How to be a Triathlon Sherpa

Hello, friends!  How’s it going?  On Monday night, I arrived home from New Hampshire where I stayed for the extended weekend to watch my teammates kick butt and take names at the Ironman 70.3 Timberman (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1-mile run).


Let’s just say that squeezing 13 people into one house for three days was one for the books!


View from the back porch.

Even though a sprint triathlon took place Saturday, I didn’t race mostly due to logistical constrains because my bike wasn’t back from Milwaukee.  However, just because I couldn’t swim, bike, and run didn’t mean I wanted to miss the weekend, so I make the trek to Gilford and assumed the role of triathlon Sherpa extraordinaire.


Carbo-loading with waffles–in solidarity, of course.

What’s a “Sherpa” you may ask?  Prior to triathloning, I had never heard of the term used this way.  Hailing from the Himalayas, the Sherpa people are known as elite explores; in fact, when travelers visit the area, it’s common for them to hire the Sherpas to show the way.  Because of this, the Sherpa has become a slang word for guide.  Sure, it was a minor technicality that this was my first time visiting the Lake Winnipesaukee area.  And yeah, I have yet to complete a long-course event.  But I stepped up to the plate and did my best to make sure my teammates had the best experience (read: zero stress) possible.  Here’s what my Sherpa duties entailed:

Navigating, driving, and generally helping during transportation trips.  On the way to New Hampshire, I enlisted Google Maps to help me in my role as navigator, and on race morning, I drove one car of soon-to-be half-Ironpeople to transition.  Also, when our house ran out of food after the race (#triathleteproblems), I went to the grocery store with a teammate.

Acting as a sous chef during meal preparation.  Keeping 13 people fed isn’t a small task, and an advantage to renting a house for the weekend included having access to a kitchen.  One of my teammates is an incredible cook/baker—case in point:  He brought one batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies and dough for two more—and he took charge of grocery shopping and food preparation.  In an effort to help, I chopped, stirred, coated, and supervised.


Supervising grilled cheese production.

Hey, I wasn’t racing!

Being on doggie duty.  Say hello to Hudson the schnoodle!


This fur baby belongs to two of my teammates, and he joined us for the weekend.  On race day, one of my teammates and I tag teamed and took turns holding the leash, giving him water, and keeping him occupied and out of trouble.

Spectating.  In typical type-A fashion, I downloaded IronTrac to keep tabs on everyone.  It worked well because one, I knew everyone was accounted for and two, it helped us gauge when we would see people.  One of my teammates and I bounced back and forth from the swim exit to a high-traffic area close to transition where we could see people returning on the bike and heading out on the run.  Plus, since the run was a two-loop out-and-back course, we saw everyone twice.  Next year, I need to bring a cowbell!

Have you helped out friends or family during races?

12 responses to “How to be a Triathlon Sherpa

  1. ooo grilled cheese! I’ve never been a sherpa, but I would love to if i am with a group and i’m not racing 🙂

    • Let me tell you, the grilled cheese was out of this world! It was a two-cheese combo (gruyere and brie if I remember correctly), and the outside was coated with a butter-brown mustard mixture. SO GOOD.

  2. I think a sherpa sounds like a fun role! I’ve never helped physically, but I’ve definitely given emotional support!

  3. Fun! I love the pup, so cute! I bet that was a really fun race to spectate and beautiful area too!

    Mike and I were our friend, Crystal’s, Sherpas during her first marathon. We both ran half of it (as a relay team) with her. It was a lot of fun! We love helping friends out during races.

    • My original plan was to do Timberman as a relay and pace one of my teammates during her half, but I couldn’t round up a biker. I was more than game for the swim and run, obviously. 😉

  4. You know I honed in on this: Carbo-loading with waffles–in solidarity, of course.

    Ha. I could carb load from breakfast foods all the time (as someone not really a fan of pasta…). That sounds like a lot of fun and as I always say…have fun LOL. 😉

  5. If being a sherpa involves dog care, sign me up! My aunt served as sherpa two weeks ago for my 16 miler and it was SO nice to have someone biking alongside me handing me things. I basically need that for my normal life.

    • Doggie therapy (for me) was one of the perks of being a sherpa–I hope Zelda doesn’t mind I “cheated” on her. 😉

  6. This is awesome Carrie! And YOU were awesome in NH. So blessed that you were there to support us. Couldnt have asked for a better Sherpa! 😉

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