Jen Rulon

Last week, I chatted with you all about the “Daily Life of Ironman Sherpa.” I explained what a sherpa was and what a typical Ironman Triathlon Day looks like, as an Ironman Sherpa.

I also explained to you all that I would MUCH rather do an Ironman Triathlon than being a sherpa. I know 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. 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. 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. As I 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. As a Sherpa, no one is cheering for me. HA!
  5. As a racer, I get bragging rights for the rest of my life. 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 pretty good job with coaching my triathletes and get them ready to be one of the BEST ATHLETES in their OWN EYES, now it is time for me to help YOU, the Sherpa, be the BEST SHERPAS in YOUR ATHLETES EYES! Let’s DO THIS!!!

“Your 5 Tips of 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. Go sit your ass on the run course and eat a picnic while cheering everyone on!
  • Tip: Carry a quality backpack to be able 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 with you athlete early. You head down to the swim with them. You see them come out of the water (60 – 90 minutes) when they started.
  • Do NOT go 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 to do this with Chris at Ironman Canada and I was so annoyed because we didn’t’ see him at all and got stuck in traffic and barely saw him coming out of T2.
  • Tip: During the bike, go back to the hotel. Eat. Shower. Take a nap. Watch the race on the computer. Charge your phone. Take care of YOU 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, toto, the best head band ever, 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 all the OTHER AWESOME Sherpas out there. What do I mean? The Moxie Group is AHHHMAZING but you don’t need to blend with them. Go find a spot away from a TON of people, because honestly, as an athlete, that is where we need you the most!

4. Grab a charger or your plug for your phone

  • This is CRUCIAL. Grab a Phone Charger, whether it is 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 on 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 am always thinking what if I miss them or what if they don’t see me.
  • BUT if you have all the fun things on your body AND it is a three loop course, they will know that you will be there.
  • Tip: 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 rent a bike before but it gets SO CROWDED at the finish line that it is a hefty thing to lug around, so I would be mindful about that. Sometimes I would chase them around during the run and then go put the bike up for the finish.

As a 15x Ironman Triathlete, having a SHERPA is one of the BEST things out there. Why? We LOVE to see you on the race course. We know you are watching our every move and making sure we are ok, praying for our safety, sending us good juju and can’t wait to cheer our stinky selves at the finish line.

Honestly, as I am writing this, I am tearing up about my Sherpas, who have helped me. My Mom for my first Ironman Triathlon in 2002. My fiance, who turned to be the #silentpartner of Rulon Racing and my Mom for my 2nd Ironman Triathlon and let’s skip a year, as I was attempting my 10th Ironman Triathlon at Ironman Texas, my husband 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 seeing 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 a couple of times.

Ironman Sherpas. Be Proud. We need you!


AUTHOR: Jen Rulon

I am Jen Rulon, a Coach, Kona Finisher and a Public Speaker. I’ve been coaching triathletes for 18+ years and I received my Masters in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. I train triathletes to reach their potential and coach triathlon coaches to successfully grow their businesses using my own proven methods. My knowledge has been featured in Triathlete Magazine, Runners World, on the TEDx Stage, the Health and Wellness Expo in San Antonio, TX, Men’s Journal Online, and the New York Times. I also practice what I preach — I’m a 15x Ironman Triathlete who participated in the World Championship in Kona, Hawaii on October 14, 2017.

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