I wrote this post a while ago but wanted to sit on it for a while until the emotions about Ironman had calmed down a little and I could be a little more clear-headed about it. Three months on and having re-drafted this several times, I think it’s ready to go. I hope it’s useful.
I’m a little hesitant to publish this because there’s a risk that I’ll just be moaning and I’ll come across as whiny. I CAN be whiny and I do moan a little in the post below but I thought the frankness of the below post might be useful to someone whose partner is signing up for an Ironman. I’m publishing this (with the Husband’s blessing) because it’s information I wish someone had given me before we signed up for the whole Ironman thing. I was warned that Ironman training takes a toll on a relationship and that I had to be totally on board. I knew roughly what we were getting into but the info below might be more practically useful.
Firstly, I have to say that the Husband has supported my running and my racing (and ME generally) for years. I adore him; it was my honour and joy to support him in return and I am beside myself with pride in what he achieved in July. So please bear that in mind as you read the below.
Before the Husband signed up, I had some idea of what the impact it would have. A long time ago we discovered this video on Youtube and we thought it was SOOOOO funny. Now we’re the other side of Ironman, I can say it’s pretty much accurate! (Excuse the few rude words in the video).
Say goodbye to your partner
The Husband started training in January for Ironman Canada at the end of July. He got himself a coach who gave him monthly training plans. I felt reassured that this would ensure him surviving the Ironman (as much as can be guaranteed) and we both feel that this was a great decision and would recommend it.
His training ramped up as you’d expect. I can honesty say that for Jan – March, it didn’t really impact our lives too much. If anything, it was a good thing. Now, we were BOTH training for things – it felt like a real partnership as we plotted our weekends to give us time to train, time with the Dude and time together as a family. It was fun. If we went away, we had to fit his bike ride of 1 – 3 hours into the weekend but that was totally do-able. We have a pool where we live which really helped in terms of him not having to drive to/from a pool and thus save that travelling time. His weekday training was roughly an hour and not too burdensome at the weekend.
April and May got more serious, especially May. By now he was gone all of Saturday morning and most of Sunday morning as well. Sunday morning suits us well (the Dude and I are at church) but Saturday was harder. As a SAHM, I looked forward to the different dynamic of Saturday when the Husband is home. Saturday basically became just like my weekdays. There was a period when, being honest, I resented that. I honestly still supported the Husband and ALWAYS wanted him to do the Ironman, I never wanted him to drop out, but I just got fed up with his absences.
The second half of May and June were ALL about Ironman. In fact, it felt like May and June would never end. On a Saturday, the Husband was gone till 4 or 5pm. On Sunday, he was gone till midday or later. After both days’ exercise, he would need to sleep for an hour or so…thus he was technically gone for longer. I was VERY grateful to go to the UK for 2 1/2 weeks in June and have a break from it. That really helped.
The first weekend of July was the biggest weekend of training – on the Saturday, the Husband did 110 miles bike, 1 mile run, 2 miles swim and on the Sunday he did 3 miles of swimming and 19 miles of running. He was basically gone the whole weekend. After that, taper began and the burden lessened. We saw a bit more of him.
How did the training impact me as his wife?
Personally, there were a few things I hadn’t considered beforehand.
- Weekends away stopped after April/May. I tried to book a weekend away in May and gave up. We would have spent the whole time fitting the Husband’s training around what we were doing, and it wasn’t worth it. This means we didn’t go camping at all.
- We missed out on a few things that I was particularly excited about as a result of training…Western States being the biggest. I’d been planning all year to go and camp in Auburn for Western States to cheer on the runners and I even booked my flights home from the UK in time to be able to do that. But as it grew closer, we realised that it just wouldn’t work with the Husband’s training. Having been away from him for 2 1/2 weeks in the UK, I didn’t want to leave him and go away alone for the weekend, so we didn’t go. I was pretty gutted about that.
- My own freedom to run was curtailed. Saturdays became all about childcare. I only managed one Saturday trail run with the girls from April onwards and that was thanks to wonderful friends who got up at 6.45 on a Saturday to watch my son. I got fed up with not being able to say yes to invitations.
- My friends got used to me and the Dude showing up for things alone. ‘Where’s Rich?’ they asked. ‘Training.’ I’d inevitably reply and there would be plenty of sympathetic eye-rolling. Having a bunch of supportive friends to keep us company made it much better.
- I was able to continue to train because I was free during pre-school times to run. I was incredibly grateful for this. If I was working full-time, it would be pretty hard for us both to train.
- I stopped racing. Weekends were all about the Husband’s training and me playing with the Dude. Racing wasn’t really possible unless I pushed the stroller. Not having any races in the diary took some of the momentum out of my running – I need something to aim for.
- We didn’t do any family hiking for months. I don’t want to hike alone with the Dude and the Husband justifiably didn’t want to hike after exercising.
- This is a family blog…but there was another ‘California Drought’ if you know what I mean. Ironmen are generally working, training or sleeping. They don’t have much ‘extra energy’.
- On a lighter note…SO MUCH LAUNDRY! And SO MUCH EXTRA FOOD.
- It’s expensive. REALLY expensive. The Husband keeps saying the next one will therefore be cheaper. Next one?
- More positively, I felt really proud when I told anyone he was training for an Ironman. An online contact once described me as ‘a runner married to a triathlete’ and it took me a few moments to recognise our family. My pride in and respect for the Husband has grown enormously as he’s trained for this – and I was proud of him and full of respect for him anyway!
How did it affect the Dude?
- Not too badly. He missed having his Dad around on the weekends, especially if he woke up after the Husband had left to train on a Saturday when sometimes there were tears. But he got used to the different dynamic. The Husband is an awesome father and made time to do one-on-one things with the Dude each weekend and in the evenings.
- He was given an ‘ironman’ superhero toy for Easter by some relatives. He immediately started making it swim, bike and run!! The poor child thinks that this is how normal families operate.
How did it affect the Husband?
- He lost weight. Since March 2013 he’s lost about 50 lbs. He looks awesome right now.
- He grew in confidence. With weight-loss and fitness comes confidence and I think he’s rightfully proud of how fit he is right now.
- It was great to see him get back into exercise and fitness. He’s a guy who thrives on challenge and he’s been talking about future challenges already. I did giggle when he nonchalantly decided he’d run Western States next year though.
Well done for reading this far. I hope I haven’t moaned too much and it’s been helpful to someone. I appreciate it may be a little negative and I apologise for that if so. I think the main thing to consider is that a spouse has to be TOTALLY on board and supportive of the athlete. He or she really has to want the IronSpouse to succeed and be willing to sacrifice for a period in order to make this happen.
Having said all that…I can honestly say that watching the Husband come out the water, fly past us on his bike and, best of all, run down the finishing chute with the Union Jack was utterly incredible. It still makes me teary-eyed to think of it now. It was an incredible journey for all three of us and I am so glad we did it.