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Triathlete Love: 6 Lessons Learned From Dating Another Triathlete

  • By Susan Lacke
  • Published Jan 27, 2014
  • Updated Mar 13, 2014 at 9:27 PM UTC
Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Too often, I hear my single triathlete friends contemplate how much easier their life would be if they could only find another triathlete to date. In addition to having someone who understands the demands of a swim-bike-run lifestyle, they’d have a built-in training partner, massage therapist, bike mechanic, arm candy, and sports psychologist.

Their utopian vision is so gosh-darn cute, I almost feel bad when I burst their bubble.

Don’t get me wrong — Neil and I have a life filled with love, laughter, and squishy foods in foil packaging. It’s pretty rad. But being in a relationship with another triathlete is far from idyllic — and there’s a lot of lessons that arrive with a multisport soulmate.

Just Because You Do The Same Sport Doesn’t Mean You Have To Do The Same Sport Together

There are days when I can’t get enough of my pedaling paramour. There are also days when I wish he would forget his way home. There, I said it. I’m certain if I asked him, he’d say the same about me. This is why I don’t ask him such things; it allows me to maintain the delusion that I am, in fact, perfect.

It’s OK if one of you would rather do your long run alone. There’s no rule that says you have to have to let your lover draft off you on every single bike ride or that you even have to swim at the same time, much less share a lane in the pool. Don’t take it personally — just plan to meet in the shower in, say, two hours.

You’re Still Going To Have To Fix Your Own Bike

I freely admit I am the worst when it comes to bike maintenance. It’s not that I can’t do it, it’s just that I’d rather not. When Neil and I moved in together, I automatically assumed that domestic partnership came with unfettered access to my very own bike mechanic. One morning, I wheeled my bike into the garage, where Neil was tinkering with his own ride, and told him I was having problems with my chain dropping. “Honey,” I whined, “I’m busy writing, and this bike isn’t fixing itself.” (See above, re: the worst.)

Neil nodded sympathetically and said he would run to the shop and get some tools. He returned 20 minutes later with a bag of groceries, which he plopped on the keyboard of my laptop.

“Honey,” he deadpanned, “I’m busy fixing your bike, and my steak isn’t grilling itself.”

Touché.

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You Will Never Understand Each Other 100 Percent

Neil “has to have” a lot of things for training and racing — as a result, new gear shows up in our mailbox on a regular basis. It all looks identical to the old gear, but when I point this out, Neil is quick to launch into a dissertation on the finer points of Version 2.0. I still can’t tell the difference, but I smile and nod anyway. Likewise, when I tell him about a new vegan restaurant I want to try, my steak-loving guy genuinely tries to act excited about kale for dinner. He fails, but he tries, and I love him for that.

Being in love with another triathlete doesn’t mean you have to share his or her mentality — just that you have to respect it.

Your Definition Of ‘Sexy’ Will Change

Most people put forth their sexiest version of themselves in the initial stages of a new relationship; girls wear makeup and Spanx, and guys shave and dab on a little cologne. I get it — sometimes the barn door needs a little bit of paint. But in a two-triathlete relationship, dates frequently happen on bikes instead of in bars. You try wearing Spanx under your bike shorts and tell me how that works out.

Like every woman, I’d like to believe I look like Beyonce when I exercise. But race photos provide ample evidence that I look like me, only sweatier. Still, when I first started dating Neil, I attempted damage control by making sure my cycling kits matched all the time, brushing my hair into a perfect ponytail, and staying away from two-piece swimsuits.

Three years later, Neil has seen me at the finish line of Ironmans, mid-bonk on a 100-degree day, and covered in road rash after crashing my bike. Some mornings, when time is short and laundry is scarce, I work out at home in my underwear. I’m certain he’s figured out by now that I don’t look even remotely like Beyonce, yet he still smiles at me like I’m the sexiest thing he’s ever seen.

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Your Ego May Take A Blow From Time To Time

When your partner shares in the same sport as you, it’s natural for some competition to happen. This competitive drive can be good sometimes, like when chasing your partner’s cute behind during a speed workout.

Too often, though, that competition devolves into comparison. It sucks when your partner makes leaps and bounds in training while you seem to be stuck on a plateau. It really sucks when one is progressing while the other is injured. Though you want to be happy for the one you love, it’s hard to resist the urge to throw yourself on the floor and cry, “WHY!? This isn’t fair!”

Check yourself before you wreck yourself. If you weren’t comparing yourself to your partner, would you be celebrating her accomplishments? Yes, you’d be throwing a ticker-tape parade over her new PR. It’s hard, but removing your ego from the situation can remind you of what’s really important.

The 3P’s — Patience, Passion And Pizza

Between our contrasting work and training schedules, Neil and I don’t get to see each other as much as we’d like to. Sometimes, I envy “normal” couples, the ones who curl up in front of the television every night and talk about how their day went. I wonder what it would be like if Neil and I were chasing, say, a book club instead of an Ironman PR.

But that chase is what makes the our relationship work. Neil’s passion, ambition, and drive are what attracted me to him in the first place (OK, and his cute butt, but mostly the drive thing). Like most triathletes, when Neil does something, he doesn’t do it halfway. That’s why I’m glad I fell in love with a triathlete. Both of us are just as passionate about our relationship as we are about hitting our mile splits that day.

So even though date nights are few and far between, usually involving pizza delivery and sweatpants, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

“Normal” is overrated, anyway.

More Triathlete Love from Susan Lacke.

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