I first honed my Sherpa skills back in 2012 when I supported my husband in his first IRONMAN journey. Fast forward a couple years, and I've transitioned from being a self-proclaimed "Sherpa Selfie Extraordinaire" to an IRONMAN-in-training.
Here are some tips for future first-time race Sherpas guaranteed to make race day more pleasant—for everyone involved.
1. Don't ask too many questions race morning like "How are you feeling?" or "Are you ready?" You already know the answers—cut the small talk.
2. Stay calm during the swim send off. Your athlete will be nervous enough for the both of you. Also, it's fine if you can't find your athlete immediately as they exit the water. Everyone looks the same, so cheer hard for everyone and just go with it.
3. Be prepared to take too many photos. Let's be real—there will only be a handful of shots your athlete will deem worthy of posting. Refraining from mouth-breathing photos is key.
4. Spectating takes more energy than you realize. Bring some snacks and scout out a good restaurant nearby to rest up and get out of the heat if possible. Your stomach will start growling while you wait through the bike leg, but remember your athlete is the only one allowed to be "hangry" post-race.
5. Keep track of time, but don't be afraid to adapt. Don't forget the swim start time and calculate back from there to find your athlete in transition. Avoid saying "She should be here any minute," because that's rarely the case.
6. When you do see your athlete come around the corner, scream like you're in the first row of a Katy Perry concert. He or she may not understand you or remember what you said, but volume and enthusiasm is of utmost importance.
7. Don't worry, be happy! If your athlete looks happy, you should be happy. If he or she looks like death, you should still be happy.
8. Enjoy the camaraderie of the other Sherpas around you and have fun. Always cheer for racers that other Sherpas in your group are cheering for, even if you don't know them. Sherpa see, Sherpa do.
9. NEVER say, "You're almost there." Period.
10. Don't forget that your athlete is thinking about you when they're out on the course. You'll be the first person they seek after crossing the finish line. Accept their post-race salty and sweaty hug—you're in this together!
Interested in starting your own IRONMAN journey? Check out IRONMAN.com for a race near you.