Planning for your Ironman support crew

Pile of Ironman branded cowbells

If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll know that I missed the deadline for my original challenge (to complete an Ironman by the age of 40). It’s still a goal, but I know it’s going to take me a bit longer to achieve it. To that end, I’m still making plans, which includes planning for my Ironman support crew. Some of you may be intending to take part in an Iron-distance race (or perhaps a half iron or some other fairly long event), so this information may be useful for your support crew as well. (Or perhaps you’re going to be in someone else’s Ironman support crew).

It’s great if you have friends/family who want to come and watch you race and provide support for you. Even if you’re a speedy athlete doing a sprint tri, there can be a lot of standing around and waiting (and an early start)… however, if you’re taking part in a 70.3 or iron distance triathlon then your support crew are likely to spend hours waiting for you to go past. A little bit of planning on your part can make the day more fun for your crew.

If you have the time to put together a bag of goodies for your personal supporters, they are more likely to enjoy their day and want to come back and support you again. Here are the items that I would include for my Ironman supporters:


  • Phone charger/spare battery (so they can take photos and track you!)
  • Cowbell
  • Hand clapper
  • Course maps

Weather dependent items:

  • Sunscreen
  • Chapstick
  • Golf umbrella
  • Plastic poncho
  • water pistols (if it’s hot!)
  • A hat

Food and drink

  • Hot drink and cup/flask
  • Water
  • Beer/wine
  • Granola bars and other snacks
  • Gift card for a coffee shop such as Starbucks/Costa

Things to pass the time

  • New book to read
  • Puzzle book/colouring-in book
  • Pavement chalk

Miscellaneous items

  • Wet wipes
  • Paracetamol
  • A gift from the race expo (if you’re feeling flush)
  • Glowsticks (if you’re likely to finish in the dark)
  • Small whiteboard and pens to post humorous messages for you/others

If there is space, it’s helpful to have some fold-up camping chairs as your Ironman support crew will spend a lot of time waiting around.

Please remind your crew that it’s polite to cheer on everybody, not just you!

What else would you give to your support crew?

Support crew ≠ sherpas

A final note,,, please don’t call your Ironman support crew ‘sherpas’. The name has become increasingly popular after articles such as:

Sherpas are people who belong to a specific ethnic group in Nepal. It is not just a random term we can use for the people who carry our things. There are plenty of other names you can use to call your loved ones who are your support crew: porter, caddy, helper, SAG (Support and Gear), minions and so on.

If you would like to learn more about the Nepalese Sherpas who are working in the Himalayas, you might want to watch the film Sherpa:

What do you call your Ironman support crew?

I'd love to hear your thoughts...

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