How to Completely Change Your Life through Triathlon
Since an early age I have been involved in endurance sport. I was the completely wacky and abnormal kid who at the age of 15 would get up at 5 am, grab my golf clubs, hop on my bike, ride to the golf course in a tiny town in Southern Alberta, and get a round of golf in before ANYONE showed up. I’d then cycle all the way home, throw on the running shoes and go for a 10K run. Upon returning I’d grab my board shorts, head to the pool, teach some swimming lessons and spend the afternoon honing my lifeguard skills (aka basking in the sun and working on developing skin cancer). I really spent every minute trying to do as many things as I could. I was doing slow-cycling races with my best middle school friend before I even knew it was an actual way of training for killer cycling skills. You know the drill: ride in a straight line from point A to point B as slowly as humanly possible. Much easier now as an adult, but BOY! When you are an awkward 12 year old boy, riding your bike slowly is a recipe for some good comical viewing, BUT also the development of some SWEEEET cycling skills.
Now, I wasn’t the best at running, or swimming, or even golf for that matter. In fact, I wasn’t super intelligent either (I once went out for a 25K run at 15 years old at 2 pm on a HOT July afternoon, NO water bottle or any type of nutrition with me (mind you this was the 90s and a different time when athletes didn’t’ need water or nutrition! – I think I actually died that day, and the rest of my life since has just been my imagination) But I had the desire to learn the most I could, and perform the best I could. I loved to learn, and when not out running, swimming and biking about, could be found with my nose in a book – learning about the human body, the solar system, the wonderful world of animals – ANYTHING I could get my hands on. My parents had a set of about 2 dozen Encarta Encyclopaedias and MAN – was it the coolest thing to me!
Out of high school I was approached by a couple cousins of mine to participate in a local triathlon as a team. Cool, I thought. What discipline do you want me to do? I was a highly competitive runner in high school, and so thought they would for sure want me to tackle that. Nope! Okay, how about the swim? After all, I spent my summers growing up in the pool, teaching kids to swim, coaching the local swim club, and going down to the cow-patty infested lake just out of town and swimming around just for kicks (Seriously Chris – what were we thinking?!?!). Nope!! We want you to do the bike leg…………..
Now, although I had spent so much time riding my bike around town as a kid, I had never been on a road before, so that was a little new to me. I borrowed an ancient rusty road bike from my girlfriend at the time’s dad, and went out on the highway ONCE with it. I didn’t really trust the old thing – and I had good reason too!! The morning of the race, I took the beast and went out for a short ride, just to make sure everything was working properly. See, already before even getting into triathlon fully, I was being all smart and prepared, making sure everything was covered before racing. Ah, who am I kidding??! I should never have waited until the morning of the race to do that! Not 2 minutes into riding the old rusty bike when I heard a crack, and then PING!!! The rear derailleur had literally snapped right off the bike into 2 pieces. Oh boy!! What the heck was I going to do? My cousins were a bit older than I and were unbelievably talented athletes, having played college volleyball. I really didn’t want to let them down.
Well, what else could I do, I grabbed my mountain bike, and threw it in my dad’s truck, and headed for the race venue. Now looking back, I really shouldn’t have been so embarrassed and self-conscious of the mountain bike I was racing on. After all, for one’s first race, mountain bikes are a fairly common place and completely acceptable in my opinion in order to get individuals hooked on triathlon.
Despite the bike, it was an amazing experience. After my cousin came thrashing out of the water (don’t tell her I said that) and tagged me, I booked it fast as I could up out of T1 on to the highway and off I went. 26K to get all the way into town from the resevior out in the middle of nowhere, a field really. Zing….. zing….. zing….. road bikes passing me left and right (I had no riding etiquette, punk kid). So, what did I do? Leaned over to get aero, rested my elbows on the handlebars, and pushed as hard as I freaking could. I have to say I held my own not too bad after that for being on a mountain bike. Needless to say, we didn't’ win, the triathlon seed was planted.
Upon the start of my post-secondary career at the University of Lethbridge, I learned that becoming a teacher (although as fun and rewarding as it were) was not for me. I loved to impart my knowledge, but I was really beginning to love learning about the human body and elite performance. I changed my major to Kinesiology, went out and got a personal training certification (by the way, don’t even get me started right now on how horrendous the personal training industry is on regulation, and making sure that trainers in the industry know what they are doing! A subject for another time!), and got a job at the University Fitness Centre, personal training and teaching fitness classes.
That was all fine and dandy, but in the back of my mind I really wanted to give this triathlon thing a try. I was now married, and convinced my wife that I NEEDED a road bike this time around. Enter my first bike, my beautiful at the time black and white Aluminum frame Alpha 1500 Trek, I called it the Zebra (and still do – I could just never get rid of it, it’s now my crappy weather commuter bike). I’m one of those guys that can’t give up my bikes. The perfect number of bikes to own is equal to n+1 where n is the number of bikes I currently own. Hence, I just can’t seem to sell my old bikes. I suppose it’s healthy addiction to have.
Needless to say, years later I am still actively racing and competing. I’ve competed in multiple National Championships, Age Group World Championships, had some crazy crashes, lost some skin, almost lost a toe!, had some exciting finishes travelled and raced in some beautiful parts of the world, and had some great adventures (I’m currently writing a book called How NOT to Race Triathlon filled with my adventures and funny mistakes and mishaps along the way- let’s just say throwing myself onto a road barrier overlooking the ocean on a cliff in Maui, trying to dislodge an electrolyte pill stuck in my windpipe – sound exciting? Stay tuned!).
I loved teaching and triathlon so much, it made so much sense to become a triathlon coach. After years of what seemed like an endless University career, and working my way through the modules to become a certified triathlon coach with the National Coaching Certification Program in Canada, I ran the triathlon program at the U of L, began the Titan’s Triathlon Club, and moved to beautiful Calgary, Alberta to take on the Head Coach position of the Kronos Triathlon Club, the cities’ largest youth triathlon club, and the gold standard for producing elite level jr triathletes in Southern Alberta. I also run my own triathlon coaching business, helping endurance athletes from around the world meet their true potential.
Triathlon is an amazing sport with amazing people. My life’s goal is to bring as many people in to the sport as I can, and to help as many athlete reach their full potential.
WRITTEN BY KYLE JENSEN
B.Sc. Kinesiology University of Lethbridge, CPT-CSEP, NCCP Competitive Certified, Ironman Certified Coach
Kyle is the head coach of T1Triathlon and the Kronos Triathlon Club in Calgary, Alberta. He has been competing in triathlon for over a decade and coaching for 7 years.