Race season is upon us, and I must say that we are very lucky to have a family full of race groupies. We’ve been dragging the kids to races since our little one was two, so they are quite used to it, and we pretty much have “Race Day” down to a science. Here are a few things we’ve learned along our triathlon journey . . .
Don’t believe the weather forecast!
Especially here in Central New York! I pack for all types of weather. I keep a bag in the car with rain suits, towels, sun screen, and baseball hats, as well as jackets, winter hats and gloves, and sometimes a blanket. You really never know! We have needed sunscreen and winter hats in the same day more than once!
Choose venues the kids will enjoy.
We are fortunate to have many great local events to choose from! We could literally race every weekend of the summer within an hour or two from home. Most local venues have play grounds and beach areas that the kids can play in during certain portions of the race: Green Lakes, Oneida Shores, and Jamesville Beach. However, if you are thinking of doing any travel races, consider places like Quassy, Cedar Point or Old Forge, or any place where there are amusement parks so the kids will be excited for the race. We went to Quassy last weekend and the kids loved it! And bonus – we received a few free tickets to the park with registration. Now, the kids are asking us to do Cedar Point! Also, many races incorporate a kid’s race into the festivities. Whether it’s a run, du, or a tri, our kids love to do these, especially if there’s a t-shirt involved!
Snacks, snacks, and more snacks!
We have a routine that we usually follow, once the swim starts, we get out breakfast … bagels, muffins, bananas, yogurt, juice boxes . . . whatever it is that day. I make sure we have plenty of cold drinks in hot weather and always some hand sanitizer. I also try to pack something they don’t normally have like chocolate milk or candy, to use as leverage later in the day. As soon as we see daddy get on the bike it’s time for lunchables. Not only is that a treat they don’t get often, but it takes a long time to eat! Later when they start to get bored, I break out the candy and work that until I have to start bargaining and making deals. Eventually, I’m flat out bribing – soda, ice cream, or even water slides. The most important thing though is to actually follow through otherwise they won’t make deals next time. Last weekend was pretty hysterical as my boys let me watch all the pros come in and then wait for daddy too. I’m sure onlookers were disgusted with my parenting skills as we left the race area with my boys double –fisted with coca-cola and ice cream as we headed to the waterslides. But, they let me watch the whole race, so it was worth it!
Get the kids involved.
Positive energy is contagious – the more I cheer and jump around, the more excited the boys get. We cheer for everyone passing us whether we know them or not! The boys have their own cowbells; we have made t-shirts and signs in the past, and sometimes they wear super hero costumes – whatever they’re feeling that day! We also play little games like I write daddy’s number on their hand and they look at each person passing to see if it’s daddy’s number or something close. As swimmers exit the water, we count the swimmers for each color of swim cap, and then shout at daddy to tell him what number he is out of the water. Sometimes we pick a color of bike or helmet or shirt and count those too! I’ve learned to bring two cameras – as soon as I’m trying to snap an epic pic, it never fails that one of the boys wants to take a picture with my camera.
Distraction goes a long way.
I pack stuff to keep them busy . . . small non-disruptive toys like matchbox cars, tiny super heros, cards, small notebooks and pencils. I usually keep a few sand toys in the car too. They love to play in the sand after the swim clears out. Also, use your surroundings! If the kids are entertained by the rocks on the ground, grass clippings, or even mud puddles, just go with it! And please don’t “judge” the parents of the kids playing in the mud puddle – they’re probably mine! As my wise husband once said, “At least it’s socially acceptable to have dirty little boys.”
Talk to whomever you are there to watch to find out approximate times they expect to come in. If you know about how much time you have, you can plan trips to the playground, restroom, etc. And when one kid has to pee, make them all go! There’s nothing worse than missing daddy coming in off the bike due to our second or third trip to the potty in 20 minutes. (I’m not exaggerating!)
No matter how well I plan out the day, I try to remember that I’m with three young boys. I don’t get frazzled when we miss someone coming in, and try not to get frustrated on the third trip to the portos. And, if their attention span is dwindling, I forgo some spectating to give them more playground time. Bottom line, race day is all about balance. Keeping the kids happy while supporting whomever is racing, and making time to follow professional triathletes as well. We are there for fun and to spend time together as a family, so allowing ourselves to be flexible is just as important as sprinting to the finish line to catch daddy crossing it.