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Happily Ever After: Meet Four Triathlon Couples

These four pairs prove that the couple that trains together, stays together.

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These four pairs prove that the couple that trains together, stays together.

Team Stenzel
Who: Steve Stenzel, 30 and Sarah Linder-Stenzel, 31
Where: St. Paul, MN

High school sweethearts Steve and Sarah started off as runners but now race triathlons regularly. Sarah, who took up the sport first, converted a hesitant Steve to the sport in 2006, and, since then the two of them have competed in every distance, from sprint to Ironman, often together.

Race Support. “I asked Sarah not to race with me for my first triathlon—I wanted to have someone cheering for me and supporting me from the sidelines,” says Steve. “It made me a lot calmer knowing she was right there for me just off the course.”

For the Better. “The fact that we both do tris makes us more understanding that the other person needs to get out and get in a workout,” says Sarah. “Once upon a time, Steve gave me the ‘You love running more than you love me’ speech. But now we know that exercise and triathlon make us better spouses and better parents.”

Double Time. Since the pair welcomed son Henry nine months ago, they’ve been working on the delicate balance between parenting and training. “We’ve mastered the art of doing ‘baby intervals’, where one of us will watch our son and use that as rest while the other does an interval,” says Steve.

Keeping It Fun. No matter how intense things get, Steve stresses it’s key to keep things fun—especially right before race day. “I enjoy the time we get to spend together in the bathroom the night before a race when Sarah shaves my shoulders and back. Good times,” he says.

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Team Walsh
Who: Beth Gerdes Walsh, 32 and James Walsh, 34
Where: Encinitas, CA

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a fitter couple than the Walshes. Beth, who will race pro in 2012, is the 2011 overall amateur champion at Ironman Texas, California 70.3 and Timberman 70.3. James, the 2008 Xterra age-group world champion for men 30-34, is often tops in his age-group at major races including Vineman 70.3 in 2011. The pair, who met at a bike shop five years ago, have raced three half-Ironmans and two Ironmans together, including the 2011 Ironman World Championship.

Love in the Fast Lane. “We started dating and training together simultaneously,” says Beth. “Our second ‘date’ was an ocean swim and then a bike ride—he dropped me both times! Over the course of our first year of dating, James taught me 95% of what I know about training and triathlon.”

Together Time. “It’s pretty awesome that we get to spend so much time together riding bikes and being outdoors. Five solid hours of saddle time can bring you very close,” says Beth. “We also have lots of fun time on the road and experiencing new places together. At Vineman 70.3 last year, we raced together and then rented a cottage in California wine country. We’re very lucky to have each other to share it all with.”

New Direction. “This year, James is taking a step back to focus on bike racing instead of triathlon,” says Beth. “Even though he is no longer doing triathlon, we still ride around 150 miles together every week and he does some of my runs with me for cross-training.

Side by Side. “At Ironman Texas 2011, we lined up together in the mass start of over 2,000 people. Somehow, I found his feet and stayed with him for the entire 2.4-mile swim. We crossed the timing mat in the exact same time,” says Beth. “And of course you can’t beat competing together at the Ironman World Champs. We got to line up in the chaos of Kailua Bay together for the swim start and hi-five each other on the run. That’s an incredible experience to be able to share with your spouse.”

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Team Kelley
Who: James Kelley, 37 and Mary Kelley, 36
Where: Philadelphia, PA

Both top age-group athletes, James and Mary first met in 1998 but lost touch after a few initial dates. Fast-forward eight years, when James, who was just getting into triathlon, reached out to Mary after learning she had qualified for the 2005 Short Course World Championships. Today, the pair have two children and continue to compete and coach (Mary runs a coaching business and was recently appointed as the new coach of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation’s athletic program,Team Lemon, which raises money and awareness for childhood cancer).

Full Circle. “The sport of triathlon brought us back together after eight years apart, and our relationship grew directly as a result of training together,” says Mary. “We love encouraging each other to train and race.”

Supporting Star. While he loves to race, lately James has taken on more of a supporting role for his wife, who keeps busy with her many coaching responsibilities. “James will make awesome cheering signs with the kids or watch them while I coach,” says Mary.
Making it Work. “We run together at least once per week, usually with the kids and our dog in tow,” says Mary. “Otherwise, we tag-team training and racing, while the other one watches the kids.” 

Fast Family. At one race, we had the fastest two overall times among Mary’s corporate team. It was pretty cool seeing James and Mary at the top of the list,” says James. “It was also the first triathlon that our son attended. We can’t wait until our kids are old enough to complete a tri, so that the whole family can race together.”

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Team Schuckies
Who: Warren Schuckies, 53 and Pam Schuckies, 57
Where: Boulder, CO

A sub-11-hour Ironman finisher, Warren competed in his first triathlon in 1985. It took a few more years before Pam picked up on the sport, and now the couple—who has two grown children—claims 11 Ironman finishes between them. They are also both officers in the Boulder Triathlon Club.

Team Effort. “I had no athletic background as a kid, so Warren’s influence as an athlete really changed my life in a very positive way,” says Pam. “The fact that I have progressed to qualifying for 70.3 Worlds and Kona is greatly attributed to his encouragement and huge support in the past 20 years.”

Staying Close. “Rarely do we race separately,” says Warren. “If we’re not racing, then I am out there spectating. We always enjoy the traveling experience when we go to races and plan out vacations around them. Triathlon has changed our lives.”

Strong Bond. “Triathlon has kept us close but having that common bond of training and the pain of racing…in a good way. Many couples go have separate interests and tend to go off in their own directions,” says Warren. “But we always come back together at the end of a day or week and talk about our training, nutrition or just our great lifestyle. The added bonus is our fitness level that we enjoy together. As older athletes, that is especially important to maintain year after year.”

Giving Back. “We have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of giving back to the sport by opening up our home to visting athletes. First it was Jenna Parker, Sister Madonna Buder and then for the last two summers was Aussie up-and-comer Tim Reed and his fiancee, Monica,” says Warren. “It’s great living in Boulder, since we get to meet so many wonderful folks in the tri world.”

Looking Ahead. “This summer I will attend my 40th high school reunion in North Carolina. If I was still there and had not met Warren, who knows,” says Pam. “Triathlon has given us a lifestyle we love. We look forward to competing together in the 80-85 age group at Kona one day.”

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