Jen Rulon

Side note: I know we have Ironman Texas coming up, so I wanted to share my tips with you. Have fun, and let me know how it went—looking for a coach in 2023? I have three spots left! Click HERE to jump on a call with me today! 

Ironman Racing vs. Being an Ironman Sherpa

I would MUCH rather do an Ironman Triathlon than be a Sherpa back in the day. I know it sounds a bit crazy, but here are a couple of reasons why I would do the race first and foremost:

1. As a racer, I know that it is 140.6 miles. But, as a Sherpa, I don’t know how many miles I will go!

2. As a racer, I have water and snacks every 20 miles on the bike and every 1 – 2 miles on the run. But, as a Sherpa, I don’t know when I will be eating and drinking.

3. As a racer, I know the route of my 140.6 miles. However, as a Sherpa, I have NO clue where I will be going, just trying to chase down the racers. 

4. As a racer, I have a #SHITTON of people cheering for me. But, as a Sherpa, no one is cheering for me. HA!

5. As a racer, I get bragging rights for the rest of my life. But, as a Sherpa, I will be a Sherpa. 

To my fellow Sherpas, I don’t want to scare you, but I do want you to understand what you may be going through, as it is a LOT of hard work, and I want you to be prepared to be the “BEST. SHERPA. EVER.” for your athlete, husband, daughter, sister, brother, Mom, Dad, spouse, friend, etc. 

Since I do a good job coaching my triathletes and getting them ready to be one of the BEST ATHLETES in their OWN EYES, it is time for me to help YOU, the Sherpa. Be the BEST SHERPAS in YOUR ATHLETES EYES! Let’s DO THIS!!!

Ironman Sherpa Duties!

Your 5 Tips for Being an Ironman Sherpa!

1. Stay Hydrated and Fuel Your Body!

Sounds simple enough. I have seen so many Ironman Sherpas forget this, and they are on the side of the road, wanting to pass out due to dehydration or lack of food. 

Find a grocery store nearby. Grab your food. Sit your ass on the run course and eat a picnic while cheering everyone on! 

Tip: Carry a quality backpack to hold beef jerky, nuts bars, bananas, water, and some electrolyte drink (Propel, Gatorade, Coconut Water) for YOU! 

2. Rest and Recharge!

You are getting up early with your athlete. Then, you head down to the swim with them. Finally, you see them come out of the water (60 – 90 minutes).

Do NOT find them on the bike. Traffic will suck. You will be stuck. And you will see them for 10 seconds. Trust me on this. I tried this a few times with athletes and saw them for 10 seconds. But, then, to not see them again. 

Tip: During the bike, go back to the hotel. Take a nap. Watch the race on the computer. Charge your phone. Take care of yourself before the run portion! 

3. Stick Out from the Crowd

Head to Party City, Target, or a Halloween Store and find some goodies to wear. I have gone with Hawaiian Leis, and Tootoo, the best headband that attaches to my hat from Target. So many GREAT options. 

Don’t worry about signs. As athletes, we don’t see them. Just be an obnoxious cheerleader with the BEST. COWBELL. EVER! You ALWAYS Need More Cowbell! 

Tip: Stay away from the OTHER Sherpas. The Moxie Group is AHHHMAZING, but you don’t need to blend with them. Instead, find a spot away from a TON of people because we need you the most!

4. Grab a charger or your plug for your phone

This is CRUCIAL. Grab a Phone Charger, whether a solar phone charger or a good old charger. 

The great thing is that you will be able to charge your phone during your “rest and recharge,” BUT where you need this charger is during the end of the swim and on the run. (in 2015, I had 1% on my phone. Found an outside plug and probably got one of the best photos of my athlete, Ana.)

5. Grab a Camping Chair and Sit in One Place!

I will be the first to admit this…I have a hard time with this one because I always think, what if I miss them or they don’t see me? 

But if you have all the fun things on your body and a three-loop course, they will know you will be there. 

Tip #1: Remember, stay away from the HUGE Sherpa Crowds. As an athlete, we want to see you in the MOST random place. 

Tip #2: I have taken a bike and rented it before, but it gets SO CROWDED at the finish line that it is a big thing to lug around, so I would be mindful of that. Sometimes I would chase them around during the run and then put the bike up for finishing. 

As a 15x Ironman Triathlete, having a SHERPA is one of the best things. Why? We LOVE to see you on the racecourse. We know you are watching our every move, praying for safety, and sending us good juju, and we can’t wait to cheer. 

Thank you to MY Sherpas

Honestly, as I write this, I am tearing up about my Sherpas, who have helped me. My Mom for my first Ironman Triathlon in 2002 and then in 2017 at Ironman Hawaii, my Mom, her best friend, Kathi, my best friend, Krista, and her friend, Jen. 

It warmed my heart when I saw my Mom and Kathi the morning of the race AND saw them as I was about to cross that finish line—bawling like a baby! Then I would see Krista and Jen as I came out of the swim on the bike several times. 

Honestly, as athletes, we need you. 

Ironman Sherpas. Be Proud. We need you!

AUTHOR: Jen Rulon

I have been coaching triathletes, runners, and cyclists for over 21+ years; I received my Master's Degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. And as you may have learned, there is more to life than swimming, biking, and running. It is a lifestyle, and I am here to help you cross that finish line with a smile, whether it is an Ironman Triathlon or the Ironman of Life. You can find my knowledge shared in Triathlete Magazine, Runners World, on the TEDx Stage, the Health and Wellness Expo in San Antonio, TX, Southwest Research Institute Human Performance Summit, Training Peaks Workshops, "Self Motivation Strategies for Women" on Amazon, Men's Journal Online, and the New York Times. I also practice what I preach—she's a 15x Ironman Triathlete who participated in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, on October 14, 2017.

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