Kristen Lodge: Taking care of your athlete
Grand County, CO Colorado
August and September are great months to race whether you are competing in a running race, mountain biking event, or competing in a triathlon.
My favorite aspect of racing is knowing that family and friends are cheering for me. Most races, especially longer distances, require significant planning to race well so it’s a motivator to have a support team on race day. If you are like me, your family and friends have been instrumental in your race journey and having them there is important.
Here are my tips on how to be the best support team for runners, bikers, and triathletes.
Days leading up to the race are emotional. You need to help your athlete remember why they are doing this. Your support means a lot to them even if they can’t express it.
As support, it is your task to keep your athlete grounded in the moment and to remind them what is most important; that they make it to the starting line.
It may be important to remind your athlete about all the training they have done and how fit they look. Remind them every chance you get.
Treat your athlete to a healthy pre-race dinner. Be sure to toast to their perseverance.
On race day, walk with your athlete as long as you can and try to accommodate them in any way. Don’t take offensive if they are moody. Repeat to them, “You are fine, you are ready.”
At the start, cheer loudly for everyone, even if you can’t see your athlete.
If you are support for a triathlete, don’t wait for your athlete to exit the water. Watch them in the bike transition.
Bring a cow bell and cheer for every athlete that runs or bikes by. Take lots of pictures.
Important items to have with you throughout race day: camera, video camera, rain gear, binoculars, sun block, and extra food for your athlete if needed. If it’s a long race, have a plan to take a break. I like to find a coffee shop to relax in; shops with comfy sofas and chairs always seem to have the best coffee.
It is important to remember that most of the day will be emotional. When you see your athlete for the first time on the course and know they are doing well, clap, yell, jump up and down. Actually, even if they look awful, clap, yell, jump up and down.
When you are cheering for your athlete and they don’t respond, don’t take it personally. Sometimes your athlete will just be out of it. It’s nice when they acknowledge you with a smile or wave, but don’t expect it. When I raced Ironman Arizona I couldn’t acknowledge my support team for fear I would break my concentration and crash. Your athlete will know you are there.
If there is a big support team, make shirts. The ones I like have “Team (insert your athlete’s name here)” and an inspiring quotes on the back. Then your athlete will always be able to pick you out while on the course.
Always be exactly where you say you will be after the race. The most important aspect to discuss with your athlete before racing, especially at a large events, is where to meet after the race just in case you don’t see them cross the finish line.
Always take your athlete to a predetermined post-race restaurant to celebrate finishing.
When you get home make a slide show of all photos and maybe even give a presentation of your athlete’s event at your local library; you never know who you will inspire.
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