Guilty or Not Guilty?

A couple of weeks ago I posted the following on twitter, it was in response to some friends and trakkers teammates that were trying to decide the best time to bite the bullet and commit to training for 140.6

"140.6 with kids is like having kids; ur never sure, it's never a good time for it but once you go for it, no regrets"

Some folks have asked me to elaborate on that so...

This is the story of training for IM while being a wife, mom to two young ones (one in Pre-K and one at home), and part time web designer. How I decided the time was right and how it was a WONDERFUL choice for my family. I know everyone's situation is different and this isn't a "see how easy it is!" type of post, more of a "hey, this is they way I did it and it worked out well for me"

Completing an "Ironman" had been a dream of mine since I was 11 years old. My parents had been to Hawaii on vacation and brought me a t-shirt with an outline of the big island and dotted lines showing the Ironman swim, bike and run. I wore it to PE class and someone asked me if I'd done that. I remember saying "no way! That's impossible!!". but there were people doing it and every year ABC and then NBC would remind me: this IS possible!

Fast forward to November 2008, my second baby had just turned 1 and my first was about to turn 5. I brought up a 5 year plan to my husband that included doing ironman when I was 40 because both kids would be in school and training would be easier. Alex brought up an excellent point that if I waited till then I could be missing lots of weekend activities or I'd have trouble trying to squeeze it all in. Plus the fact that I planned to go back to full time work at some point... Within the space of five min we'd come to the decision that now would actually be the BEST time.

My Priorities:
The first thing Alex and I ironed out was the new order of my priorities...
A - family
B - work
C - training
D - house stuff
E - the rest of it...

in years past training was all the way down near j or k?

The Logistics:

#1 - my Coach (Laura Sophiea) and I talked about my weekly schedule and how we could fit things in around my family and work. Laura has three girls and has been racing Ironman for 20+ years, she know how to balance IM and family. Her guidance was an absolute necessity.

#2 - Family Support - Right from the beginning Alex signed on for watching the boys on Saturdays while I rode my bike. Saturday became a day I could plan on being able to spend as long as I needed to on training. I was lucky to find training friends that wanted to get started early to be home with their families too. Sunday was decided to be a long run day and again I was lucky to have friends that would meet me at crazy hours (5 am!! - that means they were waking up around 4 or 4:30am) to run with me so I could be home in time for breakfast with my family.

#3 - Year ahead planning - We have absolutely zero family in atlanta so in January I put together a calendar of the big races for the year and recruited babysitters for all of them. Thank goodness for awesome friends who helped at races and family willing to drive and watch the boys for a weekend!! I'm not a planner (seriously, I usually plan 2 days ahead if that) so this was a big deal for me.

#4 - Weekly Planning - again, I'm not a planner... but I had to become one. every Sunday I would sit down with my calendar and training plan and fit the workouts around my work and family commitments. If I didn't do this they week would get out of control and by Wednesday I was cramming workouts in at midnight (not recommended).

#5 - Lifetime Fitness - we'd been members for a year, so this wasn't new, but extensive use of the day care was new. Alex and I worked out a plan where he would take our oldest to school everyday, so as soon as they left for school, I was out the door with our little guy M, W, F to fit in a swim and a run in 2 hours at the gym. This wasn't always easy, and I have to hand it to Laura for coming up with workouts that would fit in that time frame and still get me ready for IM. Toward the end, the big volume training I would only be able to fit in a swim in the time I had at the gym (you can only use 2 hours of child care each day and max 10 in a week) so I was up at 4:45 to get my runs in before everyone woke up on those days.

#6 - A close relationship with my Trainer - the ONLY day I was able to bike outside was Saturday, unless I did some creative scheduling; so Tuesday and Thursday were bike days, all done on the trainer, hopefully during the little one's nap time, but if that didn't workout, late at night. I hated to push it to night, because after 8 pm is when I get most of my web design work done.

