"...In the end, people either have excuses or experiences; reasons or results; buts or
brilliance. They either have what they wanted or they have a detailed list of all the rational reasons why not."

~ Anonymous
(taken from Matt Erbele's, It Takes Time to Get Good)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Vineman Iron Distance Triathlon 2010: A Spectator Report

This weekend was the Vineman Iron Distance Triathlon. I was supposed to race this as Take 2 of my Iron attempt. More important things came up and I decided ironman training this year was not worth it, but one of my good friends, IronJane was going to do it and for that reason I would not have missed it.

Let me start with a bit of background on me and IronJane. She and I met for the first time in 2008 we she came out to run our first (and my only) 50k, the Skyline to the Sea, together. We met and then immediately ran 20 miles of a 31 mile race together. As you can tell we hit it off and a great friendship was born.

IronJane and RBR. First Ultra

Then we decided to do Ironman Coeur d' Alene together. She had already raced Ironman Arizona that year and opted to volunteer. She is a doctor, so when she told them she would work the med tent if they let her do T1 first, they said "Yes ma'am, Whatever you want!"

We hung out the day before and then when I straggled into T1, sick and broken, she got my shit together and got me on the bike. For that I, and my family, will be forever grateful.

DrIronJane to the rescue. For my part I did manage to not puke all over her.

This Saturday it was her day to race and I was honored to be there to cheer for her. I am not going to tell her story, because it is her story to tell, but I do want to give an athlete's (it makes me giggle to refer to myself as athlete, but I can not think of another term) view of being spectator.

From the other side of the start line


I showed up to the Vineman start a little before 6:00 am. Jane's wave was set to go off at 6:45. I parked in the same lot I have used the last two years as a competitor (another giggle, again no other term can be thought of) in Barb's Race Half Iron.

As I walked the 1/2 mile to the beach start I wondered how I would feel watching people start the race that I was supposed to be in. Standing on the rocky beach, in my warm fleece, drinking my coffee, NOT wearing a wetsuit, NOT having the sharp rocks cut into the soles of my feet, and NOT having to jump in the water with a couple hundred people that want to swim over me, I felt pretty damn good about it, truth be told.

I stood by the T1 exit with other spectators hoping to catch a glimpse of my racer before she took off.

: Everyone looks exactly the fucking same in a wetsuit and matching swim cap. Have a plan to meet up with your peeps if you want to see them pre-race. If you don't want to see then just tell them, "I will meet you by the start. I will be in a wetsuit and orange swim cap" that will make sure you get some alone time.

Of the five spectator families standing in my group only 2 found their racer. We congratulated the winning families, and lamented our own failures. Yes, spectating has a competitive side as well. You should have heard all the "my racer is more bad ass than your racer" stories. I have to say, I won quite a few of those battles. My racer is truly bad ass. *smug grin*

Women's Vineman Full Iron Wave Start. That is Jane waving to me in the back (not really, but I told someone it was. Don't judge me, the spectator competition was STEEP)

The swim

This was Jane's third full iron and I have tracked her at every one, so I knew about what her times should be for each event. That made finding her easier than it was for some families that had no idea how fast or slow their racer was. I spent a lot of times guesstimating times for families that had never done any type of event like this. It was a great way to kill time. One of my favorite of these conversations was this one:

RBR: How long do you think your racer will be in the water? (Common spectator to spectator question)

Non-athlete spectator: I figure about an hour.

RBR: Damn, that is really fast. Are they elite?

Non-athlete spectator looks at me:
Ummm... maybe I have that wrong. How long should it take?

RBR: Your typical age-grouper is anywhere from 1:20 if they are fast to 2:00 if they are slower swimmers depending on how fast they swim

Non-athlete spectator:
Oh, then I was right, she's fast. She'll be about an hour.

*Clearly, this guy does not get there is BIG difference between 1:00 and a 1:20 for 2.4 mile swim. For the record, my racer came out in 1:34, his racer was not out yet, but you have to love how proud he was of her and how much confidence he had in her.

