Confessions of a Newbie Tri-Wife
The husband is set to do his second full Ironman tomorrow, March 5. That is, he’ll swim 3.8kms, bike 180kms after that, and run 42.2kms for the last leg. He has prepared for this race for more or less six months, and I can tell he is very excited about it. We are in Taupo, New Zealand with his family; everyone taking time off to support Joey and enjoy Frodo’s country after the race. It is cool right now, albeit sunny. People aren’t kidding when they say the New Zealand sun is scorching.
To many, me and my family included, and perhaps you reading right now, we cannot fathom why anyone would want to subject his/herself to such rigorous activity. Personally, the farthest I’ve ever ran in my life was about 8km (I don’t count the mountain hikes as those have rest stops and are done at relaxed and comfortable paces). The longest I’ve biked was probably 50kms, and I nearly fainted twice from the heat and the bike’s squiggling beneath me (we did both road and off-road). I’ve attended swim practice with Joey, in an attempt to have additional time with him - but work and sickness and other things would get in the way, and I will always find myself dreading to go back because then, it would be like beginning all over again (no such thing as muscle memory for me when it comes to swimming). To do all three in a day just blows my mind - as our good friend Aiza Seguerra would say - iniisip ko pa lang, napagod na ako.
When we were dating, it was a “Wow! You’re a triathlete! How do you do that?” - kind of amazement. You take pride that your boyfriend is such a hunk; you cannot imagine how they could wake up early every single day to train, sometimes training twice, and so you just shake your head in awe at the discipline and commitment it takes (I’m a big fan of my husband - still am!). But now that we’re married, it’s a whole new different ballgame, so to speak. The need for patience and understanding on both parties is just so monumental, especially if one partner is not into it. At the races, there are even signages that say: “If you’re still married, you didn’t train hard enough.” It’s obviously a joke, but then you do wonder how the sport takes its toll on a couple.
This is Joey’s typical week-long training schedule: Mondays would be for a run and/or weight-training in the gym. Two hours on Tuesday and Thursday mornings are allocated for swim training, and I would see Joey after lunch on Wednesdays and Saturdays as those are spent for bike trainings out of town, which usually take six-eight hours depending on the length of the workout and on the traffic. Sundays are usually for long runs, too. Add to these his regular working hours as head of their family business, Dan’s, dinners out with friends / colleagues, other businesses, etc, and Joey would often come home drained, tired, and just about ready to sleep. For a time it seemed to me that I was getting only “crumbs” of him, instead of his meaty, tasty, substantial parts that I felt I was entitled to.
I silently resented this schedule on the early part of our nine month-long marriage. I saw his work and triathlon training as my true mistresses. Well, not really work - everyone needs to work - but triathlon for me was kinda optional. My mind would argue that one could still be fit without working out for such long hours every day. I just couldn’t understand why he would schedule his life in such a way, especially now that we were newly-married and we were supposed to be each other’s ministry. I was supposed to take second place in his heart and priorities next to God, but I just couldn’t see him doing that. I just didn’t feel it. I wonder if other “tri-wives” struggled with this at the beginning of their relationship.
I know what you’re probably thinking right now: that these were realities I should have been ready for, that I should have embraced. And you are right.. I remember Joey and I arguing about it back then, and him saying “Pero alam mo na yun e..”. And he was right. I knew what his work and triathlon schedule were like going into a relationship with him, but foolish, prideful, selfish me probably thought that maybe some things would change now that I was his “wife”.
Wife. Oh, that word. The noun that comes with love and security and so much expectation. If only we get things right the first time, if only we had an eject button for every unreasonable expectation in the planet so we don’t get to dump them on the hubbies.
One thing I learned about men, and as I sought guidance from other longer-married tri-wives, is that usually they go on with how they live their lives before and after marriage. As in whatever their schedules were before as single men, they just continue on with it, and the women would just have to adjust their lives and schedules and sleeping habits to complement their men’s. That really, they are very linear creatures of habit. Again I can hear some of you thinking, “but isn’t that a universal truth?”. And all I can say is, sometimes you would have to literally live with the truth to attest to it.
