This past Sunday brought some of the best weather we’ve had in weeks as well as our annual local triathlon, Nation’s Tri. (This was my first Olympic distance triathlon back in 2010 & one I did again last year even though I was only 5 weeks out of a boot & they’d cancelled the swim due to storms.) For various reasons I’d decided not to participate this year, but instead decided to try my hand at spectating and volunteering for the DC Tri Club water stop.
Y’all, spectating is hard.
I woke up a little late for my scheduled volunteer time but managed to make it down to the tip of Hains Point slightly before 8am. The DC Tri crew set up shop right before mile 4 of the run & offered up Gatorade, water, and –somewhat creepily– free hugs to all racers. I helped my friend Cat set up some DC Tri signs and chalk up the road before settling a few yards down from the water stop to get photos from all the DC Tri members who were racing.
Cat manned the camera, while my job was to hold up a sign saying, “SMILE! (If you’d like)” (because I refused to demand that anyone smile who didn’t want to) & tell her when DC Tri Club folks were running toward us. We cheered for all the passersby, though, adding more cowbell into the mix when needed.
The first elite guy (who minutes ahead of the competition) flew past at around 8:25am & from there on out it was a steady stream of racers to cheer on. We yelled and encouraged folks constantly for 4 hours, snapping pics of over 100 DC tri athletes. As a bonus, I got a nice education in being a spectator:
1. Losing your voice is an actual danger. It took about 2 hours of yelling before my voice started to go hoarse and then it felt like a constant fight to make sure I didn’t lose it entirely. I tried to cut back on the amount of yelling, but you can’t just watch people go by and not cheer for them when they’re 2 feet away from you & making eye contact. That seems super rude.
2. Bring liquids. To combat Item #1, a steady application of liquids is necessary. Whether those liquids come from a can, a Starbucks cup, or a flask depends highly on whether you have to go run 6 miles after the race. Food was also essential after a while & I was grateful for the snacks that folks had brought.
3. Bring a chair. Cat’s roommate had the brilliant idea to make her bring a camp chair. We took turns sitting down & that helped conserve energy.
4. Your race kit has a direct impact on how much people cheer for you. I learned this at Alcatraz too when I wore my DC Tri Club kit, but it was funny to see me doing the same thing as other spectators. If you have an easy to read name or affiliation on your chest, I’m way more likely to cheer for you out of a crowd of runners. Doesn’t matter if I don’t have any association with the Air Force or USC or the Annapolis Tri Club; if I can read it quickly, I’ll cheer & shout for it.
5. Apparently racers really do like free hugs? You wouldn’t think many sweaty, tired racers would want to take advantage of an offer of free hugs 2 miles from the end of a race, but there were a surprising number who partook. Weirdos.
6. I’d rather be racing. It’s always fun to watch The Accomplice rock the run (which she did! a course PR!) or see how the elites do their thing, but I went home at the end of the day and didn’t get to feel that sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a race. All that time spent on the course, but there was no gratifyingly sore quads or ravenous appetite to take with me. That was a bit of a bummer.
So Nation’s Tri is done once again. It’s DC’s only triathlon event left & I’m glad to see it take place even if I don’t always race. We’ll see about next year, though. They keep the course consistent, which makes it a nice race to compare PRs…