Basedin Montreal, the triathlon club Les Rapides, French for both “fast” and “rapids,” actually refers to “Les Rapides de Lac St-Louis,” the local river where the club trains. It began as a development club in 2003. The goal was to give children an opportunity to stay in shape, develop discipline and independence while being in a team environment.
In 2009, the youth focus shifted to an emphasis on family involvement, and parents can now get in shape at the same time as their kids. The club often has as many as five coaches at one practice for the varying agegroups and levels.
The club runs extracurricular activities in elementary and high schools. In the summer, it also organizes a triathlon-themed week-long day camp for children and teens. Six weeks of training camps were offered last summer geared towards different agegroups and race distances. Perhaps its most progressive offering is the club’s sport-study program at a local college so athletes can complete higher education, with extra support, while training for triathlon at the elite level.
The current Youth Development Coach, Kelsey Vaughan, has been with the club since its inception. In 2003, she did her first triathlon at eight years old. When she turned 16, she began giving back to the club by training the kids. “It’s been several years now that the club has been operating year-round,” says Kelsey. “For the kids, in the winter we offer only swimming, three times a week. Then in the summer, they have access to four practices a week, and they can choose the ones they want to attend. Starting in 2012, we launched a summer camp for kids. It’s a mix of a training camp and a day camp.”
The club now has a team of elites, most of whom came through the club’s youth program including the 2011 Canadian male junior champion, Francis Lefebvre, KarolAnn Roy who was third an junior nationals in 2012, and Elisabeth Boutin, who finished third at the 2013 National Junior Elite Series in Edmonton.
Boutin has been doing triathlon for 10 years and has been training with Les Rapides for a year. “It’s great. The club trains at facilities connected to the college. I came to Les Rapides because everything is in one place.”
“The sport-study program helps us a lot. If we want to leave for a training camp, they help us defer exams,” explains Roy who has been training with Les Rapides for five years. Although she is an elite, she insists, “It’s really a club for everyone. There are kids, adults, elites.”
Lefebvre started training with Les Rapides five years ago, the same time as Roy. When asked about the goals of the elite team, Lefebvre responds, “We’d love to have a national training centre. It would be nice to have one in Quebec and here would be perfect,” he says. “Currently we swim at the Aquadome in Lasalle, a facility with a 50-metre pool.”
The older athletes in the club are inspired by the young athletes who have so much potential. However, the old also inspire the young. The club’s most senior member, 57-year- old Bob Dupuis, describes a difficult training camp at Mont-Tremblant when he inspired other members to keep pushing. “The hilly course was draining and after doing two laps of the most difficult stretch of the Ironman Mont-Tremblant bike course,” recalls Dupuis, “many athletes were ready to call it quits, even though the plan was to do three laps. When everyone saw that I was still going, they decided they had to continue.”
“There are lots of benefits to training with a club,” says Dupuis. “When I started, I couldn’t swim, I needed to learn technique. I also had no racing experience. It was great to learn some tricks from the coaches and all the other athletes. Ten years ago, I was a smoker and not eating healthy. Now, I’m an Ironman. It helps in all aspects of my life. I am a better worker because of the training I do.”