Friday, 13 September 2013

Ironman Supporters' Guide - Guest Blog by my wife!


There's a reason I don't blog.  I can't BS nearly as well as my husband.  If you've ever met me, you know I tend to get straight to the point.  Embellishing this thing with funny stuff is going to be tough for me and will probably involve making fun of Colin and revealing some of his deepest, darkest secrets.  That's where I find most of my comedic material. 

What do I think of triathlons?  Think of me as the esteemed Kenny Powers in the scene below:

I will never do a triathlon of any distance because I just don't want to.  I know I could finish a sprint - my time would be horrifically horrible because I'm one of the worst swimmers on the planet, but one thing you do as a triathlete's spouse or significant other is spend a lot of time watching other people compete.  And I have spent A LOT of time watching other people compete.  I've seen people start and finish the sprint swim floating on their backs, not using their arms at all, kicking with their legs.  I may not be a good swimmer, but I'm a damn fine floater.  However, I digress....

As mentioned, I spend a lot of time waiting.  Waiting for Colin to finish training so we can take the rugrats out or we can spend some time together at night watching our favorite crappy tv shows.  Waiting for Colin to finish talking to his friends in the vortex that is Element in Edmonton.  (They have nice stuff in there, so I sit in the car with the kids.  I don't know how bike shop insurance works, but I'm pretty sure we'd have to pay the deductible when they destroyed every bit of carbon fiber in there.)  Waiting for Colin to come up with the diet fad of the week so I know what to make for his meals. (Thank heavens for Weight Watchers - I get to cook normal food now.  Although EVERYONE wants something different, I'm not stuck making lentils and Sunny Boy and steel cut oats and other random goopy foods on a regular basis anymore.)

Waiting and waiting and waiting.

And then there's waiting for Ironman....

In the months before Ironman the conversations sound like this:
C: Do you think I'm training hard enough?
K: You haven't stopped complaining about how sore you are, so probably.
C: Are you sure?  I don't know if I feel ready.
K: You did one two months ago.  You train 6x a week.  I'm sure you're ready.  You're always ready.
C: Maybe I am.  Actually, maybe I need some new bike shorts or bike shoes or running shoes or shoe laces or socks or a new triathlon backpack.  YES!  That's it!!!!  A new tri bag!  My last one got dirty.  I need a new one!!!!

(That last part might seem like I'm taking creative liberties, but I'm pretty sure we've had that conversation.  And reading this is going to remind Colin that one of the shoulder straps on his backpack is broken so he has to start looking for a new one, even though we tied up the old one and it works just fine.)

And then there's the day of Ironman.  I don't know if there's a more boring spectator sport in the whole wide world.  You know what time the swim starts, but you have NO clue where your swimmer is - there's a sea of people jumping in to a large body of water and all you can see are swim caps.  So you jingle your cow bell and clap the hand clapper thingy and then turn around and go back to the hotel room because no one can hear you anyway.

Where's Waldo?

An hour later you're standing somewhere on the bike course in a sea of cheering people holding signs.  You can see your athlete approaching, head down, ready for a day of exercise.... And you yell their name, and then you see their butt disappear in to the distance.  And then after the race you ask "Did you hear me?  Did you see me?  I was holding a giant sign and cheering your name and I had that baby painted fluorescent orange!"  And they have no clue what you're talking about.  And then you learn that you just have to TELL them that you were there and you can actually go for ice cream instead.    Finally, there's the run.  If you're REALLY lucky it will be an out and back or a couple loops and you can actually make eye contact with your athlete so you KNOW they saw you.  Colin always stops to say hi and give us a big wet smelly hug.  As gross as it is, it's always really nice. 

See? Sweaty and gross but not too busy for a family photo. Only 5 more hours to go.

And then there's the finish line - it is designed for the athletes, not spectators.  Perhaps a person who isn't pushing a double stroller filled with 3 kids (not a typo) can get somewhere near it, but I'm pretty sure you have to get there early.  The closest I've ever been to seeing Colin finish was when I watched the live feed online from the Coeur D'Alene finish line.   That was in fact my favorite finish because I got to see how happy he was the second he was done.  Once your athlete crosses the finish line you're stuck waiting for them to have a snack, see the paramedics, pick up their bike, talk to people, do the hokey pokey.... And you can't see them doing any of this stuff, so you just wait.  (While you're waiting, listen to all the stories you hear about the course.  You can use these later.  Stay tuned.)  I think Colin hurries through this part quite a bit for us though because he's usually out in about 20 minutes and skips the massage station.  I know he misses us when we don't go to Ironman with him, but I think it really enables him to better enjoy the whole experience (HAHAHAHAHAHA).

