My absence from writing is keeping in context with the tag line of this blog, the real life of a triathlete. I have had no time over the past month to even contemplate writing. This season has been jammed packed with more racing than I have ever done in a single year. Following the NYC Triathlon, I had no solid plans for racing outside of Ragnar Washington D.C. in October. And good thing. A week after returning home from NYC, my wife and I were blessed with two new arrivals in our home. Yes, two new, beautiful, and unexpected children. A little over a year ago, my wife and I were approved and certified as foster/adoptive parents. Since then, our life has been a never ending stream of life changing events. In a matter of 4 months we went from having on 8 year old to 4 children ages 8, 3, 4 months and 4 days. Despite the concerns of caution from family and friends and the constant “you are bat crap crazy” looks, we have never been more happy. But with this happiness comes a period of transition. We practically have twins and had no time to prepare ourselves emotionally or mentally. Much less not having the typical 10 months to prepare for the arrival of a newborn. So yes, a transition period of sorts was necessary. For me, that meant very limited to no training. Since I didn’t have any races in the very near future, some time off was necessary, especially when only getting a couple hours of sleep a night.
Triathletes tend to be type A personalities with attention to detail and a little obsessive. (Eh, “a little obsessive” may be a gross understatement.) With that said, many of us struggle with listening to our bodies rather than following a strict training plan. And I am certainly guilty of continuing to train when life piles on the crap, which only impedes progress and increases burnout in the end. I’d like to think I have learned my lesson, for I have certainly changed my view the relationships between my life and training.
Now, instead of getting up at 4 am and heading to the gym or jumping on the trainer, I sleep until 7 am after being up multiple times during the course of the night. After work training sessions are completely out of the question with dinner, baths, homework, and quality time with the kids. So recently, my only option has been training after the kids are down for the night. It has certainly been a shift. And it also involves being a little creative at times.
Trainer Ride/Pacifier Duty Jogging with the boys
It is a constant struggle to find the time and without a supportive wife and beautiful children to be a role model for, it would not be possible!
To say life has been hectic over the past 6 weeks would be gross understatement. In fact, as I’m writing this, I’m interrupted every 5-10 seconds by our two month old foster son, who continues to abruptly wake from a peaceful sleep because the pacifier fell out of his mouth. Meanwhile, our 4 dogs are barking at a squirrel…or a bird…or a leaf…or nothing, our new pig persistently searches for an escape, the goats scream for more food and the chickens are in danger from being eaten from a wild bear roaming the mountain. This is all while I’m working from home. In a few short hours, I will have to pick my son up from the bus stop and take him to karate, while my wife desperately tries to finish the farm chores as quickly as possible before I explode from lack of time to breathe.
There are moments in our lives where we feel as though we cannot handle one more responsibility. Our hobbies (for lack of a better word) are our escape and provide solace in times of overwhelm. They can keep us afloat when we risk submerging into the underworld of reality and responsibility. For me, I find escape in triathlon. For my wife, she finds it in the farm. They are our passion and keep us engaged in life when the chaos closes in.
But how do families balance two time consuming passions? It isn’t easy. At times, it is down right impossible. But what makes it possible is understanding and sacrifice. It’s about setting realistic goals that are achievable along with your spouses. Obviously, it would not be a realistic goal for me to train for an Ironman given our circumstances at the time. Also, just know that you will be required to give a little more from time to time. Right now I’m on baby duty most of the time so my wife can accomplish the highly time consuming tasks she needs to do for the farm. And when I need extra time to train or race…she will be there to support me in the same way.
For our family, finding balance is about gratitude and understanding. It’s not always easy and certainly not always pretty, but it is always better.
Successful people are not gifted; they just work hard, then succeed on purpose.
– G.K. Nielson
One of my favorite authors is Malcolm Gladwell. He is a unique man with an afro that wrote several great books, including Outliers, an intriguing look into success and how some of the most famous humans have achieved greatness. Surprisingly through, he does not speak about the accomplishments of the individual outliers such as The Beatles and Bill Gates, but rather to HOW they became successful. Their accomplisments we not solely due to talent or genetic gifts, but opportunity, environment, resources, and sheer time spent engaged in their craft. I often think about the power of opportunity and resources in my own life. I am a working mother of three kids, two of which are foster kids. (This adds a whole other aspect to the responsibilities of parenting that I never imagined). We have limited financial resources and often struggle to keep afloat. My wife and I both have hobbies that are not cheap, but they bring us great joy and help us be healthy models for our children. I have a wonderful life!
