The Stars are Aligned for Pierre Heyne­mand, Jr.

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - DEPARTMENT - BY LOREEN PIN­DERA

For30 years now, be­fore ev­ery race, Pierre Heyne­mand Jr. scrawls a heart on the back of his hand in in­deli­ble felt marker.

“To show re­spect for my fam­ily,” Heyne­mand says. “Ev­ery time I do a triathlon, I just have to glance at my hand, and I think about them.”

Heyne­mand’s wife, Chris­tine Bruneau, is his great­est sup­porter, hav­ing re­al­ized from the start that life with Pierre would mean early morn­ings and hol­i­days re­volv­ing around races. Their chil­dren, Félix and Lau­ri­anne, are ac­tive, too. Lau­ri­anne, 17, is a com­pet­i­tive triath­lete on the ju­nior elite cir­cuit.

But when Heyne­mand, who turns 52 in De­cem­ber, talks about “my fam­ily,” he also means the kids with whom he trains at the Jet Club in Joli­ette, Que., north­east of Mon­treal; and the staff and stu­dents at the high school where he is prin­ci­pal; and every­one he em­braces in his wide cir­cle of in­flu­ence as a men­tor and an ath­lete.

He will be chan­nelling all of them, look­ing at that heart, as he stands on the beach at Kailua-Kona Bay on Oc­to­ber 13, the 40th an­niver­sary of the Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship. It will be Heyne­mand’s eighth time at Kona – and his 50th Iron­man.

“All the stars are aligned,” says Heyne­mand. “For sev­eral years now, I’ve cir­cled around that top spot on the podium: fifth, sec­ond, and sec­ond again last year. What I re­ally want for my 50th Iron­man is the best per­for­mance I can muster.”

At Kona, that means mak­ing no mis­takes.

“It’s such an in­tense race, in ev­ery way,” he says. “The ath­letes are so strong. You have to have a good swim, a good bike, a good run. Your nutri­tion has to be well thought out. You have to have a plan to man­age the heat.”

He gave it his best shot in 2017, good enough for a 9:34:29 fin­ish, mak­ing him the sec­ond-fastest Cana­dian age-grouper, just over 21 min­utes be­hind fel­low Que­be­cer, 35-year-old Jérôme Bres­son.

That was the high­light of a par­tic­u­larly ar­du­ous sea­son: five Iron­man races in which he made the podium in ev­ery event; seven sprint and stan­dard-dis­tance races, in­clud­ing the Que­bec Olympic dis­tance cham­pi­onship; three duathlons, plus the Cana­dian long-dis­tance cham­pi­onship at the Mon­treal Es­prit Triathlon, in which he placed fifth over­all.

In the midst of all that, he spent sev­eral days in hospi­tal, suf­fer­ing from an in­testi­nal bug likely picked up dur­ing an open-wa­ter prac­tice swim early in the sea­son.

In ret­ro­spect, Heyne­mand says, he prob­a­bly ar­rived in Hawaii a bit too tired. This sea­son, he will have done only three Iron­man races in the lead-up to Kona: Santa Rosa, where he qual­i­fied for the World Cham­pi­onship last May; Mont-Trem­blant on his home turf; and his favourite race course, Lake Placid.

Heyne­mand still does sprints, Olympic-dis­tance races and duathlons nearly ev­ery week­end. That’s his speed work. Other­wise, his train­ing is all about vol­ume.

“There are two types of ath­letes,” he says, “race horses and draft horses. I’m a draft horse. I can han­dle a lot of mileage. I don’t get hurt. If I only work out 12 hours a week, I don’t per­form. I need to do 22, 25 hours weekly all year round, some­times 35 to 40 hours in the sum­mer­time.”

That adds up to 1,200 hours of swim­ming, bik­ing and run­ning a year, plus eight min­utes of stretch­ing, twice a day, re­li­giously. It’s more than most of us could man­age, and it’s not a regime Heyne­mand rec­om­mends for every­one.

“Every­one is dif­fer­ent,” he says. “It’s what I have to do to get to the moun­tain­top.”

It means a 5 a.m. wake-up all year long to swim or run be­fore get­ting be­hind his desk in the prin­ci­pal’s of­fice, and cy­cling in the evening – with Zwift, in the garage, in the win­ter­time.

Af­ter 30 years of rac­ing, he knows his lim­its in­ti­mately. He races with­out any gad­gets. None.

“No com­puter,” he says, with a shrug. “It’s just a dis­trac­tion.”

Take cy­cling into the in­evitable wind at Kona.

“The com­puter tells you you’re go­ing 38 km/h, but you planned on 40 km/h. But 38 is OK. At some point, you’ll have the wind at your back, and in­stead of 52 km/h, you’ll be hit­ting 55. I let my legs tell me how hard I’m work­ing. My legs and my head.”

Heyne­mand says he has no magic recipe for his suc­cess as a triath­lete, but his zest for life is in­fec­tious, and he is an evan­ge­list for the sport and for fit­ness in gen­eral. The night be­fore the Gatineau Triathlon in early July, Heyne­mand gave a pep talk to a bunch of be­gin­ner triath­letes about the im­por­tance of set­ting your own goals – and of hav­ing a good time while you’re at it.

“The no­tion of plea­sure is so im­por­tant,” he says. “If it weren’t, I wouldn’t be do­ing this for 30 years. The kids I swim with are so young, some­times I add up the ages of three of them, and it doesn’t come to mine. But I have so much fun!”

He’s been on the board of Triathlon Québec for years, boost­ing the province’s uber-suc­cess­ful el­e­men­tary school “triathlon scolaire” pro­gram and, at his last high school, set­ting up a sport-study pro­gram for as­pir­ing elite triath­letes in the re­gion.

At his new school, he has set up a club for stu­dents at risk of drop­ping out, en­cour­ag­ing them to find their own pas­sion – and not to set­tle for flip­ping burg­ers or some other min­i­mum wage job.

He gives talks to any­one in the com­mu­nity who will lis­ten, and he en­cour­ages other ath­lete-role mod­els to do the same.

“My mes­sage is: get­ting in shape changes your life,” he says. “We have to stop talk­ing con­stantly about the search for cures and talk more about pre­ven­tion. The big­gest gift you can give your­self is to stay in shape.”

As for what he will do next year, af­ter his 50th Iron­man is be­hind him – well, he and his wife did buy a tan­dem bike in July, and he looks for­ward to more time for long rides with her and the wind at his back.

But just don’t ask him that ques­tion un­til af­ter Kona. Heyne­mand is fo­cused on the task at hand.

Pierre Heyne­mand Jr. fin­ish­ing in Kona 2017 LEFT

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