Triathlon is made up of three individual sports done in succession – swim, bike and run. For me, each discipline represents a personal and individual challenge, made more complex with the addition of wearing a wetsuit, stripping said wetsuit off while running, throwing shoes on for the cycle, battling elements as they come your way, and then hopping off the bike for the final run (or in my case, walk).
It is, for all intents and purposes, an individual sport.Or is it?
I have come to believe that in triathlon, the sport itself may be individual, but it is through the preparation, motivation and training that you can find the team.This is my third triathlon. Over the years I have built up quite a team!
Number one on my team is my husband, who chides me to the gym on the days when I am sluggish, who hypes up my performance when I am feeling low, and who is my all around number one cheerleader (and a friendly bit of competition too as he does the Olympic distance triathlon).
Second on my team is my friend Bond. Bond convinced me to try triathlon. She has always been ready to train with me – from jumping on her bike to help me to feel more confident on the mean streets of London to doing our pool training together, she kicks my butt ways that only a true friend could, and then we have a coffee (or white wine spritzer or five) and laugh about it all at the end.
In 2007 when I decided I was going to try a triathlon, I also invited Michael Collins, aka Magic Hands, to be a part of my team. Michael is a sports therapist, aka torture specialist. I see him about once every 10 days for 2 hours, for a lot of work from my feet up. He stretches my legs, works out my tight hips and hamstrings, releases my tib ants and works on each muscle of my foot. In addition to being a sports therapist, Michael is also a multiple Ironman, and has competed for Britain in the European long course championships – so he is also my triathlon spiritual guide. He has taken me into the pool and shown me how to improve my stroke, he talks me through my training plans to ensure I am putting in the time and distance to improve and get strong. And along the way over the past 3 years he has become a great friend and confidant. I honestly can say that without Michael I would not be able to do the triathlon – he has inspired and assisted with my triathlon development as both a true professional and a great friend.
My extended team includes all the folks at the Institute of Neurology at the National Hospital for Neurosurgery and Neurology in London. I have received what can only be described as top-notch world-class care from the doctors, nurses, staff, physiotherapists and researchers at the ION. They are on call, just an email away, to answer my questions about how a nerve disease like CMT interacts with my muscles and training plans. They offer me support on tap – I am not sure of how much I am challenged by my nerve disease, and I am not sure how my challenges may grow with time, and I have many questions about how to approach training with the potential challenges of CMT. Everyone at the ION answers each and every one of my questions with professionalism, patience and curiosity. I feel like we are making my journey to do an Olympic distance triathlon together, and I am so appreciative of their help and support.
In the run up to the London triathlon on 2008 I read an article which described Intramusclar Stimulation as a means of causing deep muscle release and its potential benefits to those with muscle atrophy (muscle atrophy is typical of patients with CMT, especially peripheral muscles along the calf, ankle and foot). Through the internet I found Julie Gear, an IMS practitioner in central London. I don’t see Julie often, but I know that by combining her therapy with that of Magic Hands, and good training, I see and feel the results.
This year, with all of the troubles I have been experiencing while adding running into the mix, I have also added Terence Collins to my team. Terence is a British Triathlon Foundation certified coach, a multiple Ironman, and on top of that, he has the fortune of being the brother of Magic Hands! So far he has spotted my left side weakness while swimming, giving me loads of drills designed to strengthen and improve my left side skills, and he has developed a joint stability / core / balance programme to help my knees and to address the weakness which I may develop from CMT. When I first met Uncle Terry, I let him know that helping me would involve signing up to the team – I hope he didn’t mind being enlisted! It has been great fun to work with him so far.
Finally, another 2009 addition to the my training team has been through my use of Twitter. There are so many inspirational folks in the Twitter-verse, and their messages of encouragement and comments to my daily training progress really do keep me focused and going. Someone once said if you write it down, you will do it. Twitter takes this to a whole new level – if you tweet something in 140 characters to the whole world, then yes, you really do feel the pressure to follow through! I love the triathlon twitter team and all that it has added to my training and quest to do the Olympic distance triathlon in 2010.
So is triathlon a team sport? Yes, indeed, it is!