Friday Feature – Anna Belanger

Team Triumpher Anna Belanger

I started Team Triumph with a strong base in fitness,  however, in no way was I a triathlete. In fact, I was far from it. I was afraid of open water, I could only breaststroke and had a road bike I had not ridden in 4 years. There was hope on the running front though, as I had already completed two marathons and over 15 half marathons.  I was an athlete, but an athlete with deep fears associated with biking and swimming.

My last marathon clinic with the Running Room was where I really learned about Ironmans, Triathlons and Team Triumph.  During those many hours of running, I would hear all about my age-group athlete friends’ adventures. These age group athletes were incredibly inspiring and fit and they saw a future triathlete in me, however, they knew the challenges I had to overcome. My friend Wendy knew Julia was the person for me.

Swimming, water, confidence and open water fears were a few of my issues.  I never took swim lessons as a kid. After nearly drowning, my sister took it upon herself to teach me to swim, she tied a rope around my waist and would push me off the dock. Eventually, I developed a strong doggie paddle that morphed into an even stronger self-taught breaststroke. Julia had her work cut out for her. My first freestyle assessment had me clocking a whole 8 meters and a whole lot of water up my nose.

It was incredible that after 6 one hour lessons, and a whole lot of practice, that I could freestyle over 300m! I believe it was after my fourth swim lesson that I took my beloved bike off the garage roof. The confidence I was gaining in the pool was filtering its way into other aspects of my life. After 4 years of not riding, I would gain the courage to ride again …only around my block, but this was big progress. On September 6th, 2014 my beautiful friend Laurie was killed on her bike.  A terrible freak bike accident during the Ride the Rideau charity race took her life. She was my first friend when I had moved here from Vancouver to Ottawa, our youngest children were the same age and she was an incredible athlete and triathlete. Knowing that someone with such experience had died such a tragic death left me both scarred and scared.

My goal when joining Team Triumph was to learn to swim. I don’t know if I really had any other expectations, but I definitely didn’t expect what was going to happen after joining. I didn’t expect the same camaraderie that exists in running groups to be just as strong in triathletes. I didn’t expect that gaining courage in the water would give me the courage to ride my bike again. I also didn’t expect to sign up for the 70.3 Tremblant the following year but…I did.

Having an experienced coach, a tribe of supportive team members, the memory of my friend and a super supportive family was the recipe I needed to succeed, sprinkled of course with drive, grit, and determination.

I cried many times after swim practice, frustrated that I was slow and would never truly get it.  The first time Julia took me out on the highway in Tremblant I think my heart raced for most of the ride. Trucks and cars zooming by.  Calmly and confidently she instructed us on how to safely group ride.  These obstacles were not easy but I learned very quickly that everyone has walls to overcome. Our coach knew them and she gave us tips on how to overcome them.

When I would feel down, Julia would remind me that many team members started where I was and those same team members were incredibly generous with their support and advice.  I would remind myself of a quote I came across when I was competing in kickboxing:  “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”  ~ Bruce Lee. Practice and patience, rinse and repeat!

I am incredibly grateful, dedicated and thankful to have found this amazing group of athletes and coaches. The amount of support given to us during training and in Tremblant was what got me and many of us through it.  I felt truly Triumphant crossing that finish line in Tremblant! I look forward to growing and learning more from and with this incredible team.

PS: a butterfly landed on my leg during the run portion of the race…