9/10/15

Life with your training partner



I can't believe that it was just one year ago yesterday, that Karel and I raced Ironman Wisconsin and we each earned our ticket to Kona. We spent a year training and racing with this one race in mind and we were both able to execute when it mattered the most.....
On the same course and on the same day.
Same age group placing.
One hour apart from each other, to the minute. 

Karel: 9:44, 3rd AG (35-39), 9th overall male amateur.
Marni: 10:44, 3rd AG (30-34), 6th overall female amateur. 


With exactly 30 days until the 2015 Ironman World Championship, we are about to close this chapter of our life by crossing the same 140.6 mile finish line in Kona. 



But you see, this triathlon lifestyle that we share hasn't always been this way. Nine years ago when Karel and I were set-up on a blind-date (we met before a group ride - dressed in athletic gear), Karel was a cyclist. Quickly after we met in May 2006, Karel upgraded to Cat 1 and raced well at this  level.

For the next 6 years, I was a triathlete and Karel was a cyclist. The only times we would train together would be in Karel's off season when he would occasionally run a few miles or do a few (and I mean a few) laps (mostly breaststroke) in the pool and a few rides together (I was very slow and inexperienced with very poor cycling skills).

I never asked Karel to be a triathlete because his passion was for cycling. We both shared a similar active lifestyle with a great competitive spirit for racing but we each had our own sport to enjoy.

The best part about sharing this lifestyle with your significant other is being there in the good times and in the bad times. I spent many weekend's at cycling races (including USA Crits Speed Week and watching Karel in the Athens Twilight Crit) and he was also at many of my triathlon races.
The fun part about watching someone you love race is feeling the same emotions - nerves, anxiety, excitement - as your partner. I think this is true even for friends and training partners for it's exhilarating to watch another human body in motion as that body races from a start to finish line. 

As an insider, you can't explain it and as an outsider, it's hard to understand it. 

This is often what we feel as triathletes when we talk about our love for our sport to our friends and family. Even if an outsider is extremely supportive, it's really difficult to find the right words why we love to do what we do with our body. The training, waking up early, feeling fatigued, pushing our limits, racing for many hours on one day.....until you do it, it's the unknown that keeps a person wondering why we have so much fun training and racing.
Of course, this applies to any sport - people would often ask Karel why he loves crit racing. I know why he loves it - the adrenaline rush, the speed, the risks, the deep hurt in your legs and lungs - but that's hard to explain to someone who doesn't train and race in the same sport. I'll never know how bad it hurts to race a crit but what I do know is that for many years, Karel loved it and I was there on the sidelines to support him. 


Karel (and my parents) watched me race in my very first Ironman, at the age of 24, where I qualified for my first Kona by winning the 18-24 age group. Karel was my boyfriend at the time but I knew that he was a keeper for he "understood" me and my lifestyle and was supportive of my training and racing goals. 


Between November 2006 and September 2010, I went on to race in another Ironman in 2009 (IMKY) and finished Kona in 2007. There were many low moments between 2006-2010 and it was a tough time for me as a dealt with a lot of injuries and decided to go back to school for my RD credential. Karel and I moved to Jacksonville where he started to work as the GM of the Trek Store and we were adjusting to life as a married couple.....with a new furry child, Campy.
When you live with your training partner, you share the highs and the lows and sometimes, the low moments really test you as a couple. Through it all, Karel has always been there for me.

When I qualified for Kona the second time around at IMWI in 2010, Karel was also there with me on the sidelines. It was an amazing day and I was so happy to share all the high moments with Karel.



And for my second Kona, Karel was there to keep me going. It was a tough day for me with a lot of low moments on the run but somehow he kept me going so that I could earn my finisher medal.

I suppose life is a bit different when you live with your training partner. Ever since Karel started racing triathlons in 2012, we have shared the same swim, bike, run lifestyle. And what makes our relationship even more interesting is that since 2014, we work together too. We are practically together, every minute of every day.

Training with your spouse has it's perks but certainly there are tough times (ex. injuries).
We both have our "me" time when we train alone but there are some perks to living with your training partner. 



