So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Coach Hat, Husband Hat

So, there I was, minding my own business on a sleepy Sunday afternoon...sleepy because I was busy recovering from the morning's training and trying to not psych myself up for the evening's. My loving wife Suzanne looked up from her laptop, checking Facebook, and told me she was going to register for another half-marathon. This time, however, she wanted to go some place a little different. We've visited friends in Ohio in the autumn & participated in the Dayton River Corridor Classic; we've stayed home & run a couple of half-marathons in Pensacola & her beach. Hardest of all, she's allowed me to coach her through the Jacksonville Bank Marathon - in fact, my spectacular achilles tendon meltdown put my finishing time much closer to hers than my fragile male ego will admit.

She learned that day that she likes the half marathon distance. I learned I hadn't figured out the marathon I moved right up to triathlon. Go figure.

Her friend Laura is an accomplished marathoner (anyone who survived the infamous Chicago Marathon from a few years back is accomplished in my eyes), she suggested we all do the Mardi Gras/Rock n' Roll Half in NOLA, tie in a visit to all of her Gulf Coast friends, all that good stuff. Suzanne & I have always been of the opinion that racing-related travel, especially to a city which we'd visit for no other reason than because it is there, makes race prep that much less daunting. So it seemed a low-stress decision to register for the event.

This year is Suzanne's year to support me in my endurance endeavors: Ironman 70.3 Augusta, Ironman Florida, & Ironman 70.3 NOLA next year. We segue into my year to support Suzanne right around February/March time frame. So, she wants to do a half? No problem. Call me Coach one more time, honey...I've got your training plan right here.

There are some athletes who absolutely cannot be coached by their spouses. I know, because I advise a couple. One is a certified coach, like me. Another is married to a certified coach, albeit in a different sport - boy, you should see them on the race course.

Coaching your spouse is fraught with peril, not much different than the peril of the self-coached coach. That may sound foolish, but hear me out. When I go to the track for a speed workout, my focus is 138 percent on what I need to do, what speed I need to hit on those repeats, what rest intervals I get in between. Coaching other runners - especially if they are not at the same ability level as I - at the same time leads to frustration...either theirs or mine. Since they're paying a small sum for the training I provide, it's only fair I provide their hard-earned money's worth of attention, somewhere around 138 percent. I can subjugate my own personal needs for their 90 minute sessions two-to-three times a week.

You still with me? Okay. Now imagine one of those athletes sits in the passenger seat of your car going to & from the track workout, prepares dinner in the kitchen, sits on the couch next to you watching T.V., and so on. I have to remember Suzanne's goals are a little less intense (but no less important to her) than my own; I have to communicate with her a little more gently than I do the guys, understand she's as much my support as I am hers. When I leave the track the coach hat has to come off & the husband hat has to be put on. Trust me, karma happens.

It's not just the obvious physiological differences between men and women, but the emotional & sociological differences, too. Sometimes, even if I think I know the answer, I have to let Suzanne do what she feels is best, & stand by when the little tweaks need to be administered. She's learned in the past five years almost as much about coaching athletes as I have, & sometimes has given the exact same answer to friends I would have given. I marvel, then realize she's been through a five-year unintentional apprenticeship...standing in the background, absorbing it all in. She plays the coach card every so often with me, too. Boy, do I hate when that happens.

So, don't be too surprised if you see me at the end of February standing quietly by while my wife runs Mardi Gras/Rock n' Roll Half. I know she'll be enjoying herself; it's the place where she won't have to hear me pontificate about running. How will you recognize me? I'll be the one with the two hats...not knowing which one to wear.

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