Death and Training and Racing

By Dr. Steve Jonas | March 15, 2019, 2:22 p.m. (ET)

Grief

Talking Tri-/Duathlon for Ordinary Mortals®: A Series, (No. 56, 2019/03)  

Last year was not a good one for me. I had the worst tri/du racing season I have ever had since I first started in the sport in 1983. As I recounted in my last two columns of last year (My Lost Season and A Season Recovered), I ended up doing just one of the half-dozen or so races that I had planned for that year.

But then, after my season was over, something much worse happened. After a four-year illness, my wife, Chezna, passed away on Oct. 25. We had been together since 1999 and married since 2010. She was a great lady and we had many wonderful times together. Some of you may remember meeting her at a race, for she did enjoy going with me from time to time to cheer me on.

When you lose someone after a long illness that has a known outcome (as hers did), it is certainly not the shock that sudden death brings. But the emptiness is there. When she was gone, it really did hit me that she would never be going to a race with me again. Much more importantly, the love we shared, and all the things that we so enjoyed doing together — from spending time with our children and grandchildren to going to the theater to traveling far and wide — were now in the past. How does one overcome that?

In the aftermath, my life really slowed down. For example, I have not published a column in this space since last October. As some of you know, I also write regularly on politics, and that frequency diminished as well. One also has to take time to deal with all the mechanical details involved when a loved one passes. And of course, as I said above, even when death has been expected, it is still quite a downer for one’s feelings. So, along with everything else, my training slowed down and became irregular, too.

Since I started out in racing, my custom has always been to take off two weeks or so at the end of the season, but then get back into a light, but regular, winter training program. This past fall, that didn’t happen. The two weeks stretched out to four, and when I did start training again, it was very sporadically. That lasted through the rest of 2018 and into this past January. But then, finally, I began to look at a schedule for this upcoming season, and I realized that I really had to get back to it. At the end of January, I started back in on my regular 13-week program on which I cycle through the season.

And guess what? After a couple of weeks into it, sticking to it, doing my minutes (for the 36 years I have been doing multisport races, my workouts have always been counted in minutes, not miles), and adding some stretching and a bit of weight training, I started coming out of it. I started moving from post-death-of-my-life-partner to pre-the-rest-of-my-life.

Time, of course, is important, but I do believe that getting back into exercising regularly and planning out a full racing season (even though last year had been mainly one of races-not-done) has made a huge difference for me. It has helped to put me back in control of my life. It has helped me to look forward again, rather than back. And it has brought home to me how important regular exercise is for me, physically and mentally, and has been for so many years.

And so, when you hit a major crisis in your life — and we all do sooner or later — think about how regular exercise, and racing for those of us who race, can help us get through it, in a very healthy way.


This series of thoughts and recommendations about multisport racing by Dr. Steve Jonas is, over time, drawn in part from his book “101 Ideas and Insights for Triathletes and Duathletes” (Monterey, CA: Healthy Learning/Coaches Choice, 2011), from which text is used with permission. The book can be purchased here and is available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.

Steve’s most recent multisport book is “Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It” (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012), available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

His first book on multisport racing, “Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®, 2nd Ed.” (New York: WW Norton, 2006) also can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.