Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES - BY KERRY HALE

The Univer­sity of Cal­gary Triathlon Club (UCTC) is the long­est serv­ing ac­tive triathlon club in Canada. It was founded in the fall of 1985 by Mark Hlady af­ter he re­turned from the 1984 Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship in Hawaii, which he en­tered and com­pleted on just three weeks of train­ing. Equally ex­hausted and in­spired, he re­turned to Cal­gary with a clear in­ten­tion to pro­mote the new sport of triathlon.

In its first year, the UCTC con­sisted of about 20 peo­ple, most of whom were swim club par­ents look­ing to try a new ad­ven­ture. Triathlon be­gan to as­sert it­self as a bona fide sport at around this time and many ath­letes, in­clud­ing many from a road run­ning back­ground and swimming, be­gan to em­brace the unique chal­lenges of mul­ti­sport train­ing and rac­ing. The UCTC club grew quickly, dou­bling in size in its sec­ond year. The club con­tin­ued to blos­som and to­day it is home to ath­letes from all back­grounds and walks of life, from first-timers through to na­tional team ath­letes.

In the early days, Hlady of­fered rudi­men­tary ad­vice on equip­ment, train­ing plans, nu­tri­tion and how best to weave these in­gre­di­ents to­gether for suc­cess­ful rac­ing.

“There were a few low-key triathlons crop­ping up across Al­berta and UCTC ath­letes raced them, as well as the Kelowna Ap­ple Triathlon in B.C. for Olympic dis­tance ath­letes, and for long-course ti­tans Iron­man Canada on the iconic Pen­tic­ton course,” ex­plains Hlady.

In the early 1990s the club cel­e­brated suc­cess with ath­letes such as Terri Smith-ross, who fin­ished on the podium rac­ing against the finest short-course fe­males in the world, along with Marc Becker, who used his bik­ing prow­ess to gar­ner sev­eral 9-hour Iron­man fin­ishes, putting him amongst the top group of Pen­tic­ton fin­ish­ers.

Over the last 30 years the club has hosted nu­mer­ous races and in­cor­po­rated many dif­fer­ent types of train­ing work­outs based within the Univer­sity of Cal­gary grounds. The pool at the univer­sity is one of only three 50-m pools in the city and is used three times per week by the club.

“With two coaches on pool deck, the pool is typ­i­cally run with the be­gin­ners train­ing from the shal­low end, work­ing pri­mar­ily on tech­nique and some base fit­ness, while the more ad­vanced swim­mers uti­lize the deep end for ap­pli­ca­ble warm-up, warm-down, drills and main sets,” Hlady says. At the end of each swim work­out, a short core strength­en­ing ses­sion is held on pool deck.

Train­ing in all three dis­ci­plines is based on a 12-week macro cy­cle. This en­com­passes three weeks for build-up, fo­cus­ing on tech­nique and base fit­ness, then three weeks of en­durance train­ing aimed at learn­ing to hold solid tech­nique while swimming, bik­ing and run­ning at higher aer­o­bic lev­els. Then there’s a three-week strength and power phase geared to­ward chal­leng­ing anaerobic thresh­old and fo­cus­ing on hold­ing good form while fa­tigued.

“The last three-week cy­cle is speed,” ex­plains Hlady, “where we work above anaerobic thresh­old on speed sets in all three dis­ci­plines. If you want to be a faster swim­mer, biker and run­ner, you must train at high in­ten­sity lev­els that al­low you to then back off and hold faster pace times for your races at high aer­o­bic lev­els.” Given the frigid out­door tem­per­a­tures dur­ing the win­ter, much of the bike train­ing is per­formed in­doors on sta­tion­ary train­ers or ex­er­cise bikes ide­ally lo­cated at one cor­ner of a 200 m run­ning track. “It’s per­fect for brick ses­sions,” says Hlady. “On Mon­day and Wed­nes­day nights we do a bike/run brick in­cor­po­rat­ing the bikes and the track. On Sun­days, weather per­mit­ting we ride 2.5 to 3 hours out­doors, or in­doors if need be, of­ten al­ter­nat­ing 30 min­utes of ride time with 5 to 10 min­utes of ba­sic ply­o­met­rics.” Break­ing up the ride is an in­no­va­tive ap­proach that has proven its value in terms of ath­lete com­fort­a­bil­ity, flex­i­bil­ity and longevity. The club also uses a mid-week brick ses­sion as a cen­tral el­e­ment to their train­ing. This 1.5 to two-hour ses­sion is bro­ken up into 10- to 15-minute sta­tion­ary bike intervals fol­lowed by a 400-m to 1-km track run.

“We might de­cide to run hard off the bike, or [work at a] steady pace at the out­set and work into a fast-fin­ish 1k run,” ex­plains Hlady. “It de­pends on where we are at in our train­ing cy­cle as to what type of work­out we em­ploy.”

In 2016, the club is di­rect­ing its at­ten­tion to­ward its youth pro­gram.

“I am ex­cited to work with our youth to in­still in them the joys of be­ing fit and knowl­edge­able about train­ing and rac­ing triathlon,” says Hlady.

Be­yond that, in 2017, the UCTC plans to work with the Al­berta Triathlon As­so­ci­a­tion to host a June sprint and Olympic dis­tance event in Cal­gary.

Kerry Hale is a triath­lete and free­lance writer from the Co­mox Val­ley.

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