Last summer, during an ITU race in Edmonton, I experienced triathlon as a team sport.
It was the first time I raced a “draft-legal” event. I had no idea how it would turn out. The main message about drafting I had gotten up to then was “do not draft”: If you are within a certain distance behind another cyclist, you must pass them or slow down until the distance between you increases. If you pass, you only have a few minutes to do so.
This time was different, and it wasn't that I was racing on a bike that I hadn't used all season. As it turns out, “draft-legal” is so much more than I expected, and it changed my whole experience of the race.
Our event was divided into age group and gender heats. About 5k into the bike, I had two women come up behind me and eventually pull ahead. I thought, that's so cool, it looks like they are biking together. As soon as I thought that, one of the girls turned around and said to me, come with us. So I did! We each took turns “pulling” (a new term for me), switching out who would take the lead, and who would get a bit of a break. It was a unique experience, as I was used to training and racing on my own and it really changed my perception of the whole event. The bike portion of the race changed from a solitary and testing environment, to a supportive and encouraging one.
I understand that triathlon, unless done as a relay is ultimately an individual sport. However, this experience led me to recognize and appreciate the sometimes subtle dynamics of companionship that are inherent in the sport.
WRITTEN BY YUME KOBAYASHI
Yume is a a high performance triathlete for the T1Triathlon High Performance Triathlon Team. Yume has been competing in triathlon for 6 years.