Friday Feature – Harry Briggs

Team Triumpher Harry Briggs

Before starting with Team Triumph I always enjoyed chasing a goal. In the early days, this was often a mountain, my favourite trip being a ski de Randonnée on the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt. When my daughters arrived my running started, completing a couple of marathons and the 54 mile Caledonian Challenge. However, a knee injury brought this all to a crashing halt. So I turned to yoga and mountain biking when we lived in Brazil.

Arriving in Canada, my daughters and I were spectators in Mont Tremblant’s half Ironman in 2018 and were both struck by the atmosphere and the beautiful setting. We met some local bénévoles, one of whom had done the Sprint the day before, and that was the moment the penny dropped. Maybe, just maybe I could do this next year! They also recommended a local chocolatier called Palette de Bine. You could say my Triathlon adventure was inspired by dark chocolate.

I signed up with Team Triumph in 2018 with the goal of completing Mont Tremblant’s 5150 in 2019. If my knees held up then I could take it further. Coming back from injury is a long haul, my yoga had rebuilt strength, but the mind had yet to follow. Every step was entered gingerly.

I first came across Triathlon when we were living in Brasilia. In 2012, a Brazilian friend had just completed the Ironman Floripa and we met visiting Belgian Tri pro-Sofie Goos who was
inspiring. Tim Don’s sprint to the finish line of the 2015 Brasilia 70.3 was memorable. Holding me back was the swimming, I had to start from scratch. The idea of thrashing around in open water was daunting. I was also nervous about my knees, which had a meniscal tear and an MRI scan had identified detritus lodged following the fall.

To try to mitigate injury as well as recover, I had started Hot yoga as a means to cross-train for my marathon in 2009 at a studio in Soho, London. When I arrived in Canada, Coach/Yogi Julia’s Tuesday midday yoga class took place after her TT yoga class. Whom was this crowd in the red, white and blue – and they practice yoga! My interest was piqued, how do I sign up?

I felt apprehensive joining Team Triumph, especially the first swims. My approach was Pole Pole (pronounced in Swahili polay polay) meaning go slow to reach your goal. The Kenyan runners always try to keep a little gas in the tank, even as they steam along at 20 km/h. What I liked best about Team Triumph was sharing a journey with like-minded souls, and learning vital tips and tricks along the way.

A first challenge was acquiring a bike, so I presented a plan to Coach Julia for a bike frame and components purchase. She recommended not to go for a 1x solution, always have 2 rings up front for Duplessis! So far so good. Then my second challenge was training with knees that might blow up mid-race. A great inspiration has been Phil Maffetone. I first read about the 180 formula in Chris McDougall’s second book. Keeping the bulk of training in Zones 1 and 2 prevents injury and builds resilience. Training for a Triathlon challenge you feel like a whirling dervish trying to keep three plates spinning. What am I most proud of so far? Probably the 2019 Bring on The Bay 3km and the 4.3km Lake Meech swims. These are distances that I could never contemplate a year before, yet now I’m told these are just entry-level!

As a result, I am now willing to consider more challenging goals, but also acutely aware of my limitations and the dangers of hubris. Since starting with Team Triumph I have pushed my own boundaries and kept an open mind to newness, be it mustard for leg cramps, bumblebee breathing for TI swimming or beetroot for nitric oxide. I must confess though, my training isn’t all Zones 1 & amp; 2 – since moving to Ottawa I have also taken up skate ski in the winter Gats – a more lung-busting, high cardio activity you can’t find.

Injuries can take years to recover from. Yoga has tremendous healing power, particularly on the neuro side of the neuro-muscular. Just smiling calms the nervous system as well as the heart rate.

Try it next time in the spin class!