Triathlon Magazine Canada
AGE GROUP PROFILE
Being a Vancouver Island kid in the early 2000s and having Simon Whitfield come to your school with his Olympic gold medal may have been the kickstart to triathlon greatness for some students. It wasn’t for Nick Patenaude.
Patenaude vaguely remembers Whitfield’s visit, but back then, he didn’t know who Whitfield was, or what sport he was known for. Patenaude’s passion was mastering Halo, Fable or Call of Duty, like many of his other video-game-playing peers. That’s not to say that Patenaude never gave sports a try when he was younger, but it was never fun. After participating in a few cross-country running practices in Grade 3, Patenaude’s athletic self stayed dormant for almost a decade, except for a monthly family bike ride, which had him pining to be back at home on the couch and playing his beloved video games.
When he did resume running, his reasons were atypical for a Grade 11 student. He did it for the mental and physical health benefits. Patenaude saw himself as a bit overweight, so he joined his school’s running club. This time, unlike in Grade 3, he found it engaging, mainly because of the camaraderie that came from the training group and also because of the suffering aspect of the training.
He finished his first 10 km and, although he doesn’t remember his finishing time, he remembers the blisters on his feet from his cheap, department store runners. He also remembers the motivation his first finish line brought him. In Grade 12, while his classmates focused on the social or academic aspects of their senior year, Nick did things his way. He increased his running, completed his first half marathon, and experienced a physical transformation from being “a round-faced, slightly plump kid, into this chiselled dude.”
After graduation, Patenaude spent a year in the work world, earning tuition money and continuing to develop as a runner. During the summer of 2010, he discovered the world of multisport. Since he had cycling experience from commuting to work, when he saw a poster for the Sri Chimnoy duathlon at Elk Lake, he decided to give it a try. Thanks to his consistent training, he cruised through the course, placing in the middle of the pack overall and winning his age group.
It was at the finish line of Elk Lake where Patenaude saw his first triathlon. The swim buoys were still in the lake after he finished his duathlon, so he entered the water and tried swimming to the closest one. He succeeded, barely, and then he walked back to the beach, as an aspiring triathlete. The following winter Patenaude began swimming. He used YouTube videos, advice from lifeguards and dogged determination to get through the swim at his first event, a sprint distance at Shawnigan Lake.
Since those early days of his multisport life, Patenaude has improved to the point that he has represented Canada at the age-group world championships for duathlon every year since 2014. An ever-improving swim has also seen Patenaude climbing up the ranks in triathlon as well.
More impressive than his race results, however, are his contributions to the multisport community in his home city of Victoria. Patenaude has been working as a personal trainer, triathlon coach and kinesiologist since 2018.
One of the spinoffs of Patenaude’s coaching business has been the creation of the Tri Nerds Training Group. He, along with triathlete David Mackenzie-Kong, created a group connecting self-identifying nerdy individuals who also happen to be into multisport. “It’s a group that connects like-minded triathletes and gives a sense of community and camaraderie that most of us nerd types didn’t have in high school,” Patenaude elaborates.
Being a tri nerd requires academic qualifications, and Patenaude has that in abundance, with a BA in sport and leadership, and an MA in kinesiology, specializing in sports psychology. These credentials have not only become a meal ticket for him, but also a ticket out of the quagmire of the past 18 months of the pandemic. With no specific races to train for, Patenaude found himself at times directionless and anxious. He had, like many of us, negative self-talk comparing his former self to his pandemic self. Patenaude overcame his challenges and reignited his motivation through meditation, visualization, as well as developing a good-spirited rivalry with his roommate, Batuhan Kaya. Patenaude adds that at this time, being a coach was also motivating, knowing that his athletes were out there and training just as hard as he was.
As the COVID-19 crisis now seems to be abating, Patenaude is excited about his role in multisport as a coach, team leader and athlete. If all goes well, he will be representing Canada for a sixth time this fall at the age-group world duathlon championships in the Netherlands.