Donnie signed up for Ironman Chattanooga today. The Open-To-The-Public spots were gone in THREE MINUTES. Those three minutes were stressful for us as I stayed ready to sign him up on my computer if he started having any issues on his. And then, once it was confirmed? I started crying. I’m so excited for this journey for him. It’s HUGE. And yes, it’s going to be hard on him and on the family because he’ll be gone a lot for training, but only a few people ever achieve this goal. My brother is one of them and I remember his journey and how tough it was on him. I’m so proud of my husband for now embarking on it on his own.
I wasn’t always this supportive…
Back in 2010 when Donnie first started doing triathlons, I was doing nothing. Nothing except sitting at home when he went out for swims/bikes/runs and getting more and more bitter every moment he was gone. I especially hated the “long bike” days which I put in quotes because – those rides were not “long” compared to what he does in his SLEEP now. I hated those days because it felt like it took forever for him to get his gear together to go, he was gone like A WHOLE HOUR, and then it took him forever to recover after his ride. I WAS SO VERY BITTER.
I went to his races and took pictures but wanted to be ANYWHERE else because the kids hated it and I felt self-concious and the days were long and I was hot and I was just so VERY BITTER.
I really need you to understand…I WAS NOT IN A GOOD PLACE. I hated the racing, I hated the training, I hated everything about his life that had him out doing fun things he loved with other adults while I wallowed with two small kids in my slovenly misery feeling fat and lazy. IT WAS AWFUL.
I know now that I was bitter because I didn’t have anything to call my own. And I looked at his triathlons as something that kept him from helping me out with the kids.
Sometime after his first Tri Season I started boot camp, I started running, and suddenly? I had MY own thing. And it was miraculous how the bitterness and the anger just washed away.
I was letting my bitterness ruin my marriage from the inside out, and I’m so grateful to this day that I stumbled upon the solution.
But now I don’t screw around.
I have learned through this journey of my own that any goal you train for, whether it’s a 5K or a 50K. A sprint triathlon or an Ironman. Every goals is better reached with a support team. I can finish a race with no one rooting for me, BUT I DO NOT LIKE IT. And it’s not just at the finish line, it’s all along the course. And it’s not just at the goal event, it’s the training runs/swims/bike rides in the weeks/months/years leading up to it. If someone you love is embarking on any sort of training journey, you need to really understand the value of your support. If you’ve never trained for an event yourself, you may not know A) How important your support is or B) How to support them.
For A? You’ll just have to trust me. As someone who has stressed over 5Ks and 50Ks. I’ve stressed over duathlons and triathlons. Trail races and road races. There is no ONE thing I depend on more than the support of my family. Screw the shoes, the bike, the training, the gear…without my family and friends there to support me? It would be a million times harder. So…TRUST ME…your support is SO important to your loved one.
How To Support A Loved One While They Reach Their Training Goals
- Try your best to make scheduling workouts easy. If you’re supporting a spouse, this means trying not to guilt them about missing a soccer game when they have a long run. Their training and achievements will do wonders for your children teaching them about discipline and healthy and fitness. If it takes a few missed games to teach them these lessons, that’s okay. If you’re a loved one who can help with childcare for training? PLEASE DO.
- Ask them how their training session went when you see them after. We all like to talk about our runs or swims or bike rides but we kinda think everyone hates it. Encourage the post-workout discussion.
- Pay attention to supplies. If you notice things like anti-chaffing creams, or nutritional supplements are getting low, check-in to see if your loved one needs any replacements. Sometimes we forget to think about these things and you noticing for us? Makes us feel very special.
- Allow recovery time after a long workout. Don’t expect your loved one to be free as soon as they’re done with a workout. They need to get cleaned up. Possibly foam roll. Make a protein shake. Check their Garmin. BE PATIENT.
- Make a laundry basket separate for their workout gear. You don’t want that crap mingling with your normal dirty clothes.
- Let them dictate the arrangements for race day. If they want to get there 2 hours before start? Let them. If they want to hang around hours after the race? Let them. They are nervous and anxious and this is their big day. Let them plan the schedule and if it doesn’t work for you, bring a separate car.
- BE EXCITED. This is taking up a HUGE chunk of their lives and when they’re not working out, they’re thinking about it. Whether it’s a 5K or an Ironman, the excitement is the same. Try to join them as much as you can.
- But also understand they have TONS of anxiety. They are so very nervous. What if they don’t finish? What if they’re last? What if they fail in whatever way they’ve dreamed up they’ll fail? Be patient with their nerves and do your best to reassure them as many times as they need.
- Scream like a mother f*cking banshee. When you see them coming? Scream like a maniac. It will probably embarrass the shit out of them but dammit if they won’t love you forever. They have worked so hard for that moment…make sure the whole world knows you’re there for them and proud of them.
- But don’t get your feelings hurt if they don’t look at you. Raceday is different for everyone. And even different for the same people on different days. Sometimes you need to be in the zone to focus because you hurt, or you’re sick, or you’re just trying to mentally stay in the game. Sometimes they can’t look at you but don’t take it personally. Still cheer. Maybe not scream if it looks like they’re hurting. I remember Donnie’s first marathon around mile 20 he looked BAD and would not make eye contact. I just stayed loud enough for him to hear and I told him he was my idol. I was so proud of him. To hang in there. He never turned towards me, but I understood. Try to understand.
- Know their goal times, but don’t panic if they miss those times. No one knows exactly how they’ll do on race day. Especially for endurance races like marathons and Ironmans where you never actually do the entire distance at one time before race day.
- Be proud of YOURSELF. Your support is amazing and is a huge part in getting your athlete to their goals. They may never tell you that, but I will!