Inspirational Athlete Spotlight: Teresa Webb
Have you ever tried running with an episode of gut discomfort? How about chronic abdominal pain and inflammation? The jarring of running is probably one of the worst activities for those who suffer from gastrointestinal ailments.
For Teresa Webb (Nelson), an former elite/professional triathlete based out of Seattle, Washington, this is an all too familiar scenario. This mother, business owner and athlete was diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease at age 24 and has persevered and continued to follow her dreams despite the challenges of life with severe Ulcerative Colitis.
Teresa first began to notice symptoms when she was leading a college trail running program. For several years her symptoms ranged from little to moderate and she went on to qualify for the Kona Ironman World Championships in her first Ironman event in 2008. Eventually her symptoms became so severe that she was hospitalized for a week. Teresa found that she was only able to train about 50% of the level of her peers due to her chronic condition, which required more rest/recovery time and modification of long runs due to her abdominal symptoms. She found that her body simply could not bounce back like it used to.
Teresa began doing most of her running at a track facility that had a bathroom, and even logged up to 18 miles on the track at one time! (That’s a LOT of laps!) Ulcerative Colitis often results in 20-40 trips to the bathroom daily, which makes it very difficult to train. Nonetheless, she went on to win the St. Croix 70.3 Triathlon in 2009, and went professional in 2010.
Since then, she suffered a number of setbacks and hospitalizations from the disease, along with a great deal of trial and error with medication regimens. Amidst all of this she got married, had a daughter, and decided to pursue her dream of opening a triathlon and multi-sport business. TN Multisports (www.tnmultisports.com)is a thriving company that encompasses running and triathlon teams, coaching resources for all 3 sports, bike fitting, swimming film analysis, nutrition consultations, clinics and training camps in the Seattle area. She continues to train and has her sights set on the next Hawaii 70.3 triathlon in June.
Teresa is also a leader in promoting awareness of Inflammatory Bowel Disease through her involvement on the board of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. She is a shining and inspirational example of what one can overcome and achieve with patience, determination and passion. I was fortunate to meet her in person this week and only became more intrigued with her story…
What inspired you to start your own business?
I saw a need for something more in Seattle. I wanted to help newbie triathletes because I was so “lost” when I started the sport. I wanted to provide a welcoming environment for athletes to meet like-minded individuals to train with and also to have access to coaches for questions, guidance and knowledge.
What do you love about coaching?
The athletes, they are a second family. You want them to succeed, learn more about themselves and ultimately be healthy and stronger and wiser. I am lucky that they choose me/us to help them with this part of their journey of life.
How do you custom-tailor training for your clients who have digestive issues with running or suffer from IBD?
Every person and experience is different. I only really know my own situation (which has been extreme-racing as a professional and also being hospitalized, all in the same month). I can relate to what they are going through, and ultimately aim to guide them through their experiences. We modify workout plans, we have different case scenarios lined up for training and racing so they can choose what is best for them on any given day. I am there to go over the “emotional” side of things, addressing concerns and assuring them that “less is more” when dealing with this disease. The big take away is the athlete needs to be healthy and so I do my best to guide the athlete in determining what is most beneficial for them (which sometimes doesn’t include racing or even training) to be their healthiest self.
What would you like runners to know about the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation?
The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation provides so many resources for patients and their families to navigate through this diagnosis and lifetime of this disease. Runners would LOVE the Team Challenge Events, as people participating in these events are training and traveling all over the world to raise awareness and funds for the organization. Through the training and races they are forming life time friendships. It is pretty amazing! The opportunities to learn more and be involved are endless – from patient advocacy days, to Camp Oasis for children, to educational seminars to Team Challenge Events.
Do you have any mantras or mottos that help you through tough days?
I constantly remind myself that my health comes first. Without your health you can’t really do much. This helps me prioritize where I spend my energy and helps me be my best self.
What is the best advice you can give for runners who are suffering with this condition?
Trust how you are feeling (don’t be down on yourself if you are unable to complete your planned workout) , find the best doctors (they will help you for a lifetime), listen to your body (some days you can accomplish everything, other days it is an accomplishment to get out of bed), seek help (if you are unsure or want to try something ASK around, find the best resources for you!) , surround yourself with other patients/runners/athletes (learning about others experiences is knowledge and being around people that can relate is important for your health as well), journal (write down how you are feeling, questions you have, your experiences, just like a training journal that you will look back on), REST (you need it more than your runner friends…more rest means better performances for athletes with IBD), accept YOU (accept yourself for who you are, your disease, how you choose to manage it, how your body changes, and be strong-don’t let others ideas and opinions get you down). Find your “new normal” and do your best to adjust based on what you need and want in life. It is one big juggling act that constantly changes!