Triathlon Magazine Canada - - Warm-up Age Group Profile - BY DAN DAKIN

IT DOESN’T MAT­TER if you’re 35 or 75, cel­e­brat­ing a big birth­day for an age

grouper means go­ing from be­ing the old dog to the young gun.

“Mov­ing up an age cat­e­gory is the only time you look forward to get­ting older,” 74-year-old Lynda Lemon says with a laugh.

The ath­lete from Wel­land, Ont., is a young gun at any age.

Af­ter dis­cov­er­ing the sport of triathlon at 46 years old, Lemon has spent nearly three decades mak­ing waves around the world.

She’s been to the ITU Duathlon World Cham­pi­onships 14 times and the Triathlon World Cham­pi­onships 10 times. In those 24 ap­pear­ances, she’s won four golds, three sil­vers and three bronzes. Not bad for some­one who made her first World Cham­pi­onships at the age of 49.

“The higher the level you com­pete at, the more com­pet­i­tive you get,” she says.

Mul­ti­sport rac­ing wasn’t ac­tu­ally what Lemon had her eyes on 28 years ago when she de­cided to take up a new hobby.

“I got to the point where my sons didn’t need me as much and my ca­reer was set­tled, so I needed a chal­lenge,” says Lemon. “I was go­ing to start row­ing, but a friend talked me into triathlon in­stead.”

For the first 10 years, she bal­anced work­ing full time as a teacher and train­ing when­ever she could fit it in. That changed in 2001, when she re­tired and was able to put far more fo­cus on her rac­ing.

She won ITU duathlon gold medals in 2004 (Bel­gium), 2009 (U.S.), 2010 (Scot­land) and 2015 (Aus­tralia), with plenty of other hard­ware mixed in be­tween.

Lemon con­tin­ued to get faster as she got older – in­clud­ing set­ting a 5 km PB of 21 min­utes at the age of 69.

“I feel so for­tu­nate to be able to do it at my age,” she says. “There are a few women who I got to know in the sport who are no longer with us, and some who can no longer com­pete or choose to no longer com­pete. Phys­i­cally, they may be able to con­tinue, but their egos are af­fected by the slow­ing times.”

Lemon ac­knowl­edges that slow­ing times are part of the sport for se­nior-aged rac­ers, but she doesn’t fo­cus on them.

“I know that slow­ing is part of ag­ing, but re­gard­less of times, I’m go­ing to keep go­ing,” she says.

Also part of the ag­ing process is deal­ing with in­juries, but Lemon has been for­tu­nate to have had to deal with few of them – arthritic hip and knees not with­stand­ing.

The ag­ing process has also meant not train­ing as hard as she did in her younger years.

“In­stead of try­ing to cram ev­ery­thing in, I have more time now, and I think my fo­cus has changed. I do less train­ing. I go out for an 80 km ride now with friends rather than do­ing in­ter­vals,” says Lemon, who rides with the St. Catharines Cy­cling Club and com­petes in weekly Thurs­day night time tri­als.

She loves cy­cling and run­ning, but isn’t a huge fan of swim­ming, which ex­plains her ten­dency to choose duathlons over triathlons.

Part of the is­sue is her slight body com­po­si­tion, which, when com­bined with her age, means wa­ter tem­per­a­ture can be an is­sue. Com­pet­ing at the Olympic-dis­tance ITU World Cham­pi­onships in Rot­ter­dam in 2017, she had to be pulled out of the wa­ter 500m short of the fin­ish be­cause of hy­pother­mia.

“We were in wet­suits, but were also in the North Sea. It’s the third time I’ve had hy­pother­mia, and I’m sure I was zigzag­ging be­cause it af­fects your head,” she said.

Lemon didn’t com­pete in ei­ther the duathlon or triathlon world cham­pi­onships in 2018, but plans to race the sprint dis­tance at the 2019 World Triathlon Cham­pi­onships in Switzer­land.

“I still want to win,” she says. “As long as I can phys­i­cally con­tinue, I will. There aren’t as many peo­ple in your age group at my age, but there’s al­ways some­one to beat. If there are no other women my age, then I try to beat the men or the women in an age group be­low me.”

Lemon has now been around the sport long enough to have other ath­letes start look­ing up to her. She re­cently had a duath­lete in her 40s tell her she was the rea­son she got into the sport.

“I was hon­oured and flat­tered,” she says.

And Lemon’s ad­vice to oth­ers who may be con­sid­er­ing tak­ing up the sport at a more “ma­ture” age? Just go for it. “Es­pe­cially now with the try-a-tri op­tion, it’s never too late,” she says. “It’s a good op­tion to get started and maybe even just stay there com­pet­ing in that dis­tance.”

Dan Dakin is a free­lance jour­nal­ist based in

St. Catharines, Ont.

“I still want to win. As long as I can phys­i­cally con­tinue, I will.”

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