One tip I have for spectators at the finish line is to offer to help any athlete you see who is finished.  These somewhat insane individuals have just spent a day exercising.  They're leaving the race with a bike and a bike pump and a wet suit and running shoes and bike shoes and tri suits and t-shirts and sweat pants and hoodies and maybe a snack.  And a lot of them are on their own.  Because you spend SO much time waiting, you can do a solid and walk someone to their car.  Give 'em a hand!  I did that the last time Ironman Canada was in Penticton - the kids and I walked a woman to her car and helped carry a whole bunch of her crap.  It didn't really take any time out of my day since I was just WAITING anyway, but it got her to her bed that much more quickly and she was so happy. 

Finally there's the stinky, sweaty, tired, starving athlete that you have to get back to a hotel room.  DO NOT let them stop moving.  Once they stop you're done for.  You might as well just tie two skateboards together and haul them back that way if you're going to let an Ironman stop moving before they get to a shower. I've found that Colin likes to push his own bike back.  I don't know if it's related to the fact that he washes his bike more often than the car or the fact that it's good to lean on, but either way don't try to come between a triathlete and their bike.  If you can tie a stick to the front and hang some Chinese food off of it like a version of an old Bugs Bunny cartoon you can hopefully motivate your athlete to move at more than a snail's pace.  Once you're in the room, don't be surprised if you hear a lot of groaning and maybe a "COME LOOK AT THE COLOUR OF MY PEE!" (actual conversation).  Once the pleasantries are out of the way, leave them to their own devices.  You'll probably have some pretty spectacular blisters to pop, so make sure you have a needle and some bandaids ready.

Your average athlete (by Ironman finish time standards, not average compared to the general population) is going to be a bit sore and tired the next day.  Do whatever you can to keep them off their feet.  And be prepared to hear a lot of complaining.  About rub marks, about sore feet, about their bike chain, about some asshole on another bike who did something douchy, about what they should have done but didn't do.... And then there's the fun stories about the funny spectators along the course.  I like those stories.  If you're one of those people with the funny signs or music or are a hot babe in a bikini and you're able to take Colin's mind off the exercise the day of the race, thanks! 

If you're smart, the morning after Ironman (and a day spent alone with the kids) you can get a couple hours to yourself by leaving the kids with your athlete and visiting Hell, aka the finisher gear tent.  Ironman competitors aren't just happy buying things that say "Ironman/location/year."  They MUST own something that says "Ironman/location/year/FINISHER."  Apparently the medal, the t-shirt, and the hat they get at the finish line don't count.  A trip to the finisher gear tent is difficult to describe. First you have to stand in line outside the tent for at least an hour.  You feel really out of place because you're not wearing compression socks or eating a Powerbar. There is a quick solution to this however.   Wear compression socks and carry a Powerbar around.  Remember I told you to listen to the stories at the finish line?  It's your turn to use them.  See how many people you can fool in to thinking you did Ironman.  It's a great way to kill time while you're waiting (yet again.)  And it's kinda funny.  If anyone notices your lack of odd sunburn spots where the sunscreen sweated off and calls you on it, tell them the truth.  If not, giggle away to yourself.  By now you know the jargon so play on playa!

Getting in to the gear tent is like shopping on Boxing Day or Black Friday at the mall but worse.  You're stuck in a tent with poor ventilation, a VERY limited selection of clothing (I have a sneaking suspicion the first people in to the tent have someone stay in line overnight like some people do for concert tickets), and lines.  LOOOOONG lines of people.  I'm glad Colin wears an XL because that's about all that's left by the time I've made it in to the tent.  If you're a Medium, good luck!  There are usually coffee cups, magnets, and Ironman stickers by the tills for you.  

When you eventually make it back to the car you can listen to awesome stories about the tow truck driver had to come and give the car a boost because daddy didn't think to start the engine at any point during the three hours he was listening to and charging his Ipod.

Anyway, that's about it.  You are now fully prepared to support an Ironman athlete.  If you're an impatient person it's probably time to encourage your triathlete to find a new sport.  Might I suggest jai alai or Aussie rules football?


  1. HA! I love your wife Mr Ironman! :) p.s. thanks for the heads up. My husband will forever be redirected away from this competition as I am the LEAST patient person on the planet. :)

  2. Haha! Fine text!!
    I am engaged to a soon-to-be triathlete (getting her bike soon), I'm sure I'll be referring back to this page to laugh about it! :)

  3. Love it. You guys are all kinds of awesome...mostly the hard core kind. :)

  4. Hey Colin, I'm assuming triathlon training is the best birth control you guys have going! I can't imagine Kim pulling any more kids around the country. You have a nice little group of athletic supporters there!
    Good luck in your upcoming races.