Interesting topic this one as there are as many ways to be a good partner while training as there are relationships I suppose. Some people were athletes in training when they met their significant other and the workouts and races and training regimen were a known quantity when the relationship began. Some relationships are formed by two athletes each with their own schedule and challenges. Other relationships have had training and racing brought into the equation long after the relationship was formed and the non-athlete partner may look upon the new schedule and lifestyle as a threat to the relationship equal to an affair.
I guess in the end, every relationship works for different reasons. My wife and I often tell others that our relationship wouldn’t work for any people we know, but it works wonderfully for us. We are both very committed to our careers and to our passions. With her, it’s a career that requires travel, her music; she skates and is now taking up hockey. She’s taken private pilot lessons, gone to nursing school and throws some mean pottery. Me, I have a less demanding career that I’ve designed to allow me to live the lifestyle I want, I ride my bike – never really considered it “training” – and that takes time away on the weekends for races. We get each other and we have figured out how we can be “us” without either of us feeling resentful or threatened by the other’s “me”.
When my wife and I met, I was already an athlete in training. I was traveling on the national racing circuit and riding 15-20 hours a week in addition to building my financial services practice. We lived in different cities about 2.5 hours apart but somehow we were able to begin and grow a relationship that would take us from there to here. Kathy knew what to expect I guess. She knew she loved me and that cycling was a very large part of my life. How can a person fall in love with another person then ask the object of affection to stop being the person that was fallen in love with? Make sense? She felt that asking me to stop or slow down or change would be the equal of me asking her to quit her job, stop playing music, stop making pottery, or stop reading books because “it takes too much time away from ‘us’.” I guess the first key to success in relationships is to realize that a healthy “us” takes two healthy individuals who choose to be together without asking the other to sacrifice who they are. Isn’t that true of all healthy relationships? This stuff isn’t just for athletes in training.
On the flip side, I know that it is very, very easy for athletes to become myopic about their training, their racing and to assume everyone around you is as consumed as you are. Get over yourself J. The athlete needs to be a well rounded person. You can only re-tell a story about getting third in the field sprint at your race last weekend so many times before even the people who love you the most will stop caring. Ask your partner, your friends and your family about their lives and well being once in a while. How’s work? How’s your sister? How’s school? What did you do today? Some times the best answer you can give to the question “How was your ride?” is “Great, how was your day, want to go to a movie later?” Remember, most adults look at riding a bike as something they had to do to deliver newspapers or as last resort transportation prior to obtaining a license to drive an automobile. Knowing this will come in handy next time you’re invited to your partner’s company Holiday party. Don’t enter into a conversation with your partner’s boss by opening with “I’m a bike racer.”
If you’ve taken up bike racing the way some guys go into midlife crisis and buy a Corvette behind which to hide the tattered libido, realize you’re introducing a new dynamic into what may be a long established and “settled into” relationship. There are routines that are being disrupted. Suddenly, you’re coming home from work and rather than sitting on the back deck talking with your partner over a glass of wine about the events of the day, you’re rushing to change into your lycra twit kit and barging out the door with your expensive new carbon fiber girlfriend – who is very high maintenance by the way – to meet your new friends (whom your partner has never met) for the bike shop ride. You get home just before dark, your partner has already eaten – alone – and all you can do is talk about how fast the pace line was going (a term that means nothing to your partner) just before the town line sprint (another term that means nothing). Then after you shower, you’re so tapped out from the ride you can’t make decent conversation and you fall asleep on the sofa while your partner is craving some interaction other than what flavor of Muscle Milk you prefer. Your partner needs more from their relationship with an athlete than single digit body fat and well toned legs. Work at being interesting as hard as you do at being fit.
Some times it’s okay to break your routine. God knows we ask our partners to put up with a lot of disruptions to their routine. Several years ago, I had been racing a lot – stage races, single day races you name it from late February through July, nearly non stop. Kathy was missing me. She wasn’t complaining, but I tuned in enough to know. I called my team manager and told him I was out for the next weekend; scratch me from the Super Week schedule. Kathy and I went to the beach. She even said I could bring my bike if I wanted to ride (that’s the way she is) but I declined. Hey, 4 days off the bike watching the love of my life sleep happily on the beach with her feet dug into the sand, watching the sunsets over the water together and doing wine tastings at the local vineyards was pure magic and much needed. The break gave me some much needed rest and I raced better after I returned. More importantly though it reaffirmed to me that there are plenty of things more important than racing a bike.