Triathletes have to be very flexible. I'm not talking about the Mary-Lou-Retton-Bend-In-Half-Backwards kind of flexibility. Or the fold-yourself-into-a-box-while-holding-champagne-on-your-feet contortions often seen at a good Cirque du Soleil show. I'm talking about the ability to change plans at a moments notice. The ability to shift from one focus to another seamlessly.
The families of triathletes have to be equally flexible. How could we possibly hope to pursue this sport without the support of family and friends? Wives must care for kids who must accept parents being gone. Parents might help fund a child's wild dream of becoming an Ironman. Friends adapt to the odd training schedules in order to spend time together. Sometimes, that time is spent at races. Roman Mica refers to these people as Ironsherpas in his book, My Training Starts Tomorrow (which I recommend. You can purchase a signed copy by clicking the link).
There is also a certain amount of sacrifice involved in the triathlon world. Financial constraints might force a decision between triathlon equipment and other purchases (and we always seem to want the equipment). Training demands often force a sacrifice of time spent with family and friends. And, once again, our Ironsherpas make sacrifices to support our sport. Mrs. Pol assumed responsibility for many of Baby Pol's late night feedings so I can sleep (despite the fact that both Pol children tend to get up early, ruining any chance she has of sleeping late). She has also sacrificed much of her time to support me, both during races and training. She has gotten out of bed to load kids in the car to provide SAG wagon support for a certain biker in need.
At every opportunity, I try to show my appreciation, though those "shows" are often only minor things. One opportunity is in the very early morning hours before heading out for training. Clean dishes in the dishwasher begging to be put away. Dirty dishes in the sink in search of a dishwasher. Toys that always seem to find their way back into the middle of the living room. It is a very small sacrifice to leave a few minutes late in order to accomplish some of these small tasks.
And sometimes, a small delay can grow. The clanking of dishes at 4:30 a.m. causes a little one to squawk. While the baby is fine, the toddler has been alerted to the fact that morning is approaching, and that's all the notice he needs. Nothing is cuter than having a 2 1/2 year old walk into the kitchen and ask where you're going, only to respond, "I want to go train with you," when you tell him. And suddenly, the need to be at the pool promptly at five seems less important. After all, there is milk to be served, breakfast to be made, ABC shows to be started, and a growing boy (who is somehow still my baby) to be entertained.
All so the sleeping Ironsherpa can perhaps get another half-hour of sleep before she is forced to face the day.
Yes, being a triathlete takes flexibility. Sometimes, it's just in areas other than those we normally consider. After all, regardless of how important training is, some things are still more important. The pool was still there at 5:20.