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To love a triathlete means to speak a unique dialect of the language of love. Where some people lavish their sweetheart with flowers, chocolates, and shiny things, triathletes express their affection through bike cleanings and mid-race pep talks.
I never thought a bike ride would be a place for romance, especially not on the day I bonked—badly—near the summit of Mount Lemmon, a 26-mile climb in southern Arizona. My husband, Neil, had given me a 60-minute head start and issued a challenge to not to let him catch up before reaching the top. Twenty-five miles later, I was gritting my teeth, spinning my gears and praying not to fall over from fatigue. I had all but forgotten about our “race”—more than anything, I just wanted to throw my bike off the side of the mountain.
Suddenly, I felt a hand on the small of my back. Neil had caught me and was giving me a push toward the summit.
“You’re doing great, babe!”
I wasn’t doing great. Still, that was the sweetest lie he could have uttered.
My five years with Neil has taught me that Triathlete Love comes in all sorts of beautiful packages, none of which are shiny and heart-shaped. I asked other triathlon couples for the most romantic ways their triathlete has shown love, and their answers are enough to cause a serious case of the Awws. Get ready to swoon, lovebugs:
“I was in really rough shape after finishing an Ironman. Halfway through my shower, I couldn’t stop shivering. It was so bad, I couldn’t walk, I just sat down on the bathroom floor, naked and shaking. My new girlfriend—who at that point hadn’t seen “the goods” yet, if you know what I mean—pulled the blankets off the bed, wrapped me up, and rubbed my arms and legs until I felt better. She was a real pro.”
“My husband always wakes up 10 minutes before me to make a pot of coffee and put bottles in both of our bike trainers.”
“One time, I got three flats and ran out of tubes on a training ride. I had to call my wife to pick me up. It was so hot outside and I was a long ways away from our home, so I knew it would take a while for her to get to where I was (which was the middle of nowhere). I was glad when she finally showed up, but I was even more glad when I saw she had stopped at the 7-11 on the way to bring me a giant Slurpee.”
“She always lets me have the last slice of pizza on long run day. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.”
“We live in an old house that doesn’t have a great plumbing. He always lets me shower first after workouts so I can get first dibs on what little hot water we have.”
“On my 40th birthday, he gave me a new bike and he suggested we go for a birthday ride together. It wasn’t until about halfway through the ride that I saw ‘Will you marry me?’ was painted on the top tube! I was so surprised, I screamed and almost crashed the damn thing.”
“I know it’s corny, but I can’t have anyone other than my wife do my body marking before a race. She’s my good luck charm. Even when she’s doing the same race as me and has her own stuff to deal with, she never gets annoyed when I ask her to do it. She carries a marker in her transition bag just for me. Sometimes she even puts a little heart on my calf next to my age.”
“I am a very heavy and very salty sweater when racing. Like, to the point of being crusty and kind of gross. My girlfriend still gave me a big hug and a kiss at the finish line and didn’t even say how nasty I was.”