How to train with a family

Since taking up triathlon, and even when it was only running I was doing, I often get asked how I can do that with kids at home, or get comments that the person I’m talking to would never have time for that.  There is always a list of more things I could have done both in training and in my family life, but it’s all about finding balance.

Finish line happiness!
Finish line happiness!

I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately, as I’m enjoying an off season and making my goals for 2016 (which I’m so excited about now that I have them figured out!).  My kids have done some kids triathlons, 5Ks and summer swim team, my hope is that they will find some sport or activity that they can do their whole lives that will bring them as much joy as triathlon and running bring me.  By no means am I an expert, but here is what worked for me as far as training for a big event while still having a family life.

  1. Spouse support- it truly would not have been possible without my husband James.  Having been in a previous marriage where a 15 minute run at 5am before the family woke up was too much of an inconvenience, I really appreciate James’ team player attitude.  Not only does he encourage me to do what I need to, he picks up the slack when I was training or wiped from training.  From planning activities with the kids to making meals to coaching the kids in swim team over the summer, he really does it all with a smile on his face.  I’m a lucky girl.
  2. Involve the kids- My kids are ages 9 and 12.  They joined me on a variety of workouts through ironman training, not because they were forced, but because they were interested to see what its like.  Whether it was a couple mile easy run, an easy bike or biking alongside me as I ran harder and longer, they joined in on a lot of it.  One of my favorite workouts was when my kids set up a cheering station on the bike trail near our house just for me.  They also would swim a lot when I swam.  They would typically start out swimming laps then lose interest and go play on the waterslide while I continued my workout.  While some workouts needed to be higher intensity or longer hours than what they could handle, there are plenty of workouts that they can join on.  And they should! Healthy kids that enjoy being active is a huge goal of mine!
    Grace was a great cheerleader- cowbells, signs and yelling for me!
    Grace was a great cheerleader- cowbells, signs and yelling for me!
    Mile 26
    Mile 26

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  3.  Gym membership- Although I really don’t care for working out indoors (avoid the treadmill like the plague), there are times where it is really helpful with kids.  Like I said in #2, they can play in the pool/waterslide area while I swim laps.  Or they can play basketball or volleyball in the gym.
  4. Make the most of kids’ activities– I almost never stay to watch my kids’ practices.  That’s free workout time!!  In the summer, swim team practices are when I would fit in a bike or run.  Now that school is back in session, I squeeze in a 50 minute swim between when I get off school and when my daughter needs picked up from cross country.  Soccer practices are when we have been either going to the gym to lift weights or run on a nearby trail.  When meets and games are going on I am absolutely there, cheering my heart out for my kids.  Think about it- did your parents stay and watch your practices?  Helicopter parenting has gone too far and there is no reason to watch every minute of every practice.
  5. Early mornings- This is an area I could still improve at, but there are days where if I don’t workout before the sun comes up it just won’t happen.  For me personally, waiting until evening when the kids are in bed doesn’t work.   I’m way too tired myself by that time of day and I make every excuse in the world.

    Both happy campers after our run in the dark
    Both happy campers after our run in the dark
  6. Groups- My local running store has set group runs every Wednesday evening and Saturday morning.  It is so great to know that I can show up on those days and always have someone to suffer with.  Plus when you have a group or partner workout, you schedule it just like you do any kid activity- once it’s on the calendar it’s that much more likely to happen.  My long rides are another example of that- when I was committed to riding with someone from my tri club it was a non-issue, when left to my own schedule I came up with a hundred other things to do and the bike ended up shortened or canceled a few times.  Bonus points if you make plans with a specific person ahead of time, then you’re letting someone down if you back out.
  7. Find races for them too– My kids love it when they can take part in a race as well.  Whether it is a kids’ race in conjunction with my event, such as IM Kids or a Mini-marathon, or even volunteering at a race- they love the environment almost as much as I do. DSC_4477 DSC_4527    11822465_720046240409_5857381435519876939_n
  8. Have a little fun- It’s ok to miss a workout because you decided to do something your family wanted to do, just don’t make a habit of missing workouts.  When we vacationed before IM Boulder, I took the time to do fun activities like badminton and horseback riding.
  9. Remember to set a positive example– If you’re complaining about your workouts or your sport, that will be the kids’ impression of it.  I want my kids to love being active as much as I do so I make sure to keep my own attitude in check.                                    20141130_081716

So to all the parents out there, I hope this list gave a little encouragement.  It’s possible to train for an ironman and still have a happy, well adjusted family life.  Everyone has the time, it’s all in the choices we make on how to spend our time.

I’d love to hear any other tips or tricks you use for training with a family!

Pre IM Boulder Festivities

IM Boulder was such a neat experience for me.  Not only was it my first IM to participate in, I’d never even been to an Ironman branded race before.  After a week’s vacation in southern Colorado, we headed to Boulder for a weekend of Ironman fun.

