How To Date a Triathlete

Posted: February 10, 2011 in Lifestyle
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It is a common joke among my peers when I inform them about my busy training regiment to respond with something clever like:  “So you don’t date much, do you?” Why, no, but thank you for pointing that out.

As humorous as this is, sadly, it’s absolutely 100% accurate as I don’t date very much.  In fact, I don’t date – period.  The last “action” I remember getting was in the produce section at my local supermarket while selecting ripe honeydews.  The truth of the matter is that I just don’t have the time.  Between all the pool laps, long runs and bike rides I have approximately 16 minutes left in my day with which to prepare the next days lunch, give the cat some quick lovin’, catch a little news on the boob tube, brush my teeth, and hit the sack so I’m ready to do it all over again the next day.  That doesn’t really leave much time for another, does it?

But this doesn’t also mean that I’m not interested in being part of a mature, lasting relationship like everyone else.  It just means that it will take a very special kind of patient and accepting woman to put up with all my triathlon bullshit.  Common complaints I hear from ex-girlfriends are typically along the lines of “you never have any time”, or “you’re always focused on other things” and, maybe, a little “you’re always tired” thrown in for good measure, and where I recognize that I’m guilty of all of these things from time to time, that doesn’t also immediately disqualify me as being dateable either.  As a matter of fact, I’m a pretty decent guy even if I do have some rather unique hang-ups around my preferred hobby.

Now, I also recognize that I’m picky with the ladies myself but, shit, the current draught I’m experiencing makes Moses’ 40 year trek through the desert seem like a weekend in Tahiti.  I have a list of qualifiers the length of my arm to use in order to gauge the interest level in any member of the opposite sex.  The ideal mate for me would be encouraging and supportive, willing to spend insane amounts of time waiting for me to cross the finish line, looks good in cycling shorts, is going for her own certification as a recognized massage therapist, and can whip up a protein smoothie that would wake the dead.  I know I’m not your typical lean, mean swimming, biking and running machine (yet), nor do I have the body fat percentage of a Kenyan marathoner; I’m no Matthew McConaughy…I get it.  But I do have other qualities that should appeal to some.  I hope.

For example, regarding the notion that I am ‘self-obsessed’ is complete and total nonsense.  That’s just a figment of an insecure mind, if you ask me.  Sure, I spend lots of time perfecting my endurance level in multiple disciplines, but, what (or who) do you think I think about while I’m engaged in all these workouts?  What’s my motivation?  That’s right – my partner.  I don’t exactly want to look like a schmuck when I drop dead 5 ft. from the finish line while they’re looking on, now do I?  No.  I want to finish strong and make her proud of me.  Lets look at the other side of the coin, how much time do you think other boyfriends spend thinking about their girlfriend while they’re out watching UFC and eating fistfuls of chicken wings down at the local boozer with the gang?  Also, the fact that I’m constantly out swimming, running and biking is also a pretty safe bet that I’m not out chasing other girls.  How successful do you think I’m going to be picking up chicks when I’m sweating like a Christmas ham and smell like a water buffalo?

As for the “you’re always tired” complaint, well, yeah.  So what?  Look at what I do each day.  Some mornings I cover more kilometers than most people will make each week driving back and forth to work.  It’s not like I’m just being lazy and doing nothing.  Would you rather date a couch potato whose idea of exercise is bringing the empties back to the Beer Store, or somebody who gets up at 5:30am for an intense workout so he can spend the rest of the day with you, albeit a little tired and slow?  Look at it this way, when I’m that tired it also means I’m more susceptible to cave to those schmoopy cuddling sessions together in front of the latest chick flick you rented for the evening; at the very least, you will seldom have any opposition to watching ‘American Idol’, ‘Dancing With the Stars’, or whatever reality-based dog and pony show it is that you’re into.

If I can offer any insights for people looking to date a triathlete, remember that they are not likely to change just because you disapprove with their chosen lifestyle.  Regardless of how much you bitch, whine, moan and complain we are not likely to give it up any time soon just to please you (at least I won’t).  That wouldn’t be being true to me, so that would never fly.  I don’t expect anyone to give up their hair dryer, Oprah and bonbons, so don’t ask me to get rid of my bike.  It makes me happy.  Deal with it.  Instead, recognize the beast for what it is and then decide whether or not you want to jump in head first into being the next “tri-widow(er)”. If you decide that you’re willing to make some concessions for your spouse, then I’m confident that you’ll have an equal chance of maintaining a healthy relationship just like anyone else.

The following list serves as a guide to assist you in determining whether or not you are about to go down the road of dating a triathlon-obsessed individual or not.

