Many people hearing about a quest to complete an Ironman race conclude it will be the toughest challenge the triathlete will face in life. And certainly the prospect of completing the entire 140.6 mile race in the alloted 17 hours is a significant undertaking. Individually, none of the disciplines gives me pause. Completing a marathon after a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike, that's another story.
Even so, finishing in Louisville will rank no higher than second on my list of life challenges. That's because I'm a parent. And the stakes are so much higher in parenting than in any triathlon. That's because the cost of failure in a race is minimal. Sure, there's the long hours of training. Yes, the entry fee is high. And, of course, my ego might take a hit if I miss a cutoff.
But that's it. I train, anyway, so that's no real cost. Race fees are at risk as soon as they are paid. And my ego is neither so elevated nor so sensitive that a DNF will be that big an issue.
Parenting, though, that has real impact. And there aren't clean little 24-week training plans for parenting. It's a lifelong workout. And the stakes, well, they're astronomical. And there's no telling when a parent will be asked to pay the piper, though it is safe to assume it will be pretty much every day.
The past few days have been a struggle with our son. His late night (well, really early morning) antics have led to a very grumpy boy during the daytime. Emerging independence is pitted against the desire to be the baby. Opposition to potty training has run headlong into a dislike of diapers. "I can do it myself" turns into "You do it for me." And a growing sense of self sometimes voices itself inappropriately.
This is where the balancing act of the triathlon lifestyle comes into play. And the discipline to continue training when things go badly at night. There will always be those times when it is just easier to turn off the alarm. Then again, will the extra hour sleep REALLY provide a benefit?
Last night, I found that the desire to get more sleep once again outweighed by the need to make sure my son was alright after calming down. And I left the alarm alone. Because an extra hour of sleep helps less than another 2500 yards in the pool.