Tips for Being a Great Support System…a.k.a a “Race Sherpa”

Happy Hump-day Friends!

I hope your week is going splendidly!  Now that the cold weather has settled into Boston I am working hard to adjust to runs in the dark AND cold.  Dean and I made it out for 6 miles yesterday, which required a best, hat, and gloves!  Since I am really just trying to maintain my fitness rather than train for a goal race I am not putting too much pressure on myself to stick to workouts, but doing my best to get in 4-5 runs per week.

Winter is coming!!!

So I have been meaning to write this post for a while since a huge part of being successful at any sport or hobby is having a great support team.  Dean lovingly refers to himself as my “sherpa” whenever I am doing a race and he is helping do all the other things that get me to the starting line.

The term “sherpa” broadly refers to an ethnic group from Nepal (according to this wikipedia page, which is definitely not the most accurate place to get information, but handy for quick reference :).  The image that most often comes to mind for me when I hear the term “sherpa” are the incredible mountaineers who help visitors climb dangerous peaks like Everest.  These skilled guides make incredible athletic adventures possible for visitors.

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In this spirit, I have learned that there are several things you need to do for friends or family who race in order to be a great sherpa.  Here is my list, inspired mostly by Dean’s example.

Be enthusiastic yet calm


Race jitters definitely affect people in different races and if you are new to your sport or to racing it can be really stressful getting to the start line.  A great sherpa is there to keep the mood light and positive.  Lola exudes calm at Dean’s cyclocross races!


Have snacks or “fuel” on hand

When you date someone like like Dean and “hangry” sets in quickly you learn to ALWAYS have snacks on hand.  Gus, granola bars, water, etc. are all good to keep with you while you spectate.  Make sure your racer knows what works for him/her and do not try anything new on race day!  You need quality fuel to get through a race feeling your best.  As well as some treats for after :0


Identify the best spots for race photos and cheering

This is one I am still working on, especially for spectating cyclocross races.  But I suggest looking at the course ahead of time and figuring out where to snap photos.  If you are able to say high to your athlete, like in a road race, also let them know where you will be during the race.  This way your athlete can benefit from the encouragement.  This always helps me in long races when I look forward to seeing friends and family.

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Be at the finish with a big smile, not matter the outcome

This is super important!  As an athlete we all have good races and bad ones.  There are so many emotions wrapped up in competing and it is easy to beat ourselves up when things do not go according to plan.  Alternatively, when you have a great race you want others to share in your joy.  Great sherpas are there to encourage or celebrate.


Brag about your racer, especially when they will not

It feels amazing when others praise you for a job well done, but some of us do not like to talk about our accomplishments in public .  This is where your sherpa gets to sing your praises!  Letting others know how special someone else is will help inspire your athlete to keep putting in the hard training work required to be a success!

A big hug goes out to Dean for not only being my number 1 sherpa, but also teaching me the tricks of the trade 🙂

Pug hugs!




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