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One Thing to NEVER Say to a Tapering Triathlete

Here it is…

The one thing to NEVER say to a tapering triathlete.  (And chances are… it’s been said!)

(For a companion post on how we, as triathletes, should hold up our end of the bargain, check out yesterday’s blog.)

And…drumroll please:

“I will be SO glad when this race is over and everything can go back to normal!”

But first, what is taper?

  • Taper is the period of time before a race where you will have reduced training volume in order to recover properly, re-fuel, and prepare your body to be at its peak on race day. Taper is usually for your “A” (main) race of the season, though there can be tapers of other lengths for “B” and “C” races too, depending on where you are in your build cycle.
  • Taper can accomplished in many, many ways, with all sorts of lengths, workouts, and things depending on the athlete and the race.  I, personally, like a 10-14 day taper for Ironman and an 8-12 day taper for Ironman 70.3… but I have also been known to prescribe differently for my athletes [lots and lots of variables go into the time and type of taper, including the peak workouts, the athlete’s sanity, nutrition and volume to day. Lots of variables, so no need to hash out the taper debate here. Though it would be fun to do that. We can start a thread elsewhere.)
  • Anyway, this reduced training volume, coupled by “ALL THE THINGS” that must be accomplished prior to race day (like packing, buying nutrition, getting a bike tune-up), plus trying not to EAT ALL THE THINGS—well, taper can be a crazy time for the triathlete about to embark on the “A” race.

Okay back to it.

The statement above, “I am going to be SO glad when this race is over and everything is back to normal” is a tricky one for a lot of reasons.

DISCLAIMER: This post is not about EVERYONE.  And Mom, no this is not about me either.

First, there are the triathletes who know this actually IS true.

They say it themselves: I can’t wait for this race to be over so I can go back to normal life. Many triathletes feel that triathlon (or a longer distance one) is a one-and-done, and will agree with this statement.  Triathletes who are happy and live in happy relationships are often ready to say, “Yep. Back to our normal!”  So from a starting point let’s acknowledge that there are many people who DO agree with this, and that is okay.


(Just like there are people who don’t like Disney, and that is okay too. Ah-hem.)

However.  Some triathletes do not feel that returning to “normal” is actually a goal.

Chances are that if “your” triathlete falls under this camp–particularly if your triathlete is doing a first or a huge race–things may never go back to normal.


Triathlon potentially changes everything for certain types of triathletes.

And frankly, life will never and can never be the “same” for our breed. I like to think, for the most part, that the changes are good ones–better health, confidence, drive, focus, goal-setting, examples for the family, dedication, trips to new places… so “normal” is a new normal, and that’s okay.

For the Expert and me, we had lots of growing pains during the early tri years, and we had to learn what the new “normal” was for our family.  Now, the normal is always having a race on the calendar, and accepting that long-weekend workouts will happen at some point.  We plan around it, and make it happen–together.

Do we still fight about things? Um, yes.  And triathlon things? You betcha.


But one thing is for sure: we don’t talk about “returning to normal.”

(Like ever.)

As a family member of a changing and/or new triathlete, seriously, don’t tell them that you can’t wait for things to “go back to normal.”

Well, why the HELL not?  They need to get back to normal!!

Well, for starters, your triathlete might actually be hoping for things not to go back to normal.

Your triathlete may have been drawn to the sport to escape some form of “normal”–they wanted a challenge, something new and exciting. Your wife and  the mother of your children may have entirely lost herself along the way of starting a family, or whatever, and she wants to find who she is again.  Your triathlete may have worked hard for this precise change–they not only welcomed the change, but wildly and passionately facilitated it. They wanted things to be different, and going forward, they want things to continue to be different.

And yes, they may want to build upon the race that’s coming–maybe to do more things, longer races, and the like.

So when you tell her, right before her race, that you can’t wait until things “go back to normal,” you are NOT actually saying anything that will get her back to “normal.”

You are potentially causing a bigger problem.

Well, thanks a LOT Swim Bike Mom!  You have helped create this monster!

To that, I will say, “Oh, you’re welcome.”

If you are the type of family member that doesn’t want your loved one to improve, have time for themselves, to seek out their goals, to work on their fitness, to pursue a dream or a goal that is so scary… well, it’s time for a bigger conversation.

In leading up to Ironman Coeur d’Alene, I was not a perfect triathlete, mother or wife.  And the Expert was not the best support system ever at the time either. We both were changing and we were hurting each other. It was a mess, really.  He was hurt, I was hurt.  He didn’t want me to change.

At the time, I didn’t want to admit my role in all of this.  That’s why, no my fellow triathletes, YOU are not off the hook either.

