Can Parents Handle Ironman?

By Pete Williams

Do Ironman training and family mix?

One of The Wall Street Journal’s most popular features, at least among those of us interested in training and nutrition, is the “What’s Your Workout?” article that appears in Tuesday’s Personal Journal.

Most of us read the feature, like so many articles in The WSJ that feature wealthy New Yorkers, with a sort of detached bemusement. The stories include a breakdown on expenses. One entrepreneur woman dropped about $60,000 a year on her equestrian pursuits.

Several “What’s Your Workouts” have featured triathletes. Not just any triathletes – Ironman triathletes. Even though Ironman competitors represent a small percentage of the sport, most people not involved with the sport view the M-Dot and triathlon interchangeably.

A few months ago, The WSJ featured a late 30s woman who, as I recall, had two or three young children. She was a successful entrepreneur who traveled a lot on business and did two or three Ironman races a year, which required her to train 20 to 25 hours a week.

Clearly this woman spent little time with her husband or children.

The WSJ must have gotten some feedback on the piece because today’s Personal Journal included a story called “How Couples Handle Conflict Arising from Exercise.” The piece centered on Jordan Waxman, 46, a private-banking executive at Merrill Lynch in New York and an Ironman triathlete.

Mr. Waxman (I love writing in WSJ style!) and his wife Caren have three kids: 11, 10, and 8. Seven years ago (when his kids were 4, 3, and 1) he intensified his training regimen, “eventually hitting two hours each weekday and up to five or six hours each Saturday and Sunday.”

Mr. Waxman works long hours in the city and has an hour-plus commute. No wonder Mrs. Waxman gathered family members and staged an intervention.

“It became a sore point,” Mrs. Waxman recalled in the story. “I had three young kids and no family nearby. I heard myself badgering him: ‘Family is really important. You need to be a part of their lives today.’ ”

The intervention didn’t work. Mr. Waxman now manages to get home in time for dinner with the family one night a week.

This is the dirty little secret of Ironman Triathlon. It’s made up disproportionately of people either without kids, with grown kids, or those who ignore their kids. Those of us who confine ourselves to sprint triathlons and the occasional Olympic-distance event can get by with as little as eight hours of training a week. Were we to train for an Ironman, we’d spend no time with our spouses and kids.

Heck, this popular video provides a biting commentary on the time commitment and repercussions single people face for taking on Ironman training.

Everyone juggles career, family (however they define it), and hobbies. But the thought of attempting an Ironman Triathlon and the four-to-six months of 20-plus hour weeks of training is unthinkable for someone with young kids who does not make a living as a professional triathlete.

A few ago, filmmaker Richard Ratay made a terrific documentary on Ironman training called “The Distance, which featured three Wisconsin athletes training for their first Ironman. Two were childless guys, but the other was a mother with 6-year-old triplets who was catching a lot of grief from her husband for ignoring the family.

Mrs. Waxman can relate, telling The Wall Street Journal, “A lot of wives in my position would have left.”

1 Comment

Filed under Triathlon

One response to “Can Parents Handle Ironman?

  1. Sally

    Great article!

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