For the last 10 years or so my husband has been competing in triathlons, marathons and now ultra-endurance trail races. I have been his chubby cheerleader.
I’ll never forget his first race – it was a Tri-a-Tri in Orillia, Ontario and he came in third (first in his age group). I was amazed. How could anyone survive such gruelling distances ( 375m swim / 10km bike ride / 2.5km run!) doing physical exercise that didn’t include a cocktail or two?
He was hooked. I was scared. Where do I fit into this?
He went on to longer distances and more frequent training sessions. The next few summers were spent road-tripping across Ontario in search for next best race. Nunzio (my hubby’s nickname) kept training and I kept being me – overachiever at work, lover of wine, and mom of two that hated exercise. The chubby cheerleader.
During those early years while Nunzio was out on the course I was entertaining our kids – seeking out parks, lakes, rocks to climb and even dogs to pet. I became a pro at keeping the kids occupied in the sweltering heat over several boring hours with little to do but wait. I studied the other women at these events – their matching ‘outfits’, perfect ponytails, ideal tans and perfectly toned legs. I marvelled at what I perceived to be the perfect female specimen. I came home from each race depressed about my appearance and vowed I’d start to run the next day. But the next day came and I went back to my version of exercise…Advertising.
And although not an Olympic sport, I do believe a life in advertising is as tough and competitive as any pro-sport and deserves the same toned physic for all of the hits and distances you need to go through to get to the finish line. Just saying.
Over the years the length of Nunzio’s races increased, the kids got older and bored faster and I became much more aware of the fact that Nunzio being an endurance athlete meant that we were the family of an endurance athlete. You are probably thinking, well duh! Of course we were. But until you live it, you don’t really understand what that means. I was living it. Let’s be clear: endurance training and racing is a way of life – not just for the athlete but for the entire family. So when Nunzio was training (sometimes up to 7+ hours a day), we were on our own to keep ourselves occupied with trips to the Zoo, Science Centre… the park. I spent my weekends hanging out with my kids doing family activities – we became E3 (Erin, Emma & Ethan). I learned how to become a mom (a pretty good one too!) and they learned how to become witty and independent people. We cuddled, laughed and did silly things that resulted in “shhh, don’t tell dad we did that…” stories. I loved every minute. And at the time, I didn’t notice that I didn’t have a lot of ‘me’ time, but I did notice that I was still the chubby cheerleader.
When Nunzio’s little races turned into Marathons and Ironmans (3.8km swim / 180km bike / 42.2km run – not lying, you can look this up at Ironman), we turned them into nice big family trips. We’ve had some amazing post-race adventures on these trips that have included hiking and bonfires on the beach in Tofino, road trips up & down the coast of Cali and trips across Quebec to climb the Village hill in Mont Tremblant over and over and over again…all with the best of friends. These trips have been some of the best times of my life. THE BEST!
Ironmans have lead to ultra-trail runs this year. Endurance at its messiest. Since May, Nunzio has competed in a 50-MILE trail race in Sulpher Springs and he just completed a 50-km race at Blue Mountain (Collingwood) and is getting ready to pace his BFF in Leadville Colorado over the final 50-miles of Ad’s 100 mile trail race. Yes, I said 100 MILES. Running. On feet. At one time. Do you know how long that takes? Like 16 maybe even 20 hours. Straight.
Ok, so are you starting to get the picture of what I meant when I said we all had to commit to living this life?
Over the years I have been the loudest at the transitions, the most obnoxious wife at the finish line making a fuss over her husband’s accomplishments, and the least fit lady hanging with the athletes. I’m not decked out in Lulu, North Face or even Salomon, in fact I’m usually waiting at the finish line in flip flops with my Louis Vuitton or Tory Burch bag on my arm, laughing hysterically at some inappropriate comment made by one of my kids. I look at the other ladies and for a fleeting moment I’m that naive wife of a Tri-a-Tri husband not knowing where I fit in within this sub-culture of athleticism because I wish I was thinner, more toned, more athletic, wearing a smaller sized ‘cute’ outfit and bra… but then I think about the Zoo. Those moments & memories I have had laughing and having fun with my kids flood over me and I’m overcome with happiness – something that I’m guessing these ladies may have missed out on while in the gym or on their treadmill. I say that with confidence because what I’m also noticing now is that these women aren’t smiling or even laughing at these events. They walk around looking so unhappy. They have frown lines where I have smile lines. Their legs are tired from working on the elliptical but mine are tired from dancing with my kids. They are tanned from over training on trails, whereas I am tanned from playing in the lake.
I may be the chubby cheerleader but I am living my beautifully chaotic life exactly how I want – sharing in the excitement of my Nunzio’s accomplishments of which I am extremely proud of, alongside my amazing kids, all on my own terms. Laughing out loud. Unapologetically. And in flip flops.