I think it’s a little bit of a misconception that triathlon is an individual undertaking. Of course, it is the athlete putting in the hard yards and slogging out a race for up to 17 hours. I have written previously about the importance of recognising family and friends throughout your journey, but I wanted to take time out to thank my awesome support network. Obviously there are my superbly supportive companies that help me achieve my goals and completely get where I want my triathlon career to go. On top of this, the professional relationships that I have built with my coach, nutritionist and physio have all played a massive role in my development and support. Most of all, I can contribute my success to my family, namely my wife and her parents.
Without a proper support network in place, training and racing becomes an uphill battle. The early mornings are tougher, the fatigue creeps in a lot faster, and the hard training sets seem impossible. I know this, because my wife went away for a long time (work, nothing to worry about marriage wise), and it was one of the hardest times of my life – being a single working Dad to a dachshund whilst still training 15-20 hours a week. If it wasn’t for the overwhelming desire to get to the start line it would have been extremely easy for me to give up during that time. This period enabled me to get greater perspective on the role that triathlon plays in my life, yes it is a major component however it is nowhere near as important as my family – even though my bank balance would disagree sometimes.
It is amazing how your successes can be shared across so many people – especially when you consider that triathlon is considered to be a ‘solo’ sport. To be honest, when I crossed the line in my first iron distance race, I think that my wife was more thrilled than I was – mainly because she got her husband back (albeit for only a short time) – but also because she had suffered through every tough training session, every hint of illness, every niggling injury, every 4am wake up, every neglected chore. This was her race just as much as it was mine. I think that we as athletes can easily get wrapped up in our own little worlds, however I implore each and every one of you out there to sit back and consider just how tough life could be without the support of your networks.
So what can we gain from this experience? Simply, share your journey. Those who surround you can either make your journey hell, or an amazing experience. They care about what you are doing, they really do. Talk about your commitments, because your family deserve to have a say in your training and your racing. The best thing that I ever did was to give my wife my coach’s phone number. Now, if something just doesn’t seem right and I am too caught up to notice, my wife will be on the phone straight away to get some sense drilled into me before I hurt myself or do some serious damage.
Finally, never forget to thank those people who contributed to your journey – those coaches who have slaved over computers and session plans for hours, the physios trying to straighten out us human pretzels, the nutritionists racking their brains to the source of our gastric distress, the teammates who have heard you talk non-stop about your upcoming ‘A’ race, and the sponsors out there who tear their hair out constantly, hoping that you consistently deliver the image for their product that they want. Most of all, however, thank your families. The wives, the husbands, the kids, the parents – because they truly have been with you every stroke, pedal and step of the way. It is their race just as much as it is yours. They have suffered just as much as you, and they will be just as proud as you when you cross that finish line.
Triathlon – it’s definitely not a solo sport.
Love the pain.
Ben Shepherd - Ambassador