are triathletes crazy?

Dear Brad,

I love this sport, particularly the friendships I’ve forged over the last 15 years and of course, how fit you get! Problem is, I’ve got a couple of toddlers now, a cranky wife and I’m starting to question a few things. Could we all have picked a more crazy sport?! Do you have to be mildly psychotic to do what we do? Three sports Brad!! Sometimes I feel selfish, training so hard and so often. But I just can’t let go. It sounds stupid but it feels like a form of addiction. Should we have all just taken up tennis? I’d appreciate your words of advice Brad.

Yours Sincerely


Hi there Bradley,

First of all I hope your wife doesn’t read this as she might see you as “stirring the pot” and take exception. Also, in answering your question I am not going to say quit the sport so don’t take that as “carte blanche” to let your wife look after the kids while you’re off on a tour de coffee shops. It’s all about balance!

Multisport by name and by nature means that time and effort is of a premium and that is actually the balancing act that professional athletes have to contend with every day in maximising performance. For example, if you have a very hard ride it will affect your next run or swim, so if that is the case planning becomes essential. Every session affects the next, positively or adversely. The rule for me has always been to work on your weaknesses and in that way, you will be a complete athlete, able to adapt to any race situation. That may be a fast swim or a breakaway on the ride, but you can always cover any situation and be in control of yourself and of the race. These days it has changed a little with the professional category basically turning into a running race, negating the ability of being a good cyclist or swimmer. That’s another story though.

This balancing act can also relate to non-professional athletes who want to give just as much as a pro but who have a lot more variables to deal with. When I was racing, you had to keep life simple. I remember the first time I based myself out of San Diego in the early 90’s. There were no complications right down to sleeping. The first 3 months I slept on the floor with a towel for a pillow and one for a blanket. There were a couple Kiwis living next door, including a former world champion Richard Wells. Their touch of home was a racing car set that they sat around and played with when they were bored.

The point I am making is that apart from the racing and training and the essentials such as eating and sleeping all else was regarded as expendable periphery. Back then it was a bit of a selfish lifestyle. However, that is what was required if you needed to race well and make a living in a sport where the top five athletes in the world do well financially and the remainder are usually trying to break through and could almost be classed as below the poverty line. Sacrifice.

That lifestyle has changed for me and I am now coaching other athletes and the goal is all about getting the most out of them in a world full of variables. Sometimes it is frustrating when someone misses a session that is important in for his or her athletic goals because of a work/family related function. I jokingly tell them to get their priorities right and leave work to go full time. However, sport for most serves a purpose secondary to that of family etc.

This is probably magnified when, like you, a couple of ankle biters come into the picture. I have seen some pro athletes have kids who have had to rely on their wives to look after the baby when it wakes up three times a night, as he has to get up and be at his physical best to train to put bread on the table. It does sound a little old-school but it depends on the situation I guess.

The contrast between triathlon as a living and as a lifestyle sport means you have to be careful of its addictive nature. It is required as a pro but sometimes it’s, let’s say, unhelpful in a marriage. I think you can have the best of both worlds and the satisfaction of a full life. A compromise may be a tandem bike and a nanny. Seriously it wouldn’t be too hard to involve your wife in the sport whether that means her actually competing as well or just going away for weekends as a spectator as an incentive to let you train. Everyone wins if you get a week in Hawaii or some other exotic location like Goondiwindi for “Hell of the West”.

Life’s all about compromise and with the amount of time we spend doing something we love such as Triathlon, there has to be balance for the people around you that don’t share the same interests. Triathlon is also a very time-consuming exploit and there never seems to be enough hours in the day to get the improvement you want from it. However, if we sit back and get a little more perspective and prioritise what matters in our lives, your family would have to be on top. Besides the back shed or couch is never any good for your racing anyway.

Brad Beven OAM
Byron Bay Triathlon Ambassador
ITU World Hall of Fame
Australia Hall of Fame