Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Life in a dual athlete household

I recently wrote a piece for Witsup, an Aussie-based website dedicated to Women in Triathlon that was started by Stef Hanson. The article focused on the joys... and challenges... of training with my beloved!

Life in a dual athlete household

Grocery bills that close in on $300 per week and a load of laundry every day might suggest a large family but in fact, there are just two of us. My husband and I met though triathlon four years ago and this October will be my 4th time and his 3rd time racing Ironman Hawaii and the second time that we will compete at the race together. Training and racing together generates a ton of dirty, sweaty athletic wear and two very hungry mouths to feed.
Setting off on a long ride prepping for Kona 13

As competitive age-groupers, my husband and I juggle full-time jobs with training for Ironman. Given the latter consumes ~20 hours per week on top of the 50-60 hours per week we spend on our careers, it doesn’t leave time for a lot of anything else in life. Our *quality time together* often needs to be cherished within the context and swim, bike and run.
Post-run lake jumping

One might believe the couple that trains and races together, stays together, but it’s hard to train harmoniously when our swim, bike and run speeds are quite different. My husband spots me 30+ minutes in a half-ironman and over an hour at Iron-distance races. He’s usually showered up, sporting fresh clothes and eaten a post-race meal by the time I cross the line.  I am the laggard.
Point Reyes Lighthouse ride

Swim training is the easiest sport to do with my husband. We swim masters in different lanes and both do our own thing with our respective lane-mates. The disharmony usually appears post-swim when I find my husband toe-tapping outside the locker room, waiting for me to get showered and dressed. It’s clear that he’s a lot more “wash n’ wear” than me… not that I am high maintenance, but shoulder-length hair and a greater concern for the drying properties of chlorine on my skin, add minutes to my post-swim transition time.
Racing together at Lake Stevens

The bike. Oh the bike! The only time we truly fight is on the bike… which I find hilarious since it’s the athletic discipline that we both love most! The mis-matched ability is a good starting point to understand why we bicker while doing something we enjoy. Throw in the more challenging environment for good communication (we have not yet resorted to “race radios”) and we somehow find reasons to argue. If he’s in front, he often *drops me* inadvertently as he winds up the pace during the ride or as the terrain steepens. It can take him a while to notice that I am no longer on his wheel. When he finally realizes this, he’ll suggest that I go to the front and set the pace… which to me is nutty… why have the weaker rider pushing wind? On these occasions when I am lagging far behind, I wish he would “cut the cord” and ride off into the distance, allowing me wallow in my slowness but he’ll wait patiently for me on hills or after a specific interval, to ensure that I am doing okay. Of course, there are tremendous benefits to riding together too. If one of us is having a bad day, we encourage and support one another to complete the training, even if we are not hitting the interval markers that we would like to see. Another huge advantage to riding with my husband is his bike maintenance skills. I cannot remember the last time I changed a flat tire, a fact which has protected many a manicure.
Running the "World Class Loop" on Mt Tam

The run is where we most differ and as a result we tend to “run alone, together”, running alongside one another on treadmills or starting and finishing runs in the same spot but doing our own thing. After all, his warm-up pace is my race pace! Just knowing he is out that is great comfort when I am suffering through a hard interval or tiring towards the end of a long run.             
We rode the entire length of NZ together

Race day presents different challenges, usually starting with who to identify as one another’s “emergency contact” since the contact person should never be another athlete! With wave starts our respective start times can be over an hour apart so we need to manage our pre-race preparation with the other’s schedule in mind. I’ve spent many an extra half hour figuring out where to take a nap in transition after seeing my husband’s swim wave take off. Once on the race course, I am mostly focused on my race but my mind will wander as I think about how he is doing. Out and back races are my favorite since it affords us the opportunity to get a little race day love and support from one another… while riding and running along, I anxiously scan the other racers, looking for him to get a small sense of how his day is going. If it’s on the run, we may even try and steal a quick kiss!
Marin Headlands just outside SF

When the racing is all over, my husband and I make great listeners for one another’s “battle stories” and the tales of the day’s events. Preferably over a great meal washed down with beer and wine. I understand and appreciate the minutiae of his race report and the dynamics of how his race unfolded and don’t mind if he repeats a story three times as his enthusiasm takes over. He’s listened to my post-race gushing many a time and always wants to hear the details of my race. We appreciate the hard work and effort that racing takes for each other and are even more appreciative that we can celebrate our successes together when the racing is done.

I have often fantasized about having a spouse who is not involved in triathlon: someone who is not stealing my heart rate monitor when they cannot find their own, someone who does not place their dirty cycling shoes in the dishwasher, someone to hand off my morning clothes bag to in transition and to give me feedback and splits on the race course. But the truth is, that would not be the spouse for me. I love my husband and our dual-athlete lifestyle in all its highly-scheduled craziness. Training and racing triathlon creates the opportunity for many special adventures we experience and enjoy together: riding the length of New Zealand, swimming across mountain lakes in Tahoe, dinners at San Francisco’s best restaurants to fuel us for the next day’s training, overnight cycling getaways along the California coast, point to point runs in Colorado. If we argue off the bike, it’s likely because we cannot decide the destination of our next triathlon adventure.
Together forever... for once I traded the bike shoes for Louboutins!


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  2. Nice read! (Found your blog via Betty designs :)). I have the same "problems" with my SO as we're both triathletes - and not quite training (or racing!) at the same pace ;) So we've pretty much never train together, sadly. But we found a good solution on the bike (where we occasionally do LSD together): he has my heart rate monitor on his bike and thus can see when he's starting to go at a pace that's to hard for me. Works great! :)

    Good luck in your upcoming races to both you and your husband!

    /Vilma, Sweden

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