Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ironman Arizona; a guide to Sherpaing and Spectating

This is the second time I have chased Becca round an Ironman race, the first time was in St George in 2012. That year was a very different race to this year, you can read her reports for St George here and for Arizona here. I decided that I would list some thoughts that anyone sherpaing and/or spectating in the future might find useful.


  • Race day is all about the athlete. They have trained 6+ months for this probably longer if they have had a build up year, this day is really their reward. Don’t spoil it by being pissy about anything, just indulge them. 
  • That being said remember to look after yourself. Eat and drink. Wear sunscreen and chapstick. Have cash on hand and anything else you think you might need.
  • They may talk a lot, they may say nothing, by now you will know have a pretty good sense of race day nerves and how they affect them. If they need pumping up do that, if they internalize everything let them do that. Don’t do anything different and don’t give them anything else to worry about.
  • Wear running shoes, you’ll be on your feet a lot of the day and may have to actually run a bit.
  • Electronics. Get everything charged the night before. Camera’s, phones, whatever you have get it charged and bring extras ways to charge. I had three iPhones and an iPad for social media coverage and tracking, I had several outlet chargers in the car, a charger case for my iPhone and a USB charger too.

imageMission Control

  • Be patient, there is always waiting involved.
  • Get your athlete to give you the bike collect chit, you will need this for later.
  • Buy Sidewalk Chalk, you’ll need this for the run course.
  • Take lots of photos, I mean lots. Trying to frame that perfect photo just ain’t gonna happen, point and shoot baby!
  • Becca was carrying an MyAthleteLive GPS tracker so I could followed her through the day, $50 very well spent!
  • You can also use IronTrac which is an iPhone App that presents the splits provided by the Race, this is only as good as the WTC though as it pulls data from their API and can be notoriously bad!

MyAthleteLive left and center, IronTrac right 

The Swim

  • The start is cold and dark. Bring a headlamp and layer your clothes, you spend a lot of time waiting around. Then the sun comes up and it gets warm.
  • Like coffee? Starbucks on Mill Street is open but it’s a zoo, bring coffee from your hotel or stop at a gas station, now is not the time for fresh you really just want hot and caffeine!
  • If your hotel is not close enough to walk to the start, drop off your athlete and let them walk the last half mile. Park the car and come back to find them. They dropped the bike off yesterday and you do not need to freak out your athlete looking for a parking space.

imageIt is possible to spot your Athlete

  • Expect to carry stuff. At a minimum clothes that they will take off at the start and a track pump. Bring a back pack.
  • If you’re luck you can see them at the start and for the cannon, if not walk down the south side of Tempe Town Lake till you get to Rural Road and get on the bridge. You’ll have a better chance of seeing them going out towards the turnaround and coming back.
  • As a reminder, all that stuff you have been given, you’re still carrying it, that’s why you need a back pack.
  • If you choose not to follow the swim you have three choices;
    • The Swim out steps on the way to T1.
    • The run from the Swim out to into T1.
    • By the Bike out.
  • Depending on your athlete’s swim time get a good spot to view from as they go fast.
imageBecca on the left, heading back

  The Bike

  • The bike course is three loops so there is plenty of chances of seeing your athlete without having to spend 4-6 hours sat on the side of the road by the ASU Sun Devils Stadium.
  • Head out the bike course and you can park in the following places;
  • South of the Bike Course;
    • Corner Alma School and E McKellips.
    • Corner N Country Club and the Beeline, you may need to park a bit south of the junction and walk up.
    • End of Gilbert, you may need to park a bit south of the junction and walk up.
  • North of the Bike Course;
    • Corner of S McClinktock and MCkellips.
    • Corner Alma School and E McDowell.
    • End of North Mesa.
  • You may be asked to move on by the Police, be polite and do so.
  • Based on the expected Bike finish time you can probably expect to see them;
    • Inbound on lap 1.
    • Outbound and inbound on lap 2.
    • Outbound on lap 3.
  • If you want to Chalk the run course head back into town after they have passed inbound on Lap 2.
  • If you want to see them hit T2 head back into town after they have passed outbound on Lap 2.
  • Use the time in the car to re-charge everything up!

imageOne of over 400 photos from the day! Point and shoot baby!

  The Run

  • Like the bike, the Run course is loops. This means you can cloverleaf around the outside in your car and then run shortcuts across the middle to catch up with your Athlete.

  • If you want to chalk the sidewalk you have a great opportunity to while your Athlete is on their third bike loop, come up with something fun or pertinent. If all fails “Go XXX Go!” will work just fine!


  • My advice is to start on the North side of Tempe Town Lake and then work your way around from the harbor and Curry Hill. From there head east towards the Bridge at Priest. From there you can cover the south side of the lake along the pathway and Rio Solado.
  • Around mile 12.5 and 13 the runners are looping so you can see them at least twice.
  • Don’t worry too much about anything East of Mill Street as most of the sidewalk is actually a gravel path.
  • While you’re athlete is out on the run, this is a good chance to collect their bike from T2 and get it stashed into the car or hotel room if you are local. Only if you have time!

  The Finish

  • Head to the bleachers when you can. It’s lots of fun to just soak up the party atmosphere.
  • It’s a tradeoff between the higher seats which have more room and you can see further or the lower ones that get you closer to the action.
  • Likewise do you want to stand as closer to the finish as possible or be further out down the chute. Either way it’s your call.
  • Again point and shoot on the photos, I got a couple of good ones at St George (left below), not so at Arizona (right below).


  • Let your athlete take there time going through the finish and the recovery area, there is no rush, let the savor it all, they have earned it.
  • Let them tell you everything that has been going though their head for the last XXX hours…verbal diarrhea!


  • Get them back to the hotel room and refueled and cleaned up and then head back to the finish. Make sure they are wearing their Medal!

This is by no means a comprehensive list but it’s some of the relevant stuff I could think of. This was my third time at Ironman Arizona in as many years so if you have questions please email me or hit me up on Twitter!

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