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The Sherpa Wife Chronicles: The Beginning

The other week I had the honor of recording a podcast episode with Arshad Bahl, founder of Amrita Bars and the Nourish Your Passion podcast.  I was guest number TWO, y’all!  Arshad and I chatted away for about an hour on all things family, sport, and life. Oh, an we dished blogging and social media too.

Amrita Bars Podcast Nourishing Your Passion

Part of the discussion focused on my support of John, Family Sport Life’s resident Ironman Triathlete. Today, I am elaborating on how I became a Sherpa Wife.  The beginning wasn’t pretty!

When I wrote the Sherpa Wife Chronicles version of our experience at Ironman Lake Placid I was flooded with emails from athletes who wished their spouses supported them the way I support John. What I want everyone to realize is this is our middle. And you can’t ever compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.

THIS was our beginning…

A little over three years ago I was waking up on a beach. In a tent. The light rain falling from the pre-dawn sky was the calm before the storm. It was barely 6 am. I pat the spot next to me on the air mattress to check for my husband, he wasn’t there. I curse and stumble across the dark tent to check on the kids. At the time they were five and three.

We had planned to sleep on the beach with neighbors but it was the weekend of John’s first triathlon. A sprint distance not too far from where we were camping. John was going to wake up early (is there any other time for triathlon), go to the race, then come back to the beach. The night before the weather looked bad and I asked him if he was planning on racing. With never having completed a triathlon, he was already a triathlete. Yes, he was definitely racing regardless of weather.

As dawn broke, the rain became torrential. I sat there alone, in a flooding tent with two scared kids, and not a clue as to how my life would change over the next few years. The Sherpa Wife Chronicles had begun and I didn’t even know it.

I left the tent cursing John and triathlon (that didn’t take long) to check on my neighbors. We definitely had to get off the beach. Our skin was already pruning and my kids were terrified.

John had taken the truck and I couldn’t drive my volvo wagon onto the beach. I sucked it up. I got the kids to the car, bundled them up in blankets, shoved a bagel in their little hands and locked them in the car while I proceeded to decamp. Running back and forth on a beach with heavy loads of gear on my back. While John was trying not to drown somewhere in the Great South Bay , I endured in my own way.

When I finally got home, I dropped my freezing kids in a hot bath and lied in wait for my prey to walk through the door. I am not going to lie, the second he walked in the door I pounced. I was all sorts of ticked off at being abandoned on a beach in a rain storm while he went off to do this “triathlon thing.” But as I was trying to vigorously make my point, he was already plotting his next race.

It took me a long time to stand beside John and truly support him in his passion for triathlon. I spent much of 2012 resisting what was happening in our home. It was a contentious triathlon season. I attended no races out of a combination of spite, protest, and someone had to be at home with the kids.

By the time the 2012 season ended, I realized there was no way I was going to win this war. Nothing worked, not even indifference. John was determined to make triathlon a lifestyle. Even if I did win this war, what did that mean? John quits doing something that gives him purpose? When I stepped back to reflect on that, it hardly seemed like a win.

In 2013, I made a commitment to shift my perspective about triathlon and embrace my role in supporting my husband. It was not an easy shift to make and something I continue to work on.

Looking back on the last three years, I can tell you that triathlon has strengthened me in ways I didn’t expect and I am not even a triathlete. It has taught me more about motivation, goal setting, performance psychology, and human behavior than any graduate class I have ever taken. It has taught me that the world is big enough for all of our dreams. Standing is the shadows of someone else’s achievement knowing you played a role in that success has brought me a level of confidence I didn’t expect. A confidence that has allowed me to step out of the shadows and stand in my own success.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without John’s competitive spirit, triathlon, Ironman, and all the friends we have made along the way.  It’s been a great ride and just wait till you see what we have in store for 2015!

If you listen to the podcast (which you are all rushing to do RIGHT NOW), I would love to hear your feedback!

Tell me about a time when you had to shift your perspective.

20 comments - Latest by:
  • Tara Newman I think sometimes we forget to talk about our beginnings. Not to hide anything but because we forget or …
  • Tara Newman Thanks Nellie. It felt good to tell the story.

