We all lead busy lives. We work stressful, demanding, sometimes unfulfilling, or soul-suckingly boring jobs. Sitting in front of a desk all day, staring at a screen. Answering angry customer service calls. Writing grants for obscure government programs. Preparing taxes. Data entry. Highway toll taker. Making widgets. Night watchman sitting, watching the widgets made. Day after day. Year after year.
And it’s all sandwiched between a commute equal in torture to the Sarlaac pit in Return of the Jedi.
Then when you get home, do you get to relax? Unwind with a Merlot and a movie? Don’t be silly! No matter how old your kids are, this is not your life, and your time is not your own. There’s always something.
If you have young kids like Russell, (6, 4, and 2) your evening might look like this: prepare dinner, change a few diapers, dress the kids in their PJs, break up a fight over a crayon, read bedtime stories, lie down with them in the bed until they fall asleep because they’ve been having night terrors.
Then you spend an hour cleaning up the toy explosion that has left little Legos lying all over your living room, foot-wreckers that cause you to curse the entire Danish population for their creation. You’re lucky if you have 30 minutes to yourself to sit on the couch and watch an episode of Game of Thrones. And not the full episode, mind you, because you fall asleep 20 minutes in.
Oh, you set your alarm for 5 am to get that workout in, but after waking up at 2 am to change your toddler’s jammies after he peed himself and his bed, and then again at 3 am to clean the vomit from your baby’s hair after she puked all over her crib, you reset your alarm for 6 am.
Just as you hop on the stationary bike at 6:10, you hear the nightmare-stricken five-year-old child screaming for mommy or daddy. Well, mommy has a barf-haired suckling baby latched to her like a remora, so she can’t rush to the five-year-old to soothe him back to sleep. So there goes the workout.
Maybe your kids are older – pre-teens or teenagers, like his friend and Ironman enabler Jim’s kids. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Jim has it made in the shade – no diapers to change here, no bedtime stories to read…plenty of time for a workout.
These hormonal humans may be even more demanding. Now you have basketball practice, Boy Scouts, piano lessons, soccer games that take place all over the state – and you can’t miss any because you are a loving supportive parent -- track meets, choir concerts, play dates, REAL dates, algebra or physics homework that a chimp would be better equipped to tackle, the Pinewood Derby car to build, the science project volcano to construct, the cleaning – oh the cleaning – the teenagers generate so much debris and detritus around the house it reminds visitors of wasteland future Earth in the movie WALL-E.
Where in the wide world are you going to find time to train for an Ironman? Who are you kidding -- you don’t even have time to train for a 5K!
This is the life of an Irondad. This is Irondad Life.
In Irondad Life, Russell Newell will teach you the attributes of an Irondad –
After each subsequent Ironman, Jim and Russell consistently tell their wives that they are D-O-N-E, retired, finished with Ironman, only to be sucked back into the vortex, only to slip on the banana peel again and sign up for the next race. We are as constant as the ocean tides.
Why the F– do I keep doing this? When does resilience turn into stupidity? My mother always said it stops hurting when you stop banging your head against the wall. Good advice. So why do we keep doing it? Because I’m resilient.
Deft Love Language Interpretation
I give you a step-by-step guide in how to test your marriage to its limits and see if it is strong enough to endure a training season.
Watch how Russell stresses his marriage by casually bringing up that he signed up for Lake Placid Ironman during his wife Karoline’s birthday dinner. Then watch as Karoline starts sobbing.
“You’ve picked the most stressful, chaotic time in our lives, we just moved our family across the country, we’re living in a hotel, we’re selling two houses and looking for a new one, the kids’ daycare right now is an hour drive across the city, I just started a new job, and you’re in the middle of a job search. Now you want to add training for Ironman on top of it? You told me you were done with Ironman! You said the last year was the last one!!” You keep saying you hate doing them!!! Why do you keep doing this to me!!!!”
See Russell’s brow furrow in confusion as he thinks, that is not the reaction I expected.
See how Russell tells his wife that he just want to experience an Ironman one time and then he’ll get it out of his system…and then signs up again every year.
I’ll show you how to ensure your body is in a constant state of hatred toward you for making it do what you put it through.