#7 - Flexibility - I wish I was talking about yoga here, but I'm not. This is flexibility for everyone; Alex, me, and the boys. I would do a lot of planning but invariably something would go off and it sounds silly but sometimes just a 15 min switch would throw the whole day off... so I moved my training schedule around a lot. Another situation was fitting in my 100 mile rides... they came at a time of year when taking an entire day away from the family wasn't possible (alex ended up traveling more than we ever thought possible and RIGHT when those 100 mile rides came into the schedule), so two of them I did during the week and on my trainer (the night before I'd set everything out for the boys in the am (snack, lunch, clothes, bookbags, etc.) I would get up and start riding by 4:00 am, Alex would get the boys ready in the morning (6:30 am), drop the little guy off at a local drop-off care place that he loved, drop Jason at school and head to work - I'd ride and ride watching movie after movie until 10:00 am, quick 5 mile run, shower, change, head to pick the little guy up by noon (drop off care is 4 hours max). So the boys had to deal with a lot of schedule changes and Alex moved into more of a caretaker role than before.

#8 - Efficiency - I've touched on it already, but my workouts were super efficient. It's a different way of training for IM and I was very lucky that it worked successfully for me. My longest training week was 18 hours, that was only ONE week... there were several 16-17 hour weeks, a lot of 14's but only toward the last 3 months, before that 8 hour, 9 hour, 10 hour weeks were the norm. The biggest difference for me was consistency... before this year I might have had 9 hour weeks planned but only completed 5 or 6 hrs. This year if I had 9 hours planned, I finished 9 hours unless something really unavoidable, un-work-around-able happened.

The Payoff:

I've always said triathlon makes me a better mommy. More focused, happier and more patient. and I wondered through the entire ironman training journey, was THIS amount of training making me a better mommy? I'd be lying if I said I knew the entire time it was a good thing.

Looking at the list above it seems like I was away from my family a lot... My little one at the gym day care for 2 hours 3 days a week... spending saturday riding around N. GA while Alex took care of the boys... spending weekends away from them so that I could travel to races... and yes, I did all of those things. The amazing part, all that time away was GOOD for my family.

Being brutally honest here, I hog my kids and before this year Alex never had much time ALONE with them, to settle into his own rhythm and parenting style. Spending Saturday's without me brought all of them closer and more bonded. The moment that was driven home to me was during taper, I was home on Saturday morning and said "Okay, who's up for Pancakes! Mommy is making pancakes!!" and all of their faces fell as Alex says "Usually we all go out for Breakfast on Saturday". I loved that they had their "special thing" (oh and we totally went out for breakfast that day).

Along those lines of kid hogging... when my oldest was little I took full advantage of his "separation anxiety" and basically wouldn't let anyone else take care of him for a period longer than 15 min. okay maybe not that bad, but not far off... my second son, is totally at ease with new care givers and doesn't have the same anxiety they my oldest displays when I leave him for a few hours. He's able to say goodbye without tears but he still runs to me when he sees me again. This helps everyone feel more at ease around him and he had so many people that love him and care for him and HE KNOWS IT :D

PLANNING - This was the biggest revelation for me... I had to become a planner and when I took stock I realized I really LIKED being a planner, everyone was calmer, things ran smoothly and the really important stuff got done.

Ahh, time for the big one, marriage. I had many many people tell me that training for IM almost sent them to divorce court and I would be lying if I didn't say I was worried about something like that happening to us. It couldn't be farther from what happened. When things would get crazy in the house Alex would pitch in and wash dishes or fold laundry. Getting the boys ready in the morning so I could get an early run in or coming home early (he's usually not home until 8:30 or 9) to put the boys to bed so I could get to the gym for a swim. Somehow having the entire family rally around this big goal brought us all closer together. I was so glad that I chose a Rev3 race because when the big day came I really wanted my kids to run down that finish chute with me because I would NOT have been able to do it without their support. The only person missing was Alex, but he was there for me at the finish line and we were all able to share that moment that we'd worked for together.

