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This is the second installment of Susan Lacke’s new “Triathlete Love” column, appearing every month on Triathlete.com. Lacke gives her humorous take on sharing a house, a life and a race schedule with the man of her dreams – an Ironman triathlete named Neil, who Lacke describes as “Insanely Hot.” (Then again, aren’t all triathletes hot?)
There are a lot of fancy pseudo-psychology books regarding relationships. Whether it’s how we speak different love languages or that we come from Venus or Mars, the consensus seems to be that relationships take patience and understanding.
Unfortunately, there’s no self-help book for people who love an Ironman triathlete. If anyone needs to master patience and understanding, it’s the significant other of someone deeply in love with the swim/bike/run. Someone should jump on publishing a book about that—I’m pretty sure it’d be a bestseller.
As I write this, Neil is peaking for the Ironman U.S. Championship in New York in August. I haven’t seen much of him lately, so when we finally do get a second together, I anticipate snuggles and stolen kisses and whispered sweet nothings.
Instead, I get sleepy and grumpy and “where’s my dinner?”
I should be used to this by now, since this is the fifth Ironman triathlon Neil has done in the time we’ve been together. My own experience training for and racing Ironman should give me an added dose of sympathy. Yet, every time he’s in the peak training phase, I begin counting down the days until I get the man I love back instead of this impostor that’s been living in our house.
If you’re the significant other of an Ironman triathlete, you’ve probably been in my shoes. Though you’re proud of the dedication your partner is showing to accomplish a goal, sometimes it can feel like triathlon is a mistress who doesn’t really exist. If Neil was meeting another woman on the side, at least I could slap her and tell her to stay away from my man. It’s not nearly as gratifying to punch Neil’s empty wetsuit drip-drying in the garage.
It can be easy to get mad, even jealous, of how much time your triathlete is spending away from you to prepare for a race. But sometimes, if you’re patient enough, you might be surprised at how sweet your tired triathlete can be… even if it’s not the traditional romantic gesture.
Maybe it’s when your triathlete bounds into the kitchen in the morning and announces she’s skipping her long ride in favor of taking the family out for breakfast. Or maybe it’s when he secretly bribes the next-door kid to mow the lawn, so you aren’t saddled with all the housework while he’s training. It could even be when your triathlete takes you out to dinner and a movie… even if she falls asleep halfway through the opening credits.
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Last weekend, Neil and I drove up to Flagstaff, Ariz. for a weekend of training. I planned on hitting the trails while he took on some long rides and open-water swims. During our first day there, I aggravated a knee injury, rendering me unable to run as planned. While Neil spent hours training, I stayed in our hotel room, icing my knee, drinking crappy coffee and seething with jealousy.
On our last day of the trip, he sensed my frustration and suggested a low-impact alternative to running: “Why don’t you do an open water swim with me before we head back home?”
“I would,” I huffed like a pouting child, “but I didn’t pack swim stuff. I was planning on running. Remember? Now I’ve just been sitting in this stupid hotel, icing my knee, while you’re out having all the fun.”
“Oh.” He shrugged. “That sucks.”
He turned to gather his wetsuit and head to the lake. His triathlon mistress had won his affection, once again. At the very least, I was hoping he’d give me an “aww, poor baby” or even a hug. I glared at the back of his head. I knew he was tired from a weekend of heavy training, but I was still bowled over by how oblivious he was. In my head, I cursed him out: This stupid training is making you an inconsiderate jerk. A little sympathy never killed anyone, you know.
After he assembled his swim gear, he began dismantling his bike, packing up the compression boots and loading our bags into the car.
“What are you doing?” I asked. “Aren’t you going to the lake?”
“I don’t feel like swimming in the lake today. I’d rather swim at our pool back home. You should come with me.”
He smiled and winked. I swooned. Maybe he wasn’t such an inconsiderate jerk after all.
The fancy books are right—relationships take patience and understanding, and this is especially true when you’re in love with a triathlete. You see, in triathlete love, it’s not about grand gestures, or diamonds, or candlelit dinners. Sometimes, just sharing a lane in a swimming pool and playing footsies between intervals is enough to know we’ve got our own “happily ever after.”
Even if I do have to wait until the off-season.