Ironman Supporting

The night before is fun. Making myself scarce so that Jo can faff without distraction. I chilled by the BBQ with beer and friends not nervous… yet.

Sleep proved difficult. I was nervous like I was racing, the only difference; wanting the alarm rather than dreading it. From my bed I watch Jo’s final preparations; pondering how few nerves she was showing.

Ironman Lanzarote is a great race to support. On the beach you can mingle with the athletes, wish them luck and hug your athlete of choice. I searched, in vain, for Jo stressing that I’d not wished her luck.

The tension was intense. In the water, up to my waist, my stomach was churning worse than if I were racing. I had 20+ people to worry about; when I’m racing I’ve only got one (sometimes two).

The gun goes removing my nerves. The start is terrifying. If you’re planning to race don’t watch it first. It’s worse to watch than race. It took minutes for many to enter the water, I hope none of them miss a cutoff by minutes. 20 minutes later I’m back in the water to cheer the end of the first lap before my first mental calculation of the day: how long spotting slower swimmers before heading to the bike exit.

Bike exit spectating is awesome. The slope of the road means athletes are moving slowly giving time to shout out the perfect support. Also you watch some comedy moments as athletes struggle placing feet in shoes on rapidly decelerating bikes.

Once my last athlete is on the bike I head for breakfast, to wallow in the knowledge that I’m not racing. Some friends head out to offer much appreciated support on the bike but I decided to sacrifice the chance of a speedy glimpse to store up my strength for the run.

Four hours of relaxing, or worrying depending on your mood, before heading out for about eight hours of run support. Initially it’s relaxed with the leaders coming through providing a chance to give Rachel a big cheer, she’s flying. Soon the work starts. Kona slots. Three male and three female age groups to track is hard work. This gives focus and time whizzes by. The occasional athlete hiding their number causes some irritation. Why don’t they give out penalties for this? If they did it would soon stop. It’s just not cricket.

On the run support can really make a difference.  Early it’s those gunning for slots that need the right words. One comes in 25th so I give the time gap to 8th (my guess at the final slot) rather than position. Another is 45 minutes ahead but with a doubt in my mind and those hidden race numbers I choose not to tell but instead encourage her to keep strong.

It’s none stop now. Getting dizzy looking both ways trying to spot everyone, Finding the right words as people fade. Spotting the friends that chose perfectly camouflaged kit. It helps when they spot me first and give a cheer. Timing getting ice cream (I do need to keep cool) is proving ever more difficult but I manage it without missing anyone. Later I discover for one friend I had an ice cream every time he saw me… far from ideal support.

Jo is looking strong as she goes out but after the first lap is not looking so good. I wish I could do something more than offering a can of red bull at the assistance area. I feel helpless watching a loved one suffer followed by the worry when they take longer to reappear.  There are snapshots of the change in emotion from gritty determination at the start of the run, when all goals are still on. Through pain and distress as goals slip away. Ending with humour and enjoying the atmosphere when all goals have been relinquished other than the one of finishing.  I adjust my words to match.

My last guy is out on his final lap on schedule for me to make dinner! Jo is now finished and we’re supporting together. His expected time passes. Ten minutes, then another …where is he? What should I do? Well there’s nothing I can do other than worry. Finally he appears, walking, looking bright and breezy. In to the finish shoot, his first Ironman and he’s done well. I am over the moon.

Time for a quick dinner before returning to support those amazing final finishers.

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