YORKTON - While athletes in general need to be fit to do what they do, it has always occurred to me that triathletes have to be at the upper end of fitness to do what they do.
So, when I came upon an online page promoting the first-ever PTO Tour Canadian Open in Edmonton, I had to dig deeper.
For those unaware – as I was – PTO stands for Professional Triathletes Organization, which holds events around the world attracting the top athletes in the sport.
That is what is happening in the Alberta city this summer with the best professional triathletes gathering in Edmonton for the Canadian Open July 23-24.
So a couple of emails later and I had an interview with Paula Findlay, a professional triathlete who is excited a PRO event is coming to Edmonton which just happens to be her hometown.
“It’s really exciting. I haven’t raced in Edmonton since I was a junior,” she said, adding the Canadian Open will actually be held “in the park I literally grew up learning to bike in, that I ran in.”
For Findlay that means putting some extra attention on the race which she knows will be a competitive one.
“It’s going to attract the best athletes in the world,” she said, adding she is now preparing “for one of the biggest races in my life.”
Findlay will be competing in the longest version of the Edmonton event with a two kilometre swim, 80 kilometre bike ride and a 20 kilometre run, but she said the great thing about the sport is there are different distances to challenge athletes.
“Anybody can jump into it,” she said, adding a sprint race of a 750 metre swim followed by a 20 kilometre ride and a five kilometre run.
Most triathletes excel in one element with another they wish they were better at. Findlay said in her case that is true, but which elements have changed.
“Early on, because I grew up swimming that was certainly a strength,” she said.
As a result, she has focused more training on the other elements and has swam less, and now her swimming might be her weakest element although she self-assessed “all three are pretty equal for me now.”
Findlay didn’t start out as a triathlete, but evolved into it.
“I started as a competitive swimmer,” she said, adding she started in the pool at age 10.
Running came next, taking up the sport in high school, which was in a way a diversion from her main focus of swimming.
“Doing just swimming can burn you out a little bit,” she said.
That is certainly one of the things Findlay said she likes about triathlon, the ability to change-up her training a bit by focusing on a different element of the sport, although as her career as a pro athlete she ultimately has to spend time on all three.
“Using different muscles keeps the brain entertained,” she said.
It was while in high school Findlay made her next step when in 2006, her coach talked her into getting a bike and trying her first triathlon.
It turned out to be just the sport Findlay needed. That year, she qualified for her first Junior World Championship team and things progressed from there.
It came just at a time Findlay said she had come to recognized she wasn’t likely to make Canada’s national swimming team, or hit the pool at the Olympics.
“I won my first triathlon,” said Findlay, adding that was enough to make her think she had a higher ceiling in the sport than she had in swimming.
And her ascertain proved correct as she burst onto the international scene as a 21-year-old when she won five ITU World Championship Series races in a row over the span of two seasons, a feat no woman in history had achieved.
And the Olympic dream was realized too as Findlay competed in London at the 2012 Olympic Games, as well as the 2015 Pan American games for Canada.