With my husband, biggest and middlest out of town on a boys’ adventure, I found myself on a rare date with littlest yesterday evening. Quiet, simple moments shared were more reminiscent of the early days of parenthood than I have experienced in recent years. Walking together at her not-yet-two-year-old pace, we examined anthills, picked up rocks, listened for airplanes and the barking of neighborhood dogs. I marveled at the opportunity to fully engage, attention undivided and reflected on the varied experience, complete with challenge and reward, of multiplicity – in parenting and sport.
With our first son, we had time and attention undivided, focused on his development and meeting his needs. Though there were certainly hiccups along the way, we found a groove early on and were early masters of our singular domain. With the addition of our second son, there were elements of familiarity but, three years removed from newborn status revealed atrophy of varied elements in our parenting skillset and the challenges naturally amplified by doubling the child populous tested our PO2 (parents of two) max. With time and training, we managed to develop new levels of endurance tolerance and multi-tasking prowess, finding a comfortable pace with biggest and middlest (then littlest). There remained, however, a sense of simplicity and ease in those moments when we chose to divide and conquer, finding ourselves again in the familiar comfort of the devoted single child interaction.
Though for many months we thought doubling was as much as we could handle, it seemed we were destined to up the challenge and further diversify our skill set. And so it was, not long after we gained mastery and steady state pacing with our duo of descendants we welcomed littlest into the mix, transitioning middlest into his new role and magnifying biggest’s big-ness. After six years with boys, we were overjoyed to welcome a daughter. This third and newest discipline presented an entirely new experience and parenting muscles never previously called upon were tested and strengthened. Though entirely different than our original endeavor, notably distinct from the transition from one to two, our third addition quickly became most enjoyable for the unique challenges presented. The sense of satisfaction with each achievement and milestone is great independently, but enhanced as they occurred in the context of (sometimes not so) gracefully integrating, balancing and supporting the development of not one but three offspring.
Though the prevalence of triathlon today extends opportunity for participation to many from an early age, it is still quite common for athletes to segue into the three disciplines from an individual sport. Myself a runner by experience, it has been an interesting evolution of adding the swim and bike to my repertoire. Exposing weakness, offering – nay, mandating – diversity of training and opening endless opportunity to achieve new personal bests, the progression from a single to multi-sport athlete has been rewardingly challenging.
The early, consistent, undivided attention to my firstborn sport naturally lends itself to greater skill in and affinity for this portion of the race and I continue to toe the line of run-only races in addition to triathlon. Given the opportunity to double the impact from running, duathlon aligns more closely with my skill set, but, despite greater success in the run-bike-run, I am drawn to triathlon. The added challenge of developing my weakest discipline, the thrill of the chase on the bike and the hopeful speed of the run come together with a synergy not otherwise replicated.
I am intrigued by the varied racing outlets being created to combine the swim, bike and run and, just as the opportunity to share time with biggest and littlest, middlest and littlest or biggest and middlest in duo provide unique experience, I look forward to the opportunity to pair the disciplines in new ways and expand my love of multi-sport. Though I remain open to all combinations and welcome the various pairings, I expect the trio will endure as most magical.
The tough days of parenting and training bring wistful moments of simpler times with a natural pull back to our strengths and concern that the time spent with one sibling detracts from the other two. But these moments are fleeting and I am often surprised to find that I run better off the bike and the love for my children is greatest witnessing them interact lovingly with one another. While shoulders broadened in the pool and legs thickened on the bike are not typical of a runner, they have strengthened my core, enhanced my endurance and hastened my recovery. The physique I now carry into the single, dual and triple challenges is designed and groomed for performance diversity and I embrace my role as parent to three beautiful, challenging, rewarding disciplines.
May we find new strength in diversity, embrace evolution of self and may love, in life and sport, continue to multiply!