Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Observations as a Cheerleader

Saturday my wife raced and I didn’t, so I had the opportunity to spectate and be her cheerleader. This was the first triathlon I ever did, back in 2003. After six years in Wisconsin, we moved back to the old stomping grounds a couple years ago. It was fun to do this race again the last two years, but I figured it was now my wife’s turn to experience such hallowed ground. As a side note, the night before the race, I asked if she wanted me to run through the checklist with her. At first she resisted with "no, I think I'm good," but then admitted it might be a good idea. 




(blank stare, followed by scurrying upstairs)    

As a bonus to the day, my mother-in-law was in town, and she volunteered to watch our son and daughter. Although I’ve played the spectator/cheerleader role before, this was the first time without kids. Not surprisingly at all, it was a lot more relaxing than the rest. At previous races let’s just say the concept of mom appearing only to rush away again did not go over well. I was actually able to help my wife get set up and stuff, which was fun, and I could watch without fear of my son running out onto the course. In addition to following my wife’s race, it was fun to watch the race unfold. I jotted down a few numbers as they went by, which helped put some faces to names I often see when looking at race results. You can learn a lot from spectating, things you might miss by being in the race. Here were a few of my observations:

Every second counts 

This race was won in a sprint finish by less than a second. My initial thought was that the second place guy must be kicking himself. For a race that close, often times you can point to time needlessly wasted in T1 and/or T2... however, I then remembered watching this guy in transition, and he was a machine. This is the former host of the TriTalk podcast and co-author of Triathlon Science with Joe Friel, so the fact that he knows what he's doing shouldn’t surprise me. Looking at the results, sure enough he had the fastest combined transition times of 1:30. The guy who won was next fastest at 1:31. On the other hand, the first guy out of the water (who also led exiting T2) seemed noticeably slower in transition, which the results verified (55 seconds). I also noticed that the second place guy in my age group (by 23 seconds) gave up 1:20 to the age group winner.

Bike courses can be dangerous

Crashes and collisions aren’t exactly rare, but it’s a miracle there aren’t more. I couldn’t believe how many spectators had zero self-awareness in crossing the race course... I and others had to yell at numerous people to keep them from getting run over. There are also a lot of kids (mine one of them) who seem fascinated with running into the action. Lastly, it was funny how dizzy and confused a lot of us triathletes are coming out of the water and also at the bike mount line. Combine that with the fact that this was a 2-loop course in which the elite guys/girls were flying through as a big pack drunkenly wobbled side to side attempting to clip in. Chaotic and entertaining! Put all these factors together and it’s amazing there wasn’t more carnage.

The fun of it

Initially I wished I was racing as well (I’ll have to wait a few more days) but I still had a blast cheering on my wife and everyone else. There were some really elite athletes there, but being a sprint only event, there were also a lot of beginners. They seem to have the most fun out of everyone. I think I lost sight of the fun of it for a few weeks after St. George 70.3. Watching this local sprint was a great reminder of why I do this sport!

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