How to Train for an Ironman Without Your Wife Finding Out

I am sitting here in Jeju island Korea 36 hours away from my first Ironman race. The title of this posting explains why … because my wife never asked me two key words: “what distance?”. If she did, she would have learned that I was planning on doing something which she had vetoed – for good reason. Let me explain …

My wife and I met February 12, 1987. Her first words were “Hi, I’m Lis Pedersen and I’m here to wash your back.” Lucky me as she was this very attractive woman in a nurses uniform. I was in hospital for knee operation which, unfortunately for my knee, went wrong. This meant that I ended up having four operations instead of one, but on the positive side, I got a great wife out of it so I figure it was a small price to pay.

It took me eight months before I could turn the crank on a bicycle; five years before I ran again. So with this background, it is understandable that Lis tries to take good care of me and save me from my greatest excesses. After I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 2003 (3:43) she said that my first would also be my last as it was very hard on my body. While she would let me do 70.3 half-Ironman triathlons, she drew the line at a full Ironman since she was concerned about the potential damage I would do.

Fair enough, but like most triathletes I was keen on doing “The Toughest Day in Sport” and so in my heart I had this battle between obedience to my wife and giving it a shot. So I decided to (sort of) fulfill both. I decided that I would do an Ironman without explicitly telling her what I was doing. If she asked me details of the race I would tell her and, if she then vetoed the idea, I would accept her decision. Since I’m in Korea that obviously didn’t happen. I did indeed manage to train for an Ironman without my wife finding out. Let me explain how I achieved this feat:

1. Be Subtle. Don’t let on that you are keen on doing an Ironman. In fact, don’t even mention the word Ironman at all. If it’s not on the radar screen, less chance of being found out.

2. Distract Her. This was the hard part with Lis as she is the most switched on person I know. I can’t even get out of bed without her knowing. What helped me immensely was the fact that her sister was visiting during the period of peak training. Lis was then going on holiday to New Zealand so she was very pre-occupied throughout my training period.

3. Don’t Make a Big Deal of Training. This was the most challenging, and it sort of ties into #2. I had the advantage that I only decided to do the Ironman with less than seven weeks to train for it, and only registered just over four weeks before the race. This meant that there was no way I could do the sort of intense training for an Ironman that one normally does. I just subtly increased my volume by lengthening my workouts. She didn’t ask why I was running 22 miles on my way to work instead of the 7 mile runs I normally did, or why I went for an 80 mile bike ride and a 6 mile run when normally I only did half that.

4. Be Sharp (and Lucky). The game was almost up when at dinner my niece asked me how far the race was. I said that Korea was about 3 hours flight from where I was going to be working in China. I was surprised that neither my wife nor her sister (who is equally astute) picked up that I hadn’t actually answered the question.

5. Swear Your Training Partners to Secrecy. You need to ensure that your training partners or anyone who knows the truth do not let on.

6. Be Honest. Finally, if the subject comes up be honest about it. However, as you should when questioned by the police, give no more information than is required. Three weeks before the race they had the Kona Hawaii Ironman championship race on TV. My wife sat in for a while and then turned to me and said ‘From the look on your face I can see that you will do an Ironman one day’. I had to be honest so I said ‘Sooner than later’. This broke rule #1, but my luck held out and she didn’t ask ‘How much sooner’. Had she asked, I would have told her. Similarly, when we chatted this morning about this race she asked how I would do. I said I’ll set a personal record for the race – which one always does the first time you do a distance. Since it came immediately after I had explained how challenging the course was I was expecting her to ask ‘how can that be given the course’, but she didn’t so missed another chance …

So there we have it. If my wife had been her normal, astute self I would not be about to subject myself to Ironman Korea. So I guess I can in part blame her for the crazy situation I find myself in. Good to have someone else to blame 🙂

Postscript: Several people asked how Lis responded when I finally told her. I did it in my usual subtle way, be sending her my race report labelled confession. I also sent her this. Her first reaction was shock:




It is the first time she has every yelled at me in an e-mail … Then when she had calmed down:

“By the way, a lot of stuff makes sense now about your Korea triathlon – the size of the prize money, the fact you felt like hell afterwards to the extent you needed an IV. … and yes, I would have liked to be there for your first and LAST ironman. Now you’ve done it you don’t need to do it again – right? I suggest you get the tatoo on your ankle like everyone else – might stop you from needing to do it again [silly girl, I thought she knew me?]. You are SUCH A HARD CASE!”

At least she’s talking to me 🙂 I am blessed to have such a wonderful and long suffering wife. Anyway, time to check to see if there are any races coming up which aren’t going to cook me. At least this time I can be open about it.


2 responses to “How to Train for an Ironman Without Your Wife Finding Out

  1. What a hoot!! So when’s the next one?? I Was wondering why you were training so hard since you didn’t seem to have anything totally major coming up, but I figured it was just your rabid dedication to fitness. So how are you knees? Your wife won’t be there to wash your back the next time you end up in hospital you know. :o)

  2. That is so funny! My wife has complained some about the amount of time I have trained for my two (so far) Ironmans. I try to arrange my training to still have time with her. Nonetheless, I am printing a t-shirt for her that says “Ironman Widow”. Just got find an Ironman somewhere that she might want to go…I know she would like Cozumel…man, that would expensive…but fun…
    Congrats on your first Ironman!

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