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Triathletes in Love

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, it seems inevitable to tackle the age-old topic of triathlon and relationships. It has also been particularly top of mind for me this year having both just married Chris and just made a major change to my life plan: leaving my law career (at least for now) to pursue triathlon full time. Chris and I met and fell in love because of triathlon (we met at a U of T triathlon club swim practice). But it has been a (sometimes difficult) process for us to adjust as a couple to my increased focus on the sport - with all its time, energy, travel and financial demands - particularly as Chris’ focus on triathlon has decreased or fluctuated more over time.

Reaching out to our other RTS pros, it’s clear that figuring out how to balance demanding training and travel schedules (as well as the sometimes tricky financial realities of an expensive sport and precarious income) with their romantic and family relationships is a big part of their lives.

Nicholas Chase had this to say:

"This is a topic that is completely near and dear to my heart for a few major reasons. For one, after many years negotiating the up’s and down’s associated with travel, marriage, finances and I’ll admit a selfish lifestyle; I feel like I can speak for everyone when I say…this could be a book. Love and triathlon, what a grand concept. As a coach of 12 years I have also seen countless relationships flourish or fail all in the name of fitness."

I decided to highlight some thoughts from me, Nick and Lisa because we are all balancing slightly different types of relationships with our sport: I am recently married without children, Nick is recently remarried with step-children (and so currently has the broadest family obligations in our pro group), and Lisa has been (successfully!) navigating dating and pro triathlon.

The similarities I see in our stories are:

  • Close relationships are an important source of energy that fuels our racing, and we actively think about how our relationships and athletic goals fit. This includes needing to respect our partners’ goals and make sure that we build them into our own (very big) ambitions.

  • Continuous communication about priorities is really important to maintain a sense of connection within our relationships, especially as our lives change over time, and sometimes that communication is hard work.

  • It can be really tough to find the people who understand and support our athletic obsession - sometimes it takes time to find the right person.

My Story:

When you get to Nick’s story, you will see that one of his take-aways is that the most he has seen couples fail is when a drastic lifestyle change occurs, leaving one partner behind. Chris is consistently one of the very most supportive people in my personal and professional life. However, as each of our relationships with triathlon has shifted over the years, that concern has loomed large for me - not that one of us was leaving the other behind, per se, but that we might start growing apart.

Travel to races is one area we’ve had to address by improving our communication. It used to be something that we mostly did together, but my pro racing schedule gradually meant that races were further away and more frequent. For the 2022 season, Chris and I were much more strategic about which races he came to, and each of us made our expectations for the trip more explicit. We went into each trip expecting it to feel like a business-trip-for-Tamara, and Chris was more careful about identifying events that fit well into his work schedule. He didn’t come to 70.3 Worlds 2022. He did come to 70.3 Tremblant and Collins Cup. We planned a separate trip, during my off-season, as a true holiday for both of us. I think that we both felt less friction and more consistent support as a result.

We have also adjusted the way we train together. Chris doesn’t want to or need to do training that is as structured as mine is. I have learned (am learning…) to give him space to train his own way. In turn, he gives me space to train my way. And we pick out some training sessions that appeal to both of us as time to enjoy sport together. Learning about our different needs and how to consider them when we plan together has been just as important to maintaining our connection as our many similarities and shared passions.

Lisa’s Story (in her words):

Finding a partner that supports my passion to compete as a professional triathlete has been a difficult task. Most men don’t understand why I would want to spend all day exercising, go to bed at 9pm and think riding my bike for hours on end is a good time!

For me, finding a partner that is supportive and one that enjoys being active is key! My boyfriend and I plan our vacations around going to the gym, figuring out amazing places to ride, and eating lots of carbohydrates!

In any relationship there are sacrifices, but in the right relationship I think you will think of those sacrifices less as ‘sacrifices’ and more as supporting your partner’s dreams and goals! At the end of the day, I thinking finding someone who you enjoy spending time with, can be goofy with, and someone who will be there for you when the going gets tough is what most of us are looking for.

Nick’s Story (in his words):

The year of 2022 was a massive upheaval from my previous years as a professional athlete. I found myself in a great marriage which was secure and pretty fun; however, it lacked a true connection. I believe my previous wife and I lost our connection because we stopped doing things together that WE loved, and I was really only doing things that held value towards my career. After an amicable separation I quickly found myself in love, like…that high school type of love, where you change everything and embrace hundreds of new changes all at once. Fast forward to today, I am a stepfather of a 12-year-old girl and 15 year old boy…doing everything I can to also inspire, guide and focus on their future as well. Not to mention, Amy and I truly share a bond I could have only imagined. My 2022 race results of course suffered but now that we have stabilized, I feel like my final 5-8 years in this sport will absolutely be my best.

So, what matters most about my story? The fact that you have to be willing to pivot, focus on aspects that provide logical, immediate growth opportunities and sometimes leave some of the emotional hang-ups behind. I seriously started over in life with an instant family, sacrificed a lot of my future travel opportunities, savings account and solo-ambitions for what I now consider the best lifestyle I have ever had.

Love and triathlon CAN go hand in hand without argument or constant push-pull between partners. You simply cannot keep score, live and die by each bump in the road and remember your goals for Kona are amazing but you cannot sacrifice what really matters to get there. Find a bigger reason to pursue your goals, rather than the Instagram glory or additional data points which really do not add up to a definition of “success”. In simple terms, find someone who makes you want to train hard, achieve goals and certainly someone who shares an affinity for the same aspects that this sport can offer. The MOST I have seen couples fail is when a drastic lifestyle change occurs for one, leaving the other partner behind.

Thank you for reading and Happy Valentines Day from all of us at RTS!


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