From the Other Side of the Triathlon: A Message from our Win4Youth Ambassador Anne

The Win4Youth program brings Adecco Group employees, associates and clients together to share their passion for sport and to have a positive impact on the lives of young people around the world. Anne Nguyen was one of two members of our Canadian Adecco Group family selected to represent the Win4Youth program in October’s Ocean Lava triathlon in Lanzarote, Spain. Here is Anne’s last blog as 2018’s Win4Youth ambassador.

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Anne after competing in her first Sprint Distance Triathlon in Calgary, AB on August 12, 2018.

After the triathlon, I was able to reflect on the reason I wanted to become a Win4Youth ambassador. Growing up, I was heavily focused on academics and never truly got to experience what it was like to participate in extracurricular sports or group activities. Because of this, I have always felt like I missed out on being part of a community that wasn’t made up of my immediate family or friends. Even though I was hesitant, I jumped at the opportunity to apply for the Win4Youth ambassadorship because I knew it would help me get active and expand my connections within the Adecco Group globally.

This program has far exceeded my expectations. Not only was I able to complete an Olympic-distance triathlon, I made lifelong friends from all around the world. Together, we conquered the hardest bike course in the history of Win4Youth which created an unbreakable bond between us (#weareWin4Youth and #alumniproud for life!). Even though my journey as a 2018 Win4Youth ambassador is nearly over, I am still going to help motivate and be a voice for the underdogs. After all, if this couch potato can turn into an athlete, you truly are capable of anything you put your mind to!

Anne completing the Ocean Lava triathlon.

Journey to Lanzarote

After the training camp in Ghent, Belgium, I was tasked with training five days a week for the following five months. I literally went from sleeping in as long as possible to waking up at 4am every morning to train before work. While I had the guidance of my coach, it was truly up to me to push myself through those sessions. I am not going to lie and say those five months were easy. There were days when I felt I was on top of the world and other days when I truly struggled because I was sick or was simply just tired.

But through all the trials and tribulations, I was able to learn some valuable lessons. The first lesson I learned — and kept getting tested on — was listening to my body. I always felt terrible for missing sessions, but I quickly learned that rest was what I needed. And I always came back even stronger than I was before — go figure!

The second lesson was to trust the process and not compare my journey with anyone else’s. The other ambassadors were hitting some major goals when it came to their training. I couldn’t believe how much faster than me they were at swimming or biking! But I had to learn to not compare myself to them. This was by far the hardest lesson for me as I feared I would not be good enough to complete the triathlon. I realized (with a few reminders from my coach, of course) that this was my journey and I needed to focus on myself and not what others were doing.

What I didn’t realize when I signed up for the program was how much these five months would change who I am. The person that started this journey is nowhere near the person that I am today. I have made changes to my life that can be seen in both my personal and professional life. I am more confident, driven and know that no matter what comes my way, I can push past my comfort zone and accomplish anything. This program and the support that I have received from #teamanne continues to push me to be a better person every day.

Reunion of a lifetime

I was counting down the days until I got to see the other ambassadors again. I may be biased but the 2018 Win4Youth Ambassadors are some of the most amazing people I have ever met. I’ve never met a group of people who rallied so much for each other. Even though we lived in different countries, I never once felt like I wasn’t supported or didn’t have anyone to lean on. Supporting each other was easy and looking back now, I realized the support started in Ghent and didn’t end until the last person crossed the finish line in Lanzarote.

An alumnus organized a group swim in the ocean the first morning we were in Lanzarote. When I left Canada, the mere thought of swimming in the ocean made me feel sick to my stomach. I knew I had to conquer my fear of the ocean and swimming in the open water. What didn’t help my fears was my experience with open water swimming during training. I freaked out each time, so I knew there was no way I would be able to stay calm in the ocean. Everything I feared was quickly dispelled that morning as I had the encouragement and support of my fellow ambassadors. It was after that swim that I realized that I was more than ready for the swim. All the training I did prepared me for it and the only thing I had to worry about were the fish touching my body.

Anne riding her bike.