Personal fitness development
I remember this moment - Karel's first "swim practice." He didn't make it very far as he was struggling to breath and kept the lifeguards very alert. Karel has made so much progress over the past few years and he continues to make huge improvements. Whereas I come from a swimming background and jump for joy over a few seconds that I can drop in a race, Karel drops minutes at his races and is constantly seeing improvements in the pool.
Karel has also witnessed me turn into a stronger and more skillful  cyclist. I owe a lot of this to Karel's patience in helping me become "one" with my bike. There was a time when I couldn't stay on Karel's wheel when he was riding in a steady effort and now over the past two years or so, I have accepted the challenge of staying on Karel's wheel for many long workouts. Karel still rides away from me and circles around to get me but at least we can now ride together and Karel can still have a quality workout.
A pro of living with your training partner is seeing, first hand, these personal fitness developments. We all have weaknesses as athletes and it is really special to watch your loved one improve in an area that was once an uncomfortable struggle. 




Celebrating success
It goes without saying that we all want to see our loved ones succeed. Sharing the success together is extra special.
I've said it several times before but my favorite part of racing with Karel is sharing the "war stories" about the race, when we finish. I always say that the real race result is told by the athlete and not by a finishing time and that's what I love about racing with Karel. Being incredibly sore together and talking about the insider race details. 
We all define success differently, whether it's finishing what you started, having a PR at a race or placing on the podium. A perk of racing with your loved one is being there to celebrate the other person's success. Whether you are racing or are on the sidelines. it's extra special to see hard work be put to good use on race day.



Built-in motivation and accountability
When your training partner gets up early or doesn't miss a workout, it's hard not to want to join in the "fun". Karel and I are two different athletes and we both function differently. Karel takes a little longer in the morning to get himself ready to train and I have no trouble jumping in a pool early in the morning or in the afternoon. We both love to strength train but we need each other to hold each other accountable of all the "little things" that we should be doing to stay healthy and injury free.
When one of us has a good workout and the  other one is feeling tired, there is no bitterness but instead, happiness for the other athlete. Sometimes we are both "on" at the same time and sometimes we are both tired at the same time.
It's great to keep each other motivated, regardless if two athletes living under one roof, have different styles of training.
We all need that extra push to get out the door so that little bit of accountability is extra helpful at times. 



Race-cations!!
One of the downsides of living with your training partner is double the cost for everything. Two race fees and double the gear. But when you have the opportunity to race in a new location together, it's all worth it. In some cases, a race-cation may happen when one athlete races and the other is not racing but I think no matter who is racing, it is so much fun to travel to a new location together.
Planning the race calendar and sharing a similar love of traveling is definitely a perk of living with your training partner. Luckily, Karel and I both prefer similar courses in that we love hilly and tough race courses which often means traveling to areas that include mountains.  



Finding the right words
One of the toughest parts about living with your training partner is finding the right words to support your training partner during tough times. Injuries really test us as athletes and when you are injured, it doesn't just affect you (the athlete) but those around you who care about you and love you.
It's really hard to put on a happy face when you are injured and suddenly can not do what you love to do with your body. When you live with your training partner, it's not like you only see this person once in a while and all of a sudden they are out of your life for a few weeks or months because of an injury. Nope, you are with this athlete day in and day out, through the thick and the thin of everything that encompasses being an athlete.
Sometimes you can't ever say the right thing and that is a tough. Sometimes you say what your training partner/loved one needs to hear but doesn't want to hear. Sometimes they listen and sometimes they make decisions on their own (sometimes they work out and sometimes they don't).
One thing we must remember as athletes is that we are breakable. We are not perfect and getting injured is a risk that we take when we want to stretch our limits and step outside our comfort zone. But the beautiful thing is that when you live with your training partner, you also get to be part of their comeback story. You get to see all the work, patience and discipline that goes into recovering, rehabing and then training again, after an injury. As much as injuries suck (to put it nicely), the special part is having your partner back again after he/she recovers and having a stronger appreciation of what you get to do together, when you are healthy. 



We all need a training partner
Whether you live with your training partner, you are married (or dating) or training partner or you are good friends with your training partner, it really pays to have a training partner. Perhaps it is for the accountability, extra push or motivation or simply because it is just more fun to train with someone else, than to train alone,
If there is someone special in your life who you enjoy training with, be sure to thank them for always being there for you.
In the good times and in the bad, cheers to many more awesome workouts together, overcoming obstacles, early wake-up calls and crossing finishing lines and sharing the stories afterward with your favorite training partner.