Friday, July 23, 2010

If you're not an athlete....

Start of race - water temp approximately 65 degrees!

My husband's family has several great sayings, including: "you're either an athlete or an athletic supporter". And although I certainly considered myself an athlete "back in the day", I am proud to report that for the past 6 years, I have been my husband’s "athletic supporter" ;-)

At first it started out with a few short runs - 5K, 10K, 1/2 marathon, etc. Since it was just the two of us at that point (no children in tow), races were mostly selected based on geographic location first (we are great travel buddies) and then on course review, etc.

He and I had settled into a nice little race day routine - typically consisting of:

- His waking up at around 4:30am, getting ready both mentally and physically (the physical preparation is a whole posting to itself - maybe 2),
- Followed by my rolling out of bed around 6am to head down to the starting area (assuming we were in a hotel near the start)
- Can't forget my sending him off to start the race with a big kiss
- And then lastly, my search for the "race day bagel and coffee" as I make my way to the first spot where I can cheer him on.

Since that time, we have grown our family to include 2 wonderful little guys, who have the makings to be wonderful little additions to "Team Trapp". (Note: they are both under 4 at this point, so we often tease that it's possibly easier to RACE than support - at least for now :-)).

But the changes haven't stopped there, his ambitions have continued growing over the years to triathlons of varying distances and his sites are NOW set on joining his brother in the ranks as an IronMan!

         For those who are unfamiliar with an IronMan race -
                       it's a 140.6 mile triathlon consisting of:
                    2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run
                   No easy feat and certainly not for the weak in spirit!

So now, the prerequisites for race selection also need to keep in mind our kids!

A big factor being "What do I, personally, do with the kids between the starting gun (or canon in the case of IronMan) and the finish!"...that could be anywhere between 1-1/2 hours to what I've recently learned will be nearly 15 HOURS for his upcoming IronMan! And HOW do I support hubby while entertaining 2 very active little guys? 

My experience has shown me that race organizers largely do not provide resources for families...I struggle with this, chiefly because if anyone has participated in a race (as a runner) you were most likely energized by the cheering and side-line support.  And if you've participated in a race where the course winded into rural areas where there were no supporters, you may have noticed a drop in spirit resulting in some "tough miles". 

This past weekend was a small taste of what's to come, as we headed to Racine, WI for the 1/2 IronMan!

(1/2 IronMan consists of 70.3 miles of swim, bike, run  - for those who don't want to do the math)

Here's my 2 cents on the race, from the "supporter point of view" and comments from my hubby:

The Good:
1. Beautiful view of Lake Michigan (which I realize is not directly controlled by organizers :-))
2. Morning concessions - There were 1 or 2 tents from local organizations that sold coffee and danish. They charged a LOT and then asked for an additional donation, but it went to a seemingly good cause. HOWEVER, there were no concessions for the remainder of the day. (FYI - Start was at around 7am for Pros and my husband's wave started at 8:10a and the race cutoff was around 4pm) - More on this below.
3. The safety and security of participants seemed to be a high priority - the cone and signage placement seemed to be great.
4.  Great little play area for kids - Kids Cove.  (We learned about this ahead of time, along with other family friendly activities from past participants).  There were NO links that I'm aware of from the race website itself.
5. The IronMan website offered Athlete Tracker - which was great! Since I can't really navigate through the full course, especially with my little guys, I was able to use my phone to check in on his progress. GREAT ADDITION! One item worth noting is that I was able to find a few supporters on twitter (1 person actually posted the athlete tracker, which is how I learned of the helpful little tool), however, there wasn't an overall consensus on the #tag, so some of us were using #racineironman and others I believe were using #ironmanracine. I see a lot of potential for incorporating some social media into future events. (Hey, race coordinators, I'd love to work with you on ways to incorporate some additional value to your race!)

The Bad:
1.  Only 1 Racine run concession stand was open for food - Northbeach Oasis.  A lot of races are held on Sundays, which I can see why, especially when it's being held in a town or city of any size (traffic control, etc.); but there were no open restaurants near the race!  Parking, as you might imagine was a premium so you certainly didn't want to lose your spot and try to navigate through the closed streets on the quest for food. 
    THOUGHT/SUGGESTION:  Promote and attract concession sponsors/vendors for SUPPORTERS, in addition to the racers. Could be a great opportunity for local organizations to make a little money, while representing their cause AND city!  But, keep in mind that charging $2 for an 8oz cup of coffee and THEN asking for an additional donation will not be a sustainable business model for the supporters and families year after year. 

The Ugly:
1.  Only 1 SUNSCREEN station!  It was located at the beginning of transition area immediately following the swim, but nowhere else on course!  Really?  It's a triathlon, which entails getting wet, then stripping off a wetsuit and getting on a bike, and THEN running (in this case a 1/2 marathon - 13.1miles).  Even with Aloe Gator sunscreen, (which my husband swears by), I find it hard to believe that it could stick with someone through all of that.  And unfortunately he chose to use the port-a-potty instead of visiting the sunscreen station.  Needless to say, when he finished his race, he had a number of tan lines in various shades of red. (Item of note: some racers, including my husband, use cooking spray to help them get into their wetsuit…so literally he was cooking while he was biking and running – reminds me of a Seinfeld episode!)
Sunburn after Racine 70.3 Triathlon

All in all it was a fun and exhausting day. I'm nervous AND excited about Madison in September (for the full IronMan), but luckily we'll have family there to support him as he swims, bikes and runs his way into the IronMan annals.

Resting at the finish of Racine 70.3 1/2 IronMan
Do you have a favorite race, either from the runner OR supporter perspective?  Please share your feedback and suggestions!