Adventures, Marriage

Two Words: NAKED. TENTS.

We did it! Short story? Donnie finished 6 minutes faster than his dream time. It was a great day for all of us! I’ll post the longer story later but I thought I’d share some interesting/weird things I learned Sunday. If you think Why would I find this interesting? I don’t care about triathlons. you should still give this list a try because SO MANY of these things are SO INTERESTING. And some are a little (a lot) weird. You would think that being married to a triathlete for 5 years and participating in several triathlons myself would have made me prepared for this weekend. But MAN! Did I learn SO MUCH about the sport in general, but also about what makes Ironman races different (both because of the amount of racers and the distances completed) than other triathlons.

Things I Learned Spectating An Ironman

  • At our small local races, there’s always one color of swim cap in the packet pickups. But at the Ironman there were at least four. Silver were Pro Men. Yellow were Pro Women. Green were “age group” Men (non-pro). Pink were age group women. There were also orange caps and I think they were the the athletes in the physically disabled division and supposedly there were white but I never got confirmation on what those meant.
  • Speaking of physically disabled athletes…some of the athletes in that category were blind! One I saw on a tandem bike. I’ve heard of blind runners at big marathons because I know someone who volunteered to be a leader one time, but I didn’t ever consider a blind Ironman – but there were a few I think this weekend. I know I saw one for sure!
  • The officials posted at 4am race morning that the water temp was too warm for the race to be “wetsuit legal” but they allowed athletes to choose to wear their wetsuits anyway. They would simply forfeit their right to an age group award and they would have to be part of the group that entered the water last. I thought that was REALLY interesting and there were a lot of people in that group! I can see why – from what I hear wetsuits really help with buoyancy.
  • There are naked tents! Basically…if you don’t want to wear the same thing all day (Donnie has a Tri kit he wears for every event) there are big tents – separated for men and women – where you can run in and get naked to change your clothes! NAKED TENTS! I found that SO INTERESTING because I am almost dangerously modest so to know there are people who just don’t care and do what they gotta do just BLEW MY MIND.
  • There are bike aid stops! I have only done small triathlons so there’s no aid on the course but at this one there’s several and there’s evidently a “technique” to slowing down and grabbing the aid and finishing it before you get past the stop so you are “cleared” to litter. Another reason I couldn’t do an Ironman. I’d need to stop completely for that type of thing and I’d cause all SORTS of problems.
  • Everyone uses Blue and Red bags at the Ironman – those are the run and bike transition bags. Most people use the green bags which are your “morning clothes” – the things you keep on until you get in the water. You get to pick all of those up after the race. But there are also Orange and Black bags for “special needs” while on the bike and run. They get trashed if you don’t use them so they’re mainly for nutrition type things. I imagined you stop and get your Orange “special needs” bike bag and do what you need to with it and then disposed of the trash and ride off. BUT NO! We saw professionals riding through the 53-mile point getting the stuff out of their bag WHILE THEY WERE RIDING AT SUPER-FAST SPEEDS. I think there must be rules about “littering” because several seemed to be asking spectators to grab their bags and one girl was trying to get someone to take her trash and they didn’t realize it so she just shook her head and put it in her shirt. It was SO WEIRD watching people dig stuff out of bags going like 17mph or faster. Some were even filling up the water bottles between their handle bars WHILE RIDING. INSANE.
  • Some of the cyclist were getting High Fives from spectators where we were and that FREAKED ME OUT. I told the kids “DON’T GIVE HIGH FIVES!” because we are NOT a graceful family and I was TERRIFIED one of us would accidentally cause a huge bike wreck. I have NEVER seen cyclists ask for high-fives before. NEVER. And since Donnie was kinda in the “front” half of athletes, we saw all of the really fast guys/girls before him and THEY were the ones asking for high fives – so we’re not talking about the Kim-Type cyclists in the back! These are SUPER FAST cyclists! It blew my mind.
  • PEOPLE PEE ON THE BIKE. This was ENTIRELY new to me. I was listening to one story where a guy said he watched a girl pop up off her seat, hold her leg out to the side and then you see the pee coming down the leg sticking out. Another girl evidently congratulated her on her form and she said, “Thanks! I’ve never done that before! I’m proud!” And then the guy telling me the story said he had never done it either so he thought, “Great idea!” and did it too – several times! He was just as proud. Of course it happens, they’re on their bikes for 6 hours (that’s Donnie’s bike time, some are faster, some are slower) and they’re supposed to be drinking a lot so they’re bound to have to go. And what a pain – especially if you’re a girl – to stop and unclip out of your bike take off your spandex etc. But I had NEVER thought of it before! NEVER!
  • Someone threw thumbtacks and oil on the bike course. AND THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE. Evidently in some circles this is considered a “funny prank.” Donnie was still out on the bike when I heard the official report but he was on the second loop so I was confident they had cleaned it up and he’d be safe from at least that problem.
  • For an Ironman, you don’t rack your own bike after you finish. A volunteer takes it from you while you head to get your run bag. I would NOT want to be one of those volunteers because I would NOT want to be responsible for those expensive bikes!
  • Interesting aid given out on the run course: Wet/Cold sponges and popsicle sticks covered in vaseline.
  • Close to the transition/finish areas there were HUGE yellow flags that said CROSSOVER and there were volunteer security crews there. Basically, that’s where you go if you need to get from one side of the run course to the other. The security was in charge of queuing people up until there was a “break” and then letting them through quickly until other athletes came up to that point. As someone who has seen spectators cluelessly crosse racer’s paths and almost get tackled? I was happy to see that.
  • There are volunteers in blue gloves at the finish line who basically carry finishers either to the medical tent (where TONS of racers get IVs of fluids) or to the chairs in the waiting area where their family can find them. It’s an insane job as a volunteer but I bet you just feel SO INSPIRED seeing all of those finishers!

