How to Marry a Triathlete, or “Divorce by Triathlon”

Posted: July 29, 2015 in Lifestyle

There are a lot of fancy pseudo-psychology books regarding relationships.  Whether it’s how we speak different love languages or that we come from Venus or Mars, the consensus seems to be that relationships take patience and understanding.

Unfortunately, there’s no self-help book for people who love an Ironman triathlete (although I did try – click HERE).  If anyone needs to master patience and understanding, it’s the significant other of someone deeply in love with the swim/bike/run.  Someone should jump on publishing a book about that – I’m pretty sure it’d be a bestseller.

I need to start off by saying that I have the best wife ever – seriously, EVER.

Who else is going to let me spend an entire morning or afternoon on the weekend swimming, riding my bike with buddies, or running around the neighborhood in clothes I’m sure she wishes the rest of the world doesn’t have to see?  There are times when she doesn’t see a lot of me at all and when she does, she probably anticipates lots of snuggles and stolen kisses and whispered sweet nothings. Instead, she gets sleepy, grumpy and “where’s my dinner?

Not exactly the ‘Great Canadian Love Story’ is it?  But knowing full well the risks of being a future “tri widow”, she chose to marry me anyway.

Here’s my theory when it comes to triathletes, which is loosely based on my associations with fellow triathletes over the years: we just have a different sense of relativity, slightly different tolerance for solitude and independence, and frequently a radically different neuro-hormonal profile, than the general populous.  We like our friends and spouses to be people who understand the value of setting personal goals and doggedly going after them, with perhaps seeming disregard for other aspects of life.

The thing about triathletes and endurance athletes in general, is that many of us have rediscovered the power of positive motivation, encouragement, and coaching in our adult lives.  The paradigm of pushing through personal boundaries to shatter past records and achieve new, previously unattainable goals is something many of us move away from after we graduate from high school sports teams.  This lens – one of encouragement, big dreaming, and distinctive goal-setting – is the one through which we understand how to show love and affection.  And we do love you.  We just have our own way of showing it.

For example, we let you help us carry our shit.

My wife is now a full-fledged ‘Iron Sherpa’ and will inevitably get wrangled into carrying all my racing shit including my pre and post race nutrition plus anything else she might require for a full day of sitting around in the hot sun (or worse, rain) waiting for me to finish my race.

Yes, I’m a very lucky guy indeed and don’t think I don’t know it.

But, under normal conditions with a less than understanding partner, I’d inevitably be divorced and living under a bridge by now.  It’s not as simple as ‘run, rinse, repeat’, though, for being a true endurance junkie is a lifestyle.  It’s a state of mind.  For many of us, training makes us better people every day.  It serves us in ways other people or experiences have not or cannot. And so we find ourselves caught up in a committed relationship, legs intertwined with the goddess of multi-sport.

So how does it work?

Well, really, I guess she should be the one to tell you but, of course, I have some ideas of my own.  At least, ideas that I feel have made living with me somewhat bearable.

For starters – and I know I’m being biased here – but endurance junkies might just be some of the most quality people around.  All of those hours spent alone with ourselves in the meditative realm of “Zone 2″ will really force us to think about things like who we are, what we believe in, the meaning of life, what we’re going to eat immediately when we get home, and other critical themes.  Think of it this way: how many deep thoughts about life, the universe and everything at your office desk today?  You probably just wanted to stab yourself in the ear with your ballpoint pen.  I have these types of days at the office too but, luckily, I get to balance them out with more meaningful things during my workouts so there’s little chance of me bringing my “work shit” home with me.

On the same plane, accept that we’re probably introverted.  Sure, we may be the life of the party on the rare occasions we are out socializing. We may seem extroverted because of our tendency to be outgoing when others are around. But don’t be fooled. Usually that’s just the endorphins talking. Or the fact that eventually, we need to balance out our 90% alone time with some human contact.  Either way, just be prepared for someone who likes to be a bit of a lone wolf.  It takes a certain type to spend hours alone running and cycling, and that certain type usually has a penchant for solitude that may be a bit disturbing to others.

There are a few others things you will need to make a more conscious effort to deal with though, like the spare room for example.  I know you probably had designs on that room being turned into another guest room or something, but guess what?  It’s now going to be used for the purpose of storing bikes, gadgets, and more Lycra than you would ever find at an S&M party.  Hey, this shit has to go somewhere and given most of it is more expensive than my car it isn’t staying in the garage.


And about those socks you keep losing in the laundry: woman, get on that shit!

It’s total life and death that my preferred running socks find their partner and get returned to their drawer safely.  Dry-fit, wicking running and cycling socks isn’t cheap.  Plus, I’ve shed too much blood, sweat and tears into those socks to hear “I’m sure it’ll turn up”.

Don’t EVEN.

Besides, that other pair clash with my new Hoka’s, so a little extra care when doing the laundry would be greatly appreciated.  I don’t expect you to do my laundry but when you do, I expect NASA-like precision when it comes to my workout duds.

Furthermore, don’t be too quick to comment on our choice of dress since we’ve probably been up since 3:30am for an early workout covering more miles than I drive to work, showered, worked out again, showered, and now I’m just going to lay around in our sweatpants.  I’ve changed three times already and it’s not even noon yet, so I will inevitably be in my “comfy jammies” at the earliest convenience.

Again, sorry.

Oh, and quit mentioning that rash, the state of my toenails, how much my running shorts stink, the chafing on my ass, or how gross all that skin flaking off my poor sunburned shoulders and then falling into the salad bowl is.

Would you rather I take up base jumping?

Another freak out you are inevitably going to experience at some point is when our Garmin decides to act up or fails to sync with our preferred online training site.  God help you.  At heart, I think most triathletes are number geeks who validate their workouts by reviewing the data afterwards and then sharing it with all our training buddies and peers on sites like Strava and Training Peaks.  I mean, seriously, who else are we going to brag to? So when this data doesn’t immediately turn itself over for review, we might just totally lose our shit; complete end of the world stuff.  Life will simply have to put itself on hold as we to have to wait on hold for the next telephone representative to walk us through resetting, reformatting and regaining all our workout information sans meltdown.

Hopefully, you didn’t have a candlelit dinner planned.

Oh, and while I’m on the topic, you can expect to become very familiar with terms like “max cadence”, “race pace”, “wattage”, etc. Should you pay attention and pretend to care?

Yes, yes you should.

Lastly but certainly not leastly, is that I’m inevitably going to eat. Like, seriously eat. It takes a lot of fuel to power through several hours of cardio exercise every day.  Or at least, so we tell ourselves.  If you bring it to our attention that downing an entire loaf of rye bread and jar of peanut butter in a single day is gross, we will feel sad, misunderstood and self conscious.  So just don’t go there.

What else can I say?  It’s tough, I know.  I get it.  At times we’re selfish, distant, self-absorbed, moody, smell like boiled roadkill and hungry…don’t forget hungry.  But, believe me when I say it – and I hope my wife will back me up here – that the payoff is pretty sweet in the end.

At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


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