"Big Four" Highlights


Confessions of an

On learning to accept and cheer on a triathlon husband

By Maria Celis

A couple of years ago, my husband discovered that the town next to us would be hosting a triathlon. Since he had always been a good cyclist, runner and swimmer, he thought he’d give it a try. Little did I know what was in store for me and our children.

The next few weeks, my husband got up early to run or bike – particularly on weekends. Some nights he went to the local pool to swim. He was thrilled. The endurance athlete he had been as a teenager seemed to come alive again. But I was not thrilled, at all. My spouse, whom I had wanted to spend every free moment with, was now a triathlete in training.

Yet I learned an important lesson about marriage through this experience: the person whom you marry will not always stay the same as on your wedding day. That’s OK if that change is not inherently bad, but each spouse has to work with the changes.

Another thing which I had to reevaluate was my set idea about marriage. I had always believed that good couples should spend every free moment together – because my parents had been that way. My parents never left each other’s side on the weekends. Growing up, I would watch them play tennis together or with other couples, play bridge or take walks together. Since I wanted to be part of a “great couple” I thought that this was the only way to be.

One of my first reality checks came on race day. Hundreds of people lined the finish line: wives, husbands, children, grandparents, boyfriends, girlfriends and friends. Everyone looked so happy. I thought they had to be faking it. Surely there had to be a few other annoyed wives or husbands. But if there were, I couldn’t figure out who they were.

That race day was six years ago. Since then, my husband has participated in several others – including a half-Ironman and one Ironman. During these years, especially the early years, I prayed that somehow this triathlon hobby would pass, that my husband would move on, that this whole training thing would get old for him. But a funny thing happened with those prayers: he didn’t change. I did.

I began to read the running and cycling magazines that came in the mail – and I had to admit, those sports writers were pretty good. They made the whole thing look so fun and worthwhile.

God really opened my eyes when I read the book “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand, a fantastic biography about Louie Zamperini, the 1936 Olympian and World War II POW in Japan. After he returned from Japan, he never stopped doing sports. He and his wife were married for 55 years. I realized at one point while reading the book that she had never stood in the way of his sports. In fact, she had supported him.

It was after this that I began to try and really support my husband, to work with him about setting up reasonable family schedules so that he could train and spend time with the kids. And we have tried to divide up some of the chores in the house. No, it’s not 50-50, but we both tend to focus on what we are better at. I will never be an electrician/carpenter mom. And he will never be a chef. But he has gotten better at washing the dishes, and he brings me a cup of coffee every morning in bed.

To my husband’s credit, he has thrown his support into my interests as well. We are in our second year of ballroom dance classes. We have also taken part in Family Enrichment classes – a program that strengthens parenting skills as well as marital communication.

I started running last fall, just 20 minutes at a time. Who knows? Maybe one day, I’ll do a 5K.

Until then, I am the Iron-Wife.

Maria Celis was last seen ballroom dancing with her husband.