17 thoughts on “Two Words: NAKED. TENTS.”

  1. The white swim caps are for All World athletes – athletes who have finished in the top 10% or better of their age group in a calendar year. They can wear their white caps or their regular age group swim cap for the race.

  2. Okay. I guess I could have looked it up but I wasn’t sure I had even seen any there, just heard someone say they thought they had. I probably should have looked it up before writing this entry.

  3. Glad it went well! Can’t wait to hear how the kids did (and see some of their pictures).

  4. I’ve heard about peeing on the bike or on the run. I don’t think I could do it….although if I really HAD to, I guess anything is possible.

    I had NO idea that you didn’t have to rack your own bike. That’s cool!

    I would bust my tail trying to get aid on the bike or give high fives!

    I have learned SO much about the actual Ironman race from your posts and photos. THANKS!

  5. I only know this because I volunteered at registration / check-in at IM Maryland. When I saw the first white cap, I had to ask. So don’t feel bad for not knowing! I’ve only known for a week. 🙂

  6. I really enjoyed watching the ironman stuff from my Facebook and Instagram feeds. A lot of my friends volunteered to help (two of them were on Bobcats on the running path). I was really sad to hear about the tacks and oil on the bike track. I went to one of the local meetings and it had only about 20 people and most of them who weren’t officials were there to complain, which made me sad. And it wasn’t that they wanted to complain about Ironman specifically, it was to complain about cyclists in general. One older gentleman (in his 80s, I would guess) complained about an incident from the 90s! But I know people in this area were excited about the race over all.
    I am curious how Donnie felt on the bike portion because on the loop, coming down 341/ Chickamauga Rd is what I would consider a dangerous path- no shoulder and with cars it can be nerve racking.
    And (this is a long comment, sorry) I would also be interested in a book you wrote about how to spectate ANY race because my sister is getting into racing (her first marathon is in Huntsville) and when watched her do the 1/2 here, I was so LOST.

