Radley: There’s a run on triathlon clubs around here

Sports Apr 13, 2016 by Scott Radley The Hamilton Spectator

It was a decade or so ago that an interview with an elite local triathlete about his personal success branched off into a whole different conversation. He wasn't just racing for himself anymore, but he'd launched a triathlon club to coach others who were getting into the sport.

Back then, Mat Reid and his Hamilton Hammerheads were unique. There weren't many places around here to train with a team if you were into spending your free time swimming, cycling and running. Not officially, anyway. There were a couple teams but generally the sport was more of a solitary endeavour.

Not anymore.

According to Triathlon Ontario, there are now four sanctioned triathlon teams in Hamilton, two in Dundas, three in Burlington and one each in Waterdown and Stoney Creek. Not to mention one in nearby Jordan Station, two in Milton and another in St. Catharines. We are suddenly living in a triathlon hot spot.

"It's definitely a big explosion," says Lee Hart, head coach and founder of Stoney Creek's Tri-Hart team.

Sure seems so. Why's it happened, though?

"The sport of triathlon has exploded," offers Larissa Robinson, technical advisor for the Triathlon Club of Burlington.

Clearly. But why has that happened?

Well, that's a slightly more-complicated question that involves several theories to answer. Which may all be correct to some degree.

The simple explanation is that when Simon Whitfield fired up every Canadian watching the Sydney Olympics on TV in 2000 by roaring past Germany's Stephan Vuckovic in thrilling fashion, he gave the sport a jolt of energy and attention it had never before seen. Until then, triathlon was that crazy thing you saw once a year on NBC in which seemingly masochistic people raced for hours under the blistering Hawaiian sun in the Ironman.

Now, in the dawn of the new millennium, it was a sport that seemed cool. And these shorter Olympic distances appeared almost do-able to the average fitness aficionado who was willing to make a commitment.

"It just kept snowballing from there," says Hamilton's Colin Jenkins, who famously paced Whitfield to a second Olympic medal — a silver — in Beijing.

Yet, don't completely discount those Ironman events the folks had seen on TV. They still remain part of this.

According to Hart, finishing arguably the most-difficult race in the world has become a popular bucket list item. Swimming 3.86 kilometres, cycling 180 kilometres and running a marathon is seen as the ultimate test of endurance, and finishing is seen as the ultimate personal achievement.

But the most-common theory might be the least expected.

Many of the clubs say the largest percentage of people who sign up to explore the sport today are 40- to 60-year-olds looking for a new challenge. People who might've taken up golf in the past but are looking for something more physically taxing.

"They have already succeeded at work, their family has grown up and they need another challenge," says Cindy Lewis, coach of Burlington's Cindy Lewis Performance Training.

These folks have money — which is good because it's not an inexpensive sport when you factor in equipment, proper food, travel costs to events, hotels, registrations and coaching — and with their kids out of the house, they also have time.

Plus, the clubs offer a social opportunity to work out with like-minded people from the same demographic and same age group. Pursuing the same goals.

"I think people like to meet people and train with people," says Reid, who now runs the Hammerheads and the Fighting Koalas. "It's an incredibly boring sport to train in by yourself."

There's one other surprise, though, that's leading to the growth of clubs in size and number. At least it's a surprise to some of the coaches.

When newcomers show up with plans of getting in better shape, having an outlet for their competitive urges or completing an Ironman, they often say they'll be at it for a few years then maybe try something else.

Then two years go by. Then three. Maybe four.

"All of a sudden," Hart says, "they'll say, 'I can't quit now.'"

sradley@thespec.com

@radleyatthespec

Spectator columnist Scott Radley hosts The Scott Radley Show weeknights from 7-9 on 900CHML

Radley: There’s a run on triathlon clubs around here

Sports Apr 13, 2016 by Scott Radley The Hamilton Spectator

It was a decade or so ago that an interview with an elite local triathlete about his personal success branched off into a whole different conversation. He wasn't just racing for himself anymore, but he'd launched a triathlon club to coach others who were getting into the sport.

Back then, Mat Reid and his Hamilton Hammerheads were unique. There weren't many places around here to train with a team if you were into spending your free time swimming, cycling and running. Not officially, anyway. There were a couple teams but generally the sport was more of a solitary endeavour.

Not anymore.

According to Triathlon Ontario, there are now four sanctioned triathlon teams in Hamilton, two in Dundas, three in Burlington and one each in Waterdown and Stoney Creek. Not to mention one in nearby Jordan Station, two in Milton and another in St. Catharines. We are suddenly living in a triathlon hot spot.

"It's definitely a big explosion," says Lee Hart, head coach and founder of Stoney Creek's Tri-Hart team.

Sure seems so. Why's it happened, though?

"The sport of triathlon has exploded," offers Larissa Robinson, technical advisor for the Triathlon Club of Burlington.

Clearly. But why has that happened?

Well, that's a slightly more-complicated question that involves several theories to answer. Which may all be correct to some degree.

The simple explanation is that when Simon Whitfield fired up every Canadian watching the Sydney Olympics on TV in 2000 by roaring past Germany's Stephan Vuckovic in thrilling fashion, he gave the sport a jolt of energy and attention it had never before seen. Until then, triathlon was that crazy thing you saw once a year on NBC in which seemingly masochistic people raced for hours under the blistering Hawaiian sun in the Ironman.

Now, in the dawn of the new millennium, it was a sport that seemed cool. And these shorter Olympic distances appeared almost do-able to the average fitness aficionado who was willing to make a commitment.