Friday:
Got into town at about noon and had lunch at this amazing place called Zeal.  We would learn through the weekend that Boulder had tons of healthy food options, but this meal was so good.  Unfortunately I ate it all before thinking to document.  I had the Miso Bowl, here’s the official description:

wild mushroom medley, greens, asparagus, tomato, eggplant, thai peanut sauce, on rice.

It was healthy, it had spice, it was so good.

After that we headed over to Ironman Village at Boulder High School.  We perused the expo, completed athlete check-in and just took in the Ironman experience.

Finding my name on the shirts with all the participants.
Finding my name on the shirts with all the participants.
Got my official backpack!
Got my official backpack!
Ready or not, IM Boulder is here!
Ready or not, IM Boulder is here!

From there we checked into our hotel and went out to drive the bike course.  In the weeks leading up to the race, I’d seen various accounts of the bike course and was anxious to see for myself.  Driving the course did a lot to calm my nerves.  The hills at Legend 100 in Kansas seemed far more intimidating.  Also along the stop, we went to Mary’s Market in Hygiene.  It’s a cute little market that was right along the course that we decided would be perfect for spectating.  This was another thing I really loved about Boulder.  This market truly caters to cyclists: from the bike racks in the yard to the quick portable healthy snacks to the Scratch Labs fountain drinks.  Why don’t more places do things like this?  There are so many people trying to lead more active lifestyles, if more markets and convenience stores could support that I think they would see increased business.

Friday night we met my parents and sister for another great dinner, then enjoyed the Pearl Street Mall.  In downtown Boulder, they have a few blocks in the middle of the city that are closed to traffic.  Filled with shops, people and street entertainers, there was plenty there to keep us busy.

My husband got pulled in as a volunteer with one of the street performers.
My husband got pulled in as a volunteer with one of the street performers.

Saturday morning was the Ironkids race.  All week month long, my kids had been arguing about who was going to win this mile race between the two of them.  After a 4 mile fun-run at the beginning of the month, it was apparent that their running paces were getting faster and were pretty close to one another.

Pre race smiles
Pre race smiles

The youngest kids ran first in a .25 mile race.  It was completely adorable, some kids barely able to walk being helped along by their parents.  Next it was time for the older kids to run a mile.  Two of the sports greatest athletes were on hand to encourage the kids, help them warm up and even award their medals at the end.

The pros warming the kids up.  My son is in the front row with the blue hat on.
The pros warming the kids up. My son is in the front row with the blue hat on.

We had watched the Kona broadcast on tv, so my kids had seen Marinda Carfrae before, but didn’t know as much about Amanda Stevens.  My takeaway was how humble, kind and inspriring they both were.  And like I told my kids, how many other sports can you say you’ve met a world champion in!?!?

Grace with World Champ Marinda Carfrae.
Grace with World Champ Marinda Carfrae.
Jack with pro Amanda Stevens.
Jack with pro Amanda Stevens.

Though my kids were excited about meeting them, I had my own fangirl moment as well.

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Me with two of the best in the sport, Amanda Stevens and Marinda Carfrae.

Although the fangirl moments were fun, the real point of the day was the kids race.  My son, age 9, had worked his was to the front of a very large crowd, toeing the starting line ahead of his sister.  He loves to take off fast and see how long he can hold on, while my daughter prefers to pass people as she goes.

The starting line of Ironkids.
The starting line of Ironkids.
Jack on the other side of the track, still pretty close to the front.
Jack on the other side of the track, still pretty close to the front.
Grace on the other side of the track, in a much bigger crowd of kids.
Grace on the other side of the track, in a much bigger crowd of kids.

After this, the course left the track and we couldn’t see the progress until they returned to the track for the final 100 m.  Myself, along with all the other anxious parents waited, hoping to catch a picture of their kids as they ran by to the finish.  Out of the huge number of kids, I was shocked when I saw both of my grey shirts racing one another at the end.

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It was a very close race, they were within a couple seconds of one another and both ran their fastest mile ever that day.  We were all so proud of them.

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The rest of Saturday was spent preparing all of my bags and dropping them off at the appropriate locations.  It seems like that shouldn’t take that much time.  I was amazed how it was truly an Ironman weekend and took a very good part of the day Saturday.  Word to the wise, make sure you start this process early, it will take longer than you expect.  The bike drop-off was out of town at the Boulder Reservoir.  It included a very long walk.  Had I realized this, I would not have worn flip flops.  As we waited until the heat of the afternoon, we were all a little crabby through this process, it was a long, hot walk.
After that we headed back into town where my family attended a meeting that day as they were volunteering on the run course at an aid station the next day and I dropped off my run bag at the High School track, again a pretty long walk.

Saturday was capped off with a pasta dinner and what should have been an early bed time, but the nerves and excitement kept me up til probably 10:30.  Next up, race day!!!