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Professional triathletes share how they are coping amidst the pandemic

Canadians Angela Naeth and Jackson Laundry share their experience over the last four months

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On January 31st, Triathlon Canada first posted a travel advisory to all athletes and coaches to “avoid all essential travel” to China. By mid-March, all athletes were advised to travel home as much of the world went into lockdown, and race cancellations quickly followed. 

As more light was shed on COVID-19, the professional and recreational sports world was put on the back burner – and rightfully so. With the novel coronavirus’s unprecedented infection rate, healthcare systems and governments needed (and need) time and resources to manage the situation. However, that doesn’t mean this has made the circumstances we find ourselves in easy. It has been challenging for everyone. So much of the things we once enjoyed have either been put on hold or looks very different from normal. Nothing is ‘normal.’ And yet we find ways to keep moving forward. 

coping with COVID-19
Ironman 70.3 Campeche was one of the last Ironman events to take place before the lockdown. One in which Jackson Laundry took second place in his first race since a devastating crash at the 2019 Ironman 70.3 Championships. Photo: @trimexico

Related: Laundry overcomes the odds

Now at the end of June, countries across the world are implementing “reopening” programs and easing restrictions. Once “normal” rhythms are beginning to return. While much of the future remains blurry, we keep moving forward.

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And that’s exactly what triathletes across the world have been doing. In particular, Angela Naeth and Jackson Laundry, who are just two of many talented long-distance professional triathletes from Canada. Both have had unique experiences during COVID-19, but also ones that many of us can relate to and draw encouragement from. Here’s how Naeth and Laundry have been coping amidst COVID-19.

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Angela Neath out on her gravel bike.

What coping mechanisms have you found beneficial for your training and mental health? 

Naeth: Having a few close people in my life – my coach is my boyfriend so that is the biggest help. My team, IRACELIKEAGIRL has grown so much through this time and it’s been a huge help for me personally to connect. I’ve been doing meetups with the team virtually and creating several challenges both for the team and the public with my sponsors. I also have ventured into Zwift racing, and I love it. 

Related: Zwift starts new professional tri race series

Laundry: Everyone copes with uncertainty in different ways, and I was not coping well in the beginning. I spent the first few weeks pretty frustrated and felt very negative about this year in general. Things improved as I focused on just finding a way to return to normal training, and I had a good distraction as we moved to a new house in May. Just keeping occupied with training and other productive things was a big help.

coping with COVID-19
2020 has been the birth of e-racing in the world of cycling and triathlon.

Like Naeth, Jackson has found his competitive juices in virtual racing with the Zwift Pro Tri Series and the Super League E-Series. With a lack of racing, something Laundry thrives off of, he’s had to embrace a different mindset.

“I have never been one who is motivated by anything other than racing, but I have tried to embrace the training as being fun in itself, and have found enjoyment in planning long rides in new places outside.”

With that newfound mindset, Laundry has been using the weekends as a way to explore new routes and the weekdays to compete on the virtual racing circuit. 

Related: Laundry pips two-time gold medalist Alistair Brownlee to take Super League e-Sports race

So, while both have had to embrace new mindsets and challenges, they’ve been able to maintain some form of competition and enjoyment through it all.

With race cancellations and rescheduling how would you describe your training structure now compared to this time last year? 

Naeth: It’s much more open! I am provided guidance and a plan, but the structure is less. Instead of intensity, it’s “go roam around for 4 hours on your bike”, or “jump into a Zwift race,” or “swim 3K open water,” or “jog 25 minutes.” I have slowed down on any build of running as this beats me up, rather quickly. 

coping with COVID-19

Laundry: My training structure now compared to last year is not incredibly different. The only real difference is that I am swimming a little bit less and cycling a little bit more. I’m taking advantage of some e-racing opportunities while the real races aren’t taking place, and using the current situation as a chance to have a cycling focus.

Both Naeth and Laundry have been fortunate to be able to swim during the lockdown and restrictions. Early on, Naeth was able to begin open water swims in a local pond. While Laundry has experimented with swimming in a friend’s backyard pool with a tether, a 14-metre pool in another friend’s backyard, and now in Ontario’s lakes as summer temperatures arrive. 

Related: No pool? No problem. Open water swim training.

What can be taken away from both Naeth and Laundry is the importance of perspective and a positive mindset. Whether it is working on a specific discipline or simply using the time to explore. With time, things will begin to return. But in the meantime, we keep moving forward.