IronMan: How to Win at Spectating

IronMan: How to Win at Spectating

As ‘fun’ runs and marathons become ever more popular it was only a matter of time before people started looking for their next adrenaline hit in the world of endurance sports. Enter the Brownlee brothers. These world class athletes have brought the world of triathlon to the attention of a whole new dominain of the general public. However, just like in the marathon running world where you can push your limits even further by putting yourself through the torture that is an ultra-marathon (*disclaimer* I have never actually ran a marathon of any sort), there is an ‘ultra’-triathlon of sorts – the IronMan.

For those not satisfied with the Olympic standard of;

  • 1.5km swim
  • 40km bike and
  • 10km run to finish

you can switch it up for the half IronMan (or IronMan 70.3) consisting of;

  • 1.9km swim
  • 90km bike and
  • 21.1km run

or the full IronMan of;

  • 3.86km (2.4 miles) swim
  • 180.25km (112 miles) bike and
  • 42.16km (26.2 miles) run.

Yeah, I know, crazy right?

But if, like me, you can call one of these crazy people friend then no doubt you will jumping in a car early in the morning to go cheer them on. Afterall, with the half IronMan taking between 4 and 8 hours (4 hours being the pro athletes) it’s going to take all their strength not to give up – I imagine. Not to mention it’s a nice excuse for a day out!

So a few sundays ago I found myself jumping in my friends car on a little road trip adventure down to Shugborough, Staffordshire to support one of our friends on her first half IronMan adventure which, incidentally was the first UK IronMan of the season and our first time spectating one. Here are a few things we learned on our little spectating adventure.

Skip the Swim

Unless you’re staying close to the race or it’s your significant other competing then don’t bother turning up for the swim. It will be early, possibly super early (the first wave at Shugborough set off at 6.30am!) and unless your IronManner (yes that is what I am calling your friend/partner/family member) has a very unique technique -think phoebe from friends only swimming- then you are not going to be able to spot them in that mass of people swimming all wearing the same coloured hats and wetsuits if it is a wetsuit swim. The flip side to this is that your IronManner also will not be able to spot you and so will most-likely have no idea that you decided to have that extra 30-45mins in bed – wins all around!

Transition 2 (T2) is King

Yes Ok so you skipped the swim and you plan on meeting your IronManner at various points on the bike course which is all well and good in theory. That’s until you realise that they have closed roads making getting around that bit harder.

So save yourself a headache and a an argument with your car buddy(ies) and hang out at transition 2 a.k.a the bike transition. Here you can see them riding their bike and get that cool little photo of them speeding along like they are one of the Brownlees

or Non Stanford (other triathletes are available) before cheering them into transition.



They slow down a bit at transition too (they have to get off their bike) which means they will definitely have time to spot you and let you know how it’s going and hear your insults I mean encouragements. And guess what? It doesn’t end there. You can then shimmy on round to the other side of transition and cheer them on the start of the run!

Your IronManner will now believe you’re part of their own awesome cheerleading team!

Watch the Winners Finish

An added bonus for choosing to chill out at T2 is that you will most likely not be far from the finish line. That means that while you are waiting for your IronManner to make it to T2 you can check out the Pros and/or the shop (if you do venture in the shop make sure you find and say hi to my friend Seren who is part of the IronMan team manning the Merch’).

You might even get some freebies to cheer on the winners, and then your IronManner!

Don’t Trust the Tracker

Technology is awesome! I mean I wouldn’t be able to share this with you guys without it for starters and the IronMan nerd guys/girls have created a way for your to track your IronManner online in realtime. Sounds cool right? Unfortunately we found that it took a while to update itself and so wasn’t particularly accurate. Thankfully my friends guess work on timings were pretty good so we didn’t miss her.

We disregarded the tracker pretty quickly after we worked that out.

Pick your ‘chill’ spot… wisely

It was pretty hot and sunny the day we were spectating and so we basically hopped from shaded area under a tree to shaded area under a tree. Fortunately we found a spot on the run route where the IronManners ran twice per lap- they basically ran on one side of the path and then looped back to run down the other side. This meant we got to see my friend lots on the run. Just what she needed on the last leg of the race. Every time we saw her, her face just lit up with this huge smile, even when she yelled that she had a huge blister she did it with a smile.

Spectating from the comfort of the shade

Apparently she was enjoying herself.

Her cheerleaders, on the other hand took to chilling out on the shaded grass in between her brief appearances. Oh, and don’t forget the obligatory ice cream run! We had to keep ourselves cool somehow.

Watch your IronManner Finish

This might seem a little obvious but if you skipped the swim and the majority of the bike the least you can do is stick around and cheer them down the red carpet to the finish line.

Be ready for an emotional reunion with your IronManner. It’s a tough event and takes as much mental determination as physical ability so there could be an emotional waterfall let loose come the end I know my friend was like ‘why the hell am I crying?’. Also be ready for hugs and thank yous and lots of them. They will be sweaty, but if it is as warm as it was on that day you will be too (unless you are one of those enviable perfect people who don’t sweat).

Extra little things to remember

Bring your spectating ability up to pro levels by remembering this little things;

  • Start the day with a fully charged phone – you’re going to be outside all day which means no plug socket
  • Bring a picnic blanket/rug to sit on or better yet a fold-up chair
  • Sun cream -bring and use it more often than I did
  • Water – again make sure you stock up and bring your own to save you some pennies
  • Food same as above, bring your own and save some pennies or bring same cash and hit the food trucks
Use ALLLL the sun cream and you won’t end up with pretty patterns on your back like me!

We definitely lucked out on the weather (for spectating, it was probably a little warm for competing) which made the day so much more enjoyable. I can imagine it being a little less so if you’re standing in the pouring rain all day. However if you take these few things into consideration I am sure you will have an awesome spectator day and your IronManner will no doubt love you forever for being a part of it.



Until Next time keep Adventuring!

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