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Out There: How I’m Celebrating Valentine’s Day

Competitor Magazine columnist Susan Lacke on love, and how to make it work.

The author and her freakishly boyfriend will spend
The author (right) and her freakishly tall boyfriend.

Competitor Magazine columnist Susan Lacke on love, and how to make it work.

Written by: Susan Lacke

Ah, love.

Without it, boy bands would have nothing to sing about, greeting card companies would surely go bankrupt, and we’d no longer be able to use Valentine’s Day as an acceptable reason to binge-eat chocolate and candy. Sounds like a dismal way to live.

As much as I loathed Valentine’s Day in my single days (FINE, I admit it: I was okay with the eating-candy part. Really okay.), I have to say I quite enjoy the holiday now.

How I’m celebrating Valentine’s Day

My boyfriend, Neil, is going to chase me for three miles. It’s gonna be so romantic.

Every year, on the holiday weekend, my town puts on the SkirtChaser 5K, in which couples are split up in two different waves; The first takes off at the gun start, while their partners are sent off three minutes later to try to catch their love before the finish line.

Believe it or not, this is actually a typical date for us. We usually end our dates sweaty, out of breath, and trying to figure out where the heck we put the compression socks.

Get your mind out of the gutter, folks: We’re both runners and triathletes.

As two individuals, we couldn’t be more different.

Neil is 6’5. I’m 5’6.

He’s got a six-pack. I’ve got a cupcake belly.

He eats steak. I eat radishes.

He is an amazingly fast runner and triathlete. I just try not to die before I hit the finish line.

Because Neil’s at a higher level of skill than I am, we rarely train together on the bike or during runs. Often, he’ll go off on his bike while I lace up my running shoes, then we meet back at our house and enthusiastically swap battle stories over a post-workout breakfast. Sometimes, though, the stars align and Neil will saunter into our living room in his running clothes and declare with excitement:

“Hey-y-y-y, honey! My training plan says I’ve got a slow easy run today! I know you’ve got a high-tempo run. It’s a match — looks like we can run together!”

When he says stuff like this, I never know whether to swoon or to smack him.

But somehow, those differences work.

Neil knows what to say to encourage me, and when that fails, he knows what to say to push my buttons. He’s got Teflon resistance to my whining (which I freely admit can reach EPIC levels) and never lowers his expectations. Before I know it, I’m pushing myself and actually liking it. I often find his words bouncing around in my brain and step it up accordingly.

We’ve had many a romantic date in wetsuits, splashing around in lakes. When I’m struggling to keep up with him on the bike, he’s sweet enough to me draft off him. When we have long training days, it’s a perfect excuse to snuggle up and veg out on the couch that night. Romance can certainly be found amidst ice packs, recovery smoothies, and popping blisters.

When he races, I’m a proud girlfriend, woo-hooing and taking pictures. When I race, he’s cheering me on, even though my pace is embarrassingly slow compared to his. If I was in his situation, I’d probably pretend like I didn’t know that slow girl with the skinned knees. But he doesn’t do that. Take it from me, ladies: The kind of guy who lets you jump up to wrap your arms and legs around him for a big sweaty post-race kiss? That kind of guy is a keeper.

Your Own Love Story

Whether they’re participating in the activity itself or serving as your spectathlete, an understanding and supportive significant other is worth a million dollars.  Spoil ‘em a little on Valentine’s Day. They deserve it.

To Neil: Happy Valentine’s Day to my Freakishly Tall IHB. You put up with my endless amount of crap, and for that, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna have a crush on you forever. Let’s have dinner after the SkirtChaser race. I’ll bring the wine…You bring the compression socks <wink-wink>. Love, Stumpy Legs

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Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Look for her first print column in the March issue of Competitor, and follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke.