In 2021, I did my first 100-kilometer trail run—and in doing so, I saw just how incredibly helpful Peter was throughout the day and in the day after. I saw it again during my 100 miler a year later. This summer, we each have big events that include a fair amount of travel and some potential for crewing/feedzone support. So, for any partners looking to be supportive, I thought I’d share a few ideas. I’ve realized that when I’m on the athlete side of the spectrum, I’m not great at asking for what I actually could use in the moment, so I wanted to reverse-engineer the day and make a list! We’ve also had our share of issues with this as we’ve navigated athlete/partner life and our relationship over the years. It’s become even trickier with DW along in most cases, and I know that the situation is even wilder when kids are added to the mix.
And with that in ind… Note that this isn’t a must-do, or a “if you don’t do these things, you’re a bad partner.” This is just mean to be helpful if you’re hoping to support your partner but this is their first adventure, or you’re simply hoping to make their day smooth. In some cases, for parents in particular, the best way you can help may simply be being in charge of the kiddos at home while your partner goes off on their adventure with friends.
PS: If you’re the athlete and are reading this, make sure you’ve also read our article about finding/”managing” your support crew right here: Finding Your Athletic Support Crew
It’s all about pre-race communication
We talk about this A TON on the podcast when it comes to planning your season, but step 1 to being/having a supportive partner is getting on the same page about your goals, and what those goals look like in reality. We recently had this come up while talking about Quebec Singletrack, which Peter is racing and I’m supporting. I hadn’t realized that part of the race is that each day is a remote start/finish, and while there are buses to take racers to the start/finish spots, Peter was planning on us driving to each so that his day could be done sooner and start smoother. This was partially so that I would then be able to go do my run, but I admit, when he first said it, my response was less than thrilled. But he’s supported me through so many races, and if this race is a goal for him (it is), then I want to do everything I can to make sure he has a great day. Ultimately, it’s all good—and I’m really glad we had that talk months before the race rather than it coming up on race day! We had a similar situation come up as we prep for me to race the Leadville Marathon this June—Peter didn’t realize he’d be able to crew at one aid station, but it will be possible, so that changes the lens of what I need from him that day. So step one: get clear on travel plans, race dates and the expectations for race day.
ABS (Always Bring Snacks)
I wasn’t expecting to have a couple of bonus water/snack stops when I did that solo 100K, but Peter still had a full array of snacks and water with him when he came back to meet me at the 80KM mark and a few other stops on the way. I didn’t really need anything, but if I had, it would have made my day. Snacks for afterwards were also extremely helpful. Basically, ensure that when your partner sees you, they aren’t heading into hangry territory. A bag of chips, a Snickers and a Coke on hand can completely change how the day feels.
Bring the kiddos or pup to cheer, but be respectful of your partner’s goals
The best thing that happened to me during my run was that Peter brought DW to a few spots to cheer me on. But he kept DW on a leash and didn’t let him take off with me! I could see this applying to kids as well: It could be really motivating to see your kids cheering you on, maybe holding signs, but it could really throw off your rhythm if they want to talk to you and run with you and want hugs. So tread lightly here—support is great, but don’t turn it into a family gathering mid-adventure (unless that’s part of the plan all along)!
Especially in events that aren’t exactly big with race photographers (ultra-endurance races and any FKT-ish attempts), having a few photos is just so damn nice.
Help with the post-adventure breakdown
I had tears in my eyes the morning after my big run when we got home and I realized that Peter had brought in my duffel bag, unloaded my gross sweaty gear, and already tossed it in the wash. It probably took him all of 2 minutes to do, but I was exhausted and stiff, and all I wanted to do was shower and then lay on the couch. I would have left my duffel bag out in the van and had to deal with it in the morning, and it weirdly meant a lot that I didn’t have to.
Make a dinner plan
Even if you’re not usually the one on dinner duty, have a plan in place for whatever meal is happening when they finish. It may or may not get eaten, but it will be noted (I only wanted a protein shake after my run, but the pizza Peter brought to the finish was deeply appreciated). This is going to be a big thing with a stage race like QSE that involves camping and remote start/finishes—making sure that I have the van equipped with the post-race food he needs is one major way I can help him have a good race week.
Honestly, the nicest thing that Peter has done for me is simply listening to my endless recount of how things went and what I learned and how things felt. I am very sure he’s damn sick of hearing about it, but he’s been letting me ramble. Your support matters hugely to your athlete, and a big part of that is just listening to them.
Like listening, this is such a big thing. If you’re not prone to big displays of emotion, it might be tough—I know my dad is always super proud of me, for example, and he’s at every finish line he can make it to, but after the race is done, he’s more on the ‘how you can improve’ versus ‘I’m so proud’ bandwagon. It’s just his style. But honestly, just saying, ‘I’m so proud of you’ really hits deep.
If you’re the athlete…
I have a couple of suggestions for how you can make things easier on yourself and your partner
Write out your schedule
In as much detail as possible, including anything he or she needs to do, i.e pickups and dropoffs. The more specific you make this, the less likely you are to end up in a fight about when you needed to be out the door. If needed, provide route maps. Share your location. I thought I was super specific back when I was managing a cyclocross team, or planning that 100K. But it was NOTHING compared to the pages after pages I had ready to go for my first 100-miler. And ICYMI, NOT having that list 100% dialed in was also the downfall of my QMT race last summer.
Lay out what exactly would make your day good.
What I’ve realized is that most partners want to be supportive, and are super stoked for your success… but they just don’t really know what it is that you need. I know a lot of women I run with have small children at home, and I know on race days, it makes a big difference if they’ve already discussed that in the afternoon post-race, they also get time to nap and recover, and aren’t immediately expected to be back to family time. Flip side, some of them LOVE doing something with the whole family after, like hitting the beach. You may not realize that all you need to do is ask for what you want! This may mean hiring a sitter or asking grandparents to help out, or it may mean that after you finish your run or ride, you’re driving home solo and you just know that you’ll stop at Starbucks or Dairy Queen or wherever on the way home and enjoy some solitude before walking in the door. (And remember, if you’re hoping your partner will extend these courtesies to you, make sure you also support their goals!)