Tin Man race a final exam for triathlon students

Students swim, bike, run through Saanich

Pacific Christian student Zac De Vries

Bare chested and shoeless, Zac De Vries treads carefully but quickly through the ankle-deep pan of water.

Others jump in with a splash.

“Leave some water for us,” chirps a Pacific Christian School student from the back of the lineup.

The students are in Grades 10 to 12, and on Tuesday morning they’re simulating the transition in a triathlon from swimming to cycling. The dish tray of water challenges the young triathletes to put their shoes on with wet feet.

De Vries, a Grade 11 student, dashes 15 metres from the tray to his bike and throws on his shoes, shirt and helmet. He cycles a short loop that takes him less than 60 seconds.

It’s the third simulated transition run of the day and De Vries, a powerful cyclist, is the first to return to the transition area. By the time he completes his mock run, some have only just returned on bike.

John Stewart designed the simulation for the class’ Tin Man triathlon, scheduled for 11:30 a.m., Friday (June 3). The race is the culmination of a school year’s work by the students.

His triathlon class is the only one like it in Victoria.

“It’s all about the process, the journey and not the destination. I want to teach a lifestyle of fitness and this matches it,” Stewart said. “Too much racing leads to too much comparing and that leads to despair.

“As Simon Whitfield said, ‘(triathlon) medals are won in the summer, earned in the winter.’”

On the other hand, the kids are excited about finally putting their skills together having spent the dead of winter swimming at Saanich Commonwealth Place as well as running and biking.

The race ends in front of the school with a celebration and school barbecue.

Stewart can only guess but has an inkling it will come down to the strong running of Grade 12 Hayden McClure versus the strength of De Vries in the swim and bike.

Between McClure and De Vries, however, both agree it’s anybody’s race.

“I actually think Cameron Fennema is going to win,” McClure said. “I can’t believe he’s only in Grade 10 but he can swim. He’s not even the dark horse, he’s just a horse.”

There are other stories, like Grade 9 Shania Rados, who is looking to make up ground after missing the junior Tin Man due to injury last year. The juniors ran their Tin Man on Thursday.

Likely to duel it out for the senior girls bracket are Grade 12 Alexa Raper and Grade 10 Emily Candell.

Having triumphed two years ago, McClure is ready to reclaim the title that eluded him last year.

“I’d love to win it again. When I won the senior race as a Grade 10, it was a great, great feeling. I’ve only ever felt that when I won the Coastal Cup soccer championship (with Lakehill).”

If McClure is going to win it he knows De Vries is one of the bodies he’ll have to pass in the run.

On the other hand, De Vries’ classmates might have to forgive the hulking athlete if he doesn’t put 100 per cent to his race. On Saturday, he flies to Ontario for the national U19 rowing team selection camp.

The Victoria City Rowing Club member is part of the Canadian Sports Centre’s Ignite program, meaning his school triathlon training is an add-on to a week already packed with two-a-day workouts of rowing, gymnastics, weights and sprints.

“It’s a mixed feeling because it’s exciting to race with the class but, ultimately, the national selection camp is a priority,” De Vries said.

Tin Man route

300m swim, 10km bike, 3km run

Racers start in the lap pool of Saanich Commonwealth before making the first transition out the back doors beside the diving boards.

Onto their bikes, the route follows Normandy Drive to West Saanich, Glanford and Vanalman roads with the second transition made from bike to run at the doors of PCS.

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