By David Panjada
"Erma Bombeck once famously said: "One never realizes how different a husband and wife can be until they begin to pack for a triathlon". Actually, she said "pack for a trip", but the statement is true for both.
In 2012, I started my triathlon career. After suffering some injuries that took team sports from me, I was looking for something different to do to help me stay in shape. With the strong support of my wife, I jumped into the sport and got hooked on triathlon. We traveled a bit to different events where she faithfully watched the kids and supported me every step of the way. She didn't understand triathlon and it's intricacies, but she was so encouraging and helpful as she observed the alchemy that went into my planning before a race. We nearly ruined a few family vacations by including a race in the middle of the trip.
In 2014, she decided to try out the sport herself and signed up for a sprint distance race. As a couple who often doesn't know when to quit, we started racing together. Suddenly, I had [not only] a great supporter, but also an awesome teammate and training partner. Now, when I tell her "I've got a 20 minute FTP test in the morning", she fully understands why I'm cranky and anxious. Before, she would nod her head and make sure I had a fresh, water bottle handy. Now, she's leaning into my face yelling at me to push just a few more watts out in those final minutes.
I understand that this relationship is unique and I'm certainly thankful for it. Having both of us train simultaneously means juggling schedules. Our training days typically start at about 4 AM so we can get a 90-minute training session together before work and the kids have to get to school. We often meet up over lunch for a run together. Our date nights are frequently a romantic evening trip to the pool for some swim training. We’ve also learned that our race selection has to be more precise. Realistically, only one of us can train for a long-course triathlon at a time. That means that in 2016 Jamie trained for and completed Ironman Louisville while I geared up for a local 70.3. In 2017 completed Ironman Chattanooga while she scaled back her schedule. In 2018, we ventured into the world of ultra and trail running where a single long early-weekend morning run could be the cornerstone of our training.
We like to plan one “big” race out of town that we can use as a getaway without kids. Afterward, we may spend a few days of unwinding and site seeing.
So much of what we do complements each other, but there is also friction and differences.
She is likely to have her entire checklist of gear neatly laid out and organized days before the race. I usually haphazardly toss everything I can think of in a bag at the last minute (Thank you, De Soto, for designing the amazing Transition Pack V8 – this amazing bag holds all my stuff and has a compartment for everything! It’s a must-have for both the super organized and haphazard athlete).
While I am typically carefree and happy-go-lucky leading up to a race (which has sometimes led to results that were not my best, have I failed to bring the needed intensity), she is focused and tense. She brings a serious view to the event and is attentive and careful to understand the rules, the course and the timeline of events.
All in all, triathlon has strengthened our relationship. It helps keep us healthy and focused. It also helps us model a positive lifestyle for our kids. Our family is always excited to hit the trail together. Our kids are learning organization, prioritization and time management as they watch our structured training. These are things that will help them for the rest of their lives."
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