How To Stay Married… To Triathlons!

Written by  Wade Praeger
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You know how old couples who are celebrating their golden anniversary are always asked the secrets of a long-lasting relationship? Well, I have had a 35-year love affair with triathlons, so I thought I would take this opportunity to pass on some of the wisdom I have learned over the years in this sport relationship.

  1. Don’t go to bed hungry. This may sound trivial, but I can’t emphasize it too much, so I put it first on the list. In order to take advantage of all the training you do, you need to focus on recovery, and if you don’t have the time or money for inflatable britches or oxygen tents, you can at least spend a few minutes fueling up for a night filled with rebuilding of broken-down muscle cells and dreams of new carbon pedals.
  2. The Big C. No, not communication — carbon fiber! It’s in your shoes, wrist watch and sun glasses, and of course it makes up 80 percent of your bicycle. Carbon fibers show up in lots of places they don’t belong, like running shirts and shoelaces, but who cares. They used it in the space shuttle, so it’s gotta be strong, light and fast.
  3. Variety keeps things interesting and fresh. Triathletes and their favorite sport are always looking to mix things up a bit in the “pain cave.” Don’t be afraid to train in the morning sometimes and in the evening other times. And have you tried moving the trainer into the kitchen? The hallway? The garage? When the opportunity arises, try a quick 3-mile “nooner” around Green Lake at lunchtime to beef up your run miles for the week. Be flexible about when and where you train. Don’t get stuck in a relationship rut.
  4. It’s hard work. When training for triathlons becomes easy or routine, you’re not doing it right. A casual attitude toward your sport is poison to the relationship. You got into triathlons because they are difficult and because you are the kind of person who likes to focus and be held accountable. So make it hard at least four times a week, and that sweat and soreness will fuel your passion.
  5. Give it some room. On the other hand, sometimes you have to get away from triathlons for a day or two. When thoughts of your upcoming swim set or concerns about your power numbers from yesterday’s trainer session creep into your mind while you are reading a sales report at work, then you are probably becoming obsessed. If you find yourself searching through the dryer for your favorite Ironman sweatshirt on a weekly basis, then you know it is time to give triathlon some space. Go bowling, go fishing or just read a book that’s not related to endurance sports. It’ll be a good change.
  6. Learn to compromise. Just as in any relationship, you have to pick your battles. You have to learn when to stick by your silly principles and training biases, and when to give way to new ideas, new challenges and new race distances! You may have to compromise your long Sunday run with friends in order to get some extra time on your neglected bicycle. You may have to stop playing wall tag in the pool so you can learn some better swimming techniques. And you may actually benefit from trying some shorter races and focusing on a faster pace. You will never be a master at triathlons, and likewise, you shouldn’t let triathlons be the master of you. Form a partnership with your sport, and you will have a happy life together.
  7. Be transparent about finances. Wise triathlon couples must face the fact that triathlons are expensive — $120 for a local sprint, and over $3,000 for an Ironman once you factor in the entry fee, travel, hotel, new running shoes and the new set of wheels you splurge on in the vain hope you can gain a minute or two on the bike. I suggest you get a separate credit card for your triathlon expenses, and if they add up to more than your mortgage at the end of the year, then you need some counseling from Suze Orman, not coaching from Dave Scott.
  8. Don’t be afraid to try new things with your sport. Maybe try a new position — on your bike (!). Maybe a bad fit is why your knees and back are hurting. Or maybe you should get dirty at an XTERRA race! Or maybe try a nice, quiet weekend in some sunny clime, just you and your bike: no racing, no hard workouts, just a few easy two-hour spins and some time at the beach. These things are not luxuries or indulgences; they are important steps that devoted athletes take to ensure they get the greatest payoff from their heavy training load.

Even if you heed all the advice above, after many years you might take the sport of triathlon for granted. Once you have done a few dozen races and all your non-triathlete friends have abandoned you (because that’s all you talk about), you will need reminding that triathlons are still worthwhile challenges and that you should be grateful you can still compete. If that is the case, then do some things that remind you how important triathlons are to your life. You need to fall in love all over again. Treat your relationship to a fancy massage, a new pair of tri shorts, or a half day off work so you can run in the daylight one time between November and March. My favorite indulgence is to splurge at the salad bar at Whole Foods after a long training day. Little things like that go a long way toward helping you stay connected to your one true sporting love.

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