You know what's great about love? You never know when it will hit you.
Sometimes Cupid dons running shoes, chases down two unsuspecting souls and brings athletes together for the race of a lifetime — falling in love.
Couples who compete in triathlons often find that the common interest tests and reaffirms their relationship, making it stronger than ever.
Jodi and Dave Seevers of Gretna have been married a little over five years. They have competed in 17 races together — triathlons, Ironmans, marathons, fun runs, you name it. Add another dozen or so in which one was racing and the other cheered from the crowd.
The couple first knew of each other through a mutual friend but hadn't met in person. One night as Dave was watching the news, a woman being interviewed about an adventure race said something he will never forget. It was Jodi, his future wife.
“I was describing the race and the adventure of it and how the uncertainty of the day made it worthwhile,” she said. A mesmerized Dave recognized her from pictures and thought, “Exactly.”
That started their adventure, he said. The passion for competing and pushing themselves to the next level was the initial attraction.
The Seevers' first date wasn't your typical dinner and a movie. Instead, they ran seven miles around Lake Zorinsky. Jodi, eyeing Dave's Jeep that was outfitted with pool noodles to hold a kayak, was smitten. They married six months after that first run.
In 2011, the couple competed in Ironman Canada.
Dave was on his way to setting a personal record when Jodi started having stomach issues, making it difficult for her to complete the marathon — a triathlon's home stretch.
“I had a decision to make. Do I keep going and get my fast time or help my wife?” Dave said. “There was no decision. … I just knew being by Jodi's side was more special than a fast time.”
They crossed the finish line holding hands.
Unlike the Seevers, a love of good food brought Omahans Cade and Molly Pearson together. They met at Oklahoma State University in 2002, and dates consisted of going out to eat … all the time.
“We did our thing and ate and didn't worry about it. We woke up one day and things were out of control,” Molly said.
During the first nine years of their marriage, both Molly and Cade tried to diet, but they were never in sync.
“We would go back and be fat and lazy together,” Cade said.
But in 2010, after completing a couple shorter distance triathlons and running races, the Pearsons got in the groove. Together they lost 100 pounds, thanks to long hours of training.
Couples with similar, time-consuming interests should proceed with caution, said Brier Jirka, a sex therapist at Methodist Physician's Clinic Women's Center. Training for hours, resting and traveling to compete leaves little time for intimacy and each spouse's individual needs.
“Healthiest couples are the ones who first take care of themselves, then take care of the relationship. You need two healthy people to have a relationship,” she said.
Now, 100 pounds lighter, the Pearsons are healthier than ever and say spending that much time together isn't too taxing, even after 11 years.
“We could be together 24/7,” said Cade. “The first time we took a road trip, we drove six hours and never turned on the radio. … We have known each other this long and it's as interesting as the first day.”
But every great love story comes with trials and tribulations.
The Pearsons planned to compete in Ironman Arizona last year. They both started the race, but only Molly finished — Cade had to drop out due to the flu.
“His body had enough. I gave him a hug and a kiss and said, 'I will finish for both of us,' and that's what I did,” said Molly.
A weak, tired and unselfish Cade followed her along the run route for hours — making sure he was there for his wife when she crossed the finish line.
“(Dave and Cade) were prioritizing their relationships. Being there for their wives was just as important as finishing the race,” relationship expert Jirka said. “Can any relationship work if you don't support your spouse?”
The Seevers and Pearsons know that love can be trying, but they wouldn't want to try with anyone else. A passion for triathlons brought one couple together and gave the other something to work toward. Both are stronger for having competed alongside their loves.
Jodi Seevers compares racing to marriage — sometimes one partner pulls ahead or falls behind, and sometimes one depends on the other during tough times. Cade Pearson couldn't agree more.
“We just have gone through so many trials and efforts and had long days together, and it doesn't matter if I didn't finish (the race),” he said.
“It brings us together, especially with something so difficult to do, physically and mentally.”