Get Your Groove Back Meal Plan

Looking for new real food recipes? Check out this MEAL PLAN INSPIRATION via @familysportlife


This past week was an off week for us with meal planning.  Last weekend we decided to chuck a lot of our responsibilities aside to get out doors and nurture our family.  Chucking our responsibilities meant not really doing a great food shopping, no meal planning and no food prep.

I didn’t quite realize what I was doing when I made that decision last weekend.  We spent the week out of sorts, not sure what we were eating for dinner, scrounging in the cabinets for ingredients, and meals of any kind were disorganized. Without a proper grocery shopping, I didn’t have a ton of stuff to pack for lunches which meant The A’s bought more days than not.

Not surprising the kids loved the “laid back” eating plan and have been trying to strategize a way to maintain this new program.  So, now I am left trying to figure out how to get our groove back this week.

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16 comments - Latest by:
  • Tara Newman Whoa! That's huge for you that he is doing the cooking. That must be a big help.
  • Sarah @ Beauty School Dropout Love your simple meal plan! My husband has almost completely taken over cooking in the past week or so …

How to Slow Down the Holiday Rush

Stress Less This Holiday Season with these tips to slow down the holiday rush.  via @familysportlife

(c) Depositphotos/markin

Nine years ago my son was born in October and prior to going to the hospital I sent out handmade Thanksgiving invitations to 23 of my closest relatives.  Packed in my overnight back was my coveted collection of Bon Appetite magazines.  I had already tested most of my recipes, created 23 individual menus and decided on the pumpkin bread I was going to bake to be given out as “favors” (one loaf per family).  Nobody was allowed to bring anything.  I took great pride in doing it all myself.

This had been my routine for the three prior years.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and nothing made me happier than to spend six months planning for my big day.

Thanksgiving 2005 went off without a hitch but I was tired.  I had little time to recover before I started to plan for Christmas Eve, my second favorite holiday.  I love the sparkle and enchantment and the magic.

I remember running around Christmas Eve day like a LUNATIC.  The expectations I had put on myself were too much and I was cracking quickly.  My sister looked at me and said (with great irritation) “you have GOT to CALM DOWN.”

And you know what? She was absolutely right.  If I couldn’t manage the expectations I was putting on myself, I needed to lower the bar.  I needed to create traditions that brought me joy in the simple things allowing me to savor these precious moments with my kids.

So I said farewell to Thanksgiving for 23 with handmade invitations and favors.  Instead, I said hello to things like our annual tradition of “Christmas Tree Hunting.”   We take the kids to go hiking at Mohonk Mountain Preserve and cut down our own tree the day after Thanksgiving.  Something I wouldn’t have had the energy for if I was catering a large Thanksgiving.

We now go to my sister-in-laws for Christmas Eve so I can focus on decorating gingerbread houses, making reindeer food, hiding elves, and watching Christmas specials.

In the nine years since my son was born, life has changed a lot.  Our family’s interests and hobbies have changed.  Each year brings a new exciting stage in our kids lives.

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19 comments - Latest by:
  • Ana Lynn These are great tips. Just the other day, Frank and I have been talking about whether or not we want …
  • Tara Newman That's the bummer of it isn't it? That you wind up feeling inadequate and comparing. That's how I used to …

4 Ways to Help Stressed Out Kids

Do you have stressed out kids? Here are 4 quick ways to help them via @familysportlifeTo be honest, I don’t think much about whether or not I have stressed out kids.  They are KIDS. They run, play, drop their stuff where it lands, don’t have financial worries, and don’t need to keep other humans from harm. Being a kids is easy! Or at least that’s why I thought until this week.

Last week I wrote about the day I almost collapsed under the weight of working motherhood. I mentioned my son, age 9, having a bout of forgetfulness and my daughter complaining she didn’t feel well. While we did manage to find all the lost items, he still seems scattered. He forgot his homework this week and is struggling to keep organized.

My daughter, age 6, has been complaining of mysterious stomach aches and has been skipping lunch a few days a week.

After a days of biting my tongue, rolling my eyes, and repeating my “calm parent” mantra, I couldn’t shake the feeling that things weren’t adding up. I was confused and frustrated by the uneaten lunches and trips up to school for forgotten homework items.  Having a scattered kid was making me feel scattered and anxious.

