Friday, May 24, 2013

Triathlon is a team sport

As the packing scramble and grumpy days of taper begin, it's time to get down and serious about my race next week.  I leave for Belfort, France on Monday for the ITU Long Distance Age Group world championship on June 1st.

Being a triathlete (even a part-time one with a pretty serious day job) has more to it than simply following a training plan, and executing the repetitive schedule of swim-bike-run-eat-sleep-laundry.   Whether the season goal is just to get to the start line fit and healthy or whether it is to crush an A race, I attribute my ability to participate in this sport not to execution, but to my bench strength.  It is everyone who so graciously helps me out that really makes a difference.  Bench strength, you ask?  You thought triathlon was an individual sport?  Think again.

You may not see them at the finish line, but there is a pretty incredible team that supports me in my tri-endeavors.  Without them, my triathlon exploits would be a little less inspired.

My family and friends who so patiently listen to me rant about training, travel long distances to cheer me on and sometimes even cook me meals when I forget how to feed myself.  They roll their eyes and collectively sigh when I explain my race plans and new equipment and my new gluten-free diet...but they still unconditionally support the hobby that is really sort of crazy and foreign to them.  I could not race without them, period, and am forever blown away by their kindness.  (And to Dan and Jill, who are splitting the Bogey-sitting duties while I am away, I apologize in advance for my nocturnal raccoon of a dog.  I owe you!)     

The uber-coach...coaching is more than just designing the plan.  It's about knowing your athlete, and knowing how to make them the best athlete they can be.  Bjoern is really, really good at this, and that's what makes him not just a coach, but the über-coach!  He works me hard, he calls me out when I am not being accountable, and he enables me to be a better athlete.      

Technical support...Jeremy, Murray, Mike and the team from Speed Theory keep me on the road.  Amateur athletes are not "sponsored" - assistance is purely and absolutely a two-way street (and anyone who tells you otherwise misunderstands this concept).  The term "ambassador" is so much more appropriate, and any support is entirely relationship driven.   Thus, to be clear, I do not praise Speed Theory because of any "deal".  I make my equipment and store choices independently based on research, past experience and customer service - period.  I praise Speed Theory because they are, to me, the best in the business at ensuring I am training and competing on the best fitting and operating bike possible.  Similarly, Todd and the team at Forerunners provide the same exceptional service in the running shoe department, keeping my toes happy in the latest and greatest Mizunos.  Local shops are second to none!               

Body repair....Jess, my RMT, makes me hurt.  Of course, in the best way that hurt can hurt, and in a manner that somehow manages to keep these old legs going.  I battled through an achilles injury last year and can attest that having a great chiro (Aaron), physio (Timberley), GP and RMT on speed dial is absolutely, absolutely essential to being an endurance athlete.  You always hope you are not going need too much assistance beyond normal scheduled maintenance, but knowing that they are there to rescue me when I overdo things a bit (which is usually most of the time) is pretty awesome.

The other training partners and teammates.  Need someone to get up at 5:15am on a holiday to accompany a metric century?  Need someone to slug through a 2 hour run in the rain, listen as I complain about self-inflicted fatigue or understand when I explain that I have eaten 5000 calories in a day and am still hungry?  Want to commiserate about training load, iron deficiency and chafing?  No problem.  While it helps that these amazing peeps are as nutty as me, it is more than that.  Being on the edge of normal (because who wants to be normal anyway?!) means truly understanding why others are driven to pursue endurance goals - and also being in a pretty good place to support someone else.  Last night, I saw one of my teammates jump in to help another with a last minute equipment issue - it is that very attitude of camaraderie, selflessness and team support that makes me enjoy this sport so much.  (Geoff, Dave, Jeanne, Hoz, Gregg, Greg, Gen, Kim, Doug and all of lane 3....thanks for suffering with me - I appreciate you all enormously.  It wouldn't be nearly as much fun without you.)  

So thank you...everyone on team Frank Can :)  I love you all.  Race season is almost here..yippee!!

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