Trying to catch racer coming out of the swim is almost as much fun as trying to find them at the swim start. They come out disoriented and looking no more identifiable to you than as when they went in until they pull their swim cap off, which is usually just as they pass you.

Case in point, here is a sliver of Jane's back as eclipsed by big lumbering dude coming out of the swim

T1: Swim to Bike

This can be a good time to see your racer since it is typically a longer transition.

NOTE TO SPECTATORS - AN ATHLETE'S PERSPECTIVE 1: Your racer is referred to as a racer, because they are racing. They cannot have an extended chat with you, they will not pose for pictures (unless they are me, then of course I will *attention whore grin*), nor can they do math calculations to figure out when you can see them next. Oh, and repeatedly yelling to them while they are in transition does not help them move faster. It just irritates them and those of us around you.

So freaking adorable!

Total bad ass status! I want to look even half this cool leaving transition.

The Bike

The bike is a long haul with no real options for catching your racer unless you risk their and other racers safety by cruising the course. In my opinion, this is dangerous and the fewer vehicles on the course the better, so I did not do this. (Although, I must admit last year at Barb's I saw a friend drive by that cheered and asked how I was and that was pretty cool, but I still won't do it)

IronJane biking up the steep ass hill out of transition

That means I had a little time to kill, so I went and had a little breaky and drove away from the course to see the beautiful area.

Shhhh, don't tell Jenny Craig, that bitch does not want me to have any fun.

California Coastline in Jenner, CA

Then around 1:30 pm I set about finding a parking space near the run course. I did not have to drive the full 2 hours back home to find parking, but I think I got within spittin' distance. Those idyllic visions of heading back to my car for extra supplies where quickly dashed as I trekked the 20+ minutes to the high school.

I packed my GoLite with a thermos of coffee, a diet coke, a bottle of water, and a package of PopTarts (these are to be thanked for keeping me from killing six 20-something year old spectators that were bugging the fuck out of me around 8 pm. Take home message: Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop Tarts save lives.)

NOTE TO SPECTATORS - AN ATHLETE'S PERSPECTIVE 2: Your racer is not the only one in the race. I know you are there to support your racer, but please do not go ape shit for your racer and then immediately stop cheering, turn your back to the race, and start loudly talking and horsing around. It is disheartening to the athlete behind your runner that hears the crowd go silent as they run by and it endangers your life if there is a glucose deficient person spectating near you that is cheering for all of the racers and does not find you cool, amusing, or nearly as good looking as you all think you are.

NOTE TO ATHLETES - SPECTATING OBSERVATION 2: I have done that half smile, tiny wave when I was hurting in a race and always felt that I was being as asshole to the spectators by not saying thank you or being more enthusiastic. I now know that they understand and your acknowledgment, even if strained, is greatly appreciated by the crowd.

T2: Bike to Run

Catching your racer at this juncture can be a bit maddening. While they are easier to identify on their bike, they are moving significantly faster. Taking your eyes off the road for even a second to check your email on your phone could lead to you missing your racer.

You are afraid to move, to go pee, to even freaking blink, lest you miss them race by. And God help you, if you do you miss them you will get the dreaded, patronizing look of consolation from your fellow spectators, "Awww, you missed them?" *head tilt* "Well, I am sure they know you are here."

Trust me, you do not want to be that spectator.

So you stare, vigilantly at the road and soon EVERY rider looks like your rider. I know all the spectators were suffering the same fate, because I would hear "There she/he is! She/he is coming!" and then the "Oh, that is not her/him" about as many times I thought it.

[Here is where I would put a picture of Jane coming in from the bike, if I had one.]
NO! I did NOT miss her, but I did fail to turn on the camera before I took the picture.

The Run

Here is where the rubber meets the road in terms of Iron spectating. The Vineman run course has 3 loops. You dare not leave for fear of 1. losing your spot. or 2. missing your opportunities to cheer for your runner. I was out there for 9 hours. I did not leave, I did not pee, and the one time I checked my texts and answered a couple I almost missed my damn runner!
My hands were sore from clapping, my voice was getting hoarse from yelling the standard, "You are looking great", "Woo Hoo" and "You are awesome!"

