On the occasion of your wedding, I wasn’t sure what wisdom I have to offer. That’s like asking a smoker about willpower or gleaning hairstyle tips from a bald man. I thought of what sage insights I could possibly share on the institution of marriage, working together or managing the ups and downs in life. Eventually, I settled on something we both share – the pursuit of the Ironman dream. I was married for five years, three of which were consumed by something only you could possibly understand. While we have very different lives and interests, we have bonded over what it takes to compel yourself to a finish line 140.6 miles away. That lust for accomplishment gives us a unique perspective on life and a bevy of life lessons learned along the way. It’s funny how much Ironman can teach you about life, and how much translational knowledge you’ll find in your marriage. Marriage is very much like our 140.6 journey:
You get what you put in. Slack on your training and you’ll feel it. Never think you’re in a 50-50 relationship. If you gave 50 percent on a ride, you’d be wasting your time and eroding away at your training. Give 110% or pay for it down the road.
You can’t rely on your base alone. There’s no way to amble through 140 miles or a lifetime together. Ironman takes constant work. So will your relationship. Don’t rely on what’s already been built. Keep dating, keep pursuing each other and keep growing together.
Continually assess for continued improvement. There’s a reason the training plan calls for long rides and benchmark workouts. You have to know where you stand. You need these tough moments to get better. It’s in those tough brick workouts that you think, maybe I need to add speedwork or yoga so this is easier later. In marriage, if you’re not looking at your baseline, steady state relationship and thinking, how can I improve, what can I do to make sure we’re better in a year, you can expect to keep besting your previous records
It’s an investment. IMWI isn’t a decision we took on lightly. We made choices to start triathlons and eased into it, building a base and acquiring skills and gear along the way. Your marriage in the greatest investment you make in your future happiness. You wouldn’t cheap out on a bike, and you shouldn’t scrimp on the time, emotions and experiences you share together.
Talk about it with friends, but with care. I never ever talked about my marriage. I wish I had, but with selected, trusted friends. I was afraid it’d be like trying to talk bikes with my sister – no one cares. In much the way your best training buddy will be the only person who understands and cares about this awesome aero water bottle you found, only a few people in your life will have a genuine interest in your relationship in a non-gossipy, supportive way. Find a confidant and decide who will be your go-to ear to bend when you need that kind of friend.
It can be lonely. We spent hours and hours alone baking in the sun biking remote areas and running in the dark when our friends were sleeping or partying. I was surprised at how lonely marriage could be simply because of opposite schedules or the need to be around and not out with friends. Find a way to make time for each other in the same way we somehow managed to train for 15 hours a week while working full time.
You will have moments of doubt. On race day, there were times when I wanted to drop out. Fuck it, who am I doing this for, what do I have to prove kind of moments. I addressed them and made a choice to soldier on. There will be tough moments in your relationship. Make a choice to continue and make the adjustments needed to be happy in the pursuit.
It is worth the effort. The moment they put that medal on our necks and draped those little space blankets around our shoulders, I was absolved of any pain and absolutely elated over what we’d done. Every sacrifice was worth it. I didn’t feel that way all through race day, granted, but any relationship or race has its ups and downs and moments of doubt and even tears. Embrace it.
Today is like Sept. 8, registration day. We joked we were signing our lives away, but were exhilarated to know what we were getting into. Instead of a year-long training period with and sprint to a finish, you’ve signed up for a lifetime of training together, supporting one another and encountering the adventures that cross your paths. It will be an amazing journey filled with highs and lows that I know you’ll both attack with enthusiasm, grace and understanding. There is no medal for marriage, but there are plenty rewards along the way. Here’s to a lifetime of happiness in the journey.