PREFACE:   I’m probably really going to displease some people with my comments in this article and for that I do apologize, especially to my husband who may be very surprised to read my thoughts. We usually post very upbeat, positive musings and this one took a curve I actually wasn’t expecting.  But keep reading as it’s not all doom and gloom.  This site is meant to start the conversation and be honest and helpful, right? We don’t want you to feel alone, if you aren’t always feeling “the love” for the triathlon lifestyle.  So, here goes…..

Dana & Syd in Kona supporting David.

Dana & Syd in Kona supporting David.

The idea for writing this article came to me on a Saturday afternoon while I was walking the dogs in the rain.  See, the weekends are the times my husband usually takes them out and I get a break.  Don’t get me wrong, I love them dearly, but a break is nice sometimes and has come to be expected.  However, it’s now officially race season, so instead of doing what he normally would, my triathlete is in the basement doing a 3 hour ride after having done a swim this morning and I’m walking the pups in his place.

This made me think about all the other times I’VE  had to do something instead of him or for him, because he’s training.  Let’s face it.  We trisupporters sacrifice – I hate to use that word, but that’s exactly what we do.  I suppose you could use the term compromise instead of sacrifice, if you prefer.  I never understood what people meant when they talked about sacrifice, as I always enjoyed supporting whatever made my family happy.  But changes in dynamics and/or circumstances can bring the idea into a new light.

I came up with this list of what we “give” or “give up” when I started delving into the question:

  • We give up a lot of aspects of our social lives.
  • We have to say no or reschedule family and friend activities or get very creative about scheduling together time.
  • Time with the spouse/partner/family members/friends is often diminished and in the process, the relationship(s) may suffer.
  • We give up space in our homes to accommodate all the tri gear and paraphernalia.
  • We give up personal time to assume more household responsibilities.
  • We stand in long lines to get an autograph from one of their favorite pro triathletes. (Done totally out of love!)
  • We act as sounding boards for them to discuss training, nutrition, races, and all things tri, when we’d rather be discussing buying a new TV for the family room or US economic policy.
  • Not to mention all the stuff we do FOR them – shopping, booking races, cooking special meals, washing clothes, packing…..

27PicMonkey Collage

Then I started to list what we “get” in return.  Sure we get “vacations” at race locations, but once again face it, they are not always in the spots we want to vacation in and not always vacations to boot.  During the days preceding the race and on race day, we spend a lot of time apart or not doing “touristy” things for multiple reasons:

  • They’re with other triathletes they haven’t seen in a long time and certainly have to catch up with.
  • They have to register, check their bike in, pack their transition bags…….
  • They can’t sight-see, because they need to rest and have to be off their feet.
  • They can’t drink, because it’s before the race.
  • They need to eat certain foods, so they can’t go to certain restaurants.
  • They have to go to bed at 8pm, because it’s the night before the race and they have to get up at 3:30am.
  • And, when we do get to spend time together, they make us traipse through expos and merchandise tents in search of some item they truly don’t need and may not even want.

(This is precisely why we recommend extending races to include just vacation time).  Okay, so while we may voice displeasure about the vacation spot, we have to admit that hey, we do GET a vacation and generally several during the year.  We also usually get a happy, healthy, fit partner and we get to see them develop a robust social life around their triathlete friends.  We also get to see them realize a life’s dream, which is huge.  We get to make our own new friends, even though we may only see them once a year.  And, we get to introduce our kids to a healthy, active lifestyle.

BUT, and it’s a HUGE BUT, despite the fact that the positives and negatives may not be in balance, we persevere as trisupporeters.  We continue to be by our triathletes side through it all.  The cold, dark mornings we rise out of our warm, snuggly beds; the dining room tables we let be covered with pre-race paraphernalia; the Italian restaurant we go to when we really wanted Chinese; the totally drenched and smelly clothes we pick up and throw in the washer.  You get the idea.  What is it that makes us do this?  Is it OUR make-up or is it our love for the triathlete or some combination of both?

Dana, Jodi, & Sherry as trisupporters.

Dana, Jodi, & Sherry being trisupporters…

I looked at my friends who are trisupporters, including their families and looked at what characteristics they possess as people and what they do in and with their lives.  I had a few conversations with them also to see if I could get any answers.  I wondered if there was actually anything different among supporters of any sport.  The problem is I couldn’t come up with a sport to compare it to.  None that I could think of requires the number of hours devoted both to training and then to the actual races as triathlons do.  Am I missing something?

So, I let that idea go and here are my conclusions:

  • Most trisupporters I know have a similar attitude (not necessarily as a participant) about health and exercise as their triathlete or develop this soon after the sport is entered into.
  • Those with families often believe that this lifestyle, including the discipline and dedication required, are excellent traits to pass on to their children.
  • They often include the family, parents & siblings, in becoming trisupporters.
  • They didn’t initially know what they were getting into with all the commitments and ended up just working it all out; sometimes begrudgingly, sometimes ending up loving the lifestyle.
  • They see their new group of friends as a tremendous positive and are happy to see them just occasionally.
  • They expect there to be compromise when asked and especially during times of changes in family situations.
  • They do hold some resentments, although reluctant to admit, but tend to keep them to themselves and not voice them to the triathlete.
  • They try and maintain an outside life for themselves, not one that totally revolves around the triathlete.
  • They are a bit on the independent side and can keep themselves occupied and happy with alone time.
  • It is not for everyone and not everyone gets it….some people may not be able to be a supporter and be happy.

So, there you have it trisupporters.  With race season upon us, I thought I’d share my thoughts with you, good and bad, just to let you know how special you are and that it’s okay to not always be behind your triathlete 100%.  Not supporting fully and unselfishly has seemed incomprehensible to me, because there is immeasurable joy in seeing your loved one succeed and experience such personal happiness.

But, somewhere there is a cost, freely given, but there none the less.  For me it’s been worth it, so far, but I have had to make adjustments in my lifestyle.  I hope there does not come a time when it crosses over.  A BIG help to our situation was my husband taking his “pause” last year, only doing a half Ironman.  It was really nice having a breather and my husband back in my life for awhile.

So, to that end, I’m following my own advice.  Hang in there with your triathlete, but let them know when adjustments have to be made in the household.  Hold no resentments.  Talk it out.  Get creative.  Involve other triathlete families if you can or need to.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help or for them to take a “pause” if necessary.  And, check back with The TriWivesClub for more articles on this topic in the near future.