I know she is awesome, but did I mention that she is also FABULOUS?

I know better than to say "You are almost done", "Looking strong" (which all of us back of the backers know is code for 'Dear God, You look like shit'), "Come on! You can do it. Keep it up" (anything that sounds like an order pisses suffering athletes off)

I met some amazing people yesterday. They were as amazing as the athletes they were cheering for and, barring a few idiot 20-somethings, everyone there was 100% focused on their family members or friends that were out there battling a tough course.

Everyone I talked to was awed by the work their racer had done in training all year, in the wee hours of the morning, through heat, cold, rain, and exhaustion to be able to do this race today.

NOTE TO ATHLETES - SPECTATING OBSERVATION 3: It really does not matter to your friends and family how your race day goes, whether your swim time is 10 min faster or 20 min slower, whether you drop your chain or PR your bike split, or whether you have to walk or you run every step, they are already so very amazed by and proud of you.

I know, because I heard them brag about you for 16 hours. The ones that PR'd, the ones that DNF'd, and everyone in between.

Great job Vineman and Barb's Race triathletes!

And to IronJane, I love you, man. Until we meet again at Rocky Raccoon. ;)


C said...

Congrats to Iron Jane! She is indeed totally badass. And congrats to you for being an awesome friend and spectator. I almost never have personal spectators at my races so I really appreciate when people I don't know yell out encouragement to me. It helps so much.

P.S.--Your breakfast photo made me drool on my keyboard. Jenny Craig is a heinous bitch if she's begrudging you that wonderfulness.

Anne said...

Congrats to IronJane! How nice of you to be there for her throughout the race...you're such a great friend. Must be kind of cool to listen to all the comments around you as a spectator :)

joyRuN said...

Huge congrats to IronJane!

Great spectator report, RBR. Love one of your last lines - I know, because I heard them brag about you for 16 hours.

Diana said...

Nice spectator report!!
Congrats to Iron Jane-love all the pics and that bike one is total "bad ass" looking!!

Nicole said...

Awesome report! Hopefully I will see you at Rocky Raccoon so I will feel like less of a lurker/creeper. Are you doing the 50?

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

OK, might not be able to read your blog at work anymore without everyone knowing! I was laughing out loud through the whole thing! Hilarious and SO true! Glad you had a great time and were able to document from the spectators perspective!

GufiFoot said...

Ohhh thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you! I immediately copied this post and sent it to my husband...ahahahha... hopefully this will help his spectator-ing abilities.
Congrats to Iron Jane, she is awsom.

Kate Geisen said...

Great report! And what a good friend you are to be there to cheer her on allll day long. And to actually WANT to be there.

Notes from the Fatty File said...

You are an awesome friend! Congrats to IronJane. I am kind of drooling over your breakfast, btw.

tina said...

Way to go Iron Jane.

I find spectating much harder then racing. Racers just follow the given course, spectators have to make their own course and not get a ticket or hit anyone while doing it! So many congrats to you too!

Isela said...

Love your spectator report. Congrats IronJane!

Formulaic said...

I am seriously suffering from not going! But your race report made me feel like I was there, minus the swearing and the cursing myself for doing another 140.6!

IronJane looked BAD ASS. You took some awesome pics.

SteveQ said...

Just to prove my total ignorance of all things tri, why did you have "74" on your arm, but "40" on your leg in that photo (not your best angle, btw, imho, etc.)?

In marathons, I try to teach spectators that, after they're tired of cheering (after the first 25 guys), don't just cheer for packs of runners to be efficient, but cheer for the poor guy who runs the whole thing alone - and usually in silence - usually as everyone's looking for the first woman. Cheer for the poor guy who went out too fast and is walking the last half (and will still break 3:30) - as pissy as he'll be at the time, he'll remember the nice crowds later.

Everyone tells me Grandma's marathon in Duluth has great spectators, but I always hear the drunk college guys calling, "You look like shit! You should Wanna beer?" And I have stopped for the beer once or twice.

