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Nina McArthur: Triathlon Networking
Posted by: Ninam91
Posted on: Friday 21st September 2012


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Nina McArthur explains how triathlon really can be a 'social network'.


So when I was asked to go away for a week with work I thought ‘Great, that's my quality training sessions out of the window!' but then I stopped for a moment and had a sudden thought. I regularly post on Twitter and write blogs so I've gained a wide variety of followers and contacts throughout the triathlon world. After coming back to triathlon from a four year break, I was still remembered by our very own Tri247 Editor John and a few other long-established athletes from across the country that I had raced and trained with and it surprised how close-knit the ever growing triathlon community is.

So, why not tweet that I was going to be staying in Solihull from Tuesday morning until Friday afternoon and see if there were any triathletes or clubs around and available in the area?

The Training Centre at which I was staying did a have a small gym with some treadmills, rowing machines and gym bikes but I was eager to get  out for a good run or cycle into the open air, especially given the prospective good weather forecast. Similarly there was a lovely swimming pool... all of twelve metres long that the gym instructor happily told me I could just about tumble turn in if I swam corner-to-corner. Brilliant!

You might say its easier for me to find contacts down in Birmingham given my involvement in the sport and I suppose I did have the advantage of Tri247 re-tweeting my post to their social network too, however my first respondent was a triathlete who has followed my blog since its beginning and regularly tweeted back positive, supportive and motivational training quotes.

Lee is a member of Solihull Triathlon Club (www.solihulltri.org), first formed a year ago as an exit route for a Triathlon England coaching project held in the area in 2011.

He lived just a mile or so away from where I was staying so as I had the benefit of a secure car park for Belle the Boardman to stay safe, he sorted out a Wednesday night club bike ride!  So on a sunny evening in the middle of my working week, Belle and I waited outside the gate of the Centre for Lee and his clubmates. Along came the club Chairman Mark and also young Junior Elite athlete Alex Teagle. We were led out by Lee on a beautiful route through the country lanes of Solihull, meeting no more than five cars during the hour and half of our explorations down winding roads and up a few sneaky tough climbs. Despite cycling nice and speedily we never stopped chatting, this being the first time I had met Lee since our triathlon-talk on Twitter. Similarly I learnt that Alex had raced at the Strathclyde Elite Series the weekend prior, this being the last race I ever competed in back during my days as a Junior Elite. We compared race feedback, our session loves and hates whilst enjoying the sunshine as a happy group. I felt almost part of their club already, relating to Chairman Mark too as he told me of his recent recovery from illness reminding me of my struggles just a year or so ago.

Nina with Solihull Tri Club

Picking Alex up afterwards was his mum Rosa, the club's Vice Chair and wife of Lead Coach Andy. I was then somehow persuaded into joining them for a park run session the next evening so after a day of filling my head with banking finance and accounting ratios, I de-stressed by driving ten minutes down the road for a fantastic interval session.

Rather than using a running track, the session was on a pavement circuit within a vast park, allowing us to complete a set of 1 x 450m loop, 2 loops, 3 then back down to 1. The aim was to think about pace change, running a quarter of the loop at 65% effort, the next quarter at 75% then back to 65%, finishing off at 80%. There was a fantastic mix of abilities at the session, allowing for each athlete to run to their own interpretation of the effort rather than trying to keep up with others. Just by popping along to the club session, I also got in ten minutes of technique specific drill work and an observation from Andy on how my head went too far back when I kicked to the finish trying to get that extra little bit of speed (a bit like a pigeon really). Without someone telling me I never would have realised!

If you happen to fancy an aquathlon in the Solihull area, take a look at the Club's website. Tudor Grange Aquathlon is being held on 7th October 2012 for youngsters from the age of eight and also adults. If you're into swimming and running then why not give it a go!

My second response on Twitter was from 2011 Triathlon Age World Champion Kate Robson who is a member of BRAT, otherwise known as Birmingham Running, Athletics Triathlon Club (www.bratclub.co.uk). This is based around Central Birmingham, however has recently developed a section called ‘BRATS in the South', providing even more sessions on top of their current average of five a day for the Southern city dwellers.

Kate put me in touch with the Chairman who sent me a warm, friendly text telling me that I was more than welcome to give some of their sessions a go. Being based in Solihull and working  nine to five, I didn't fancy driving too far out but spotted that their Friday morning swim was just twenty minutes away. The Chair gave me all the details you often worry about such as what time everyone else arrives (fairly important when it starts at 6am!), where to park and who the coach was. He also slipped in that there were a couple of sessions close to where I was that Tuesday evening and the mention of a ‘trail run' got me a little over-excited!

I'm really enjoying my running with it appearing to be my strength at the moment so off I went to Lickley Hills Country Park where Coach Nick Horton (a nine hour Ironman athlete!) spotted me wandering over from the car in my pink socks and shoes. There was a group of around twenty ready and raring to go including plenty of girls, men of all ages and even a dog who coped with the session better than any of us! It was a fartlek (speedplay) run over the rolling hills of Bromsgrove and running strongly, I got lots of encouragement and motivation from Nick who was just ahead of me. Many of the other athletes pushing themselves up the hills chatted away with me in the recovery time, even acting as tour guides pointing out the sites and smells of Solihull that sprawled out in the valley below us. It was wonderful weather and I was in my element, running well whilst exploring the Midland countryside in great company. I couldn't have been happier and more relaxed after a hard working day.

Nina with BRAT Tri Club

Above is a photo the Club was more than happy to succumb too, even with bright red faces and I left promising to keep in touch. This gave me no worries about trying out the Friday morning swim and hopping into a lane in the King Edwards School swimming pool, I swam a great hours front crawl speed session in the company of a speedy teenage girl and more seasoned male triathlete from the Club. Its fantastic how many people you meet that are similar to you in personality and interests but vary in terms of their age and working life. I'd met so many people during my time in Birmingham but all so happy to welcome me to their training.

So four top quality sessions completed in the space of four days, allowing me to avoid sitting in a tiny gym on my own using music to get me through a treadmill run or gym bike cycle,  I know which I prefer! Good quality, fun sessions, using my time around work efficiently whilst meeting like-minded athletes from across the country in lovely scenery.

I know I'll keep in touch with these new friendships and hopefully bump into those like Lee and Nick in the future. Who knows, when Alex progresses into an Elite Athlete he might even remember me?!

This is what the sport of triathlon is really about. Meeting people who love their sport as much as you do and meaning you swim, cycle and run in great company ultimately ending in super sessions full of smiles and success. When you next travel in England be it for social or work related activities, don't think you have to stop doing your sport if that's what you love to do. Email some clubs in the area, get social networking and I have no doubt you'll end up with friends in every corner of the country that train within triathlon. I count myself so lucky to be building up so many connections that allow me to not miss Manchester quite as much and give things a go wherever I may be.

Thanks for making triathlon a true community, now get ‘tri-networking' trending!


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