are all ready as well as my running shoes and running cap

9.00am - Race start

So, you can see already that three and a half hours have passed and I haven't done anything more physical than carry my stuff from the car to transition! And this is where the spectathlete comes in to their own.

Let's run through the above again from the spectathletes point of view (in italics):

5.30am - Wake up (Convince athlete that they haven't got ebola and it is just pre-race nerves, ignoring the fact that you are really tired as the athlete has been tossing and turning all night, keeping you awake)

6.00am - Eat breakfast and get in the car (Ensure athlete has everything they need by checking things off the list that you have made. Stop the car at every request and patiently show athlete that yes indeed, they do have their bike. And helmet. And run shoes. And cap. And race information. And goggles. And bike shoes.)

- Arrive at the venue (Reassure athlete that this is the right venue, you have just arrived earlier than everyone else and the reason it looks so quiet is because the place isn't actually open yet)

7:00am - Register (Remind athlete of their name - amazing what they forget)

7:30am - Transition opens so I can take all my stuff there (Carry ALL the stuff from the car to transition, whilst athlete chats to other competitors and completely ignores you. Whatever you do - DON'T point out all the people who look fitter, quicker, stronger and have better kit than your athlete)

- Leave transition after having set up all my stuff, so my bike, helmet and bike shoes are all ready as well as my running shoes and running cap (This is the part when the athlete really has to be left alone. Stand on the sidelines and feel a little like a spare part. Consider taking an additional snack to eat in this 'dead' time)

8:55am - Remind athlete that they should be somewhere else and push them towards the start line!

9.00am - Race start (Relax! Grab a coffee and a spot to commence your spectathlon)

Now, the best thing about a spectathlete is that they are always in the right place at the right time, and you rely on them saying the right thing at the right time.

A good spectathlete is there as you come out of the water, yells at you your time and tells you that you look amazing. Then as you exit transition and jump on your bike (or stop and get on like an old lady and smack yourself in your shins with your pedals), the spectathlete is there again yelling something motivational like 'Go, go, GO!'

This particular day, the bike course was 2 laps....at the end of the first lap I had a little shout of how well I was doing and that I was looking 'strong' and 'awesome'. (I think he lied).

Onto the run and again, the spectathlete has moved onto the run course and is shouting helpful phrases like 'SMILE!!!! You know you run faster when you smile' (this is actually true, try it) and 'maintain good form'.

The best thing about a spectathlete is seeing them at the end. Whether it is your partner, your running buddy, your training buddy, a member of your family or just a regular type of friend you are going to be soooooo pleased to see them, they have a massive hug for you and an even bigger smile, letting you know that they are more proud of you than you are of yourself right now. And then they hand you some warm clothes and some food. That's the sign of a good spectathlete (an even better one suggests chips on the way home, but mine hasn't reached that level of skill just yet....always hoping though :))

So you see, you think you are doing all the hard work, but the spectathlete has a whole host of activities to undertake behind the scenes; their own hydration and nutrition as well as yours, criss-crossing the course to get to the best viewing spots, the correct things to shout, signs to hold up, young/old/bored children to entertain…the list goes on.

Essential Team Kit
Next time you are racing, just for me, let your spectathlete know how much you appreciate them….and maybe it should be you that suggests chips on the way home.

Tri Training Harder LLP