When thinking about Lanzarote and the three triathlon events I’d be participating in, I thought I was most prepared for the biking portion. However, when we drove on a small part of the bike course before the triathlon, it made me realize how far from the truth that was. The hills I trained on in Calgary paled in comparison to the hills on that short drive. Our trainers told us that if we needed to, it would not be frowned upon to get off our bike and walk. I had so many negative thoughts flood my mind that evening and into the next day on our bike ride. The hills were slightly challenging, and the thought of the steepest hill made me rethink why I wanted to do a triathlon in the first place.

The day before the triathlon went by so quickly. We rode our bikes to the transition zone, did our swim tests and indulged in a pasta dinner. I was excited, happy and nervous all at the same time. I couldn’t believe the day had finally come for us to put all our training into practice.

October 27, 2018 – Ocean Lava Triathlon

We left the hotel at 6:30am and got to the transition zone in the dark. Everyone was calm and quiet. I didn’t feel nervous until I was standing on the beach. I am so proud to say I was able to swim front crawl the entire distance, which I thought I would never be able to do. It’s funny how the one thing I feared the most is now probably one of the things I miss the most. For those of you who don’t want to apply because you fear the water or can’t swim, rest assured you will be okay in the ocean. Your training combined with adrenaline and your wetsuit will turn you into a mermaid/merman.

Despite my misgivings about the bike course from earlier in the week, it ended up being my favourite leg of the triathlon, even though I nearly choked on my chocolate protein bar during my transition from swimming to biking. Note to all future ambassadors: avoid chocolate protein bars to refuel because it will melt all over your fingers and make it impossible to chew as quickly as possible and you’ll get your picture taken with your mouth full of food.

But even with sticky fingers and a messy face, I was ready to face my fears… or at least, I had no other choice but to face my fears of the hilly bike course. As I was riding, I felt great. I kept waiting to get to the steepest hill and when I realized I conquered it, I felt like Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic: I was “King of the World!” When I think back to the bike course, I have to say the greatest part was passing the other ambassadors. No matter what part of the course I was on, each time one of us passed one another, we would cheer each other on. The energy was amazing and that’s what got me through each hill. During my training, I got really scared going down hills as it was “too fast” for me. As a result, I always used my brakes to slow myself down on every hill. But I figured this was the time for me to take the chance and go as fast as I possibly could. So I did. My greatest accomplishment on the bike was being able to go down a hill at 61 km/hour. Nothing makes you feel more alive than conquering one of your biggest fears!

As I was cruising down one of the last few hills, I looked up to admire the scenery. In the distance, I saw the ocean, and in that moment, I realized how grateful I was for this opportunity and experience.

The run was the last leg and it was far from easy. I had just come off riding a bike for over two hours and the sun was beaming. I didn’t hydrate enough (sorry body!) and I was really starting to feel the fatigue. But I knew I had to keep going. I was so close — I could see the finish line! Now was not the time to give up. So I pushed myself. I was also encouraged by fellow athletes I didn’t even know. The great thing about this sport, in my opinion, is that everyone is competing against themselves. You are and will always be your biggest competitor so it’s up to you to decide how far and fast you want to push yourself.

I also luckily had some help during my last kilometer; thank you to the stranger who helped push me a little harder. He encouraged me to keep going and before I knew it, I was crossing the finish line. In the excitement of finishing, I forgot to take it all in and the details are slightly blurry. I do remember saying over and over “I can’t believe I did. I actually did it!” I might have said it in the Adecco Group’s Chief Executive Officer Alain Dehaze’s ear while hugging him maybe a little too long but there literally is no better feeling than knowing you have accomplished something that you have worked so hard for.

The words that I have written throughout this blog don’t even begin to fully describe what this experience has been for me. I challenge all of you to push yourself out of your comfort zone. I once read a quote that said: “Your comfort zone is a beautiful place… but nothing grows there.” Keep growing and keep reaching for the stars because the sky’s the limit! I have been asked if this is where it ends. And the answer to that is no. This is just the beginning for me. I have set so many goals in 2019 that I want to #ANNEihilate including competing in an Ironman 70.3 with some of my new friends for life. Win4Youth has changed my outlook on life. See what it can do for you. Take the leap and apply as a 2019 Win4Youth Ambassador. I guarantee you will not regret it!

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