Windsor Life Magazine writer Danielle Breault participated in the 2004 Loaring Triathlon (her first triathlon of hopefully many!), and contacted us this spring with an interest in covering our event. See the full story below as it appeared in the magazine's May/June 2006 issue....
Brother and Sister Team Make Sport Achievable for the Masses
On September 9, 2006 at 4:00 in the afternoon, 250 athletes will line up along the shores of Lake Erie awaiting the sound of the starting horn. For many, it will be their first triathlon experience. For some, it will be the beginning of a new journey toward a lifestyle of health and fitness. It will mark the start of the seventh anniversary of the Loaring Triathlon.
It began as just a fun activity that two triathletes wanted to plan for their friends. James Loaring, a Team Canada triathlete who trains with Olympian Simon Whitfield, and his sister Charlotte, a local physiotherapist who has competed in triathlons for more than 12 years, decided they'd like to plan a race at their favourite place – their family cottage in Colchester .
“Our parents had always been generous, opening our home to all of our friends,” Charlotte recalls. “We did a simulation at the cottage and realized we had a perfect venue at which to organize a race.” They invited 50 people to participate in what they deemed a ‘celebration of fitness', and the event was born. “We realized it really wouldn't take that much additional effort open the event to the public and raise money for charity.”
These siblings hail from a long line of elite athletes. Their grandfather won a silver medal for Canada at the 1936 Olympics and their father was a top level track & field athlete. For James, hosting this race is a chance to give something back. “As a professional triathlete, I have been given a lot of support over the years,” he says. “Helping to organize this event is a way to give back to the sport and maybe even change a person's lifestyle by helping them to accomplish an attainable goal.”
The course is considered a ‘Try-a-Tri' length - ideal for those just starting out. Participants will undertake a 375 metre swim in Lake Erie , an 11 kilometre bike ride, and a 2.6 kilometre run loop. For the more seasoned athletes, there is the option to complete a double tri, which means once they've completed the course once, they'll begin the race a second time.
“We planned the course specifically so that it is accessible to beginners,” says Charlotte . “We wanted to be able to introduce the sport to anybody interested in giving it a try. We've seen people who have become inspired to lead more healthy lifestyles as a result of becoming involved in this sport.” They estimate that at least 50% of the field are first time participants. Indeed, there are few things more exciting than lining up to have your race number marked on your body and your timing chip fastened to your ankle as you prepare to participate in your first race, and crossing the finish line gives you an incomparable sense of accomplishment.
The sport of triathlon is exploding, and the Loarings attribute its growth and popularity to its accessibility. “It's so rare that so many different age groups and levels of fitness can all participate in the same sport at the same time,” Charlotte says. “It's an open and inviting atmosphere that is really rare in sport.” She reports that many people become hooked after their first triathlon and go on to enter other races.
“There's a real sense of camaraderie,” James goes on to say. “A person who is 75 years old can compete at the same time, on the same course as an elite athlete.” And the rule in triathlon is that the last place finisher always gets the loudest cheers.
“Twenty years ago, it was only the Ironman distance that people associated with the sport,” James explains. “Now, there are so many more options – beginner tris, sprint distances, and Olympic distances. It is a trendy sport for people interested in health and fitness.” He estimates that for a beginner with a basic level of fitness, it will take about 45 minutes of training per day, splitting up the routine into two swims, two bike rides, and two runs per week to get you to the start line. You should now how to swim, and have a decent bike and proper helmet. “Like with any sport, the more you put in, the more you get out,” he notes.
“People realize that they can fit the training required for these shorter distances into a regular fitness plan,” Charlotte adds. “The sport is becoming accessible, and there is a great deal of support through websites, magazines, and even within our own community.” As a former competitive swimmer at the University of Toronto , she recognizes that it is the swimming aspect of the race that often poses the biggest barrier to potential participants. “The Windsor-Essex Swim Team has a great program that will allow new swimmers with very basic skills the ability to practice with others to improve their capability,” she says.
This year, the Loaring Triathlon will become part of the newly formed Ontario Triathlon Series. This race network has been formed by independent race directors across Ontario who raise funds to benefit charity organizations. “This new race series allows each organizer to remain independent, but also benefit from synergies and economies of scale that come with being part of a group,” James explains. “The Loaring will be the finale of the series, so it should be a really fun and exciting event.”
Between participants, volunteers and spectators, nearly 500 people attend the event. “And the race doesn't end at the finish line,” James laughs. Following the completion of the race, there is a great celebratory barbeque, games and entertainment.
Funds raised from the Loaring Triathlon are contributed to the Elena Loaring Memorial Fund for Breast Cancer Research through the University of Windsor . This fund honours the Loaring siblings' late mother, who passed away in 2004. The funds raised allow two scholarships to be awarded to graduate students whose studies are related to breast cancer research. All funds raised through the event are matched by the Province of Ontario .
“This event allows us to pay public tribute to our mom,” Charlotte says. “We all know people with cancer and this event allows us to support one another for a good cause. It is an emotional, inspirational, magical day.”
Sidebar: To learn more about the Loaring Triathlon or to register online, go to www.loaring.com