Behind every hardcore triathlete is an equally hardcore support crew

By Nicolai Pinto | Photo by Amine Rock Hoovr/Unsplash

I have been a triathlete for two years now and have read tons of articles about the coolest triathlon equipment, the latest training techniques, the best race nutrition, and more, but very few talk about the people who support us behind the scenes.

After stepping into a supporter’s shoes and experiencing what it’s like on the other side, I’ve learned to appreciate the role of the support crew more and I think it’s about time we shared the spotlight with them.  I’ve come to realize that supporting is not just a walk in the park and that it truly is a labor of love. Here’s a list of the things I’ve learned from supporting in recent triathlon events:

Know the Details

Days before the event, take note of important race info and keep them handy. This will help you know where to position yourself when cheering or where you can get a glimpse of your friends. It might also come as a surprise that the athlete you are supporting has no idea about the schedule of activities such as the bike check-in, the transition area opening and closing times, and even the carb-loading dinner.

Double-check Race Equipment and Nutrition

Offer to help prepare your triathlete’s race gear the night before and be sure to be there to double-check everything. Make your own checklist before going to the starting line because if not, you might need to read the third tip.

Be Ready for Unforeseen Events

Just like how Forrest Gump’s famous saying goes, “triathlon is like a box of chocolates, you’ll never know what you’re going to get.” The same is true when you’re supporting someone. You’ll never know when you’ll need to drive like a madman at 120+ kilometers per hour back to the hotel because your athlete forgot something important, then sprint back to the transition area before it closes. So make sure you’re always alert in case anything happens.

Be Fit

You’re friends with a triathlete, so I’m pretty sure you’ll catch the tri bug sooner or later. Maybe some of your friend’s passion for the sport will rub off on you and you’ll eventually become a more active individual. Good for you! Expect lots of running, carrying, standing, and cheering when you go to a race for support. It’s great to have some heat training as well because most of your time will be spent waiting under the heat of the sun.

Get Your Support Gear Ready

Camera, water bottles, cap, sun block, extra clothes, and other things that you think you or your friend might need after the race. In case either of you is taking special medication, keep those handy as well and include them in your support gear.

Know Your Athlete’s Goal Time

A lot of supporters want to know where their friends are during the race. The Ironman tracker app for example is very useful especially when you have supporters and loved ones racing all around the world. But as their number one fan, it’s a good idea to know what their goals are and their estimated times for each leg. This gives you an idea what time you need to go out of the shade to see them race past or wait at the finish line for that big sweaty bear hug.

Supporting a triathlete gave me a different perspective on the sport. Being a triathlete myself, it made me see the pain, suffering, joy, and passion that are parts and parcel of my sport, only from an outsider’s point-of-view. To be honest, it actually made me love the sport even more. So when you get a chance, go out there and don’t race! Try supporting your friend, teammate, or loved one for a change.