The only thing I can guarantee when training for an ironman is PAIN. “You’re not 22 anymore,” is a frequent commentary from my mother and wife. And after a weight-lifting session, a 13-mile run, and 45-mile bike – all on Saturday – I grudgingly know they are right. The feet are screaming, the hamstrings feel like leather left outside in the sun, hardened, ready to snap, and the back is in full spasm more often than it is not. Tom Brady might be defying gravity in Tom vs. Time, his thoughtful documentary about how awesome his life is compared to yours – avocado ice cream, babe! – but in Russ vs. Time, Time is kicking my ass. I’m as pliable as a two-by-four. But, like Tommy, I keep on suiting up.
I share the exhilaration of driving to the YMCA at 5:00 am through a snowstorm in New England in January to jump into a cold pool and swim until my lungs feel like the guy in the ad suffering from COPD with the elephant sitting on his chest. I share the devotion to continue running in 100-degree heat with 100 percent humidity in the sultry summers of the swamp known as Washington, DC. I show the resolve to continue riding a bike in a flash hail and thunder storm, when you can’t see five feet through the rain and the wind is blowing you off the bike path and your tires are skidding through the puddles and you have no brakes and your clothes are soaked and your body is convulsing with cold. Do you stop and call an Uber to bring you the remaining 20 miles home? No, you press on, because Irondads are dedicated.
Expert Financial Acumen
I demonstrate how to blow through $10,000 in the blink of an eye and easily shut your spouse’s protests down by saying at least you didn’t gamble it away. You just point out that this is all for the kids. Honey, I’ve got three kids under the age of five, and I’m 47. I’ve got to keep fit so I can keep up with them. You also point out it is for her, too. You’ve spent all this money in an effort to stay in shape and look good for your better half, a noble expenditure. Would I complain this much if you spent that money on a personal trainer named Sven? you ask. I think not. As long as Sven is gay.
As Jim – a salesman in his day job – often says, it’s all in the sales pitch. I teach you how to sell the Ironman as a family vacation – the non-competing spouse and kids get to relax all week – shopping, dining, drinking, and enjoy the local sites while the Irondad spends the week worrying about nutrition, bike wheels, and whether he trained properly. The family gets a stress-free family vacation in an idyll like Lake Placid or Boulder, Colorado. The Irondad gets a day of suffering. Who makes out better in this deal?
Endurance is not so much about the athlete’s ability to get up at four in the morning to swim, bike, run more miles than a trip to the moon for a period of time ranging anywhere from six months to over a year. It’s not about your body’s ability to withstand the almost comical trials you put it through – stress fractures, constantly screaming muscles, sleep deprivation, frostbite or heat stroke, depending on the season. If your body were your spouse, it would call the police on you to report domestic abuse.
No. Endurance is about none of this. Endurance is a family’s ability to endure the crap you put them through during that same period. Honey, would you like to have a glass of wine with me? No, sorry. I’m in training and a spoonful of Nyquil is as close as I’m going to get to alcohol.
Daddy, I made you brownies, will you try one? Nooo! Get that poison away from me! Why is everybody trying to tempt me??? Don’t you know I’m in training and I will not put anything other than protein powder and chia seeds in my body? Jesus, sometimes I feel like a Vicodin abuser surrounded by meth addicts pushing me to join them in destroying my body!
Let me count the ways in which a family endures your wretchedness during ironman training. That quality time your wife has planned for after the kids are in bed? You arise at 4 am each day to go for a warm-up run of 10 miles, which means you can’t keep your eyes open much beyond 8 pm. Your head is already bobbing by dinnertime – no way you are going to make it through a movie.
She wants to have a conversation about life or about how the two-year old called his daycare provider a butt head, or tell you about that guy on her team at work who is suing the company because he can’t bring his cat to work as an emotional support animal?
Good luck with that. You’ll be yawning the whole way through that drive across her feelings, a zombie from the Walking Dead, stumbling around with glazed eyes and drool rolling down your chin…and she’ll be stewing, waiting for the day this stupid, stupid race is over and you return to the living.
The worst of all offenses – and not because it is the hardest for your spouse to endure, but because it is the most antithetical to your priorities before signing up for an Ironman – is when she would like some intimate time and you turn into something unrecognizable from a male human being and tell her you’re too tired. “Can you just rub my temples while you watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and I fall asleep with my head on your lap?”
For all you dads out there who want to get into triathlon and Ironman and learn how to balance training with parenting and careers – and all you spouses who want to be more supportive, sympathetic partners – you’re welcome. I look forward to serving as your guide and North Star through this sometimes-perilous process.
Stay tuned for plenty more tips and advice, highlighted by my extensive personal experience. I have gone through every failure, made every mistake, and F–ed up in every way so you don’t have to.
Here’s to mastering Irondad Life with Russell Newell.