"It just kept snowballing from there," says Hamilton's Colin Jenkins, who famously paced Whitfield to a second Olympic medal — a silver — in Beijing.

Yet, don't completely discount those Ironman events the folks had seen on TV. They still remain part of this.

According to Hart, finishing arguably the most-difficult race in the world has become a popular bucket list item. Swimming 3.86 kilometres, cycling 180 kilometres and running a marathon is seen as the ultimate test of endurance, and finishing is seen as the ultimate personal achievement.

But the most-common theory might be the least expected.

Many of the clubs say the largest percentage of people who sign up to explore the sport today are 40- to 60-year-olds looking for a new challenge. People who might've taken up golf in the past but are looking for something more physically taxing.

"They have already succeeded at work, their family has grown up and they need another challenge," says Cindy Lewis, coach of Burlington's Cindy Lewis Performance Training.

These folks have money — which is good because it's not an inexpensive sport when you factor in equipment, proper food, travel costs to events, hotels, registrations and coaching — and with their kids out of the house, they also have time.

Plus, the clubs offer a social opportunity to work out with like-minded people from the same demographic and same age group. Pursuing the same goals.

"I think people like to meet people and train with people," says Reid, who now runs the Hammerheads and the Fighting Koalas. "It's an incredibly boring sport to train in by yourself."

There's one other surprise, though, that's leading to the growth of clubs in size and number. At least it's a surprise to some of the coaches.

When newcomers show up with plans of getting in better shape, having an outlet for their competitive urges or completing an Ironman, they often say they'll be at it for a few years then maybe try something else.

Then two years go by. Then three. Maybe four.

"All of a sudden," Hart says, "they'll say, 'I can't quit now.'"

sradley@thespec.com

@radleyatthespec

Spectator columnist Scott Radley hosts The Scott Radley Show weeknights from 7-9 on 900CHML

Radley: There’s a run on triathlon clubs around here

Sports Apr 13, 2016 by Scott Radley The Hamilton Spectator

It was a decade or so ago that an interview with an elite local triathlete about his personal success branched off into a whole different conversation. He wasn't just racing for himself anymore, but he'd launched a triathlon club to coach others who were getting into the sport.

Back then, Mat Reid and his Hamilton Hammerheads were unique. There weren't many places around here to train with a team if you were into spending your free time swimming, cycling and running. Not officially, anyway. There were a couple teams but generally the sport was more of a solitary endeavour.

Not anymore.

According to Triathlon Ontario, there are now four sanctioned triathlon teams in Hamilton, two in Dundas, three in Burlington and one each in Waterdown and Stoney Creek. Not to mention one in nearby Jordan Station, two in Milton and another in St. Catharines. We are suddenly living in a triathlon hot spot.

"It's definitely a big explosion," says Lee Hart, head coach and founder of Stoney Creek's Tri-Hart team.

Sure seems so. Why's it happened, though?

"The sport of triathlon has exploded," offers Larissa Robinson, technical advisor for the Triathlon Club of Burlington.

Clearly. But why has that happened?

Well, that's a slightly more-complicated question that involves several theories to answer. Which may all be correct to some degree.

The simple explanation is that when Simon Whitfield fired up every Canadian watching the Sydney Olympics on TV in 2000 by roaring past Germany's Stephan Vuckovic in thrilling fashion, he gave the sport a jolt of energy and attention it had never before seen. Until then, triathlon was that crazy thing you saw once a year on NBC in which seemingly masochistic people raced for hours under the blistering Hawaiian sun in the Ironman.

Now, in the dawn of the new millennium, it was a sport that seemed cool. And these shorter Olympic distances appeared almost do-able to the average fitness aficionado who was willing to make a commitment.

"It just kept snowballing from there," says Hamilton's Colin Jenkins, who famously paced Whitfield to a second Olympic medal — a silver — in Beijing.

Yet, don't completely discount those Ironman events the folks had seen on TV. They still remain part of this.

According to Hart, finishing arguably the most-difficult race in the world has become a popular bucket list item. Swimming 3.86 kilometres, cycling 180 kilometres and running a marathon is seen as the ultimate test of endurance, and finishing is seen as the ultimate personal achievement.

But the most-common theory might be the least expected.

Many of the clubs say the largest percentage of people who sign up to explore the sport today are 40- to 60-year-olds looking for a new challenge. People who might've taken up golf in the past but are looking for something more physically taxing.

"They have already succeeded at work, their family has grown up and they need another challenge," says Cindy Lewis, coach of Burlington's Cindy Lewis Performance Training.

These folks have money — which is good because it's not an inexpensive sport when you factor in equipment, proper food, travel costs to events, hotels, registrations and coaching — and with their kids out of the house, they also have time.

Plus, the clubs offer a social opportunity to work out with like-minded people from the same demographic and same age group. Pursuing the same goals.

"I think people like to meet people and train with people," says Reid, who now runs the Hammerheads and the Fighting Koalas. "It's an incredibly boring sport to train in by yourself."

There's one other surprise, though, that's leading to the growth of clubs in size and number. At least it's a surprise to some of the coaches.

When newcomers show up with plans of getting in better shape, having an outlet for their competitive urges or completing an Ironman, they often say they'll be at it for a few years then maybe try something else.

Then two years go by. Then three. Maybe four.

"All of a sudden," Hart says, "they'll say, 'I can't quit now.'"

sradley@thespec.com

@radleyatthespec

Spectator columnist Scott Radley hosts The Scott Radley Show weeknights from 7-9 on 900CHML