But one thing that stands out about Gladwell’s stories is that the individuals in the book have an unyielding amount of drive and passion. One does not spend 10,000 practicing the piano, programming computers, or writing stories because they want to get better. It is because they do not feel alive without that one thing. Now, I’m not saying I have one thing in my life that I live for….but I do have passion for triathlon…otherwise 4 am would not seem so exciting. I also understand that I do not have the time to train like a professional nor do I have the resources. I support a family of 5 and that will always take priority. But that does not mean that I do not continue to set reachable goals and work towards my own successes, as small or great as they may be. When I do accomplish goals, it is because I have set my mind and worked hard. I am not gifted, I am driven.
When I was 25 years old and was bitten by the tri bug, I set a goal to complete a Half Ironman before I turned 30 years old. Three months ago I turned 29. Therefore, it is crunch time!
My uncle lives in St. Croix and my wife has been dying to visit. I’ve also been dying to conquer The Beast. It all fell into place! So in May, my wife and I will be traveling to St. Croix to visit family, celebrating our 5 year wedding anniversary, and she will watch me defeat The Beast (while she drinks on the beach) and support me in accomplishing the goal she witnessed me make 5 years ago.
So every climb in training from here until May, becomes The Beast in my mind. I can hardly contain my excitement.
Triathlon is generally an individual sport…however…for me and a lot of full time parents and employees, it is very much a team effort to make everything work. Without the support of my amazing wife, I would be worthless. Whether she is watching the kids, lugging kids and snacks while navigating confusing race courses, suffering through another conversation about training, or plugging her nose from the stench of sweat, she is a saint and pushes me to reach the goals I have set for myself.
I saw this picture today and it immediately reminded me of the daily comments about how much dirty clothes I produce on a weekly basis.
Yes my wife is amazing and supportive…that doesn’t mean she loves all the unfortunate side effects of being married to a triathlete.
I also can’t wait to see the look on her face when attempt to pack our little hybrid car for thanksgiving vacation with three kids, luggage, stroller, and all my gear. I may be riding on the roof of the car for the 9 hour drive…
Regardless, marriage is a team effort,
and for me, triathlon is a team effort. I would never make it to the finish line without my wife. She is my biggest fan and I could never express my gratitude enough.
Now I don’t take selfies, but this picture is true for a lot of athletes these day. We often get dragged down by technology. Sometimes just running without all the technological necessities is liberating. Give it a try!
Real life moments. Cramming in breakfast while at the bus stop.
This is the beginning of, what I hope to be, an outlet to share my journey in the life of triathlon for those who wish to follow.
In 2009, I completed two triathlons. I was immediately hooked! Crossing the finish line each time fueled a burning desire that was ignited by some unknown connection to this sport. I had never been an endurance athlete, let alone, been driven to compete in solo events. But this was different. Something about a race with three sports seemed oddly insane, yet captivating. My new found motivation was quickly halted following an injury that occurred during the second race. Season over!
Flash forward …..
2010-2013 = injuries, financial difficulties, family issues, job changes, moving homes
Flash =forward more…
2014 = redemption year!
Enough had been enough. Since the first time crossing the finish line, the desire for triathlon never ceased. Dreams about racing had been manifesting for nearly 5 years and these dreams had now formulated into one large obsession encompassing everything triathlon. So, in an attempt to redeem myself, I registered for the Kinetic Spring at Lake Anna in May. This was the race gave me the season ending injury in 2009. I also registered for the Philly TriRock….the race I was unable to compete in due to the season ending injury in 2009. This year was for redemption! And by all means it was. I completed both races and went on to complete the NYC Triathlon in August. Despite having some illnesses along the way, I accomplished more this season than I had intended.
I did not intend on how difficult being a triathlete along with a full time mother, wife, employee, and friend. Being all those things at once was more difficult than any race I have completed. But I did learn one thing….I am better at all these things, when I am training. I am better at life when I am a triathlete.