Friday, August 26, 2011

So You Want to Watch an Ironman ... Really?

Hi, Elizabeth the Ironwidow here,

If you’ve never spectated an Ironman before, I highly recommend it! The energy is amazing and completely unlike the shorter distances. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll start thinking it looks like a good idea and want to sign up to do it next year. I love the emphasis on completing the race and doing your best, even if that means finishing late at night. Every single person who crosses the finish line is welcomed with as big a cheer as the winner of the race, and if you’re finishing close to midnight the winner of the race will probably be there cheering for you!

It’s all very special, but it’s also a pain in the ass to spectate. It’s long - really long - and if it’s IMC, with its single loop bike course, you can’t plan on setting up camp and watching your athlete go by multiple times. You’ve got to plan ahead, be prepared, and get out there and seize the day! Or you could go on a wine tour and just show up in time to see your athlete cross the finish line. But if you decide you want to soak in the Ironman-y glory all day long, you’re in for a tough day. That’s why I’m giving you, dear reader, these tips, hard-earned from my vast experience watching three whole Ironmans. You’re welcome.

Ahead of time:

  • Only be friends with fast athletes. Otherwise you’ll be at this all day.
  • Know your athlete’s race number, and scout out their spot at transition so you know the best spot to watch from.
  • Figure out where you want to view from. I usually like to pick out 2 or 3 different spots, but you need to plan ahead to make sure you don’t try to cross the race course once there are athletes out there.
  • Make signs if you want. I prefer to just run around with my cow bells. Don’t need no cumbersome signs to tie me down. That’s not how I roll.

Be prepared:

  • Wear comfortable shoes. I somehow always end up running to not miss something, so be ready for anything and wear appropriate footwear.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. I like to fill up 2 water bottles with as much ice as possible and then just top it off with water. Not that 2 water bottles is enough water, but it’s as much as I can be bothered to carry around with me.
  • Figure out your nutrition plan. I like to buy lunch but carry all my snacks.
  • Pack a backpack full of everything you’ll need to get you through the day. Your car might be parked far away, or on the other side of the stream of athletes, so I try to carry as much as I can with me all day. Make sure you include:

· A course map

· Cow bell

· Sunscreen (reapply often!), sunglasses, hat

· Band aids

· Camera with extra battery

· Smart phone to follow twitter and ironman live #IMC

· I find a chair too heavy to carry around, but bring a towel or something to sit on. My favorite is a kneeling pad for gardening, or a swimming kick board. Very light and portable, but very comfy.

· Something warm to layer, especially if your athlete’s coming in after dark…this isn’t something *I’ve* ever had to concern myself with, but we can’t all be Doug.

· If you’re planning on cheering after dark, bring glow in the dark stuff!

· More cow bell

On the big day:

  • You’re ready for this. Stay focused, follow your race day plan, and remember to relax enjoy the day.
  • Plan on never crossing the race route once there are athletes on the course! That means you need to figure out ahead of time where food is and where the bathrooms are and where you want to view the race from. If you’re planning on driving out somewhere to watch the bike, count on traffic being backed up from people trying to cross the race route.
  • Cheer for people you don’t know. If there are names on the bibs, use names! Just make sure you don’t cheer for anyone else in Doug’s age group. Throw rocks at them.
  • Secret swim viewing tip: stand in the lake!
  • Parking: good luck with that.
  • More cow bell

In closing:

Remember, the plural of Ironman is Ironmans. This way you can avoid sentences like, "my husband has done three Ironmen."

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