As championship races creep up, you may fall into one of two categories:
2. Racer Support Crew
Number 2 is no easy task. If you want to make your racer feel supported, you are about to exert a ton of energy and consideration. Here are a few things to consider to win "Best Sherpa" award!
Annoy your racer with photographs.
The packing of the race bag, the morning-of breakfast, the walking to the start line, the exhaustion during and after the race. Candid photos express their time spent the best, and you never know what lucky golden snap you may get!
They may be slightly annoyed or embarrassed during, but they will be so grateful after the fact.
Know the course.
Knowing the course will help you know where you can find good photo op spots.
It may also help you know what's holding something up if it seems like you haven't seen your racer in a while. (For example, you know there is a big hill 1/3 the way into a course so maybe your racer took longer there).
It'll also help you know where to cheer, especially for triathlon (since there are "in"s and "out"s of transition).
Have a backpack of some extra supplies.
Random stuff goes wrong on race mornings. Even the most put-together racer forgets stuff like clipping nails, losing a hair tie, needing more food, forgetting to fill a water bottle, randomly cut his or herself and needing a band-aid. Sunblock, tape, sharpies are things that are easily forgotten and necessary at random as well. Have a backpack of this sort or stuff, plus food and extra cash for yourself. You may be out there a while!
(Also, look out for a blog post on race checklists and post-race musts coming soon!)
Be a coat rack.
Your racer is going to have a lot of stuff to carry, so you anticipating that and having hands and arms open and ready to grab trash, jacket, extra socks, her/his hand while she/he adjusts the shoe, etc. goes a LONG way. Asking, "What can I do? What can I hold?" can take a ton of stress off your racer.
Know your racer's post-race cravings and speed.
Crap pizza and a warm water isn't for everyone. If you have the ability, find out what your racer loves post-race and pack it. Often, it's just some fruit and ice cold water.
You will be the absolutely HERO if you do nothing else but this.
That being said, even if he/she doesn't want anything from the festival area, don't rush the leaving process. Big event or not, good performance or not, your racer may want to linger in the area and soak up the last of the experience that he/she put SO much work into having. Let him/her enjoy the time around the venue. Suggest a couple photo spots with the medal, or encourage stretching.
Do NOT ask questions post-race.
Let your racer do the talking.
Some people need a pep talk, some people don't.
Some people need a minute, hour, day to analyse their performance, some don't.
Post-race should be led by the racer. If they want to talk, they will. If they don't (I'm not a huge talker until about 30 minutes post race, then I don't shut up), then just ask what you can get for them.
Good or bad, racers finish differently. Just snap photos, demand water drinking, and let him/her breathe.
Being a race sherpa is no easy task. You will be on your feet and running around more than the actual racer, if you're a good one. Expect to be exhausted and want to do NOTHING post-race, just like your athlete. It's an amazing experience, however, and one that your racer will be SO SO grateful you took on.
Be proud of the medal your racer earned, because it's partly yours, too!