I’ve been in love with endurance racing since adolescence. At about the same time I started to like long distance running, I began to like girls. Most of my long runs were spent trying to figure out how I could get girls to like me when I was a kid. Then I met Nancy. Coincidentally, I met her at the time of training for my first Ironman. I consider both, two of my biggest challenges.
Then I lost touch with Nancy and in those intervening years I would spend a lot of mental time while training thinking about her. It wasn’t until I married Nancy that I realized how much of my training time in the intervening two decades was taken up with obsessing about her. In fact after we were happily married I realized that I had trouble coming up with things to think about while training for hours. Now that we train together for swimruns, there’s a lot less to obsess about but training is much more enjoyable.
When I went to university, my summers were consumed with crappy college jobs, drinking and triathlons. A bunch of my friends and I would spend almost every weekend going to triathlons in the summer months. When we would go to these triathlons, which was thirty years ago, guys far outnumbered the women at any of these events. Still, I would see the odd couple doing them and think, ‘That’s what I want. I want to find somebody to do these races with.’ First because male or female, physically fit people look great in mid eighties tri-suits. But secondly, I felt it must be great to share that type of race experience with your significant other. To mix in all those exercise endorphins with sexual endorphins, must make for a good relationship.
The one thing I did know is that I did not want to be in a relationship with what Nancy calls a “Pump Girl”. She came up with this phrase when I was doing the Nice Ironman a few years ago. These were the girlfriends of guys doing the Ironman who would come and either drop off or pick up their bike pumps minutes before race time. I didn’t want to go out with a cheerleader. I wanted to be with somebody who would be willing to do endurance races with me. I wanted to be with somebody who would know what the highs and lows were like of doing something like an Ironman.
When you start training for endurance races you realise the potential toll it can take on your relationship. It’s hard not to take it personally if you both have the weekends off and one of you chooses to spend Saturdays and Sundays going for a five hour bike ride followed by an hour run. When you’re finished these workouts you’re not much fun. Plus, unless you have the itch to do endurance races, you don’t understand why the other person wants to spend so much time training when they could be with you. When Nancy and I first started dating, it was the summer that I did my first Ironman and she used to treat me like I was cheating on her after coming back from an afternoon long bike ride. I did not understand why I was being met with jealous anger instead of a friendly, “How was your bike ride?”
When Nancy and I finally married after a twenty year trek of a relationship that makes the Ho Chi Minh Trail seem like the Autobahn, I was ecstatic when she wanted to start doing endurance sports too. Finally she understood the sense of accomplishment of finishing a marathon or an Ironman.
Over the past seven years we have served as each other’s Pump Girl for various races. I was happy to rub her tired feet and make chicken parmesan when she came home because I knew what it was like to cross the finish line after those four months of training. Then we found out about swimrunning through Thomas and Jasmina and it seemed perfect for us. Finally, I’d be doing a race with somebody I loved and sharing that experience minus the mid eighties lycra tri-suit.
I can’t believe what an incredible experience it was for the two of us to finish our first swimrun. There is something about doing a swimrun as a couple that brings you even closer. If your relationship can stand the stress of training for and completing a swimrun then an atomic bomb will not break the bond of your relationship. There are times while training that we will both swear at one another because we are tired, exhausted, hot, cold or freshly jellyfish bitten. Your partner will do or say something that isn’t a big deal but your reaction is a very mean and heartfelt, “fuck you.” Then minutes later, you’re swimming or running in perfect synch, thinking how much you love this person and how great it is to be out there in the middle of nature or the sea with them.
You also start to communicate with one another in a new nonverbal way. Without saying a word to one another, you can tell when your partner is having a good day or a bad day. You can tell when they need encouragement or to be left alone; when they’re just tired or near physical collapse. If they are just really chilly or near hypothermic shock or conversely about to get heatstroke. You can even sense in the water on a rough, open swim when they need reassurance
that all is well and you both will not end up as a headline in the local paper. I honestly don’t know how relationships survive swimruns between team-mates that aren’t in a relationship.
Nancy and I have a natural dynamic that makes us a great swimrun team. When I say ‘great’ I mean that even though we will never win a race, we work extremely well together. Under stress our personality differences compliment one another. Her personality and standard that she lives by makes me train just that little bit extra and makes me more focused on race day. We are also fortunate in a physical sense since both of us are about the same speed when it comes to swimming and running.
So, if you’re dating somebody or married to somebody that even has the inkling to be physically active and you want to be closer as a couple without having kids, do a swimrun. It’s a lot cheaper, quieter and less of a time commitment.
I grew up in a small town north of Toronto. I started running on country roads and fell in love with long distance running when I was twelve years old. I loved (and still do) getting up just before the sun and going for a run in the country. Running in Canada you get everything from 30+°C heat in the summer and minus 20°C cold in the winter. I started challenging myself when I was 13 and would just run for hours on the weekends not really knowing the distances or pace but just seeing if I could run to the next town and back and then set a new challenge. I first heard about an Ironman when I read an article about it in Sports Illustrated when I was about 13 years old. At the time, an Ironman was a disorganized, crazy endurance challenge and I set my sights on doing one. Finally did my first Ironman more than ten years later in Canada out in British Columbia after completing several marathons and several smaller triathlons. I finished. I still remembered how exhausting that first one was. Although I’m not fast, I love the endurance aspect of sports. This led me to the world of ulra-marathons where I’ve done a 50 mile, 100KM and 100 mile race. A few years ago, my wife told me about these swimrun races in Scandanavia. Easily the toughest endurance event I’ve done because you need to not only have endurance but you have to be quick. Then there’s the challenge of nature, the cold and trails. The best thing about it is being a team with my wife and sharing the highs and the lows that a demanding endurance sport brings. One moment you’re telling each other to fuck off and the next you’re kissing at the finish line.something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
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