A Hidden Gem: The Triathlon Sherpa
Whoever said (or still says) that triathlon was an individual support never took the time to actually complete one. It may be clique but training and completing a triathlon, no matter the distance, takes a village. We train be ourselves and spend large amounts of time grinding it out in a pain cave or on the roads by ourselves but that isn't what dictates the success of the athlete. For success in triathlon, well really anything, is more than just the strength of the athlete. Yes, the will power, ability, and drive of the athlete participating is for all intents and purposes is how they end up crossing the finish line and it is the piece that is usually celebrated as fists are pumped and tears shed down the red carpet. It is the individual who physically crosses the finish line but a triathlete is not a single person they are a single person who is held up by an endless stream of giving, support, cheer, love, and lots and lots of sacrifice by those around them known as the support crew. Being the support crew, or sherpa as many of us deem those who support us, is more than just standing at the finish line ready with high fives and congratulations. It is not rolling your eyes when your triathlete whines for the millionth time about the weather, it is not complaining when they are asleep at 8:30 pm every night because they have been up since 4:00 am to get that workout in, it is saying yes dear when they ask you to bring them another water bottle to the pain cave when they didn't bring enough, and it is not giving them a hard time when they gear up to be gone on a Saturday for 6 hours because they have a really long brick.
It is the fact that they can take one look at your face and reach into their pocket to call a friend so they can borrow a bike to get themselves out to the energy lab in order to talk some sense into you, or drives three hours on a Saturday somewhere so that you can ride your bike in the sunshine, and it is the never ending days and nights of listening to the complaints and frustrations that we will never tell other people. It is these people, this support, that makes triathlon run round.
It takes patience to be behind the scenes. You are not always congratulated even though what you go through is just as long, stressful, and exhausting as the athlete themselves. Not only does it take patience but it takes sacrifice to allow your triathlete to chase their dream (or as my husband calls it your crazy). Sacrifice in understanding that weekends are often taken up by crazy long bike rides, and your beer fridge probably will contain more Gatorade than beer. Sacrifice in changing your own diet to match their's so that it is easier on them and always coming up with something positive to say even when they are negative. It is not easy being behind the scenes, but when they cross that finish line with tears in their eyes and confidence enough to fill a room I can guarantee you it is all worth it. When the first person the look for in the crowd is you when everything is going to shit, and when your praise is what brings them out of their funk, I can guarantee you it is all worth it.
On the flip side being a good athlete is respecting all that our sherpa's have to put up with. The constant stream of laundry that has to be hung just right because tri-gear is so expensive that you don't want to dry it, that dressing up means maybe we actually washed our hair with more than just dry shampoo, that slight edge we all have when gearing up for a big workout, the falling asleep on the couch while having date night, and the repeated "I'm hungry" at all times of the day because well lets face it all we ever want is food. Be patient with your sherpa as they are being patient with you. We put our sherpa's through a lot on our journey and it is important to recognize that we couldn't do this without them.
With that I want to share some insight from who I deem the world's best, most supportive, caring, and amazing support team any triathlete could ask for, my husband Brandon.
So don't forget in your joy and exhilaration of crossing the finish line with passion and strength to take a second to thank the people who probably made it happen, those who stood by you for hours and hours in a day while you chase a dream! Their love for you kept you putting one foot in front of the other and for that they deserve to be recognized.