For years we have worked hard to provide a framework for organization in our home and these recent behaviors are pretty uncharacteristic at this point in our lives.  Prior to the last few weeks my son has only forgotten his homework three times in the last two years.

Six days after my frustrations hit a boiling point, I started to get some clarity.   It’s possible I have stressed out kids.  A quick google search confirmed they were exhibiting short-term symptoms of stress – stomach aches, distraction, forgetfulness, nightmares, and overreaction to minor problems. Additionally, Big A has started to remind me about his schedule, obsessively. Numerous times a night he will let me know me he needs to be somewhere the next day at a certain time.   Since we have never missed an activity, I found this a strange hyper-vigilance.

Once I identified what was happening, I thought through what quick actions I could take to help my kids feel less overwhelmed.

4 Ways to Help Stressed Out Kids

Increase Communication

When you increase communication you decrease stress. As a coach, I can tell you there is tremendous power in asking open ended questions to help a person process their thoughts. If you were going to coach your children through their stress, you could try these questions:

  • Reflect back to what you think your child is feeling and ask, “What’s up?” This is my go-to question when working with my kids. It even works well when a child is acting out.
  • Tell me about your day (or week).
  • How can I support you? or What can I do to help?

Provide Structure

Structure comes in many different forms. It can be a calendar, checklist, or doing the same thing at the same time. For my family, checklists are a powerful tool to help us create habits, delegate tasks, and ensure accountability. Checklists have become a simple way to conquer feelings of overwhelm.

Start Subtracting

Take a look at your calendar and the activities you have scheduled. Maybe some things can be removed. This week we had two nights where we canceled an activity to provide more space for The A Team to decompress. In a rare scheduling mishap, we were going to have to go to soccer from a Daisy meeting. We agreed to pick one activity but not both. Instead we made sure everyone was settled on the couch by 6 pm for family movie night.  We are teaching our kids that trade offs are a necessary part of life.

4 Quick Ways to Help Stressed Out Kids via @familysportlife


Get Outside and Enjoy Nature

We chose to unrush our weekend by prioritizing time together.  Yes, that meant things didn’t get done – the house project I am working on got set aside and we did the bare minimum with food prep.  People before things.

How do you help your kids work through stress?

Kid’s Health Article on Childhood Stress

24 comments - Latest by:
  • Tara Newman Good luck working with your daughter. Would love to hear how it goes.
  • Jenn @ The Art of Better Thanks for posting on such an important and timely subject. Our eleven year old has seem to have lost her …

NYC Marathon Race Report

NYC Marathon Race Report

When I clicked “submit” on the NYC Marathon Lottery entry earlier this year, I had no expectation of being selected to run the race.  My rational for entering was simply to get my first year of rejection done so I could build on the program they have which guarantees entry in year four, after not being selected for three years.  After all, this was the year I was doing AmZof and Ironman Lake Placid, a late-season marathon didn’t really seem like a good idea.  Well, my luck changed this year and I got a slot.

For me, NYC was a bucket-list race.  I wanted to do it because it’s one of the most iconic marathons in the world (second behind Boston and The Great Wall of China Marathon).  I only planned on doing it once and this was going to be the year.  This was also going to be my first open marathon, so my plan was to race it like a runner, not a triathlete.  The timing actually worked out pretty well.

Marathon Training

After a few weeks of light recovery work from IMLP, I began a very run-focused training block for this race.  I was only trying to maintain bike and swim fitness, resulting in one or two sessions a week of each.  Everything else was going to be running.  With each week, I built up my run volume from about 20 miles per week to 50 in an 8 week span.  A good combination of aerobic runs, longer tempo runs, threshold interval sessions and recovery led to a peak run of 22 miles at goal pace, 2 weeks out from the race.  Two weeks of taper with several scheduled (and unscheduled) rest days had me feeling pretty good on race morning.

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19 comments - Latest by:
  • misszippy And now…I must apologize for not reading carefully enough! It's funny, too, b/c when I saw the post I immediately …
  • Tara Newman Ha! Amanda, I wish I was that awesome but it was JOHN who ran :-) I just run to …