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It takes a village to train for a triathlon

By Tabitha McMahon, Special to CNN
July 26, 2013 -- Updated 1111 GMT (1911 HKT)
Tabitha McMahon runs with Xterra world champ Lesley Paterson.
Tabitha McMahon runs with Xterra world champ Lesley Paterson.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • When she joined Fit Nation, Tabitha McMahon imagined running, biking, swimming alone
  • Now, McMahon runs and bikes with her husband, does strength training with her daughter
  • She also has several coaches and mentors who have helped her along the way

Editor's note: Tabitha McMahon is one of six CNN viewers selected to be a part of the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge program. Follow the "Six-pack" on Twitter and Facebook as they train to race the Nautica Malibu Triathlon with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on September 8.

(CNN) -- Have you ever put on a full-body wetsuit? It takes some time. Lots of pulling, tugging and wriggling around to get it in the perfect position.

In early June, I raced my first triathlon relay, completing the swim and run portions. It took three people -- my mom, my sister and my relay partner -- to help me get into my wetsuit. I joked that day that it "takes a village to get me in my wetsuit."

As with any joke, there is a kernel of truth in that statement.

Upon hearing that I had been selected for the Fit Nation team, I immediately began to imagine what the upcoming months of training would hold. I envisioned myself running, biking, swimming and eating super-nutritious meals. In all of these scenarios, I was alone. After all, triathlon is not a team sport, right?

Wrong. It takes a village to train for a triathlon, and I have an amazing tribe by my side! Reflecting on the sheer quantity, not to mention impeccable quality, of folks who are sharing this journey with me brings tears of gratitude to my eyes.

Sometimes you just have to lose control

Fit Nation team keeps eyes on the prize

My relationship with my husband, Scott, has deepened through shared bike rides, running sessions and healthy meal planning. My 7-year old-daughter, Annissa, cheers me on at races, does squats and sit-ups with me and tells strangers her mommy is strong (and famous)!

My local mentors, Geoff and Tracy Chandler, were strangers at this time last year. Now I can't imagine my life without them. Geoff has generously offered invaluable advice from his more than 30 years of racing experience. Tracy is my constant training buddy. We meet up for runs, rides and races, and she pushes me to get outside my comfort zone.

Professional triathlete and Xterra world champ Lesley Paterson has become my friend and mentor. At her invitation, I participated in her extraordinary training boot camp. More important, I attended a talk Lesley gave about her journey to Xterra triathlon, in which she was brutally honest about her failures as well as her successes. Hearing an athlete at her level speak so openly of her struggles empowered me to take more risks, in triathlon and in other areas of my life.

I met local coaches Doug Robinson and Heather Pickey at my second triathlon relay. They offered to help me with my swim form through weekly clinics they hold at my local YMCA. Their expertise and encouragement is taking my swim fitness to the next level.

Work out what matters most: your mind

Laura Minor, owner of a local boutique gym, has welcomed me with open arms. I strength train there three times a week with trainer Cori McCorkle. Cori's enthusiasm for my triathlon challenge is undeniable. She spends time researching new exercises geared toward triathletes to maximize my gym time. Laura and Cori are not only helping me build muscle; they are helping me build confidence.

I've rekindled old friendships and moved existing friendships forward. Instead of meeting for dinner and drinks, I bike with my friend Jayme and go to Spin class with my pal Sarah. While on vacation in Tucson in April, I met up with my former colleague Melinda for a run. I'm currently making plans for a long bike ride with Damian, a friend from primary school.

Tell us your story!
We love to hear from our audience. Follow @CNNHealth on Twitter and Facebook for the latest health news and let us know what we're missing.

You can build your own village. Tell friends about your goals and invite them to training sessions. Talk to strangers at the gym, on the track, on the trail and at your race. Introduce yourself, ask them about their training goals, and surround yourself with friends and supporters who help move you forward.

And give back. As you gain experience, share your knowledge with new athletes.

So what's stopping you? Take the first step and tell the world you are ready to tri. You'll be amazed at how quickly your village will grow.

Follow McMahon on Twitter @TriHardTabitha

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