This conversation that needs to be had? Well, it’s a joint conversation.  The triathlete needs to come to the table with an open heart and mind. The triathlete may have some gratitude to work on, some apologies to make, too.

Both parties must recognize that people are not meant to be the same forever.  People are allowed to change.  You are allowed to change.  The question is: can you work together, grow together and support each other?

Hopefully, the resolution is yes.

At the end of the day, family (and marriage in particular) is NOT a prison sentence.

Correction: it should NOT be a prison.

But the life you are living (as the triathlete or the other party) may very well feel like a prison. 

Which is why a conversation is necessary. Which is why change may also be necessary.

Because no one needs to live in a prison–real or perceived.

As Glennon Doyle Melton said recently in her interview with Oprah (love or hate either of them, whatever–this was a striking quote): “If a woman has a choice between saving her soul and saving her marriage, she needs to save her soul.”

A person’s soul and being and happiness and purpose and inspiration are not things that, once fed and nurtured, need to be reigned in from the pasture and “returned to normal.”

That would mean absolute devastation. It can be.

Really think about it. Someone is changing, willfully, and they are told: “go back to how you were.”


Logistically, maybe the schedule needs to be adjusted.  Maybe needs aren’t being met.  Sure, work on it. (Adjust things, not person.) And yes, maybe triathlon has changed some things and person. But maybe this is step one in a long journey of change.

So have a conversation about it.

And no, not an ultimatum-type statement of “return to normal or else.” But a real conversation about needs, wants, desires, and dreams.


(Can you get your significant other to wear Spandex? It’s a start. 🙂  )

Triathlon is often a way that we find an outside extension of ourselves. And truth or fiction, time away from the house and family is crucial to our sanity and our growth as a person.

Sure, the change is hard on the changer, but it’s also really difficult on the changee as well.

As I covered in yesterday’s post, we as triathletes (if our relationships are important to us), have a few things to do as well. We need to say thank you, say I am sorry, and work on keeping promises.  Both sides must work on the conversations that matter.  We must see the other side in our relationships.

Talk. Converse. Have an open mind. We are not trees. We are allowed to grow (yeah, I guess like a tree), but we can also change like a sunset.

Our lives should not be a prison.  Our lives should also not feel like a prison.

And if your triathlete is living in a world that feels like a prison and you are enforcing this prison-mentality through a hard-line, hard-nosed “let’s get back to normal”?  Well, it’s time to thonk on lots of things during those long runs.

Things may need to change.  Yes, I’m sorry to say–even more things.

The normal is no more.

And if you, as a partner, don’t want to do that? Don’t want to talk or deal with the change?  That’s okay, too.

No one is making you.

(Just don’t be surprised when she breaks out of the prison… clinging fiercely to her bike and her running shoes.)



  • Sarah

    September 13, 2016 at 8:34 am

    My husband has always been really supportive of my endurance goals, at least in principle. But I can’t tell you how many times he’s joked “No more races after this one” leading up to IMCHOO. He says it as a joke, and yet one reason we as humans joke is to say the things we couldn’t say if we were being serious – there’s a nugget of truth in there or he wouldn’t be saying it at all. And seriously, 12 days before the race, the taper monster may be unleashed if I hear it one more time. So this really resonates with me. Thank you.

  • Lisa C

    September 13, 2016 at 10:08 am

    A new normal!! Mothers Day becomes a bike ride with the family, boundaries become established, pasta is made from brown rice, no i’m not giving up Diet Coke! LOL. I must be doing something right because both grown sons are taking time out of their lives to bevat the finish of my first 70.3! ❤️ It’s taper week and my oldest asks me, “what’s the next goal?” Triathlon life!

  • Sandra Laflamme

    September 15, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    I am suffering from triathlon withdrawal. I only had one on my calendar this summer and now that its come and gone I was wishing there was more and that that was my normal, more tris! I do have more running, half marathons and marathons but can’t wait for next summer to get back to tri-ing!

  • Adjusted Reality

    October 11, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    When I first started racing, my husband wasn’t into it, so I did the best I could to keep the rest of my life as normal as possible. I’d just be up early to go run or spend some extra time after work at the gym, or whatever. Then, he got into it too and life changed A LOT. Honestly, the NORMAL is training, offseason is the weirdest (good, but weird). Some of our friends are not as close anymore because we just can’t be up for the random impromptu bar trip on a whim (gotta plan that stuff!). We just try to make as much time for them as we can and make plans, even if it’s 3-4 weeks ahead of time. It’s just about compromise. I’ve bailed on training sessions to be there for people when they need it, but I’ve also stood my ground too.


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