And I learned early that in ultras, don't even tell people you're doing it if there's any chance they'll go to watch and then find themselves bored and worried for 10-30 hours.

PunkRockRunner said...

I wish I had known you were going to be there because I was in the T2 area too. I had one friend participating in Barbs and another taking on the Vineman. I figured, it’s Saturday, I’ve got nothing going on, so I might as well go cheer on a thousand awesome fit sweaty female athletes in tight fitting clothes kick ass. Possibly the only time I can say to the wife “check her out” without getting in trouble.

Jane, and everyone else who stood at the edge of the Russian River on Saturday, represent the best of the human spirit and it was a real pleasure cheering for them as they changed their lives.

All the best,


Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

I know she is awesome, but did I mention that she is also FABULOUS?

ZOMG!1! She's a tranny too?!1?

Hahahahaha! Just kidding! Congrats to IronJane on a great race!

She's lucky to have a Big-Penised Friend like you.

Maryland Girl aka Michelle said...

Great Post! Congrats to Iron Jane.
Mmm brie on eggs...yummy

SteveQ said...

Since you're aswering all my tri-ing questions, during the swim, does anyone ever shout "Marco!" or is that just a newbie idea of humor?

Katie A. said...

You are such a cool chica! And so is Iron Jane! Badass!!! I loved this post - I've never been to any sort of tri but now at least I can be less of a rookie :)

Carolina John said...

Big congrats to the girl! And I know it must have been a bittersweet day for you, so I'm glad you stayed in the game.

Pahla said...

Best race report ever - congrats to badass Iron Jane!!
On behalf of every person who has ever been in a race with silent spectators, THANK YOU for being the girl who cheers for everyone!

Unknown said...

Congrats to your racer, and great post!

trailturtle said...

Super account of the event and your experience. You certainly have a BIG heart. Congrats to both of you for great efforts!
Keep the spirit, Ann

Kathy said...

@Steve - I've only done one 70.3 and it was in the early 80s in Santa Barbara and back then we stripped nekkid in transition - but I'm guessing the 74 is her number and 40 is her age group.

IronSnoopy said...

Yay for Iron Jane!

And Yay for you for being the best spectator evar!

Soooooo funny. I'm at work trying to be all serious and failing miserably.

Mmmm. Pop Tarts. Mmmm.

Jane said...

You are the best sherpa/cheerleader/friend ever. I really appreciate you being there. This is a great article for spectators. I love the pics! I'm gonna steal them. RR? maybe. I'm sure at Mile 30 I'll be cursing you though.. heehee

So glad you made the comment about certain specific spectators who are hella annoying.

Christi said...

I love this post! You are a great spectator and congrats to IronJane!

Lindsay said...

congrats to iron jane! you are a great spectator. i enjoyed all your insightful lessons. apparently i am a bad spectator because i say "keep it up" and "lookin' good". i just don't know what else to say; if you could publish a "how to cheer for endurance athletes" book that'd be great.

your secret is safe with me. i have no desire to become friends with jenny craig.

Jane said...

Hey, we (David and I) loved northern Cali. I thinke I'll do SF marathon with you next year! You can get another PR! We'll both wear boas like the divas we are!

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sammie Girl said...

I have been a race spectator once! BUT I have gone from racer to cheerleader a few times. I was supposed to run the Denver Marathon as a full marathon, but my foot doc told me no way and my PT said ONLY if you do ONLY the half and ONLY walk it (I might have run a little here and a little there) BUT I had a friend running the full marathon, so I planted myself about a block away from the finish line and screamed as loudly as I could for EVERYONE! When my runner passed me I stuck around for a little bit longer went to right in front of the finish line and continued cheering! I had a few people come up and say thank you because of my big mouth they were able to scrounge the energy to push it a little harder to get across that line.
It is awesome that you are out there cheering on your friend and I mean an Ironman? That is 140.7 miles of I can do it; no I can’t; what the hell was I thinking; hey, I can do it; what the hell do you know; thank God, people are cheering… Ok, I have only done a half ironman, but I will get my full ironman done the year after next!

Sammie Girl said...

oh! and Iron Jane is awsome!