Be warned: this isn’t a sappy love-in about how you really can do it all – that you’ll have to find in a ‘parents’ magazine!
What I love about triathlon is that it keeps me in shape, gives me ever-challenging goals, provides inspiration to be the best I can be, delivers a healthy dose of humility on a regular basis and lends structure to every day and every season.
Children are pretty much the opposite of all of that. They wreak havoc on your body (pregnancy), drive you towards mediocrity and compromise, and lend chaos to every day and every season. I suppose they do provide a healthy dose of humility on a regular basis, but deep down, if I’m totally honest, I don’t think I truly love that about triathlon, either.
However, luckily for us, I didn’t fully appreciate all that when I got pregnant. Sure, I thought I knew. But, now I know that I really had no clue as to how much work a baby is. It’s incredible.
I say luckily, and I mean it. The amazing thing about kids is that once you’ve got one, you don’t mind all that stuff. It blows me away. I still don’t really get it on a purely logical basis but it’s true. I actually love taking care of Hannah and spending time with her.
So, yes, children are a disruptive force. The next question is, can you have kids and still do triathlons, stay in shape and not completely lose your identity?
If you are like me, you were in your early thirties before you were in a place where you even considered children. But, at 34, I still hadn’t done an Ironman and I had a really annoying desire to do one that I couldn’t shake. I also realized that if we were going to have kids, I didn’t want to wait much longer. I knew that my 60-year old self would want children, but I joked that my biological clock must have been digital because I had never heard it. So, we left it to fate and decided to try. If it worked, it worked. If not, it didn’t. We were shocked when we found it worked (embarrassing but true). Immediately. So, my incredibly awesome husband agreed to support me in training for Ironman after having the baby. So yes, you can do it.
This brings me around to the question – would you want to do it? In retrospect, doing IM within 14 months of having a baby isn’t something I’d recommend to a first-time Ironman like myself. But again, ignorance was bliss and I forged ahead with dogged determination. The other thing I discovered in retrospect is that I probably could have done better if I was coming off a triathlon season instead of coming off of pregnancy and childbirth when I started training. But, that’s where the compromise starts. And doesn’t every triathlete say “I could have done better if only…” The nice thing about coming off pregnancy is that you won’t find someone rolling their eyes when you say this.
The final question is how to do both. My blog may help answer how to do both for a little while. But, I discovered that training for Ironman and having a baby is not a sustainable proposition. It took a lot of help from family, a lot of understanding from friends, and the ability to not work outside the home for over a year. Now I’m back in the ‘real’ world. Well, sort of. I’m (ahem) working 2 days a week.
Nowadays, I find if I can get in 4 runs, two swims and two core-work/stretching sessions a week, I am doing well. Really well. Most weeks it’s 3 runs, 1 swim and one core work/stretching session. Forget biking for now. Of course, other triathlete moms probably find a different balance and it also depends on the age your children are at. It seems triathlon can still provide ever-challenging goals and structure so long as you don’t mind lowering the bar a bit.
In a nutshell, I would have been happy and fulfilled even if we hadn’t decided to have a baby. It’s true! We would have travelled more, gone out more and trained more. Not a bad life. But at some point, I am afraid this would have gotten old along with me and I’d be left without the wonderful little being that we have. Yes, she is a ton of work. But, like triathlon, the reward is proportional to the effort put in.
And, I know triathlon will still be there when Hannah goes to school in just a few years time.