My husband, Steven has always been athletic. Growing up he preferred to spend his free time outdoors on his bike or skateboard. He participated in every sport available. Baseball…soccer…traveling Ski Club, you name it, he did it. There is not a sport that does not come naturally to him. As an adult, cycling became his athletic passion. However, ask him to consider running OR swimming??? Hell would sooner freeze over. Conversely, health and wellness were never a priority in my home growing up. Aside from a failed attempt at making the swim team in high school, I did nothing athletic. Zip. Zero. Zilch. The Debate Team, that was my jam.
I didn’t start running until I was 34 years old. I did my first half marathon at 35 and my first triathlon at 36. Now at 40 years old, I have participated in more than 20 half marathons and numerous triathlons of varying distances including two Half Irons and two unsuccessful attempts at Full Iron races (those two stories are for ANOTHER DAY!). Given Steven’s natural athletic ability and my complete lack of any athletic prowess, when I took up running I would frequently ask him to come and run with me. I always got the same answers…
"Running isn’t fun."
"My knees can’t handle it."
"I don’t want to torture myself; I just want to ride my bike."
And sure enough, he did, for thousands of miles. But, no matter what, he came to every race I signed up for. He didn’t just “show up”, he was my Sherpa, my paparazzi and my dedicated cheering section, cowbell and all.
That. Damn. Cowbell.
At 36 I signed up for my first Sprint Triathlon. When Steven came home that evening I excitedly shared the news. His response, “You do know that requires you to RIDE a bicycle and SWIM?” At the time I had no bicycle and had not ridden one since I was a child. The extent of my swim was a dog-paddle. I told him I was aware and that I would do both. Rather than second-guessing me, he took me to the park that weekend to practice riding on his old mountain bike. Soon thereafter we went to our local bike shop and purchased my first “real” bike with clipless pedals. Again, that very next weekend, like a 5-year-old with training wheels, he taught me how to ride using clipless pedals. First, in the grass and then finally, on to the pavement. On race day, he was there taking endless photographs and cheering me on as I muddled through the 300 Yard swim, stayed upright through the 11-mile bike and shuffled through the 3.1-mile run. When I crossed the finish line, he cheered like a lunatic and I swore I would never do another triathlon.
That next day, after signing up for my NEXT triathlon (triathletes are liars), I remember asking Steven once again to try swimming and running. I was met with another emphatic and definitive, “NO INTEREST”. Delivered with the kind of inflection that clearly means, STOP ASKING! That lack of interest remained, for nearly three more years. Throughout that time I did numerous running events and triathlons including traveling twice to Augusta for Ironman 70.3’s. While he wouldn’t swim or run, Steven went on EVERY training ride with me. 20 miles or 100 miles, he biked BEHIND me, at MY very slow pace. He was at EVERY race, Sherpa-ing, working as my personal bike mechanic, cheering me on and playing paparazzi. My tri-club began to know they could count on him for photos, better photos than what the race photogs would take! I never suggested he try a TRI again, however, after my first 70.3, totally unprompted by me, his tone changed a bit. “Perhaps”, he would be “willing to relay Augusta” with me, “someday, but only the bike leg”.
That was the start. Miraculously, he FINALLY cracked. After much convincing, he started to run. And, much to my pleasure (and slight jealousy) he quickly proved me right. He ran his first 5K in 27 minutes with essentially NO training. And from there he has only improved. He began to actually train. I convinced him to do the Hitts Sprint Triathlon in Naples, FL, which he also excelled at for a newbie. Then, last year, he ran his first half marathon. And, much to my surprise this year he agreed to sign-up with me for North Carolina 70.3! I really want to say, I TOLD YOU SO. But, I won’t. Oh, wait. I guess I just did.
On Valentine’s Day, the day of love, don’t forget to show some love to those that have supported you on YOUR triathlon journey. You never know, you may just be inspiring YOUR cheering section to embark on their own special journey.
Written by Siren Luminary Stacie Elinson
Follow Stacie on Instagram! @stacieelinson