How to Cheer on Your Triathlete (and not get them disqualified)

This is my deal, I’m doing an olympic triathlon this month, I know I won’t win or likely place in my age group unless there is some sort of freak accident among all the 30-39 year old ladies and I don’t think it’s a super serious race like at all but this thing is I still don’t want to read disq. (disqualified) next to my name in the official results and I doubt you do either. Winning or not this has been a dream of mine for at least 2 years, if not more. I’m bringing a cheer squad to my races we’ll go over this like 8 times in the car on the way there (it’s a long drive) but did you know as a spectator you can get your athlete disqualified?


Triathlon culture is an intense one and differs from a lot of other sports in a big way. But more or less as a spectator it comes down to the rule No athlete will receive pacing or support from outside the course. And since we all know how intense triathlon type people are that means that take this rule REALLY seriously and even though it seems like a not all that big, charitable community event the race officials might be ready to take your triathlete out of the running (and swimming and biking) based on your actions. That said perhaps the hockey parents association of Canada could take a page out of these books. I’ll present these in the order I think you are most likely to do just in case you don’t make it to the end and then offer some ideas for what you can do instead. By the way you should know that since you’re athlete is all on their own out there it’s those same officials and volunteers keeping them safe, so listen up!

  1. No time related cheering

You might have discussed in detail you’re athletes goals for the day and know they are not allowed to have a phone, music, watch or cycle computer with them on the big day. So you might feel like you should tell them the time, that they’re ahead of schedule or to hurry up. All of that is pacing from outside the course and could get your triathlete the boot so don’t do that. Instead: Let your athlete know you love them, they look hot, that they’re tri-ing (see what I did there). If you’re really nervous you’ll slip stick to their name and a whoo-hoo or a distinct noise maker. You could come up with some sort of complicated code but that’s douchebag (do people still say that, well I do and I’m people) move since its cheating.

2. No running alongside your athlete when you see them

Once again this is pacing from outside the course. It’s pretty extreme I know but the idea here is you could be helping them to achieve their goal pace and that’s not allowed. I suspect that officials are particularly on the transition from bike to run. The ‘brick’ effect takes over your legs and lots of people have trouble establishing their pace at this point and you don’t want to be seen to be helping them. Instead: Keep your feet planted and ring your cow bell.

3. Never EVER hand your athlete anything

This is where you’re trust in the officials no matter how cold, tiered, thirsty or bad your triathlete looks you can’t hand them anything that’s support from outside the course. If you’re really worried tap an official and have them to check on your athlete for you. Also remember that brick effect thing we all look like we’re struggling at this point. Instead: Be super ready for all eventualities after your person crosses the finish line. Have a sweater, umbrella, snack, gatorade and your person’s phone ready for pictures the moment they cross that last timing mat.

4. Ideally you’ll be there to capture ALL of the special moments

You’ll see your triathlete at least twice other than the start and finish line at the transition area. No matter how wet or sweaty I am I still want my picture taken to remember the accomplishment. Plus I find the pictures my family takes are the best since seeing them makes me smile. At this race my peeps will see me 6 times since my route is a double loop of the sprint course.

family photo

5. Be prepared to help out a lot at the end

Even though your person has been training for months and this is the big day you never know how you’re going to feel after the finish line. Sure some will be up to do it all again like right now but others will be an exhausted shell of a human or even super emotional so you might have to step up to the plate and deal with all the gear after the fact. You might have to load your athlete’s bike into or onto the car while they change or shake in the back seat.

Overall make sure you follow the rules and don’t get your triathlete disqualified for something you did. We know that when weather conditions are bad it’s actually worse for you than the person out racing and we appreciate it immensely! But race day really should be all about the racer. Have you ever been a spectator at a triathlon? Did you see someone else break the rules?

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