BY LINDSAY BRISCOE
The Red Lake Triathlon turned 25 on Sunday with participants—some for the very first time—suiting up to take part in the annual event.
Jean McNamee, who’s been helping organize the triathlon for the past 12 years, says the triathlon has had its ups and downs with participation fluctuating, but says there are usually at least 50 adults and children coming out for the event.
The triathlon committee focuses on keeping the event accessible and fun for all ages. They’ve made some changes over the years to reflect that.
“We’re really trying to promote health and fitness for our community. Obviously that’s going to start when you’re young so we try to do anything we can to make it easier for the young kids to get them used to it. We don’t get all crazy about rules other than helmets. They can wear life jackets, they can swim with a parent…we try to include all ages. We’ve made some changes to the distances and some of the categories because we were finding some of the younger kids who were developing through the triathlon every year were finding it too easy. We have some kids that come back to the triathlon every year and they’ve gone from barely being able to ride a bike on training wheels to doing the whole event by themselves.”
She says training is important, however, even for children.
“You don’t just jump in and go,” she says, adding that even as a swimmer herself, her first team event in 2001 was not a walk in the park since swimming in open water is a lot more challenging than in a pool.
For first time triathlon participant, Jennifer Leblanc Szaflik, it was the cycling portion of the event that got her heart racing from nerves. When she decided to start training for the triathlon as an individual participant back in May, she hadn’t ridden a bike, other than short rides with her children, in 15 years.
“First of all, the bike seat is not comfortable and going down hills I was afraid to fall. All I have for a bike is a cheap Canadian Tire basic bike and I always thought maybe the triathletes would say, ‘oh, look at her, she doesn’t belong here with her Canadian Tire bike.’ So I was afraid. And then I said, ‘you know what, just do it.’”
As part of her preparation, she’s been reading up on tips and advice for triathletes and has learned the importance of proper transitions in order to have an effective race.
“It’s actually perfect for me because I’m one of those people who really likes to lay out my day and my week. I like to know what’s happening when. I don’t like to fly by the seat of my pants. With transition, you lay everything out. So you lay down your towel, you have your bike, your shoes go first, then your helmet, your straps are out, your sunglasses are in. There are no surprises.”
She says she’s stayed motivated in her training because she enjoys reaching milestones.
“I love setting a goal and then reaching that goal. How many times in your life do you set out for something at our age and actually obtain it.”
“This year my goal is to cross the finish line smiling and that’s what I’m going to do.”