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27 positive lessons triathletes learned in 2020

Triathletes reflect on the positive things they learned through the COVID-19 pandemic

Photo by: Getty Images

When I wrote the editorial for the May, 2020 issue of Triathlon Magazine Canada, I was anticipating that triathlon as we knew it wasn’t likely to happen in 2020:

“I hope we can all also acknowledge that as stressful as the thought of not being able to participate in our sport the way we’d like might be, we need to remember the big picture,” I wrote. “If losing a race season is the worst thing you have to deal with this season, you are in pretty good shape.”

While most of us didn’t have a chance to compete in any events in 2020, many of us found ways to remain positive and learn something new about ourselves and our sport through the pandemic. Here are a few of those positive messages, starting with six from members of Angela Naeth’s iracelikeagirl triathlon team:

Kate Faranetta:
I learned why I do what I do, and that for me, it’s more about the journey than any race! Always enjoy the journey!

Michelle Brenton:
I learned that I can be flexible with my training. This flexibility allowed me to “mix things up,” have fun, and stay fit even though races were cancelled and weekly goals were no more. Having a season of no in-person racing was tough, but taking pressure of myself renewed my mental state and eagerness for great base training heading into 2021. Bring it on!

Amy Woods:
1) I learned that a virtual race can be just as motivating as a “real” race. I BQ’ed and was going to run my first Boston this year. Instead, I ended up running the virtual Boston in September. I trained for it and raced it and PR’ed! PS- I tried to attach a pic below, but it kept saying the file was too big. 🙁
2) I learned that without a full race calendar, I have time to try some fun new sports, like gravel riding and mountain biking! I am hooked!

Related: For Grace Masse, quitting is not an option

Sara Davis:
Being a triathlete in 2020, I learned the importance of Adaptability, patience and the power of community!

Cynthia Falardeau:
The spirit and adventure of the sport never left us. The opportunities were different, the roads and ocean never closed.

Leah Roberts:
I learned to believe in myself. It first started with Angela suggesting I join the IRACELIKEAGIRL E-race team in August. I had serious doubts I could hang with these ladies. By putting myself out there, my teammates have helped me become a stronger rider and I have learned that I belong. I have carried this confidence into running goals such as a 5 km and a mile on the track. At the end of 2020 (a year without competing in triathlons) I am now believing in my ability and am stoked to see what happens in 2021!

The following messages came through a post on Facebook:

Jessica Umentum Jacobs:
I learned many athletes (including myself) enjoy the day to day journey a lot, and maybe even more, than the destination.

Without the pressure of “having to get ready” for a race, 2020 allowed many to simply LISTEN to their bodies, train without massive pressure and hopefully evolve into better, more well-rounded athletes and people!

Janice Shearer:
The value of the friends you meet along the way, the importance of the “village” to help stay the course, to celebrate all things big and little and to love the early early morning workouts!!

Janice Shearer runs with her team mates during an early-morning workout. Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

Valerie Smith:
How much joy and sense of accomplishment there is in just training and making small improvements. While I miss racing I’ve learned training and keeping fit is just a as big a motivator for me.

Larissa Robinson:
I remember wanting to quit Ironman Austria with 8k left to go. Nothing in that race was working out for me. My coach talked me into continuing. I couldn’t have done it on my own. Nothing much went right in 2020, either, but learnt how to roll with it, make the most of what I can and always move forward. It hasn’t been easy, but I found a way each time something went south to keep my true north.

Nick Mallett:
You don’t necessarily need races to be an active triathlete and achieve personal fitness goals.

Rhys Spencer:
That I tried and adored DIY adventures and trail running! Anyone want to buy a Trek Speed Concept size L send me a note

Amelie Kretz:
Her coach, Alex Sereno added: innovation, adaptation

Gary Black:
That big, scary goals are important, because I didn’t do well without them!

Tamara Jewett enjoys an open water swim this past summer. Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

Lynn O’Connor:
That I actuallly miss swimming. My pool has been closed all year.I had no way to get to a lake except a few times at Centre Island.

John Hirsch:
Without racing I still love going for a bike and run. (I might also love a swim but I was too busy loving cycling and running). When I am done racing I won’t be done with SBR.

James Mark Hunter:
The value of good close friends in tough times!

Matthew Hert:
The best thing in triathlon in 2020 was the inspirational story of Chris Nikic – 1% Better Everyday.

Kevin Heinz
I re-learned that you don’t have to do the distance in training to get close in an event , especially if Matt Hio, Chad Bentley and Steve King are in your corner.

Chuck Austin:
Learned at 84, I am no match for Madonna Bruner who is 90!!

Claire Duncan:
This was the first year I had true consistency and man what a difference it made!!!

Jason Kincaid:
I learned about riding for “tiles” (rideeverytile.com) with Strava and Veloviewer. It took me on many new roads, and several gravel roads with my new road bike! Many other adventures with friends on “trails” which involved a lot of push-bike and riding the train tracks. Exploring a lot of the region around Ottawa!

Related: This is a time to race in your own backyard

Anja Hooton:
Focused on riding and took up skate skiing! Just enjoying life was the focus!

Brad Bradley:
That training without a race involved may be the highest form of athleticism (props to Galloway on this thought).

Renate Gaisser:
For me triathlon has always been a hobby on the side and I don’t take it seriously. But the human connection I cherish and I missed that a lot this year – especially hugs.

Marcos Knight:
I learnt to enjoy the process more, seeing my training as part of my lifestyle and not for the races and results (they’re a bonus, but when there are no races we need to be just as happy and motivated as when there are). I took our lockdown as an opportunity to study human anatomy & physiology, and also plenty of reading up on Sport specific nutrition. Those were the Awesome positive things I took from 2020.

David Harrison:
I’ve learned how much my competitors and follow athletes mean to me.