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Before I met my husband Neil, I had a very strict “No Triathlete” rule when it came to romance. My experience dating triathletes had ended poorly—in general, I found the men of the sport to be arrogant and selfish. Not my type.
But one day, I found myself explaining to a very lovely non-triathlete named Josh why I couldn’t accept his invitation for Sunday brunch (long run day). When he pointed out I had also turned down his invitation for dinner on Thursday night (masters swim) and had fallen asleep at the movies the weekend prior, it hit me:
I was peeing in the wrong dating pool.
My problem wasn’t just that the men of triathlon were arrogant and selfish—it’s that I couldn’t admit I was arrogant and selfish, too. If I was going to have any sort of romantic success, I needed a kindred spirit. Triathlon is a demanding mistress, and that’s hard for the average person to grasp. After all, hardly anyone wants to date someone who spends his mornings riding a bike and afternoons comatose except for occasional trips to the fridge for more cookie dough.
But in a relationship with a fellow triathlete, you can be comatose together, snuggled up on the couch with zero guilt. Sometimes, your beloved will even share the cookie dough with you (just kidding – our selfishness applies to snacks, too).
That doesn’t mean two selfish, arrogant triathletes will live happily ever after by default. In love, as in racing, it pays to play by the rules. Stay out of the penalty box with these guidelines for Triathlete Love:
Please don’t go out to Sunday brunch.
After 18 miles, it’s a Herculean effort to put on pants, much less navigate a car 20 miles to Chez Froufrou and smile while a waiter describes the artisanal ingredients of the French toast special. If you know you’ll both be a little bit stabby before the muffin basket arrives, save your relationship (and your sanity) by running to the grocery store the night before your long run to pick up the fixings for a romantic, pants-free, homemade brunch.
Wear ‘em down.
Trying to determine if your partner is relationship material? Do a century ride together. You learn a lot about your partner from the way he reacts to punctured tubes, false flats and bonking.
First comes gear, then comes beer, then comes date night.
Sixty-five percent of couples argue about money. If you get on the same page about your financial priorities, you’ll be in the 35 percent with happiness (and by “happiness,” I mean “new wetsuits and a six-pack of IPA,” which is the exact same thing.)
Don’t touch your triathlete’s bike.
No, seriously. Don’t touch the bike.
Dammit, you touched the bike.
Not a smart move. If you break your triathlete’s bike, there’s really only one solution: Leave the country, get major plastic surgery, and pray.
Adopt a Cavalier King Charles Scapegoat.
At various points in your season, you will try new nutrition strategies, and it will give you gas so noxious, you’ll fear the act of lighting your stove. If both of you agree to blame it on the dog, your relationship can withstand the (ahem) winds of change.
An empty peanut butter jar in the pantry is grounds for divorce.
You can’t tease a triathlete’s hangry heart like that. You just can’t.
Don’t say “You’re looking great!” at mile 20 of an Ironman run.
You sit on a throne of lies, Casanova. We expect generic platitudes from people who don’t know any better, but when our beloved does it, they’re just asking for a night in the doghouse. Offer sincere cheers instead, like “your splits haven’t devolved that much!” or “Yay! You haven’t crapped your shorts!” If you can’t find anything nice to say, just point to the next aid station and yell “FLAT COKE!”
Have hobbies outside of triathlon.
Training together can be a great way to connect, but don’t let it be the cornerstone of your relationship. If all your conversations center around triathlon, you’ll struggle in the off-season (or worse, when one if you is injured). Besides, it’s sexy to hear the one you love talk about superchargers or world politics instead of whether or not you’ve peed since you got off the bike.
Say “Thank You.”
Remember what I said about triathletes being arrogant and selfish? Turn the knob just a little bit to the left on those traits. If you step outside of yourself for a second, you’ll see how much you’ve been taking for granted—how he always meets you at the finish line with a ginger ale, for example, or the fact that as you’re reading this, she’s got her elbow in your left glute in the way that only she knows how to do.
“Thank you” goes a long way. “I love you” is a nice addition. “I made brunch” are the best words of all.
In a two-triathlete relationship? Tweet us your rules for Triathlete Love at @TriathleteMag!