Finding Mentorship in Triathlon

Two groups are out to change the landscape for triathlon mentorship for women.

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We’ve said it time and time again—triathlon is not actually a solo sport. Yes, on race day, you swim, bike, and run yourself to the finish line. But before and after that, a support network is a critical component in the triathlon journey. Working with a triathlon coach is a great way to stay on top of workouts, see fitness gains, and track race performance. A triathlon mentor, however, is someone who helps with things like answering pre-race questions (i.e. “Can I get naked in transition?”), offering emotional support, and sharing anecdotes about their own triathlon experiences.

There are two new opportunities for triathlon mentorship for women: Rise and Tri and Triathlon Business International Women’s Mentorship Program (TBIW). Both are currently in their first-ever round of pairing mentees with triathlon veterans, and both feel that their programs are filling a much-needed void in swim, bike, run. 

“Triathlon changed my life in a way I knew a lot of other women would benefit from,” said Anne Torrez, one of the founders of Rise and Tri. “If women have the support they need to overcome barriers [like learning to swim or budgeting for a tri], triathlon can become life-changing.”

Rise and Tri, which is headed by Lynn Mattix and Anne Torrez, is a branch of Fund Her Tri, a nonprofit aimed at alleviating the costs associated with a woman’s first triathlon, like a kit, basic equipment, and registration fees. 

“We want to help women stay in the sport,” said Mattix. “If a woman has at least one person to ask questions of, hopefully, this keeps them in the sport instead of triathlon being a one-time, bucket-list thing.” 

Both Mattix and Torrez know from experience that being a first-time triathlete can be intimidating, and those feelings of inferiority or confusion at an initial race can make or break a woman’s tri career. Mattix and Torrez’s goals are to remind women that they belong on the course and that triathlon is a lifelong community to be part of.

Rise and Tri’s inaugural class of mentors and mentees is just getting underway with its five-month program. The program includes 30 mentors and mentees. 

Mentors range from PhD holders who do sprint triathlons to male veterans of the sport. Missed this first round? Don’t worry, there will be a second class of Rise and Tri later in 2020, so plan on applying then.

Another area of triathlon where mentorship is up-and-coming is in the realm of triathlon business. Just like any other sector, there are folks who dedicate their entire professional lives to companies and organizations geared toward triathletes.

Triathlon Business International Women’s Mentorship Program (TBIW) recognizes that, historically, triathlon-focused businesses have been male-dominated with little resources for women. The board of TBIW, which consists of industry pioneers like Anne Hed and Stacy Perlis, is looking to change the landscape for women in the business of triathlon. 

Sarah Hartmann, executive director of the Ironman Foundation and a board member at TBIW, noted that the idea for the TBIW Mentorship Program was hatched at the Outspoken Summit in 2018. 

“We are growing the population of female business leaders inside endurance sports,” said Hartmann. “TBIW is about growing female leadership within the sport—new race directors, new coaching businesses. We seek to be a rich place where women can develop their voice.”

TBIW is a six-month program open to women of all ages and all geographic regions. 

“This is a six-month conversation with at least two-touch points a month,” said Hartmann. “The mentor and mentee are creating a roadmap for what the mentee wants to achieve.”

Mentors and mentees will both receive a toolkit to help map out goals and aspirations for the six-month partnership period and beyond. 

Though the deadline has passed to apply to be a mentor or mentee, TBIW, too, will be looking to host a second class of women in the business of tri later in 2020—stay tuned!

While there are moments when triathlon can seem exceptionally isolating (hello, 4 a.m. training sessions), the triathlon community is ever-evolving to become more supportive of those entering the sport, building a business, or looking to share their experience. 

Ready to mentor right now? Need a mentor this season? Don’t wait—seek out a local tri club, run club, Masters swim, or any other group of like-minded athletes and you’re sure to find plenty of opportunities to both be mentored and offer mentorship. Giving back to the tri community is the fourth—and easiest—leg of triathlon. 

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