Beginner’s Luck: The Greatest Ride I Never Had

Sometimes those "big workout days" are better spent in another arena of our lives.

Sometimes those “big workout days” are better spent in another arena of our lives.

I was about three years into triathlon training and I was obsessed with everything swim, bike, and run. I loved all the things about the sport and I was growing and learning more every single day. I stuck to my training plan with a crazy rigidity that I didn’t know I had inside of me. All good things.

At the same time, my personal life and job was suffering. My marriage was falling apart—as I wrote about in my blog in 2013—and the growth from triathlon was absolutely a part of it. Not necessarily in a bad way, but people change when they start new things. I changed. My husband was left thinking, ‘Who is this woman?’ and we simply needed to come together on the changes. (We did—but not without a tremendous amount of work and communication).  I tried to unravel the “Triathlon Monster” I had started to become. Additionally, my relationship with my young children was difficult—in the sense that I wasn’t doing the best job being present for them. I would go out and run or ride long, and I would be present in body when I returned—but I could barely keep my eyes open. I still contend that I am a better mother, wife, and employee when I am training, but sometimes that long-distance training takes a toll unlike any other.

That is part of the triathlon training, I am convinced—that we learn to manage our lives in new ways. I have noticed those who have longevity in this sport as age-groupers identify and live in that special world that encompasses family, life, fun, and triathlon. Those I have seen who fizzle out? Well, the fizzle often comes when triathlon becomes life, and then life starts to implode.

So I was training for my first Ironman in 2013 and I had a 100-mile ride on the books for the day. I was scheduled for what I remember to be four of five 100-milers before the race, so this was one of those critical rides. I was woken up by my almost-four year old around 4:30 a.m., about 30 minutes before I was supposed to wake up (the worst).  She crawled into bed with me, grabbed her blankie, and started sucking her thumb. For a moment, I was so aggravated—only 30 minutes left to sleep and she gets me up!—but then I closed my eyes and I felt a deep sense of sadness for my thought. ‘What is wrong with me?’ I thought. Then I fell into the rhythm of her thumb-sucking, her little breaths, her sweet still-a-baby-but-not-a-baby smell. I reached over, clicked off my alarm, and went back to sleep.

A couple hours later, I woke up with her. My husband made breakfast. We drank coffee. I brushed my teeth, but that was all.  I watched movies all day in bed in my pjs with the kids. I read an entire book before the sun went down. I didn’t ride—at all—not even the trainer. We had a full-family lazy day.

Five years and four Ironman races later, of all the amazing memories from triathlon and racing, I must admit that I cherish that day with my family more than any other day of racing. That’s not to say that training is always worth skipping—I am not saying to be a slacker. But sometimes those “big workout days” are better spent in another arena of our lives. As long as we are alive, there will always be another workout, another race—even if we are injured, old, slow or sick. However, life and precious time with those people we love? There are no guarantees we will have that forever—not in those exact moments. When those moments present themselves, let the rest go—be present, be brave, and be thankful. You won’t regret it.

Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. You can download a free triathlon race day checklist here. She is the host of the podcast, The Same 24 Hours, a show which interviews interesting people who make the best of the 24 hours in each day. She has two books being released in Spring and Fall 2019. Meredith lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children and writes about all things at