The Dangers of Being a Sherpa.

I’m in Louisville, Kentucky, acting as a sherpa for my sister’s first Ironman. It’s hard not to get wrapped up in the whole Ironman thing. I see the lean and strong people around me who will get to race on Sunday, and I want to be one of them. I see people going on pre-race runs, and while I’m running too, I know our intensity is different, and part of me really wants their intensity – the focus you experience in the days leading up to a big race. I’m watching my sister as she preps, and while there’s a part of me that is relieved that I don’t have to swim in the Ohio River this weekend, there’s another part of me that is so envious that she’s just days away from the Ironman finish line. That’s one of my favorite places on earth.

The last time I served as a sherpa for a race (Ironman Wisconsin 2015), I ended up signing up for that very race the following year (Ironman Wisconsin 2016), and I went back again to settle an unsettled score (Ironman Wisconsin 2017). I’m trying hard not to do that here. I keep feeling like 2018 is intended for something else – something other than Ironman –  so I’m holding off on signups until I know what that something else is. But it is hard. It’s hard not to get sucked in.

I fed my Ironman addiction a bit at the Ironman store today. I got a fun pullover, a jacket, and some socks. That’s fair, right? They weren’t Louisville specific. They were generic Ironman stuff. And I scored big time. One of the jackets was marked down to $39.99, which I thought was a steal, but it rang up for $10.00, and though I pointed out the discrepancy, they sold it to me for $10.00. It’s beautiful. It’s a light, zippered jacket, perfect for an extra layer of warmth after a workout or for a layer of warmth on my warm up laps on the track in the Texas fall.


It’s funny. When I go to Ironman events, I intentionally don’t pack a bunch of Ironman gear. If I’m racing, I don’t like to wear Ironman stuff pre-race because I remind myself that I have to earn it each time. I don’t walk around thinking, “I’ve done this before, and I’ve got it in the bag.” Instead, I’m fully aware of how much can go wrong on any given day, and what an absolute gift it is to get to that finish line. So I walk around in regular clothes until after I’ve earned the trip to the finishers store. That’s just how I race. And even when I packed for this trip, I intentionally didn’t pack my Ironman race shirts or pullovers. I brought other stuff because I don’t want to feel like I’m walking around saying, “I’m not racing this one, but I’ve done others. I’m one of you.” This event is about those racing, and even when I spectate, I want to honor that.

But the store was fun. And being here as a spectator is fun. I’m working hard to keep my emotions in check and not get sucked in full force to all that’s happening around me. But at my core, I love, with an intensity normally reserved for Dave and my cats, all that is going on around me. I love talking to first timers and trying to calm their nerves. I love listening to the athlete briefing and imagining myself working towards the time cutoffs they reference. I love walking around Ironman Village and seeing what I might need to take home with me. (I did see a Hoka vendor that I might need to visit with later.)

And I know I’ll enjoy race day. I need to figure out how to spectate this course that I’ve never done. It’ll be a little bit of a challenge given how directionally challenged I am, but right now I’m thinking to take the shuttle out to the bike course and see if I can navigate the run course on a rental bike. It’ll be a long day for me, for sure, but it’ll all be worth it to see my sister cross her first Ironman finish line.

I’ll be happy for her. And I’ll be jealous. Incredibly jealous. But hopefully not so jealous that I quickly sign up for my next fix…

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