We had to miss TWO big family events this summer for races. Our second was this weekend for Donnie’s Ironman. As I thought of our family all gathered one state away for a wedding, I hoped they all understood the importance of this race of ours. It’s hard to tell sometimes with non-racers, if they get it. In our town there’s a 5K – quite literally – every weekend. And our town is small! I know from experience when people ask us questions about races that a lot of people don’t really separate a 5K from an Ironman, not if they have no experience with either. It’s all something about running or racing or swimming or something and I worry – do they think all races are the same?
We wouldn’t miss a wedding for a 5K, that much I assure you.
But I thought I’d write something about what goes into these type of endurance events, so that maybe others could understand why runners and triathletes miss important events for what might seem to be insignificant obligations.
- Race registration is early and expensive. Donnie registered for his Ironman exactly 1 year ago and it cost about $700 with registration fees and USAT membership. So, one year ago we made our initial $700 commitment to this event and at that time, there was nothing else on the schedule. More often than not, our races are on the schedule before the event we’re missing, that’s how early registrations open up. And let me tell you, just signing up for a race is a brave thing to do, so that step right there – many months before training even begins – is a huge one.
- Training costs money. Our other event that we missed this summer was a couples wedding shower for Donnie’s sister. I was very upset about missing it but I had my first Olympic Distance Triathlon that weekend and I had paid the $100 registration fee months earlier as well as paid $350 to join a 16-week coaching program. I had been training for almost 3 months before I learned there would be a conflict. That’s a huge investment of time, and another investment of money. Donnie hired a coach for both of his Ironmans and let’s just say – it was a little bit more than my training class. All of those dollars are worth it, but another part of the investment into these races that we choose over other events. If you don’t pay for coaching plans you pay for gear. Even just running events can cost hundreds of dollars in shoes and gear, but triathlons? Can cost thousands. Donnie had a lot of bike repairs this year. And Donnie’s set up is relatively inexpensive compared to most.
- Training costs time. Hundreds of hours have been logged to train for some of these events. I was looking at 10 hours per week at least for my Olympic. Donnie did that JUST ON THE WEEKEND training for his Ironman. And for every hour of training we’re missing an hour of something else the rest of the world enjoys. Maybe it’s sleep. Maybe it’s family time. Maybe it’s another event that wasn’t that important but MAN, it would have been nice to attend. We make so many sacrifices for these races that to not do them means all of that was done in vain. And that would be a tough burden to carry.
- The perfect event is only once a year. While 5Ks are every weekend, these endurance events we choose to do are only once a year. There may be a few similar events nearby but we chose the one we chose because it was perfect. There was another Olympic Distance triathlon 6 weeks after the one I chose, but it was a different kind of swim I didn’t feel confident about. And the one I chose went through my college town. I chose that one for a reason so another race of the same distance wouldn’t really work. There are other Ironmans but none within such an easy driving distance to a city we adore. We choose all of our races based on a series of conditions so – even if you know there’s one of a similar distance close on the calendar to the one we chose – there are bound to be other factors. I chose the 100K I chose because it’s on a greenway type course, and there are none other like that within driving distance of where I live. I chose my 12-hour run for the same reason, it’s local and there’s nothing else like it within a drive from our home. So, for all practical purposes? The races we choose are only once a year, so it’s not easily to switch up training halfway through for a different event. We’d have to stop and start over a year later.
- A lot can happen in a year. “But this event you’re missing is only once in your LIFETIME.” And yes, it will. Luckily, for really important events (like Donnie’s sister’s wedding), we’re part of the decision process so we know PLENTY far enough in advance to avoid catastrophic scheduling issues. Because something of that level we’d obviously skip the race. But for cousin’s weddings and bridal showers, we’re not part of the process so we only find out a short time out and when we’ve already invested time and money and sacrificed hours of sleep and family time. And we could write off the investment and those sacrifices and just try again next year. But we have learned in our 6 years as a family doing these events, that a lot can happen in a year. Children are born, jobs are changes, families are relocated, injuries occur…many things could pop up to keep us from being able to do it next year. Our kid could join a club soccer team. Or maybe a different event will pop up on the calendar that day for next year, in advance. We many not have the time or the money next year, so throwing out all of the time and money spent this year is not a decision we could make lightly.
But it sucks. We really do hate it when it happens. It always dampers our race a bit to know the rest of our family is gathered elsewhere celebrating something we’d love to celebrate. Our immediate family has been on this journey enough with us long enough to understand, so we are confident they don’t pass judgement, but you never know about people a little further out from the loop. Are we the ones who “always miss stuff for races” at this point? Do people imagine us missing large gatherings for 5Ks? Do they understand the investment of time and money and the sacrifices we make in our lives to do these races?
I don’t know. I hope so. But if they don’t, maybe some day down the road they’ll make a decision to train for a marathon, or a triathlon, and maybe then they’ll remember how we missed that thing that time. And maybe then they’ll think, “Oh. Okay. Now I get it.”