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How to travel with your triathlete (without breaking up).
One of the perks of being married to a fellow triathlete with a race addiction is that I get to travel with my husband around the world for races. One of the downfalls, however, is that I have to travel the world with my husband.
It’s not that our racecations are unenjoyable—far from it. Some of my fondest memories of Neil involve sweat, spandex, and an unpronounceable locale. But traveling for a race can be trying for even the most solid relationships. When two tapering triathletes spend 24 hours a day together in new, unpredictable environments, it can get tense. You know those scandalous news stories where one spouse pushes the other off a cruise ship into shark-infested waters? Let’s just say I get that.
Traveling to a destination race is supposed to be fun, and with a bit of foresight, it will be. Here’s how to tour with your triathlete (and still stay married).
Go where the wind takes you.
Triathlon can take you to a lot of far-flung, glamorous locations. It can also take you places like Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. If your partner proposes a race locale you wouldn’t normally choose as a place to spend your vacation, keep an open mind. Be up for the adventure, not the destination.
Accept your status as a pack mule.
Neil and I are not one of those couples who can toss a few things into a cutesy carry-on for our race trips. No, we show up at the airport with so much baggage, the ticket clerk is dumbfounded when we only present boarding passes for two people.
It’s not me—I can fit everything I need for a two-week race vacation into a duffel bag. My husband, on the other hand, requires a full set of steamer trunks and a forklift. As a result, I end up carting around a lot of crap that isn’t mine. Being in a relationship means sharing the load with your partner—sometimes literally.
Vacations are expensive. Race vacations are really expensive. It’s likely you’ll have a heated discussion about the budget at some point during your trip. That discussion will likely happen when an airline clerk smiles and says, “That’ll be 200 dollars to check your bike.”
Airline bike fees suck. You know it, I know it, even the ticket clerk charging the bike fee knows it. No one enjoys paying hundreds of dollars to have their bike drop-kicked into the belly of a 747. It’s stressful, especially if it forces you to recalculate your vacation budget on the fly. From the beginning, set a budget that reflects all components of your trip, lest you be forced to choose between a post-race couple’s massage and flying your bike home. (Your partner will always choose the massage over your bike.)
Get the GPS.
Couples fighting about directions are such a cliché. But couples really do fight about directions—all day, every day. No one ever wins, no one ever concedes, and no one ever admits that their way was wrong (they will, however, recite every single time the other person has been wrong about something). Splurge for a good GPS system in your car. It’s cheaper than divorce.
Stock up on snacks.
Hell hath no wrath like the hangry triathlete. Travel can wreak havoc on a triathlete’s routine, which is typically regimented. More often than not, when I get snippy with my husband, it’s because I have low blood sugar from skipping a meal. Keep a few protein bars in your bag, and don’t be afraid to suggest shelving a discussion until after you’ve both eaten lunch.
Give yourself some buffer time.
Speed work is great for training, but not for travel. Rushing leads to stress, and stress leads to bickering. Traveling is unpredictable, so give yourself plenty of time in everything you do—to make the connection to your next flight, find parking, set up in transition on race morning, or take apart your bike before checking out of your hotel room post-race.
Respect each other’s routine.
Neil and I approach race prep differently. He likes to drive the course ahead of time, test the waters of the swim, and chat with those who have done the race before. Meanwhile, I prefer to stay in denial until the starting gun goes off. Over the years, we’ve learned how to respect the other’s routine, but it takes a lot of communication. Instead of assuming you both have the same wants and needs for race prep, check in with your partner: “How you feeling?” “Can I do anything to help you?” “Do you want to come with me to drive the course?” A little courtesy goes a long way.
Sit around? Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Race travel is chaotic. In addition to the frenzy of getting to your destination, there’s the process of checking in for the race, dropping off your bikes, preparing transition bags, and dealing with the minor urgencies that pop up the days and hours before the race.
It may feel like there’s no downtime until after the race is over, but within the storm of race prep, pockets of calm do exist. Find them, and savor them. Sneak away for a romantic (carb-loading) dinner, hold hands and go for a quiet walk along the swim course, or simply hug your spouse in transition and share how happy you are that you get to enjoy this experience together.
Remember happiness does not hinge on race performance.
Perhaps you both hope to set a PR or qualify for Kona at this race, and perhaps that will happen. If it does, you’ll likely spend the rest of your vacation floating on a pink cloud of satisfaction and celebratory mai-tais. But if this doesn’t happen, it can be easy to fall into a pit of self-loathing. Resolve to enjoy the rest of your trip, no matter what. Race day is just one day and one memory. Allow yourself to make other—better—memories on your trip to balance out the sting of a bad race.
Let it go.
All sorts of little annoyances pop up when you spend 24/7 with your partner in small spaces like cars and hotel rooms. Things that never bothered you before will suddenly drive you batty: Has he always cleared his throat like that? Is it really necessary for her to leave all her clothes on the floor? Is it too much to ask for him to make a second cup of coffee for me, dammit? Will she ever stop talking?
Ask yourself: Is this really that big of a deal? Is he truly being inconsiderate, or am I expecting him to read my mind? Would I bring this up so aggressively if we were at home? Do I just need a snack?
No, really, LET IT GO.
Travel doesn’t always go as planned. Pack your sense of humor. When things get heavy, it’ll come in handy.
Enjoy the ride.
If I traveled alone, I’d have a lot less baggage to lug around. I could go at my own schedule, prep for my race without distraction, and not have to worry about anyone other than me, myself, and I.
And for every second of the trip, I’d say, “I wish my husband was here.”
Traveling with a partner is deeply satisfying. Shared experiences—good and bad—are the foundation of every good relationship. Thirty years from now, when I look back on my vacation albums, it’s likely I won’t remember a trip as “that time the airline lost my bike” or “that place where Neil and I fought about directions.” No, my memories will be what matters: stolen kisses in transition on race morning, sweaty hugs at the finish line, and celebratory mai-tais on the beach with the one I love.
Even if that beach is in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.