If you’ve been a trisupporter of a triathlete for any length of time, you’ve probably experienced this scenario at least once on race day:
You’ve been good and planned ahead with your triathlete what time they expect to complete the bike segment. You’ve agreed on where you’re going to be along the spectating route and you’re there 20 minutes ahead of when they’re expected to whiz by. Then, the 20 minutes comes and goes, 30, 40, 50 minutes and then an hour goes by and still no triathlete. You start to get nervous…All things run through your mind and you start to think the worst. Time is passing and still no triathlete…What do you do?
I’ve certainly been through this scenario on more than one occasion and I can tell you, IT SUCKS! And, it doesn’t get easier with each event or whether it’s an actual DNF or just an event that takes them out of the competition, so to speak.
The worst for me was at Ironman 70.3 California a few years back. Time just kept passing quickly and still no husband. I really started to panic. Friends I was with kept saying he was fine and would be along any time, but I knew something was wrong. They finally checked the medical tent and no Carl – whew. Then, they checked with the road crew and found out his crank shaft cracked and they couldn’t repair it, so he was out of the race, waiting by a guard gate at Camp Pendleton until someone could bring him in. Trust your gut…
Talk about relief, but for a good hour, it was sheer hell for me. Had I not been with people who knew what to do and who to ask, I honestly don’t know how I would have found out what happened until he eventually got a ride back! Not wanting anyone else to go through this, here are my tips for taking control of the situation when the triathlon day doesn’t go as planned…
HANDLING THE IMMEDIATE SITUATION
I know it sounds trite, but trust me, this is first and foremost, especially if you have kids with you. They don’t need to see you panicking. Chances are it is that flat tire or a GI issue and you will see them soon.
Use A Tracking App
I use a tracking app all the time for Ironman races. They are free and really kept pretty current these days. You can tell the last mile recorded, so know the general area where they’re stopped at and how long it’s been – all very important information to have. It worked great for me at Ironman Arizona when he had a flat. You can choose apps such as IronMobile or IMtrackr that you can download from the app store or use Ironman.
Know Where The Medical Tent Is
Just take note of this as you’re walking around the day before or during the race. It will save you some time and angst. On the run, you really can’t find out what has happened unless they are brought in to the medical tent.
Know How To Check With The Sag Wagons
They should be able to tell you if your triathlete is experiencing a mechanical issue on the bike or could go find out. They are usually guys riding around on motorcycles.
Where To Stand
This is really dictated by whether you’re alone or with others. If it happens on the bike and you leave your spot and it truly was 2 flat tires, you could totally miss them come by and will still wonder where they are. That said, if you’re by yourself, it will be tough to find out what’s going on and stay put. If it’s early in the ride, I would stay put, but think about heading towards transition, so you can always see if their bike is back in case you did miss them or the sag wagon has brought them back. If you’re with others, one can stay and one can go.
If it’s during the run, I’d check the medical tent and if they’re not there, go back to one of your designated spots and just wait. They will have to eventually come by.
DEALING WITH YOUR TRIATHLETE
This can be the much trickier situation to deal with, depending on their personality and how important this race was to them, i.e. did they hope for a personal best race or to qualify for the world championships. Their reaction may also be different depending on whether it’s a DNF or just wasn’t the race they were hoping for.
Help Put It In Perspective
Your triathlete is not the first one to have an issue during a race nor will they they be the last. It happens to the pros all the time. Life happens and there will be another race. This is a hobby, nothing more. You can try and focus on a solution, depending on what happened. If it was a flat tire or mechanical issue, not much could have been done to change the situation, but if it’s a GI issue, perhaps they could discuss their nutrition with their coach or a nutritionist when they get home.
Know When The Medical Tent Is Warranted
Depending on the situation, you may need to help make this decision for them. Always better to be safe then sorry.
Know Your Own Feelings
It actually is possible to feel worse than your triathlete! To know they didn’t achieve what they set out to can break a trisupporter’s heart. Don’t let your disappointment show and make them feel even worse. I’ve strongly encouraged Carl to keep going even if he had to walk the marathon just to finish and I’ve also accepted the inevitable. Neither was easy.
Let Them Dictate The Conversation
They really may not want to discuss the situation right away as they are probably going through a myriad of emotions, such as anger, disappointment, and resentment. When and if they want to talk, let it be their decision.
Head Out For A Nice Dinner
Hopefully, you can shrug off the day and go sit and have a nice dinner. While they may be doing okay, they may not want to be around a lot of other triathletes right now.
If Kids Are Involved
If it’s a DNF, you’ll just have to explain what happened and that your triathlete won’t be crossing that finish line. Otherwise, it probably won’t make any difference to them as they’ll still get to see the big finish and be proud. But, this can actually be a great lesson learning experience for the kids in facing disappointments, so how you both handle the situation is important.
If your triathlete does many triathlons, it’s inevitable that a bad race day is going to happen. Best to be prepared, I say…