Sure, it’s not basketball or synchronized swimming, but ask just about any triathlete and they will agree that it’s not a solo slog endeavor. All those hours spent swimming, biking, and running–if spent completely alone–would be tough. Granted, we all track some solo hours. After all, the logistics of three sports + day job are hard enough to coordinate for oneself, let alone training with others. But there are ways to make it social:
- Swim: Masters swimming. This one tends to intimidate people, but rest assured, “masters” just means “over 18 years old,” not a reference to someone’s skill level. And yes, some masters squads have fast people, but it’s usually a very diverse group, from former Division 1 college swimmers, to retirees looking to stay fit and visit friends. Since many masters swimmers don’t race in swim meets, it’s not a big deal to take an easy day, modify a set (as long as you don’t surprise/annoy your lane mates), etc. This quote from one of my coaches sums it up: “The last half of the set is choice… OK, the whole set is choice, because it’s masters!” This year, I’ve been swimming with three masters groups, DC Tri Club (where I also coach once a week), DCAC, and Club Tribe. DC Tri has a focus on triathlon swimming (lots of freestyle, open water swim drills, longer sets, etc.) and DCAC takes me back to my high school swimming roots, with all four strokes and sprint sets. (And yes, DCAC is officially an LGBT club, but everyone is welcome.) Club Tribe is officially a William & Mary alumni group, but I haven’t met any actual alumni yet, just a bunch of incredibly fast and supportive swimmers.
- Bike: Biking outside with friends through the countryside is just incredible, especially if we can chat via helmet radios. It’s also often difficult to coordinate, since we usually have different workouts to do, aren’t the same speed, the weather is gross, etc. But there are options. Even when riding indoors, my friends and I find each other on Zwift or text/tweet encouragement. This can be key during pre-dawn sufferfests.
- Run: My coach has figured out that I enjoy running significantly more if it’s with friends, and often assigns runs at “social pace.” During the week, this often becomes “ranting pace” (low speed, high heart rate) as a work friend and I tend to vent about projects, complete with wild arm gestures. All in good fun, though. Recently, the fun factor bumped up about 30 notches when my friend and Coeur teammate, Rachel, organized a group run. We met at the Summit to Soul store on Capitol Hill, enjoyed the perfect weather as we loped around the Capitol building, and then were treated to a fun and challenging mobility session by Sydney from Rose Physical Therapy. Afterward, I had grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup with Michaela at the Pineapple and Pearls pop-up shop. Yes, I’ll take this over a treadmill any day.
- Village: I’m fortunate to have a wide support network. In addition to my parents, who have traveled around the world to cheer for me during races, Elliott is often up for a bike ride or pool session as well. My coach, Mary Eggers, leads the Valor Triathlon Project, which has introduced me to several other awesome coaches and athletes. We have a robust google group for sharing encouragement and asking questions, as well as a super fun annual camp at Lake Placid. Additionally, this year is my first as part of the Coeur ambassador program, and it’s simply wonderful. There are around 100 women on the team from around the world, representing all different backgrounds and levels of expertise, from professionals to back of the packers. Everyone is so incredibly encouraging and positive, as well as passionate about Coeur clothing. (I mean, a women-owned company that makes clothes in the USA that look great, perform amazingly, and last forever–what’s not to love?) The good folks at Rose PT have also been key to keeping me healthy for the past three years. They have identified weaknesses, imbalances, and limiters that could have turned into painful injuries, and healed me up quickly if something still managed to rear its ugly head. Their team is also so active in the community (case in point, Rachel’s Coeur run), I have a frequent reminder to keep up with my injury prevention regime! A few weeks ago, I also started working with a mental skills coach, Shannon. Once I have a few more sessions under my belt, I’ll do a dedicated post on this topic, but I want to make sure she gets a shout-out now as well.
See how easily an “individual sport” can start to sound like an Academy Awards speech?