The Best Kind of Partner

Heading out for the Pirate Tri, 2013.

Heading out for the Pirate Tri, 2013.

On Sunday, I completed my first sprint triathlon. I’ve waited five decades to literally “take the plunge” and make this happen.

My wife, Mary, competed in her very first tri in 2010. Her coming out event was also the Pirate Tri, at Point Sebego Resort. I was a spectator at that one.

For the past few years, I’ve wanted to join her, but I considered the swim portion more than I could handle. I didn’t believe that something that I have never been very good at, could be brought up to a level where I could complete a 1/3rd mile swim, followed by a vigorous 15-mile bike ride, and ending with a 5k run.

Actually, I participated in the 2011 Pirate Tri as part of a team, riding the bike portion, so technically, I had participated in a tri prior to this year. Stacking all the events back-to-back is the measure of true participation, so without a swim, bike, run trio, I didn’t consider myself a triathlete.

In January, I broached the subject and the possibility that I’d tackle the Pirate Tri in June, wondering if I had what it took to complete the swim.

Both of us had gotten off to a good start in January, setting fitness and health goals for 2013. Mary didn’t know it at the time, but I had been admiring her dedication and in particular, her regular training commitment she had made after joining a wonderful group of female athletes called sheJAMs two years ago.

I used to be the athlete in our dyad, but after baseball went away in my early 40s (technically, I pitched my last competitive game at age 39, but continued to coach for several years afterwards), my athleticism seemed to be headed down memory lane.

Actually, I had lost a lot of weight in 2009 and had adopted a more rigorous fitness routine, but something still seemed to be missing at the end of 2012. I was hoping that training for a tri might jumpstart my inner athlete.

What got Mary going in 2010, was a group of co-workers deciding to do the Pirate Tri. She knew she could do the swim, as she swam competitively in her teens, and she’s always been a strong swimmer. She also biked several of the Trek Across Maine events in the 1990s, along with my sister.

That first tri got her hooked, and she’s been on a mission ever since, completing two Tri for a Cure events (she’ll be competing in her third one this year), and swimming Peaks to Portland two years ago.

As we get older, and in particular, if you’ve been married to the same person for as long as Mary and I have been together, it’s important to reevaluate, consider what your partner is interested in, and if possible, find some new activities that both partners enjoy doing, and that they can share with each other. I’m talking about more than sex, too, or thinking it’s ok to call your wife a “golf widow,” or fill-in the blank for golf.

What I really appreciated about Mary’s approach when I was on the fence about moving beyond mere talk about doing a tri, is that she took action. She signed me up with a coach that she knew was effective and that had been helpful for her.

Now, you have to know how I am, and how sometimes I can be a royal pain in the ass. Mary’s goodness and positive act was initially met with resistance. I carried on like a big baby and complained that I didn’t want to work with a coach that I didn’t know and didn’t she know that I couldn’t swim, “wah, wah, wah!”

I wrote about my initial foray into the pool, and then, posted this progress report. My coach, Kelsey Abbott, really helped me. I liked her so much as a coach that I just began twice-a-week yoga and core strength training classes with her on Monday, as I move towards my next goal of completing an Olympic-length tri at the end of August.

Mary has been the perfect partner through all of this. When I complained, she’d give me a kick in the ass, rather than coddle me. She also knew when I was a bit discouraged or intimidated during some initial early AM swims at the Greely High School pool in early March, when all the “professionals” that have been swimming since before they could walk get in their swimming. Her suggestion that I go at night on Mondays and Wednesdays, and even swimming a couple of Saturday mornings at the Bath Y got me over the hump.

Getting ready for my big swim.

Getting ready for my big swim.

Her positive reinforcement, occasional tough love, and then, walking me through the final steps that she knew about based upon her own experience got me to the water’s edge on Sunday morning. I can’t believe I’m saying this after my first swim in February, and given the struggles the first 4-6 weeks but, “the swim wasn’t that hard.” It really wasn’t.

I prepared, worked on my technique, committed to putting the time in at the pool, and even a bout with painful tendonitis in my right bicep/tricep area after my first open water swim two weeks before the tri couldn’t deter me.

I have had success being a lone wolf. I don’t always need a training partner, or someone to hold my hand through an activity or a project. There are times, however, when it helps to have someone to partner with, bringing energy, encouragement, and knowing when to push, and just how much pressure to apply.

Real partners know what you need, support your efforts, and help you get over the difficult patches. That partnership is especially sweet when you find something new to share with the partner who happens to be the love of your life, your best friend, and someone you’ve been with since you were both 17.

Sharing a special experience.

Sharing a special experience.

6 thoughts on “The Best Kind of Partner

    • Thanks for all of your support, Mary. From knowing when to push me, sometimes tell me to “get over myself and suck it up,” to walking me through the finer points of putting on my wetsuit and knowing what to have in my bag for my transitions, you are the best! I guess it’s now time to start thinking about the Rev 3 in August, right?

  1. Good for you!!! Everyone needs a Wife/partner/Mary to kick their butt sometimes 🙂

    • Lisa, I would agree. Also awesome when they tell you, “nice job,” which is the other half of effective partnership.

    • Thanks, Robin. An awesome day and terrific event. I never thought I’d be able to complete the swim portion of even a shorter, sprint triathlon, but there I was, churning through the water like the little engine who could.

      The next challenge will be the Olympic-length tri in Old Orchard, in August. Lots of training during the heat of July and August.

      That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, or something like that.

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