When it comes to relationships, athletes are like everyone else: We want someone to join us on our long runs, to talk us through injuries and pre-race nerves, and to serve up coffee and motivation when we’re not feeling that 5 a.m. ride.
For Ryan and Jacqui Giuliano, two All-World Ironman athletes from the north suburbs, it’s no different. From their 4:30 a.m. wakeups to their post-Kona celebrations, here’s how this Iron couple makes it work:
Q: How do you make time for one another while you manage busy training blocks and work schedules? Do you prefer training together or apart?
A: During the school year our schedules are quite different so it is actually tough to see each other. (ex: Jacqui leaves at 4:30 a.m., and at the earliest will get home at 4 p.m. if she doesn’t have tutoring or coaching after school; Ryan usually leaves between 1 and 3 p.m. to get a swim in before coaching from 5 to 8 p.m., and comes home when Jacqui is already asleep!) Most of the time we get to see each other on the weekends when training together during long bikes or runs. Then we try to celebrate our hard work with a good brunch or dinner date. It is nice when we are able to train together as we motivate each other to keep working hard and get through the harder workouts.
Q: How do you motivate one another?
Ryan: Jacqui motivates me on a daily basis. I see her wake up at 4:30 in the morning to workout, head to school to teach, go straight into after school of coaching or tutoring, then fit in another workout. I don’t know how she gets so much packed into her days, so I should never have any reason why I can’t get in what I need to daily
Jacqui: Ryan always motivates me by leading by example, as cliché as it sounds. For example, on Saturdays, he coaches his triathlon team and is gone from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., yet comes home and gets his run in and still usually crushes it. Seeing him be smart in his training also motivates me as it has taught me to be smart as well (and therefore less injured).
I would say Ryan motivates me moreso to be smart in my training. He’ll be the first to tell you that he’s been successful in the sport because he’s been able to train consistently, with no injury interruptions, and that makes a huge difference in the body’s ability to adapt to training and perform at a higher level. Learning from him and taking his advice has really helped me become a stronger athlete, both mentally and physically.
Q: Describe a time you’ve helped each other overcome an obstacle, setback or injury?
Ryan: The biggest obstacle for me was trying to figure out how to runner faster than Jacqui in the Ironman! Honestly, she helped me figure out how to dial in my run so that I could run better off of the bike. It took me almost three years of training to finally dial it in.
Jacqui: Part of how Ryan and I re-met was through him helping me through an injury. For the 2007 Chicago Marathon, I had an Achilles problem that Ryan helped me through and I was able to finish the marathon. My most recent example would be dealing with a torn plantar fascia back in October 2015. We thought things were all better and I was all set to tackle Ironman Texas on May 14, 2016, and I flipped over my handle bars the day before the race. I ended up getting a sacral stress fracture, so all of my hard work coming back from the plantar injury was just undone! Luckily Ryan was there for me and helped me stay positive and work on gaining strength in the bike and swim while I was dealing with the run setback, and I came back to have a great race in July.
Q: What are some of the little things that you do for one another during a heavy training cycle?
Ryan: I try to help Jacqui out in the morning by making her coffee and setting out her gear for the day. It isn’t easy waking up at 4:30 to do it, but I will try to help out in any way possible!
Jacqui: Honestly, Ryan helps me more than I help him. Having him up to make my coffee and give me a kiss on my way out at 4:30 a.m. keeps me motivated to do this every day. I do the laundry, which seems to be quite often given how much we workout, so I guess that’s how I help out!
Q: Do you ever become competitive with one another?
Ryan: As mentioned before, we were always competitive with who would run a faster marathon at the end of the Ironman. I remember when I finally ran under 3:10 in the marathon, I told Jacqui that I for sure ran faster than her … ends up she got me by over 3 minutes that day!
Jacqui: YES. I remember in our second Ironman World Championships, I was super excited with my performance. I crossed the finish line knowing I had an awesome run split. I saw Ryan, and he goes, “I’m pretty sure I have you beat this time on the run…I ran a 3:07.” And I looked at my watch, realized it hadn’t stopped, but did the quick math and told him, “Well, sorry buddy, but I’m pretty sure I ran a 3:04.” Our friends used to give us both so much crap for that (but now Ryan beats me.)
Q: How do you help each other calm your nerves before a big race?
Ryan: I think keeping some space and letting one another do their own thing is what helps calm our nerves before big races. We know we both have our routines and stick with them.
Jacqui: 100 percent. And I think, too, just me personally having gone through so many injuries, at this point I am just so thankful to be toeing the line with Ryan that I don’t really have nerves anymore.
Q: How do you celebrate as a couple after Kona?
Both: This past Kona was the best since we both were on the podium for placing top five in the world. As an award, we received sacred Umeke bowls (Hawaiian wooden bowls) and as a way to celebrate, we both went out and bought 4 gallons of ice cream, filled the umeke bowls, and then sat on the beach indulging!