Sault Stryders
Running Club

Westman still going strong
Reported August 4, 2011 by Mike Verdone for The Sault Star
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

Trisha Westman has been a local competitive endurance athlete most of her life.

She participated in every St. Joseph Island Triathlon since it was first staged seven years ago, except in 2010 when she was pregnant with twin boys.

The twins were born in January and Westman now has three boys all under three years of age. But that will not stop her from participating in the eighth annual event set for Saturday, Aug. 13.

In fact, it may not have slowed her down much, either. What has put her on the sideline for a while this summer was an accident she suffered in June, which forced her to limit her training routine in the run up to the annual St. Joe event.

Westman broke her right arm after tumbling off her mountain bike.

"That's why the training this summer has been a little difficult," she said.

However, the 37-year-old Sault woman will compete on the Island. She will be part of a three-person relay team that includes her husband – well known adventure racer/course designer Lawrence Foster – and her father, Wayne Westman.

Her three-year-old son Kai will take to the course by competing in the Kids of Steel event for the first time.

Trisha will complete the swimming portion of the Olympic distance race while Lawrence laces up for the running leg and Wayne does the cycling.

Trisha began cycling and running as a teenager at White Pines to stay in shape and become a better cross-country ski racer.

Things progressed from there.

"I mountain-bike raced for maybe 10 years and was just looking for something a little more challenging," she said.

After Lawrence started adventure racing, Trisha thought she'd give it a try. She was hooked in no time and running triathlons became just a means to an end for her.

"My main sport for the past 10 years has been adventure racing. I just do triathlons to stay in shape for adventure racing," she says.

Adventure races can be long, grueling expeditions that take between four and six days to complete. Other expeditions might last just six hours.

Competitors participate on four-person, co-ed teams that travel together through different check points — using a map and compass — in various disciplines, such as mountain biking, paddling, cycling and running. The elite races are staged on courses all over the world.

"The disciplines vary depending on the event," Trisha said. Sometimes they've been crazy, like camel riding. And sometimes we've had to build our own boats."

Trisha and Lawrence sometimes competed on the same team. She has been all over the world at races, including to Fiji, New Zealand, Mexico and Brazil.

"Back before I had kids, I was probably doing maybe four big expedition races a year and then some little ones. I was probably doing a dozen a year."

In February, 2010, before she became pregnant with the twins, Trisha was part of special team that participated in a world series adventure race in Equador.

Four-member teams must include at least one male and one female competitor. However, her group sought permission to enter a unique team in the race. The team was one of about 30 groups that participated in the event.

"I did it with an all-female team. We were the only all-female team to compete in a world-series race," Trisha says. "It was a tough course in the mountains in the Andes, so it was really difficult. I think we came sixth."

To be competitive at the international level in adventure racing, athletes must put in about 15 hours of training each week, Trisha says.

"Having children certainly has made it more difficult to devote that type of time to training. I still love to compete and I still really enjoy it. I just have to find a way to get that joy out of less demanding events."

She hopes to eventually compete at more adventure races, as time and family commitments allow.

"I don't think I can ever give up competing as an athlete because it's such a joy to do that. I just have to change the goals that I set. I mean, it's unrealistic to think that I would remain competitive internationally with three children. That would be too demanding," she said. "Setting a goal and achieving it is the part of the process, that is my passion."

Competing in local events or at one big event in a year is more realistic.

"I'll just kind of scale it back and hopefully stay healthy and remain active enough that my kids and I can start doing some adventures together."

Before she had children, Trisha knew a lot of colleagues who had children, and then dropped out of the racing scene. She thought that once she became a mother she would still be hungry to compete with the same passion and desire that had always driven her.

"I was surprised once I had my first son, I kind of changed gears. I still enjoy going out for a run and doing the training, but the desire to go out and compete is probably secondary.

"Now I get a lot of joy from chilling with my kids and watching them learn new skills, and I think about how I can teach them to become athletes. I think that desire to compete will come back and as they need me less.

"Certainly, they're No. 1. They're only young for such a short amount of time you've got to make them the first priority."

She says having children hasn't changed her as person.

"But it changes how you want to spend your time."

Although Trisha admits she is not in top shape, participating at the annual St. Joe Triathlon is something she values and will continue to do.

"It's such a treat to be able to compete in such a high quality event so close to home."