  7. I had no idea people peed while on the bikes. It makes sense that you would need to, but it seems like it would cause chafing. Doesn’t it leave your shorts and socks wet? I’m not an athlete but when I have gotten wet at amusement parks (from water rides) I was miserable by the end of the day from chafing.
    I was shocked that someone would put tacks on the bike path. My son asked why anyone would do that and I didn’t know what to tell him, other than that people can be jerks. I’m glad it was cleaned up before Donnie got to that part but I am sorry that anyone had to encounter that on a day that they had worked so hard for and that should have been triumphant.

  8. What?!? I can’t focus on any of the other cool facts you shared, because I’m so angry at the thought of oil and tacks on the course. That sounds so incredibly dangerous. Why would you do that? It doesn’t sound like a fun prank. It sounds mean. You are trying to hurt someone. Grrr… I need to go walk it off.

  9. Re littering: USA Triathlon rules allow refs to assess a time penalty for “abandoned equipment,” which includes littering.

    Re wetsuit legal: USAT says wetsuits are legal when the water temp is below 79 degrees. Between 79 and 84 degrees, they’re legal but, as you note, you can’t “win”. Over 84 degrees, no wetsuits. (See #10 at

    And Monica: when you’re riding those distances, you have to butter up, so to speak, to prevent chafing. Body Glide, Hoo-Ha Cream, and various other products help reduce friction between your various parts, and I guess those help reduce pee-induced chafing.

    (Disclaimer: I only do sprint triathlons. No IM for me, kthxbai)

  10. It helps prevent chaffing! I actually coat all along my bra line (is this TMI?) before I go for a long run b/c my sweaty body tends to cause chaffing around the bra line 🙂

  11. I’ve only done one (sprint) triathlon, and they did have an aid station on the course (one for sprint, two for the Olympic distance), but I couldn’t comprehend how to take advantage of it, even though it was just cups of water. I’m barely capable of taking my hands off the handlebars to signal a turn, and fell the one time I tried to drink from my water bottle while moving. I’m always in awe when I see riders checking their phone or eating or drinking on the bike.

  12. The tracking deal was really neat! I would check it throughout the day seeing how he was doing. I felt like Donnie was doing well time wise because I would click on other ones on the tracker and he was ahead of almost all of them. I left for church when he just lacked about a mile and a half.

    Putting oil and tacks over the course is just dumb!

  13. Wet/cold sponges are a thing at races here. I love them for about two seconds and then people toss them on the ground causing a horrible spongy pileup that you have to run across. No bueno.

  14. I hate spectating Ironmans. Too stressful. My brothers have done several and my dad did one that involved him being taken to the med tent midway and put on an I.V. At another one, one of my brothers got so sick that he passed out and my other brother drug him behind a bush and hid him until he could finish because if you get medical aid you are disqualified. As a spectator waiting for missing family memebers to appear, it is too much! But I did love your list.

  15. I had one race where my husband just didn’t show up in T2. Awful conditions – wet roads – cold – I was already a mess. It was awful just KNOWING he should have been there already and not knowing why he wasnt. An athlete finally hollered at me that he saw him with the Fire Department and that he thinks it was cold related that he was almost positive he didn’t wreck. So, I hunted down one of the firetrucks where they could radio me info and they said he was better and coming back with the race director. The race director (who didn’t know me from Adam) let me drive his car with Donnie it it back to OUR car so I could get him warm. He had evidently started convulsing in shivers (weird cold day in may with sleet) and it was AWFUL. He looked GREEN and I was freaking out. Glad to see him alive and relatively well, but it was awful. Scarriest hour or so of my life. I was standing out in the cold rain looking for him and didn’t realize I was cold until I had him safe. It was weird.

    Later he hung up that damn race bib with a big DNF on it to “remind” himself about not finishing.I got SO PISSED. I was like, “That reminds ME of the scariest hour of our marriage. I don’t need that reminder, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.”

    There are definitely dark moments in spectating. I had another one recently where he had to DNF after a virus hit him on the course, but he didn’t leave me waiting and wondering as long for that one.

    Sorry you had those experiences. If – god forbid – I ever have to deal with that at an Ironman I may never go back. I had a hard time this year revisiting the race from the cold last year. It really messed with my head.

Leave a Reply