The other side to Triathlons…The Support Team!!

As many of you may or may not know, Dustin and I are heading to Kona, Hawaii this coming Sunday for Ironman World Championships. His brother, Michael (Bib #1808) was one of the 200 lottery winners this year and has been training like a crazy man. Although, he was scheduled to do a Double Iron this fall so I guess the training could have been crazier!  Anyways, we are going out as part of the Team Bernatovich Support Team.

There are many things to plan out as part of the support team as I learned last year at Ironman Florida. I ended up taking the lead for Dustin & Michael in making sure everything I could think of was done to make their race experience to be a positive one at IMFL! I’m going to bullet everything out in creating the best support team experience for the support team and the racers since I’m preparing some important ST things for Kona…

  • SHIRTS –  For starters, you need to decided if you’re doing shirts. If you decide to, make sure you get one’s you will be comfortable with – and plan for the weather! For Ironman Florida, we planned on long sleeve shirts & did white… I recommend a bright color so you’re athlete has a better chance of seeing you! For Kona, I went with a Holloway Unisex Dri-Fit shirt in yellow. I designed the shirt in Publisher, saved it as a PDF – going this route, you can save some extra cash. If your athlete is sponsored, put their sponsors on the shirts – it’s a nice touch! Also, the more colors you use or the darker the shirt, the more expensive they will be. Going with a lighter colored shirt is less money as you won’t have to do a white underlay of your design. (Probably more than you want to know, but may as well share my knowledge). Additionally, if you want to use a cool font, find a free font site on the web… I love using something no one has seen!
  • Signage on the Course – For IM Florida, I went all out! Make ’em catchy if you have a course you can put signs up for! I had glitter, paint, streamers – you name it, I had it going on! Now, for Kona – we’re going a different route… there will be signs but they’ll be more like huge pre-race support cards! I’m making these prior to us leaving and will post them up around the house we’ll be in…

It’s okay to get your athlete’s assistance!
  • HELPING YOUR ATHLETE – watch this as emotions and mood swings are usually known when your getting close to an iron distance race. As the support team, nod your head and smile A LOT! Don’t pick at your athlete, because it’ll get ugly quick. Before Dustin’s Ironman, I remember saying to him, “I love you but… (there was a pause cause I didn’t know how the next thing I was about to say was going to go) I don’t love these mood swings” – he knew he was being uber picky, super sensitive, and absolutely worse than any woman PMSing. But I remembered that anyone doing any long distance race, it is just as much mental as it is physical and they need all the support they can get… and it’s okay to take a break for yourself being the support team. Sometimes, silence is best. If you want to help, ask… or maybe they’ll let you draw out the tape lines so they can prep their special needs bags for race day. Do little things to let them know you care but get the hell out of their way as they’re prepping! 
  • TIMING – Timing is everything to see your athlete and you want to make sure you’re there anytime you can to whoop and hollar at them – or give them more cowbell (I’m packing mine!) Watch the swim, when you think they’ll be heading to T1, head for the sidelines so you can cheer ’em on as they head out to the bike. Then comes the math part – everyone has their estimate going into race day of how long they’ll be doing what… I take that estimate and take about 45 minutes off of it to get my sideline time… why you ask… well adrenaline plays some part into a day (as does flats & cows blocking the road) – you’d rather be there early than late but as a support team member, sitting around for 5 hours watching the road heat up, well, you can go sit at a bar and relax or grab lunch. Make sure someone has a watch and sets a timer – best advice I can give you. When they bike into T2, you run to the Run chute fence to send your well wishes as they head out on the course! 
    • If it’s an IM event, you can use your phone to track your athlete, but we all know it can be temperamental in when it wants to actually update. 
  • IF YOU HAVE YOUR PHONE WITH YOU – Take the charger in your own special needs bag! (Especially if you’re the emergency contact!!!) Because of the amount of people in that one area, your phone may work harder – be prepared!! Any restaurant or fine establishment you may be visiting in the area will let you use a bit of their electric – I know because I’ve done it!
  • Have a designated photographer so that person knows what they are up to for the day and can share them with the rest of the support team later. If you are the host, think about giving flash drives with the memories on it or post them up to an on-line photo album. 
  • IN addition to everything above, sometimes the support team needs to support each other! This year, I was able to find a great little company called Boutique Me – we’re about to head to Hawaii … 7 of us! So, I wanted to do something a little special for everyone since we’ll be there from Sunday through Tuesday… together, and probably having a great craft beer or two (or a can of Coke)… so, in comes customized koozies… this is a surprise, however I’m going to assume the cat may be out of the bag if any of the other 5 (Dustin already knows) reads this blog… 
Anyways, those are some of the things I’ve learned in being a support team member and a supporter of everything! Hope these tips help with your experience!!