I gather my things. I shuffle around the house in sweatpants looking for something to write with. Some years I find a pen, but I’ve used a crayon recently.
I don’t have a set day. But I know the familiar feeling in my gut. When it’s time.
The day has come to plan next season’s triathlon season. The big year. The comeback year. The year I fulfill my promise as an age-group superstar.
The computer hums as I click from site to site. After 30 minutes of date checking I put pen/crayon to paper.
“Is March too early to start racing?” I wonder.
Then there’s a crash. Something broken. A fight. A slammed door. And the voice of my wife breaking up a pint-sized brawl before I hear her say from another room, “Chad, can you do something about this?”
But I’m engaged in the process. The season must be planned. I write “TRIATHLON SEASON” at the top of the page. I step away from the computer and my triathlon life and back into the world of being Dad. I handle business, restore order and return to my planning.
Sound familiar? For a lot of us age-group athletes who are balancing a healthy marriage, kids, a job and dreams of “the comeback triathlon season,” this is how it goes. At least that’s how it works in my house.
Just winning the battle of putting the pen to paper is an accomplishment. But it can go very wrong from there. As a young married guy with no children, my planning was easy. I’d race whenever I wanted and my young bride would be “happy” to come watch. When we had our first daughter it got a little more complicated, but it was still fairly easy to get to races. After all, my wife was one-on-one with her—at least she wasn’t outmatched. When we added twins to the mix I had to throw what I knew about planning day and the race season out the window.
Whether you have one child, two or 10, you can’t plan as if it’s just you and your goals anymore. And you shouldn’t want to, because you’ll miss too many memories. Here are five things I’ve learned about planning my triathlon season.
1. Include your spouse from the beginning
This seems like a given, but I know athletes who create their agenda for the spring and summer and then present it to their spouse as “what I’m doing.” This is a sure way to alienate your better half by making them think that your hobby trumps whatever else may be on the agenda for the summer. Start talking to your spouse early about events you’re considering for the next year. Always mention the date, ask if that sounds like a conflict and then move on. This easy step will help you when you actually put pen to paper later.
2. Race local events
While it’s tempting to pick a full list of your “bucket list” races across the country each season, it’s probably not a good idea. That is, unless you’re a pro, racing for your income (and maybe not even then). I pick local races as often as I can. They make up the bulk of my year. I call these “my own bed” races. That means I can get up early on race day and drive to the venue and then drive home afterward. This saves you money for real vacations and allows your family to choose when they come to watch and when they stay home. News flash: They don’t want to come every time. Look for races with something for the kids to do nearby. Races with swimming pools, fountains, inflatables and parks onsite are the best!
3. Consider destination races
Wait, what? Didn’t I just say “race local”? So, unless you live at Disney or in Kona it’s hard to race destination races locally. My wife and I like to pick a race from time to time that can double as a family getaway or even a full-fledged vacation. We don’t do this every year, but when it’s in our budget we include a triathlon trip. Think warm weather, beaches, water parks and theme parks. Again, involve your spouse in the planning. Show them a calendar of races you’d like to do. See if any of the locations spark an interest in him or her. If so, go with that one. Keep in mind that it’s about the trip and experience. Don’t get too caught up in your own tapering, racing and recovering to enjoy the destination. You’re a family man/woman, and these should be considered family trips. Enjoy yourself; it’s about the memories.
4. Put it on paper and agree
Now we’re back to that glowing computer and those sweatpants in early winter. Work on the schedule, write the races you want to do down by date, include the location, then show the organized list to your spouse. They’ll spot dates that conflict with other things immediately: neighborhood parties, camps, non-triathlon trips and (heaven help you) birthdays. Don’t argue. Scratch those off. It’s a hobby, right? You’ll still get to do some racing. Narrow it down to a combination of races you most want to do and races that work best with your family’s plans and summer obligations. Stick the calendar on the fridge or email a copy to your spouse.
5. Remember to budget
Let’s face it: Triathlon is an expensive pursuit. Gear and clothing aside, just the race entries can add up quickly. If you’re traveling, it gets really expensive. Be mindful of how much cash you’re investing in spending hours out there swimming, biking and running while your family waits on you. Discuss a budget with your spouse and include that in your planning. Let’s say you and your spouse agree that you can spend $500 over the spring and summer racing—stick to it. Budget your race entries and see which races and how many you can actually afford.
Tips from pros who are parents:
“Make it more of a ‘family trip’ and less of a ‘race trip.’ My goal is to literally land at the race just in time to race. Then your family isn’t stuck adventuring without you while you sit in the hotel tapering. Maximize your time that way by having the vacation days all happen after the race itself, then you can run around with everyone and not worry about your race. It helps for recovery too! Also, pick loop race courses, so your family gets to see you more often.” – Bree Wee
“I come up with a race schedule and then share it with my wife. We will then discuss which races are feasible travel-wise. I also look at the layout of the area and think if it will be good for my kids. My wife has her hands full on race day—she is nervous for me, has to make sure the kids are safe and fed, and then she has to scout an area that will work for everyone in terms of watching the race and playing. Even though only one of us races, the whole family is zonked afterward because of all the excitement that goes along with the day. My wife will pack an activity bag for the kids that will include everything from a change of clothes to toys to homemade race signs. We try to make it a memorable experience for the kids whether we are in Hawaii or Kansas.” – Andy Potts
“These days my season is 100 percent worked around my family. I am fortunate that I only have to validate for Vegas and Kona and not chase points, so I base the race schedule on two factors: 1) How does it impact my family? and 2) Is it a big race that will attract a strong field?” – Craig “Crowie” Alexander
“Try to pick races that are close to home so your family can come watch and be a part of the day. Trying to plan a race around a family vacation venue is always a nice way to do it, especially to end your season.” – Cam Dye