One of the bigger adjustments of married life for me was the waking up early part. For most of my life, I was used to waking up at 8am, and exercise and other things to do for the whole day would follow, of course. But since Joe and I got married, I have had to deal with his overly-irritating alarm going off at 5 freaking a.m. every single day!! What’s worse, I wake up at the very first sound-off, while Joey would need about three-four snoozes to become completely awake. Honestly, if the alarm were a living, breathing thing, in all likelihood, it would be my first murder. And there would be multiple counts guaranteed, for like it or not, triathlon is here to stay - as Joey and his peers often say, it is their lifestyle.
But the thing about marriages, as in life, is: if you let go of the “supposed’s” and the “ought to’s”, if you ACCEPT, EMBRACE, and accordingly ADJUST to current unchangeable realities the best you could, if you prioritise seeking to UNDERSTAND your partner above all else, and if you could ultimately train your heart to LET GO OF ALL IT’S SELF-SEEKING, life, your marriage would be easier. But to get to this point of “wisdom”, you will have to deal with a lot of inner grumblings. I surely did, and even up to now I would relapse. It takes a lot of disciplining the self, and much, much prayer.
I remember groaning at 5 a.m., exaggeratedly despairing when I see my eyebags, and feeling groggy the entire day. I remember feeling laspag after a run/swim workout - not knowing if i wanted to puke or was hungry or had to defecate, and all because in my mind joining him in training was one of the ways we could spend time together. I remember hating the sound of emails coming in, of wanting to grab his phone from him just so he would shift his attention to me. I remember hating how needy I appeared to become.
I remember my vows. I promised to love, honour, obey, and submit to my husband, in all things. I remember our pre-marital counselling sessions: how I, as Joey’s wife, his helpmeet, am tasked to help him be the man God wants him to be. I remember Jesus’ dying on the cross for me, and in his doing so, he taught all of us that to truly love someone is to die to yourself. I remember that I am called to be the best wife I can be, that to do so will bring honour to my God. I remember that I am to lift everything to Him, in prayer and in supplication.
God is faithful. He truly knows all our inner desires and addresses each of them in due time, while teaching us to be patient. Without me bringing it up again, Joey acknowledged during one of our devotions that he needed grace to balance his life, to have sufficient energy on all aspects, especially for his marriage. I was honestly surprised, but thankful that he recognised the need. When I openly supported his training, doing all that I could think of: waking him up, preparing his food, opening and closing the gate for him so he could go straight to the workout, etc - I was rewarded with the love and quality time that I so blindly sought. Indeed, love begets love.
God continues to be on our side, causing us to be together despite our work and Joey’s time-intensive training. Just last month, God gave me gigs in Subic and Pampanga. Joey went with me and was able to do his swim-bike-run exercises while I sang. Two birds with one stone chirping happily together. Truly thankful to God, and continually amazed at how He works to bless marriages.
Last night, I watched my husband prepare his things for the race. I felt his excitement and growing pressure to race strong and to finish well. In a way, he is starting from scratch again.. he hasn’t joined that many local races to pump him up for this one. There were some weeks during his training that he got sick and had to go overseas for meetings, thereby stalling the progress he has made. But God has always been with him, and He will be with Joey again on this one, because it was Him who called Joey to swim, bike, and run this race.
Please pray with me for Joey, and the rest of the Philippine contingent for tomorrow’s race (2 a.m. Manila time). We ask for good weather - just a bit sunny, not too windy. We ask that they will be all kept safe, that there would be not much trouble - no cramps, no flats, no one getting lost or miscalculating their loops. We pray that God will strengthen each and everyone of them, that they may finish within their target times, that the whole duration of the race, however long it may be for each one, will be their prayer and quiet time with the Lord.
Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
To our good and gracious God forever and always, be all the glory.