The Waiting Game

When I was racing triathlons Brenda, my wife, occasionally came along to support me and enjoy watching the race. Typically, these were the larger races, Ironman events and a couple of World Championships when she attended. The shorter races, sprints, she came less often.

It was more fun for her when a group of us traveled together and competed in the same race. In this way she had friends to hang out with during the race. The Ironman Eagleman 70.3 was the most fun and there was a party throughout the event that she enjoyed while I swim, biked and ran.

At Ironman Lake Placid a group of us where racing. We’d rented at house for ten days with another couple, good friends, and neither one was racing. The house was smack on the bike course leading into Lake Placid. It was an ideal location to set up chairs and watch the athletes ride past.

At the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, I flew out first to get acclimated to the weather and time changes. Brenda flew out a few days later. Even though that race is the SuperBowl of triathlons, she was alone at the finish line while she waited for my to complete the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and the 26.2 mile run. Admittedly, I worried about her the entire day.

Brenda hanging out at Kona, HI.

Throughout all of that day I was concerned about her being alone. After that race, I began doing most of the triathlons solo. At the Ironman Kentucky in Louisville she stayed home. In the off-season I competed in running races, again solo. There were exceptions when a group of us would sign up for a marathon, rent and house, and turn the race into a social event.

It’s an exciting event for fans where tens of thousands line the course to watch

After a few years I began to become eager to get home after a race. Once after finishing a 24-hour World Championship Ultra-cycling race I took a shower, loaded my gear and drove straight home – a haul of 18 hours after racing 24-hours non-stop. I didn’t even wait to see how I’d placed. That method of finishing and heading home become my standard operation procedure from then.

Golf certainly gets a huge crowds of fans following. Both the athlete and the fans knows the score.

At the shorter races I frequently placed in the top 3. There was never any money involved since I didn’t race professionally. But, there were trophies or medals, at times very nice ones. If I wanted the prize, and I’d left before the award ceremony, I’d send the races organizers a check to cover the expense and their time to mail the award to me. None of the awards are on display in my home; they are all in a storage closet or in a gym bag.   Still, it is nice to have them. That has held with archery.

There is a difference; Brenda does not ever attend archery tournaments. I can’t say that I blame her. Unless someone is ‘into’ archery the sport is dull compared to a triathlon. It’s slow and there is a lot of sitting around looking at the backs of athletes standing still. It’s even difficult to see the arrow placement of a cherished athletes performance from the spectator seats (when seats are available).

The waiting around is tough for friends and family that want to support an athlete. Years ago at the USA Track and Field Masters Indoor National Championship my start time (for a short race) kept getting pushed back. Brenda was with me and I could see she was bored to tears. Heck, I was bored to tears and nearly left before my start.

There was a span when I race a lot. By a lot I mean one race per month for 8 straight years. Additionally, those where years when I worked and with work traveled globally. So, spending any more time that required away from home was bad. Hence, I’d race, finish and head home.

Occasionally the race was a short trip others required a plane flight. Either way I got home post-race as fast as possible. Once home, if I didn’t know how I’d finished, I’d go online and check it out. When possible I let the race organizers know I’d be leaving immediately following the race if I was expecting to win or place. They’d have the results almost immediately and just hand me my prize.

Many people don’t consider that athletes, especially those not getting paid to attend, often have other obligations. Having a family that’s home waiting for the return of their competitor is a big draw to leave. Having to wait for results is a big push away from a sport.

Working hard, hour’s everyday, paying (at times a large registrations fee), adding an expense to travel for an event, then days later unable to find a result is frustrating. At one tournament in Georgia, a long haul from North Carolina, the results are still unavailable – nearly a year after the event.

Talking to the father of a young man that competes in the JOAD ranks he mentioned to me it had been a week since they’d last traveled to an archery tournament and still no posted results. Personally, I’d like to write that I don’t care whether or not I find out how I performed in a sporting event. I can’t – I do like to know. Otherwise, I might as well save my money stay home and shoot in the yard.