Taking the plunge

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Sarah Groff placed fourth in the triathlon at the 2012 Olympics and was the highest American finisher.

In January, I said "yes" to the most wonderful question I've ever been asked: whether I would marry my amazing boyfriend of three years, Ben. Overnight, I transformed into a whirling dervish of manic wedding planning -- alarming my poor fiancé. I'm sure that he wondered what latent insanity was unleashed by presenting me with a ring!

In my defense, we had only two weeks to find a wedding venue and planner before I would travel from our home in New Hampshire to my winter training base in New Zealand. Since arriving in Christchurch, I've kept up my planning, albeit at a less fiancé-scaring pace.

Between the workouts, meals and naps that define the training camp grind, I have been able to research and slowly chip away at a vast to-do list, thanks to the wonders of the Internet.

While it is entirely likely that I'm making far-fetched connections worthy of a deluded conspiracy theorist, I can't help but see some parallels between the wedding planning process and my life as a professional athlete. Here are 10 of the (possibly tenuous) similarities I've discovered:

Courtesy of Sarah Groff

Sarah Groff, with fiance Ben True, a pro runner. The couple got engaged in January.

Don't underestimate the value of hiring a guide. One of the first actions I took was to hire a wedding planner. I am disorganized and inexperienced in planning and get too caught up in minor details to see the "big picture" -- and I have a triathlon coach for the same reason. Although plenty of brides successfully plan a wedding themselves and quite a few athletes self-coach, I find that having an expert with vision allows me to enjoy the process and keep my stress in check.

Keep your budget in mind. While Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are planning to spend $30 million for their wedding, most of us have a far more modest budget. Athletes also have to stick to a fixed energy and time budget. By constantly being aware of and respecting your limitations, you can avoid pushing yourself into debt of any sort.

Be wary of trends. I was pretty shocked to discover that there is currently a Disney princess wedding trend. For adults. While I'm guessing that this trend will quickly go the way of Jazzercise, it highlights the danger of jumping onto a trend bandwagon, whether with fashion, technology or nutrition. Sure, Jane Fonda looked amazing in a leotard and leg warmers, but many people realized how ridiculous they seemed with the benefit of hindsight.

People want to sell you junk you don't need. The danger of the Internet and trade magazines is that you end up convinced that you can't live without a custom bobblehead wedding cake topper or the newest pair of carbon-soled recovery flip-flops. But you don't need it. Close the magazine, leave that Web page, be mindful of your budget and remember that you can't buy the human aspects that make an athletic career or wedding a success.

Look to others for inspiration, not for comparison. I'd never been on Pinterest before I got engaged in January, and I've learned that this highly addictive site produces one of three responses: 1) Oh cool! I like that. 2) Blech! I feel much better about my awesome taste. Or 3) I wish I could look like that or do that for my wedding, but that's impossible. Now I feel bad about myself.

As an athlete and an increasingly less-Pinterested future bride, I've learned that only the first response is actually productive.

Courtesy of Sarah Groff

Sarah Groff, far right, trains in New Zealand during the winter.

Most of the details just aren't that exciting. In wedding planning, you spend a lot of time thinking about mundane details like money and bathroom access. And unlike what you see depicted on TV, most professional athletes spend a lot of time thinking about mundane details like, well, money and bathroom access. As exciting as the end product may seem, the day-to-day process is definitely not glamorous.

There's beauty in simplicity. While it isn't for Ben and me, I can understand the appeal of eloping. You strip everything down to the exchange of vows, the most important element of the ceremony. I can appreciate the purity of the approach for training too. As much as I enjoy structured workouts, some of my favorite runs are when I can head out the door without a route, time or distance in mind. Without the distraction of details, I can fully enjoy my surroundings and my joy for running.

Don't worry if people won't "get it." I have been an athlete for years but realize that most of my loved ones still don't quite understand why I relish the feeling of jelly legs after a hard training session or race. Likewise, I realize that not all of our guests will fully appreciate bluegrass covers of '80s hits. They will, however, appreciate that it is important to us. Those who love you will always respond to what makes you passionate, even if it isn't something they want for themselves.

Keep perspective to keep your sanity. Do you remember the scene in the movie "Aliens" when the baby alien pops out of Ripley's abdomen? Occasionally during hard training blocks, it can feel like my inner grumpy gremlin wants to burst out and I have to contain it. Stress and fatigue can bring out Ms. Hyde. Chill brides can transform into Bridezillas, and humble athletes can become divas. By taking a deep breath and remembering to put things into perspective, you'll be able to keep your inner monster in check.

Do it for the love. Will planning our wedding take some effort? Sure. Does pushing my body in training require hard work? Of course. With deep love for what I do and for Ben, however, it's amazing how easy this "hard work" can be.