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The 4th Discipline

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I thought that this was probably the best time to touch on what I’ve heard referred to as “The 4th Discipline” of triathlon– that is, keeping your personal relationship or “Tri-Partner” happy. I’ll be the first to admit that triathlon is a selfish sport; it can be a very social sport but when it comes down to it, only you can do the work and the training to get the job done.

I’ve been lucky to be with someone who understands the sport and its demands but it’s definitely a balancing act.  We have our ups and downs like everyone else. When you’re on top of the world and training and racing is going smoothly things are AWESOME but then when injuries start to creep in or work gets in the way of training, you can cut the tension with a dull knife.


This is definitely not an exhaustive list, but here are some tips that have helped us along the way:

  • Know your partners schedule so that you can fit in your training when he/she is going to be away/busy. Sophia’s biggest pet peeve is when I do my emailing, laundry, cooking etc while she is at school or work and then once she gets home, I have to head out for a run or ride.
  • Let your partner choose the movie or TV show. I endure season after season of The Bachelor in order to bank future ‘get out of jail free cards’.
  • If your partner likes to go out for nice meals, make sure you do that from time to time. And no, Subway does not count…unfortunately. Bonus: you’ll be forced to put on normal person clothes (i.e. those not branded with some sort of race logo) and that alone should help put a spark in things!
  • Get your partner involved in your training. One of our favourite things to do is to have Sophia ride beside me on her mountain bike while I do my long run. She is able to see me in my element and I am happy to have her there for company and for nutrition support.
  • Do laundry regularly!
  • During a rest week or recovery week post-race, try to do normal things. Go to a museum, sit on the beach, go for an (easy) hike, take a cooking class…whatever your partner has wanted to do or see, make sure to fit it in during those easier weeks. For example: the week after Ironman Canada, Sophia and I went to Science World, Capilano Suspension Bridge, up Grouse Mountain, and over to Bowen Island for some Kayaking. All things I wouldn’t have been able to do in the weeks leading up to IMC.
  • Try to plan your vacations around training blocks. Don’t go away to Mexico in the middle of a hard training block – either you’ll be unhappy that you aren’t getting the training in or he/she will be unhappy that you are never around because you’ve got to fit the training in.
  • Be aware of the fact that in the last few weeks of a big training block or leading up to a big event, you will generally be tired, cranky, irritable, and having taper-tantrums. Make sure your partner knows that this triathlete version of PMS is on its way.
  • If you are looking to make the jump up to the professional category, let your partner be involved in all business decisions. Sophia is involved in every decision I make about sponsors, races, kit designs, training etc. Just be careful that your relationship doesn’t turn into one of manager and athlete.
  • Lastly, try to avoid situations in which you need to choose between being a good athlete or a good partner. Sophia and I have tried racing in the same events and it never ends well. Because she is so invested in me and my career, she is usually always more interested in how my day is going then how her day is going and will end up struggling to get through the event. If I have a great day, I’ll end up feeling bad because Sophia has had a rough one. Just avoid that situation all together and don’t race the same races, unless it’s a relay – these are great opportunities to get your partner involved in the sport and race together!


What I have learned over the years is that at the end of the day you need to remember what is most important to you. Hopefully that is the relationship. For me it is.  Although triathlon is going to pull you away, you need to remember not to neglect your partner when they really need it. Even if that means skipping a workout. This is what the entire movie White Man Can’t jump is about. If I remember correctly. “Sometimes when you win, you really lose, and sometimes when you lose, you really win”