It is hard being a supportive and encouraging wife when you are married to a complete and utter nutcase. Now don’t get me wrong, I am VERY conscious of the many ways that Stephen is saintly and wonderful, but there are also times when I look at him in complete bemusement and wonder whether he is actually “all there”. You see, the thing is, that Stephen thinks he is …. Lance Armstrong. He will sign up for the most ridiculously difficult triathlons and cycling events; read everything he can find on the subject and buy every single piece of equipment that could possibly help him on his fitness journey. But never quite get around to doing any training. Nada. Zilch. Zero. And I have said NOTHING over the years – I have just smiled and listened and dug a fork into my hand under the table. But now things have really gotten out of hand, because my mad-in-the-head husband has signed up for an eye-wateringly difficult race in Sweden, hired a personal trainer who lives in …. Texas (I am not kidding), and seems oblivious to the fact that some of the top Ironmen in the world are too afraid of entering this race because it is “too hard”.
At first, I thought it was pretty harmless. I mean, the way Stephen described the race, I thought it was a mini-triathlon but without the cycling. I was a LITTLE concerned, because when it comes to triathlons, the cycling part is the only bit that Stephen is actually good at. He hates swimming unless his feet can touch the bottom (this rules out most races that take place outside of the gym) and is not a great fan of running (his running style resembles that of a constipated duck) and so the cycling leg of any race is where he makes up for lost time.
So you can understand my concern at the fact that he had signed up for a race. In Sweden. Where there was no cycling. It was just too odd for words.
“But what should I do?” I asked my friend Annabel while shoving some medicinal lemon meringue pie into my mouth. “I don’t want to be one of those critical wives that never support their husbands, but this race sounds ridiculous!”
“Have you done any research or looked at their website?” replied Annabel while carefully cutting her baby tomatoes into quarters to make them last longer. “Maybe it’s actually not that bad.”
“Good point,” I sighed while scrolling through my phone and logging onto the Internet. “We might as well know exactly what we are dealing with.”
Anyway, it turns out that this “little race” that my husband signed up for is called the Otillo and is referred to as “one of the toughest one day races in the world”. Apparently teams of two (Stephen and his poor brother Andrew) race together from island to island – swimming between the islands and then running on them to the next stretch of water. The total distance is 64 kilometres of which 10 km are swimming and 54 km are running. Great.
By now, Annabel was laughing so hard that I had to raise my voice so that she could hear me over her squeals of delight.
“It gets worse!” I hissed. “They only have from dawn to dusk to finish the race and so it is common practice for team members to run the 54kms in their bloody wetsuits to save time, because they have to get in and out of the water 38 times!”
I was actually too stunned to pat Annabel on the back as she choked on a piece of cucumber. This was getting more and more bizarre!
“But surely no-one else is going to take part,” she whimpered, wiping her eyes with a serviette. “Maybe it will be cancelled due to lack of entries?”
“Nope,” I replied sadly. “There is actually a rather long list of teams taking part. Red Bull Ironman, the Swedish Armed Forces have fourteen teams, the US Marines have six teams, and then there’s … … Stephen and Andrew.”
What on earth was I going to do?
Later that evening, having taken the bull by the horns (in a manner of speaking), I voiced my fears to Stephen, trying very hard to ignore the wounded expression on his face.
“It’s just a big deal,” I sighed in frustration. “I don’t want you taking on a challenge that is so enormous that you can’t possibly see it through!”
“I KNOW that,” frowned Stephen. “Which is the precise reason that I have hired a personal trainer! Brett will train me specifically for the event and make sure that my fitness levels are spot on before the race!”
I must admit that I was dead impressed. Maybe Stephen was taking this a bit more seriously than I had thought.
“And will he train you at the gym or meet you here for a run?” I asked, beginning to get a little excited at the thought of Stephen completing the race.
“Erm, well, neither actually,” Stephen replied. “Because he lives in Texas…”
Yup, my husband had signed up to do the world’s toughest one-day race in Sweden with his brother that lives in the UK while being trained by a man that lives in another time zone in the United States of America. Superb.
Anyway, the latest news is that the whole situation has gotten even worse. Because Stephen has now started boxing lessons with a professional boxing coach at a gym in Linksfield. I have no idea whether he thinks that there is a boxing leg of the Otillo or whether he has completely and utterly gone off the deep end. Who knows?
All I can do is smile and wave. And listen to all his plans. And try not to roll my eyes when he shows me pictures of the latest wetsuit and flippers that will help him finish the Otillo. And comfort myself with the thought that it could be so much worse.
He could take up ballet. And I, for one, would not be all that surprised!