Iron Dad Post 11 – The Three Things

Edward: 5 months old
IM Muskoka: 10 days ago

I spent many words during the IronDad project talking about the challenges of training and racing with a new, wee addition. I wrote about fitting training into my everyday commute, sleep deprivation and the dreaded wall, and learning to scale back expectations.

Sure it’s easier to do the training without a family, when race-day fitness can be a greater priority. Yet there are some things to be said for how being a dad prepared me for the big day itself. Three things to be precise.

1. Patience
I am not typically a patient man. I have been known to turn on my heels and leave a breakfast restaurant at the sight of a queue – sorry Diana.

An infant will teach patience – fast! I had to learn early on that patience was the only way with Edward. When he cried, I’d try feeding, then changing, then holding, then repeating?? It took a bit of time – and I admit to the occasional freak-out – but now we speak each other’s language. Well, maybe not precisely, but I can typically identify what he needs and attend to him correctly.

Racing an Ironman is not like understanding a baby, but it certainly does take patience. This is especially true for an athlete used to the ‘start very hard and hang on’ philosophy of sprint distance events. Success in long course is all about pacing, and pacing is a game of patience: ‘stick to the plan and hold back now and you won’t walk the marathon.’ Well, mostly.

2. Calm
Calm is sort of like patience. Or rather the lack of patience leads to a loss of calm. Just like I cannot boast an overabundance of patience, I cannot claim to exude calm. It’s a fault. I’m working on it.

Calm is key with a kid. These little things – or at least our little thing – would totally feed off our emotions. When we were frazzled and frantic, Edward was a fussy mess. When we were calm and happy, he was at his smiling best.

Our ‘aha moment’ came at the realization that his angelic behaviour at either of his grandparents’ places was likely due to the calm of these homes. There was no anxiety there. The grandparents had been through the experience, so they were relaxed. Diana and I too felt more at ease having an extra set or two of hands to handle Ed while we ate, or worked, or napped.

As it relates to racing, the ability to keep cool is a wonderful asset. When I couldn’t get my power meter to sync or when my DI2 shifting began to fail, I remember experiencing brief moments of nearly overwhelming frustration, of nearly all-encompassing anger.

Nearly.

I was actually quite surprised at how easy it was to reign all that in. To shrug it off, adapt, and keep going. I’m confident that my experience raising Edward has enabled me to lose my head less frequently, and taught me to get it back far more quickly. Thanks kiddo!

3. Adaptability
Learning to operate with one arm only – while the other supports a baby who refuses to be set down – is a skill. From doing laundry and washing dishes to very slowly typing client reviews baby juggling while working or doing chores is a bit of an art. I distinctly remember ‘inventing’ little tricks to make life a wee bit easier. Like when I figured out that I could balance the kid on one knee while standing on the other leg, leaving me with two free hands, or the time I realized that I could rock his bouncy chair with my foot while working on the computer, or – my personal favourite – snoozing when he naps.

That ability to quickly adapt to the situation is very handy in a long course race. As soon as I was able to reign in the rage, I was able to come up with a solution. When my Stages powermeter refused to connect to my Garmin – despite repeated attempts to resync – I punched some buttons, cruised through a couple of menus, and replaced the all-knowing, all-powerful Normalized Power field with HR. Not ideal, but a good fix under the circumstances. Likewise, when the rear derailleur finally gave up with 20k to go on the bike, and I was stuck in an unrideable 34-23 gear combination, I got off and changed gears manually. Four times.

So thank you little man for making me a better person and a better triathlete. You are pretty cool

Irondad