6 rules to have a happy marriage and train for Ironman triathlon.
I wrote this in 2013 – 2 weeks before my first Ironman race. Ironman training has a bit of a reputation for breaking up marriages. It happens – I’m not going to lie. I sat down and wrote my “rules” and they still work today. I hope that they are helpful.
Bascially I’m a nervous wreck. I actually don’t feel that bad … uncertain, yes but my husband has termed this time period – PT for pre-triathlon. He says I’m pretty edgy.
I’ve asked a bunch of people if they felt ready before their first Ironman. Some say yes, some say no … it’s actually not that helpful so I should stop asking.
I have entered into the taper phase which is super stressful because I’m nervous so I want to train more but I have less on my schedule. It’s time to just trust the training. And avoid germs. I don’t want to get sick.
And so I’m going to talk about something else entirely and that is how I kept my family afloat and my marriage healthy during this training project.
First the history. Because everyone’s story is different here’s mine. I’m 39 I’ve been married to the same guy for 11 years. We have 2 kiddos (9 and almost 7) and also he has 2 adult kiddos (in college) from his first marriage. We have a very busy house. Really. I know yours is busy too but trust me we are on like fast forward all the time.
Next peace of back information to know is that I was training for my first marathon when I started dating my husband. I think this is important to us making this whole thing work because it wasn’t like I woke up 5 years into the marriage and said … hey I’m going to stop going out to dinner Friday nights and instead get up at 4:30 am and run on Saturdays. That was always part of the package of being with me.
But that’s not to say that triathlon training hasn’t been a shift. It has. But luckily it works for us.
Ironman training did become a big time sucking part of my life this year. So how did we make it work?
First things first – spousal buy-in
A few years ago when my brother (I blame him for this whole thing but that’s another story) mentioned that we could do an Ironman (you do notice he’s not coming to France … right) my husband said that he didn’t want me to do it. So as I stepped up to longer race distances and we both met a lot of “normal” people who had done Ironman it became more acceptible to him. But when I was ready to register I said this to him when he and I were alone and sober and the tv was off.
“I want to do a full Ironman but I won’t go forward if you don’t support it.” I was being truthful if he had said, “no” I would have just stopped because a race isn’t worth my marriage. But he said yes. Then we both picked this race … mostly. That part was a mess. I have been honest about that before selecting France was not the most well thought out thing I’ve ever done. But involving the spouse is important. He has to want to go to where the races are and bring the kids so I always let him choose … mostly 🙂
Next up – the master schedule
Ironman training takes up a lot of time. in peak weeks I was at 17-18 hours a week not counting travel time and stuff. In the beginning it was causing some conflict – not actually the weekends because it was assumed that I was busy those mornings but during the week so I made a schedule.
The schedule was sooooooooooo helpful. Because it let my husband and kids know where I was when and where they were and so on. We did have some hiccups but not big ones.
I cook in our house. So getting dinner on the table is my job. I also go to the grocery store although my husband has gone a lot in the last few months (the other option was starving). But when I saw that I was having a hard time getting dinner on the table I signed up at Dream Dinners which I had used before but stopped. This was helpful because at any given time I had meals ready to go in the freezer. It was a big help.
I train almost entirely with guys. This could definitely create some friction but my husband knows everybody that I train with – and their wives. He is invited to every social event whether it’s dinner after a track practice, birthday parties, happy hour – whatever. He is included. He declines a lot because he says we (triathletes) are really boring. But the point is he knows who I’m with so he’s hopefully not jealous.
Funny. But also a lesson.
I have a bike mechanic named Calvin. My bike was in for something or other. So there was a ticket in the kitchen that said Calvin and the phone number. I didn’t think twice about it. We were cleaning up after dinner and my hubby says, “Amy, who is Calvin?” I reply .. “bike mechanic … why?” and he held up the ticket. He thought I was having a secret romance I guess. Anyway – I took him to meet Calvin and we all had a good laugh.
Lastly, there are the Happy Ironman training marriage rules. These are my rules or guidelines that I use to keep everything good.
- I try never to use training as an excuse why I can’t do something with the family. Full-disclosure – I have missed several early soccer games and lots of piano practices. But for the most part I reschedule my training to accommodate family life and not the other way around. I do a lot of early training and training while the kids are in school.
- If my husband asks me to do something like go out to dinner. I go. I get dressed up, I smile, I have fun I reschedule whatever training is in the way. He doesn’t do this often but when he does I make it work. To be honest he does his best to check that there isn’t a 20 mile run the next day.
- If I’m tired from training early on a weekend … it doesn’t matter. I still have birthday party duty and whatever else that day. No napping the day away or complaining that I’m too tired to play soccer or whatever the kids ask for.
- Try not to take myself or the training too seriously.
- If my husband is doing something with the kids I have to let him do it and not judge or get involved. My husband thinks our kids can survive on approximately one goldfish per day to eat. It’s the strangest thing. He also assumes that if he offers them food that they eat all of it (which is never true). So when I get home from a morning of training my kids are starving. This is always the case. I could be upset about it and I could bicker at him but that does nobody any good. So instead I just am ready to feed them when I come home. I also remind my kids to be self-sufficient and to tell daddy if they are hungry.
- Say what I want and don’t expect the impossible. My husband HATES coming to races. HATES it. If I want him to be there I have to tell him exactly that without any gentle or code words. I have to say , “it is important that you come … you need to come because I have no way to get home” things like that. Also, I can’t expect him to be an uber-cheerleader because he isn’t. My sister in law is the best support crew ever. I wish she was at every race I ever did – she makes signs she knows where we are and everything. My husband is clueless. So I need to not be upset about that or else I’ll be miserable. Seriously, if my happiness depended on my husband making a cheering sign for me I would be one miserable chick because that’s not ever gonna happen. For the Ironman I have asked him to come with me to the start and watch me swim and then I’ll see them while I’m on the run. I have stressed to them that it will be really important for their encouragement on my 4 loops of the run. I also hope they will see me finish. Sometimes things go wrong with that and that’s okay because I do this for me not to be seen doing it. Jack had a breakdown while watching for me finish the NY marathon so he was inside with my husband … it happens. I hope it doesn’t happen at the Ironman but if it does I know it won’t be because he didn’t want to be there. Also I already bought the video of the finish. (shh don’t tell him) It’s hard work being the kid-wrangler at these things and he knows I’ll need help afterwards so eventually he’ll be there.
I think that’s it. That’s how I’ve made it work. We are all ready for some together time so luckily the training is almost over 🙂
You can read all of my race reports here.