Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Calling All Triathlete Significant Others

Your alarm clock going off at 5:00 am. A wet bathing suit constantly hanging in the bathroom. The snack-food cabinet taken over by energy gels. No, I am not talking about the life of a triathlete. I am talking about the life of a triathlete’s wife.

If your husband (wife, child, sibling, or otherwise loved one) is an extreme athlete you know just what I mean. When I met Mr. Tri-Guy J., he was merely Mr. One Marathon J. I was suitably impressed and thought it was a mere hobby. Little did I know the years of racing that lay ahead of me. After curb-crewing my way through 5 marathons, I thought I had the encouragement thing down. After waiting at the top of Mount Washington him to finish his run, I thought I had the worrying in the cold routine down. And then, he said the infamous words… "I think I'll try a triathlon".

Here's what I knew of triathletes – they shave their legs. They have a race in Hawaii. That guy on "The Bachelor" was one. That's it. But as J trained for his first half-ironman (in Lake Winnipesaukee), I learned more and more. Suddenly two bikes were hanging on my livingroom wall, and the smell of chlorine seemed to be everywhere. And after a few successful half ironmen and a bunch of sprints, he signed up for Ironman Coeur d'Alene. Team Iron J is headed to Idaho.

I am sure you can all relate to the "training" a partner goes through. For me, the challenge has been balancing my extraordinary pride with my fear. I alternate between wanting to brag to everyone I meet that my husband is doing this amazing thing to privately worrying that he will get hurt. Particularly for those of us who are non-athletes (my idea of a triathlon? Read a book, eat a snack, crochet. Watch all three versions of "Law and Order" in one sitting), the idea that someone would choose to put their body through this is bizarre.

And so while J prepares by increasing his workouts and shaving his legs (I was right about one thing...), I'm readying myself for race day as well. In between the moments when we can see him ("Was that him on that bike? I think he has a blue helmet…"), and the moments of awe/horror that people are actually participating in this, I plan on a tight regimen of reading, listening to my ipod, and hanging out with our families. Like any competitor, I'll be sure to stay hydrated and remember the sunscreen.

For those of you who are fellow members of this elite group, I would love to hear your thoughts. How do you manage your worry? How do you stay encouraging when your partner gets frustrated? What the hell are we supposed to do all day?

And to all the other Coeur d'Alene partners, speak up and let me know who you are. Come June 22, I hope we can meet. After all, on the course it's every man/woman for him or herself, but as for curb crew? We're all in this together.

Mrs.T-Guy J (a.k.a. Betsy)

P.S. For the athlete reading this, pass it on to the loved ones. You'll find them rinsing out your bathing suit in the bathroom...


momo said...

omg, betsy, my ironwidow (big j) will, i am absolutely positive, have something to say here.

in the meantime, thank you for supporting your guy. you will never know how much it means to see a loved one after you've been out there so very, very long. just a glimpse can keep you going another fifty miles.

can't wait to meet you!!

the Dread Pirate Rackham said...

my husband, the triathlete wife, could probably relate to this. thanks for posting.

he tells me it's like I work the night shift. I'm up and gone before anybody else is awake. He would tell you to entertain yourself - as would I. I would barely notice him on the course, it would make no difference to me. Just feed me when I'm done and I'll love you forever.

thanks for supporting your triathlete!

TriSherpa Di aka "Mrs Bigun" said...

that is a great post. Funny, not in a ha ha way but a OMG she so nailed it! way.
I know what you mean about worry. I know Bigun's "expected" times and about when I should be seeing him. Unfortunately I have discovered that I can't count on expected times. After 3 years of this it hasn't changed. I just stay positive out there and keep the bell ringing. ;)shoot me an email and I'll give you all the scoop on where a ton of Iron Sherpas will be during the race. We'll be setting up a canana or two for the athletes so that we can hand out refreshments, etc during the course. We'll even have a cocktail or two ready for any needy sherpas. ;)

TriSherpa Di aka "Mrs Bigun" said...

lol - we'll be setting up a CABANA or two!! LOL

SWTrigal said...

My husband use to have these issues and worries. We had real problems over this. I think he finally got it that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em! So he learned how to bike (grew up in NYC, didn't even know how to ride a bike), learned to swim and did his first tri sprint in 2004. He is training for IMAZ this fall and is 61 years old..So why not come to the dark side?

P.S. He will be at IMCDA as support-but he will be riding the course!

Supalinds said...

I'll pass this along to my Hubby. I'd like to hear what he has to say!

ironshane said...

I married a triathlete, so it makes things a little easier. How could I not understand a 6 hour ride when I have to do one myself????? And I'm not sure the chlorine smell has left for years.

Even with all your worry, concerns about timing, expectations, all that. 4 seconds seeing you can and will drive him to go for probably an hour. It's weird, but it's true. The "sherpa" crowd is going to be huge and rowdy this year. So much so that it's going to be tough for us participants to keep going instead of joining the party. Do us a favor - kick our butts out after a couple minutes, okay?!? :)


Mister P. said...

As someone who has been to two Ironmans as a cheerleader, I can say that it is a LONG, stressful day even for spectators. Exciting, but stressful. So be sure to give them some extra love!


Mister P. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scottie's tri-widow said...

You can NOT imagine how badly I needed to read this post right now! My husband, Scottie, has been going non-stop. The last two weeks have been really rough - both physically and mentally for him, but emotionally and mentally for me. We have so many things going on in our lives, but if he plans to be successful at IMCDA, he has to make training his priority. I too, am a tri-widow with four kids, a job, and a desire to train too (thank God, just a sprint). Our little town has just three triathletes, and my guy is probably training to most of them all (almost 17 hours this week). It is really nice to know that I am not alone!!!

I look forward to meeting the other widows/widowers in Coeur D'Alene :)

Ultra Iron Misty said...

Gee, I've always shaved my legs, even before becoming a triathlete. :-)