Spectating a Race with Kids

Spectating a Race with Kids

This past weekend, I was at Augusta for the 70.3 Half Ironman. Not to race it, but to support and cheer my husband in this first (almost) triathlon. I’ve always known that I’ve missed my calling as a race cheerleader because the next best thing to being in the race is cheering the racers. I love the adrenalin rush and love the overwhelming feeling of motivation that comes over me. I’m quite ready to hulk over and sign up for a race when I see the marvelous athletes.

Having to drag 2 minions with me does not deter me at all. The more the merrier and it is just one day, after all. The next day they can go back to being “normal” and try to erase images of their mom screaming her lungs out in weird costumes. With some awesome planning and a spectator friendly race, we caught our athlete in several places – just before he went off to swim, at swim exit, at bike start and 6 times during the run.

As we were driving back, my new (half)Ironman husband commented, “I couldn’t have done what you did.”. Huh? What was I doing? Did he not just finish a 70.3? He was referring me to cheering him in so many places with the kids. His one attempt to watch me during my first Chicago Marathon was frustrating with the little ones and now he has given up and I’m lucky if he makes it to the finish on time!

Here is some of my tips on how have fun as a race supporter and make the day  interesting for the kids too.

1. Make Race Signs. Personalize them for your Athlete.
We had a sign making “party” at home where the minions and I made race signs. We made some generic ones, they made specific ones for Daddy. And I – I pulled off the biggest personalized poster which had my athlete in splits, but probably did not make sense to others (Rajini, the guy in the photo, is the Indian Chuck Norris, who at 70 something years is still an action hero and is quite the rage these days again because of a popular Bollywood song-dance) . The kids loved making the signs for THEIR daddy and they got into the race spirit even before the race.

Race Signs
The kids loved holding up their signs for Daddy at the swim start. My 4yo drew the “Daddy does triathlon” all by herself!

2. Keep logistics simple and Don’t forget food/entertainment!

You might not be racing out there, but you are putting in atleast half as much effort (if you are enthusiastically cheering, that is). You need to plan for food/snacks, plenty of food/snacks, especially if you have kids with you! Wear proper shoes and keep yourself hydrated. Scout out the area for restrooms; which of course will be needed n times with kids often at the most inopportune moment. I stood around cheering in my flipflops and my hamstrings and calfs were screaming by the end of the day! Luckily, there was plenty of snacks at the EC tent (including some Choc Chip Cookies and White Choc Macadamia Cookies that we had made).

While it is tempting to try to catch your athlete in all possible places, you have to remember that it is a difficult task with kids. Even though I knew that there were shuttles from the swim start to the finish, I walked the 1.2 miles. My little one was absolutely exhausted after 0.75 miles and I had to carry her. Quite a feat to manage with a backpack and a camera bag and hanging on to the older kid! I am glad we caught him at the transition too, but I should have taken the shuttle and not pushed the kids.
For the  run course, having a home base at the Endurance Concepts tent was the best thing! Even when I was running around at the end, the kids were there at the tent with the others who kept an eye on them.

Now, if it was just one mobile person spectating, I’d totally say that catching your athlete in as many places as possible is a must! You came to the race for your athlete. Be there for them!

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There were plenty of electronics and old fashioned crayons for the kids. My girls just enjoyed making new friends and eating all sorts of treats (on the table at the back). 
Photo Credit: Endurance Concepts

3. Let SmartPhones and Apps be your friend.

While tracking in an Ironman event is notoriously unreliable, the IronTrac app worked great at Augusta. It told me perfectly when my husband had finished his bike and started on his run. When his first run split came in, I knew it was time to keep an eye out for him! That helped me estimate the time we had left to squeeze in restroom breaks for the minions.

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I used IronTrac ($0.99 at the app store), reputed to be one of the best tracking apps for Ironman brand events.


4. Go as silly/crazy as you can

Some fun facebook conversation ended in wigs being brought to Augusta. Yes, colorful fun wigs. At first my kids looked at me like I was nuts (which I was, just a little), and then they joined me in the fun! Luckily, they are still young enough not to be embarrassed by the antics of mom 😉

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Maybe we need to get some wigs for Halloween fun 🙂


5. Be flexible and have lots of patience. LOTS

I’m not going to elaborate on this because Du’h. You are dealing with kids who have no concept of time, place or appropriateness. You will need twice as much (or more!) patience with them when you are out cheering in the sun/shade than you will playing out in the park with them.

My kids had a lot of fun that day, even though the day was very very long for them. The best part for them was meeting other kids and making new friends in the Triathlon Family. And my kids want to sign up for a triathlon too (never mind that one still needs to learn to bike and the other needs to learn to swim and bike).

Connect with me during the week on other social channels for more tips, inspiration and fun!

Have you cheered in a race with kids in tow?
Share some tips that made it a successful day with kids. Is there anything that you would not do that complicates the spectating day with kids?



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