How to Be a Good Spectator

Whenever you’re racing and you have friends & family attending the event, it’s nice to know they’re there. You’re the one who is racing though; you’re not exactly stopping to smell the roses. You have no idea where they may be.

I always tell my friends and family that you need to be able to stand out of the crowd. That’s actually incredibly easy to do if my grandfather is there. That poor soul is always dressed from head to toe in his Cleveland Browns clothing, bless his heart. Nice thing is he’s the only one who does that so I can always spot him in a crowd. So what about when my grandfather doesn’t come along?

There are two things I tell people who came to watch me:

  1. Wear something I’ll notice easily.
  2. If you’re trying to take a picture, saying “to your left” or “to your right” doesn’t hurt because then I’ll be looking in your direction.

If you’re in it for the pictures, there are a few key places to hang out. In most races, the first chance you’ll get for pictures is exiting the swim. If it was a wetsuit legal race, you’ll want to be closer to the bicycles because everyone is going to look the same exiting the water. You’re better off finding a place to hang out past the wetsuit strippers.

Trying to get pictures during the bike can be tough. You have the potential to become an obstacle for athletes if you have to drive to different locations. You might want to hang out and get some breakfast.

Hopefully your triathlete could give you an idea of how long they’d be on the bike so you’d know when to be at T2. You should make note to remember what they are wearing because for most of T2 your triathlete will have their bicycle helmet on.

How the run course is laid out will determine how much you’ll get to see. If it’s an out & back like Ironman 70.3 New Orleans, you won’t have much of an opportunity to see your triathlete. If it’s like Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga, which was a very tight two-loop course, you can maneuver your way around to see your triathlete in a few different spots.

The finish line area is going to be the most crowded. You’re better off being a little ahead of it to cheer your triathlete on. Plus, if they see you, they may pick up the pace and finish hard going into the chute!

How do you find your triathlete after the race when they don’t have a phone? I usually tell whomever came to come to the massage tent, assuming there is one. If there is not, I tell them I’ll borrow a random person’s phone and call/text them to let them know where I am.

If you are at an Ironman event and want to track your triathlete in real time, you can use the “IM Tracker” app. It does a good job and my mother said it was really easy to use.

Lastly, if you’re thinking of making a sign, go for something original. The “Remember, you paid to do this!” sign is really overdone. You’ll see about twenty or so of them at a half-Ironman. However, the “Smile if you peed in your wetsuit!” sign will always make me smile.


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