Two Teams, One Goal

By Ashley Tan | Aug. 03, 2017, 7:48 a.m. (ET)

youth team

For some kids, summer is the season for relaxation, camp, pool parties and hanging out with friends. For me, it’s triathlon season. When you’re a triathlete, especially a draft-legal one, when summer rolls around it’s time to pump up the bike tires, stock up on Gatorade (or in my case, Skratch) and get to work. Training is every day, all day long; even so-called “off-days” involve easy shake-out rides, extensive stretching and the dreaded ice bath.

Now, some people may see this as a sacrifice. Who would want to give up their whole summer, including rolling out of bed at 5:45 in the morning to attend a 2-hour swim practice, just to race for 35 minutes? For me, training is my “summer camp.” I don’t see it as a sacrifice because it isn’t one. I get to hang out with my friends while getting in a workout; we even have our fair share of pool parties after especially hot outdoor brick workouts. Long weekend ride on the schedule? That’s two hours of chatting with the people in your pack (when you’re not sprinting to bridge up/pass the pack in front of you, obviously.) Six mile run? Run with teammates to push you, then go get frozen yogurt afterward. Of course, this isn’t the case for everyone. Many athletes are solitary; they don’t train with a team, maybe because they don’t have one in their area or maybe just because they like training by themselves. Whatever training method is personally right for you is the correct one, but for me, since my social life and summer fun ties right into triathlon training, I need a team to motivate me during practices.

youth team

In February of 2017, I moved from Des Moines, Iowa, to The Woodlands, Texas. I had been on the Z3 triathlon team for five years, and they had become like family to me. I had made the decision to stay on Z3 and become an out-of-town athlete, and my coach Jenny Weber knew I needed a team to train with because I needed a.) motivation and b.) social interaction. So once I moved to The Woodlands, I started to go to training sessions with Mach 5, a team led by coach Michelle LeBlanc. Since I was racing with Z3 and would still wear their uniform, I expected Michelle and the other athletes to pretty much just tolerate my presence. However, I was proven very wrong. I was welcomed into the team with open arms; Michelle treated me no different from her other athletes, and the kids I trained with were my first true friends in The Woodlands. I still text Jenny all the time, filling out my TrainingPeaks plan and discussing everything from what I want to add to my training plan going into Nationals (it was more brick workouts and swim practices, just in case you were wondering) to how I’m liking Texas. But now I also have Michelle, who corrects my running form during track workouts and always makes sure I’m staying hydrated in the inhumane Texas heat (no joke, the heat index was 130 degrees last Saturday. That sure was a fun day to workout at noon.)

It can sometimes be difficult having coaches in two different parts of the country, but at the end of the day they share the same goal; to help their athletes perform to the best of their abilities. I am very thankful to be one of those athletes, and I am so grateful to have two teams who I know will always have my back. As I head into my last Nationals as a Youth Elite, I am confident that because of the hard work of my coaches and myself that I will leave everything I have on the course. So maybe I don’t get to lay by the pool all day with school friends, or sleep in till 1 in the afternoon. But I have my team, my training, and my sport, and that’s summer enough for me.

Want to learn more about the 2017 USA Triathlon Youth & Junior National Championships in West Chester, Ohio? Find event coverage at usatriathlon.org/usatjr17coverage.