  1. You are months into your relationship and you still haven’t seen their car
  2. They take out a second mortgage on their home to pay for their monthly grocery bill
  3. They have a growing collection of water bottles.  Nor can they sleep comfortably without a water bottle near by.
  4. They use old race t-shirts as pot holders and dish towels
  5. We they say they’re just “running down to the shop”; they really mean it.
  6. They have named their bike and refer to it by name
  7. Going for a “little hike” is not in their vocabulary
  8. They have more pairs of shoes than Imelda Marcos
  9. They can make quick miles-to-kilometer conversions in their head with lightning speed
  10. There is an ever-present stash of empty E-Load tubs in the recycling bin

If your potential mate is exhibiting any of these signs, you may be in too deep already; but this doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily screwed either.  Dating a triathlete can be a very rewarding experience.  For example, triathletes usually have excellent endurance conditioning.  And this just doesn’t necessarily apply to just swimming, cycling or running either.  Endurance is endurance, no matter what the activity.  I’m confident you can draw the obvious parallels here.  So while some partners have already rolled over and switched off the ‘ol Disco Stick for the evening, maybe your triathlete will just be getting warmed up on the dance floor, so to speak.  So enjoy it.  If you were dating someone who prefers spending their time at the local pub downing draught beer and watching sports, hey, that’s your choice.  But don’t complain about their quick “transition time” afterwards.

Another bonus of dating triathletes is that you will know (or at least have an immediate idea) about where all the extra money is going.  Triathlon tends to be an expensive sport, but at least it’s supporting a healthy and active lifestyle and we’re not out blowing it all on crack and strippers.   Things could definitely be worse.

The real problem with dating triathletes as I see it is in being able to read between the lines regarding the things that we say and promise.  Once you establish a good understanding of the customary “triathlete code”, the stress then placed on maintaining the relationship is minimalized.  Here then are some of the common miscommunications made by triathletes and how you might interpret them more accurately.

1)  “Honey, I’m going out for a jog now” – The literal translation to this common statement may as well be: “Honey, I’m going out to run hills until I puke now”. So this may not be the best day to plan on remodeling the garage.  Plan for low impact activity and/or errands instead like grocery shopping, a movie, a short walk, or cleaning out the bedroom closets together.  Save the big tasks for the typically shorter training days.  You’ll have better luck getting overall participation from your partner by taking this into consideration.

2)  “Honey, what’s for dinner?” – This will usually translate as: “Honey, I need food – now!” That’s not to say that you are solely responsible for preparing all our meals.  I’m not Fred Flintstone and you’re not Wilma, but if you’re going to have dinner ready, please make sure there is lots available.  And don’t mock how much or how fast I eat; just keep your limbs away from my plate and keep it coming, baby.  The fact that I’ve just burned 4000 calories that morning will mean that there is an empty void in my stomach as deep and dark as any Black Hole.  There is lots of time for conversation afterwards but, right now, let me slap on the feedbag and gorge myself on precious calories.

3)  “I enjoy traveling abroad and seeing the world” – This is a triathletes way of saying “I like cycling and running in strange locations”. Most triathletes have a list of races to complete and that usually involves traveling around the country or even internationally to compete in them.  Personally, I am planning on the Cancun 70.3 in September 2011, and Ironman Wales in 2012.  This is our “vacation” so to speak.  What better way to tour a strange land than swim, cycle and run around it for 12-13 hours?  Afterwards, we can look forward to relaxing on the beach with a pina colada.  Don’t plan on dragging us along to any all-day sight-seeing excursions to view local crop circles or terra cotta exhibits, or something.  Let’s save those trips for the off-season.

4)  “I’m an outdoorsy kind of person” – Read this as:  “rain, sleet, wind, snow, or 90-degree weather, I’m still going out.” Please don’t complain.  Any or all of these conditions may exist on race day so if the current weather isn’t optimal for a pleasant experience, don’t automatically assume that our training is canceled for the day.  Outdoors means outdoors, and all that it entails.  A forced rest day for me is when the pool is closed on the account of a recent “fouling”.

5)  “I’ll be back shortly” – This is the biggest miscommunication given by endurance athletes.  You may as well interpret this as “I’ll be back when I get back, dear”.  It’s nothing personal and we’re not avoiding you.  It’s just that when you train for events that can exceed 17 hours in a single day, a two-hour tempo run is really nothing to get excited about.  To us, that is “short”.

To be perfectly clear, I didn’t get into triathlon for the social aspect or to pull chicks.  In fact, it has proven to have had the exact opposite effect.  I’d love to date someone with similar interests, but two triathletes in a household might be pushing things just a little bit.  Where it might make for stimulating technical conversation at dinner time, inevitably I think it would lead to a beyond-than-friendly competition between two Type A personalities.  I know I would have a hard time coming home to a girlfriend who happened to swim the 100m faster than I could.  But, hey, c’est la vie; beggars can’t be choosers either.

  1. As my husband says… he will never race me again in an open water swim. It just isn’t healthy. 😉

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