Most people would describe triathlon as an individual sport. Until two years ago, I completely agreed.
I had been training for triathlon under the guidance of my coach Mike Neill for three seasons. I got together with some friends for training sessions here and there but for the most part I was training on my own. My swim, bike and run were all steadily improving season after season and I was getting the results I was after. I thought I didn’t need to train with a group because I was self-motivated and didn’t mind the solitude of training alone. I didn’t see the value of training with a team.
My husband Mark had already been training with the Human Powered Racing team for a year and had been preaching the benefits of training with a group for some time. I just wasn’t willing to listen until I hit a plateau with cycling in late 2016 and grew frustrated. Long solo rides in the rainy season suddenly felt daunting. I was putting too much performance pressure on my myself and had somewhat lost of the fun of training. Mark thought that joining Human Powered Racing for group rides might help. To my surprise, training with HPR changed so much more than my cycling abilities. After two seasons of training and racing with HPR… I see that training with a team has changed not only my physical abilities but my entire mindset.
Prior to training with the team, sprint distance triathlon was my passion. I loved the fast pace and constantly pushing as hard as I could manage for the entirety of the race. However, if I was truly being honest I really felt that something was missing. I knew deep down that I was clinging to the sprint distance because I didn’t believe I was capable of more than that…until I found the team. Last season, the collective encouragement of my teammates allowed me to make the jump to long distance training and pushed me over the finish line of my first Half Ironman. I didn’t believe I was capable of that accomplishment until it was over. They believed I was capable before I even hit the start line.
Training and racing with HPR has shown me a different side of triathlon aside from the somewhat selfish pursuit of big goals. Training with a team means being surrounded by a group of like-minded individuals that don’t see early Friday night bedtimes and long Saturday morning rides in the pouring rain as weird. It means sharing a laugh post-ride because you’re all freezing and covered head to toe in mud (because of some faulty fenders, including my own). It means watching live coverage of a race at all hours because you want to see your teammates cross the finish line in a different time zone. It means feeling a sense of panic when you can no longer find your teammate on the live Ironman tracker and you check in with their significant other to make sure they’re ok. It means sharing some tears on a Sunday morning long run because of the curveballs that life throws at us. We share in the frustration of injuries, broken bones and the mixed bag of emotions it causes us all as athletes who hate sitting still. It also means supporting the crazy adventures of some teammates that inspire us all to do better, not just in training and racing but in life.
So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful. Thankful for my teammates…my people, me fellow athletes, my friends. Triathlon is so much more fulfilling and fun when I share these experiences with all of you.
“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
― Phil Jackson