Did you ever wish you didn’t have to leave your significant other behind for so many hours while you train and race? Wouldn’t it be great if your mate did XTERRA too? What a bonus to not have to explain to your partner what you were doing in the woods for three hours or why you are so dirty. Even better, training, traveling and racing means lots of time together.
However, racing can also be stressful, traveling can be exhausting, and if one partner is doing well and the other isn’t, relationship dynamics can change quickly.
Luckily, XTERRA has quite a few couples who have found success in both love and sport. We asked some them for their advice on how they deal with the starting line without ending their relationship.
XTERRA’s power couple – Ben Allen and Jacqui Slack Allen – got married this past March, in Australia, but that hasn’t slowed down their racing one bit. Three days after the wedding, Ben took off for XTERRA Saipan while Jacqui stayed to train for XTERRA New Zealand. When they returned home, they traveled together to Asia for XTERRA Philippines, XTERRA Malaysia, and XTERRA Tahiti.
“The best thing about traveling together is sharing the adventure with the person you love most in the world,” said Jacqui. “When it’s like this, it doesn’t feel like a job. Instead, it’s an experience you will remember forever.”
It’s clear that Ben and Jacqui are great at adapting to what life throws their way. After XTERRA Japan was cancelled, the couple turned their focus to the XTERRA Pan Am Championship in September and headed to Boulder, Colorado to get in some altitude training.
“We realized XTERRA Indian Peaks was right on our doorstep, so we thought, why not?” said Jacqui. She and Ben were each XTERRA Indian Peaks Champs, making it a great day for the couple.
This flexibility may also pay dividends at the XTERRA Pan Am Championship as well. In the past, Jacqui has struggled with Utah’s altitude, so it will be exciting to see what happens this year, now that she has spent time acclimating to the mountain air.
XTERRA’s other power couple is a more fraternal pair: Yaro and Josiah Middaugh, who both race XTERRA and together, head up Middaugh Coaching. Because Josiah lives in Colorado and Yaro lives in Florida, the two aren’t joined at the hip. Instead, the brothers complement each other, making their combined efforts even stronger.
“Yaro and I are 18 months and one grade level apart, so I tagged along with him and his friends for as long as I could,” said Josiah. “Yaro was the standout football, basketball and track star, but I lacked some of that raw power and speed. I gravitated more towards the endurance sports but we did overlap and played on the same basketball team in high school. He sort of came full circle and we did a lot of training together for endurance sports after college when we both lived in Colorado.”
Morgane Riou and Julien Buffe have also learned the art of teamwork. Like Josiah and Yaro, Morgane and Julien complement each other’s strengths. They not only race XTERRA together, but both have made the jump from amateur to pro together as well. Morgane raced XTERRA France as an amateur in 2014 and turned pro in 2015 while Julien was an amateur in 2015 and jumped on the pro circuit in 2016 on the advice of the couple’s coach, Nico LeBrun of Organicoach. Like the Allens, Riou and Buffe are flexible and focus on the positives.
“Julien usually drives, but I am better at cooking,” said Riou. “Julien is also good at orienteering and he gives me advice on the mountain bike and running trails so I am more confident on race day.”
Between races, they return to France where they both work full time as engineers. All of their work holidays are dedicated to XTERRA. For example, next Monday, once they arrive in France after competing in the XTERRA Pan Am Championship, they will go directly to work in order to save a half-day off.
“By traveling and racing together, everything is easier,” said Riou. “If we have to face a problem, we can solve it better together.”
Jacqui Allen agrees. She admits she is still getting used to being called Mrs. Allen, “but everything has stayed just the same. We have always been supportive of each other and shared in each other’s ups and downs, but now we do it as husband and wife which is very cool.”
Of course, there are nuances to traveling as a couple as well. For Jacqui Allen, the toughest part is dealing with the inevitable: when one partner has a great race and the other doesn’t.
“We recognize when each other needs their own space, and on the other side of the spectrum we are there to cheer each other up when things aren’t going so well,” said Jacqui.
The couple also spends time together off the course hanging out at cafes, and going to dinner and movies. After all, despite traveling the world for their sport, XTERRA couples are just like us.
“It’s really important for us to be regular people and do activities other than swim, bike and run. This is key to leading a balanced lifestyle, which can only contribute to our success.”
“Even if it’s a tiring schedule, we don’t regret anything,” said Riou. “We take the opportunity that XTERRA gives us to discover lovely places, new beautiful races and we think these travels contribute to our strength to go over our limits.”