So here we are on the other side of the big adventure and I had always said I will only do one Ironman, it isn't fair to my family to ask them to sacrifice again. However, when we sat down and looked back at the year they only negative that we could find was that when I stopped training for Ironman, I stopped planning out every week and things got chaotic in the house. ha ha So I am actually planning to do another IM this year, IM Louisville. We will see how that goes!

I'm not going to sugar coat it here and say that EVERY week was lovely... it wasn't. There were days when I wanted to quit and in the middle of it all I took almost an entire week off of training to get my head back in the game... too much stuff at home had gotten behind schedule and I just took a week to try to get everything done. There were weeks when no amount of flexibility or planning would work so I would call Laura and talk about my options and we'd move stuff around. There were nights I was so tired I'd fall asleep folding laundry on the hall floor.

But in the end accomplishing something I'd only dreamed of, falling completely in love with training and the peace it brought me and watching my family become closer...

I am a Wife, a Mom, a Web Designer and AN IRONMAN with NO REGRETS.


  1. Awesome post!! I wasn't quite as dedicated as you w/ workouts but my IM training experience was a lot like this - it really helped my husband step up as a parent and make my kids realize that mommy needs to be prioritized too!

  2. Wow ... you really have this planed out! Very impressive and a great explanation!

  3. Wow, this sounds REALLY familure! :) I did a lot of trainer rides too and took advantage of the daycare at the gym almost every day, but I also did 1 or 2 rides a week with the bike trailer once it got warm enough. They got to be up to 2 hours long, and my little girl would just go to sleep. She actually liked it. It was awesome! That helped me not feel guilty about missing out on time with her too. Plus, resistance training! :) I'm so excited for you to do another IM! I Can't wait to start training for my next one, but I've got a good year before I can do that.

    Great post.

  4. Very cool! I'm in the same boat with two young kids, (4 and 3) and have plans for a half this year with a full next year. My wife and I switch off training.

    Pretty cool to see the little ones running around pretending to swim, bike, and run their way up and down our driveway.

    Always cool to see someone else post their journey/story! Thanks for the post and happy training in 2011!!

  5. Great post, Jill!! I think the key is finding what works for your family and always keeping the priorities in line with that. This will be an interesting year for us because Kel is doing his first full. Hopefully next year will be my turn!!

  6. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I loved this post. It was helpful is so many ways. MY boys are a little bit older (5 and 8), and it does get crazier as they get older - fun crazy.


  7. Love your post Jill. I am so used to hearing people say "I can't do this because...." "I don't have enough time...". If it's an important goal, you MAKE the time, and find a way to make it work, and I think in the end it brings even more satisfaction!! I especially like that you discovered some surprising positives-like Alex's alone time with the kids! I am like you in that the only time I can get outside on the bike is weekends, but we make it work. I REALLY look forward to doing some rides with you :)

  8. 100 miles on a trainer? YOU are my new hero!!! wowzers!

    Thank you for this post. It really gives me the confidence that next year will not be "too soon" for my 140.6! And I feel the same way, the more chaos I have, the easier it is for me to focus on what NEEDS to be done (and spend less time on, you know, facebook and twitter, haha!) . Great post, thank you!

  9. Congrats on your great year! It really is amazing how training makes us better parents. I have three little girls and they get so excited when they watch me race. I know I'm more patient and understanding while training. I can only hope my girls can find something as therapeutic and fulfilling as triathlon has become for me!

  10. This is such a great post. I'm in the other boat - getting the 140.6 races out of my system it seems before having kids. It's nice to know that even with a family, it'll be possible! :) Congrats on a great year and best of luck at LOU - I did it this past year if you need any suggestions of places to stay, eat, train, etc. :)

  11. Thank you all for the positive comments!! I'm so excited for the new season!! See you all at the races!!


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