Two weeks ago, I was honored to be a coach at the Ironman 70.3 Texas with my three racing athletes, my husband, and my dear friend, Stephanie. I was cheering, freezing, coaching, hugging, taking photos, screaming, and taking more photos. Finally, everyone I was cheering on and coaching crossed that finish line, and it was AMAZING!
I am going to be 100% honest with you. I have done 13 Ironman Triathlons, along with numerous Ironman 70.3 Triathlons, and I would MUCH rather do the race than be an Ironman Sherpa.
Yes, being an Ironman Sherpa is exhausting but let’s chat about what a “sherpa” is and then I will break down the day for you, at least this is how I do it and probably why I am exhausted! Next week, I will share with you my “Top 5 Tips to Being Best Sherpa Ever!”
First of all, let’s chat about the word “Sherpa” and where it actually came from. According to Dictionary.com, Sherpa is a “member of a Himalayan people living on the borders of Nepal and Tibet, renowned for their skill in mountaineering.” When folks wanted to climb Mount Everest, the Sherpa Tribe, were very knowledgeable of climbing the Himalayan Region. As time went on, the word Sherpa, has been used as a byword for a guide or a mentor in other situations, such as an Ironman Triathlon. (While I am not into climbing Mount Everest, the whole “Sherpa” story is quite interesting, as how it got started and why it is still going: http://sherpafilm.com/trailer/.)
Next, what those “Sherpas” do on Mount Everest, isn’t EVEN close to what Ironman Triathlon Sherpas do, it is still exhausting. To be a TRUE Ironman Sherpa, let’s break down the day of being an Ironman Triathlon (These times are approximate with a 3 loop run course):
4:00 am: Athlete gets up. So do you.
5:00 am: Athlete heads down to race start. So do you.
5:30 am: Transition Opens. Athlete sets up their bike, etc. You wait. Take photos. Say Hi to everyone. Stay warm if it is chilly. Take more photos. Calm the athlete down.
7:00(ish) am: Race Starts. Athlete goes swim. You try to see them take off but everyone has a black wetsuit on AND same color swim caps for men and women. Dang it.You can’t see them.
8:10 – 8:15 am: Athlete gets out of the water, at a time estimate. Athlete told you their estimated time, so you are waiting at the finish of the swim to “hopefully” see your athlete. Dang it, everyone looks the same. You see them coming out. You have the camera, the phone and you are screaming! So excited to see them get out of the water.
8:15 – 8:20 am: Athlete runs to T1. You know you have time to run up to the bike exit, because they have to go into the tent, change and grab their bike.
8:20 am: You see them exit the T1. You have the camera, the phone and you are screaming! Dang it. My phone only has 5%. I better go recharge.
8:20 am – 1:00 pm: You, the Sherpa need to do these things in no particular order: Shower. Eat. Drink more coffee. Maybe eat more or grab snacks! Drink water. Nap. Charge the phone. Watch your rider on the charging phone on the Ironman Triathlon app. Drive back down to the T2.
1:45 pm: You know your athlete is coming in. You tracked them the whole way. They are close. Dang it, everyone looks the same. You see them coming into T2. Tired. Hot. But with a smile! You have the camera, the phone and you are screaming!
1:50 pm: Athlete runs into T2. You know you have time to run up to the run exit, because they have to go into the tent, change and grab their running shoes and nutrition.
1:55 pm: Athlete comes out of T2 and they are off for their first loop (Maybe a two loop or a three loop run). You have the camera, the phone and you are screaming!
2:40 pm: You run down to a spot, where you know you can see them for the 2nd time on the run. You are watching the Ironman App. They are close!
2:45 pm: There they are! You have the camera, the phone and you are screaming!
3:15 pm: Have to go to the bathroom. Have I gone today? I need more water and a snack.
3:40 pm: Shoot. Did I miss them? Where are they are the map? I have to go find them.
4:15 pm: Yahoo! Found them. You have the camera, the phone and you are screaming!
4:55 pm: Dang it. Phone is about to die because I am taking photos and using the app and Instagram Stories. Better charge it with my extra charger.
5:30 pm: Wait? What is going on? Why is the Ironman tracker stopped? People stop texting me. I don’t have much juice. What you see on the tracker is what I am seeing on the tracker. I don’t know what is going on? Where is my athlete? I am stressing out. What if I miss them?
6:00 pm: Better head to the finish line. I HAVE to see them there. Dang it is crowded. Oh shit. My phone is low on battery. I found a plug at a building to get that perfect photo!
6:15 pm: OH MY WORD. The app says they are close by!
6:17 pm: OH MY WORD. The app says they are close by!
6:18 pm: OH MY WORD. The app says they are close by!
6:20 pm: OH SHIT. I almost missed them!!! There they are! You have the camera, the phone and you are screaming! They can’t hear you because all they hear is:
“_______________. You. Are. An. Ironman.”
They did it!!! You go running around to find them through the crowd. “Excuse me. Excuse me. My athlete just finished. You seem them. They are happy, excited, tired and exhausted. But they did it. They just rocked 140.6 miles!
According to YOUR Garmin Fenix 5S watch, you walked 20,300 steps, which is equivalent to 10 miles!
“____________. You. Are. An. Ironman. Sherpa!”
You get your athletes’ clothing and gear and you walk back to the car. You put the athlete into the car, try to offer their recovery drink or a Coke and they give you the look of death. They want NOTHING sweet or a banana. They just want a shower and smile.
Next week, I will give you my “5 Tips To Being The Best Sherpa Ever 💥”…