Victoria Triathlon Preview: Something about second for Saanich triathlete

Saanich triathlete wonders how many second place finishes she can race to

Saanich triathlete Janet Nielsen stands at the launching point of the Victoria Triathlon swim on Elk Lake

Saanich triathlete Janet Nielsen stands at the launching point of the Victoria Triathlon swim on Elk Lake

Look out, Lucy.

Murphy, move over.

In the past 13 months Janet Nielsen has placed second in four of the most gruelling races around, the Subaru Western Triathlon Series.

She hopes to change that with Sunday’s Victoria Triathlon at Elk Lake.

Nielsen’s specialty is the Half Iron distance, 1.9 kilometre swim, 88km bike and 21.1km run.

And as a Saanichite, this is her race.

The 27-year-old calls Cordova Bay home. She graduated from Spectrum community school before completing her teaching certification through the University of Victoria.

When she started the 2010 triathlon season with a second-place finish at Shawnigan Lake, things were looking good. Then came a promising start at Elk Lake exactly one year ago, only to overtaken during the run by eventual winner Cheryl Murphy.

Next was Sooke, where Nielsen blew out of the water with a three minute lead on Katya Meyers, a visiting pro from California who eventually outpaced Nielsen during the bike and run.

“I thought that was it, three times in second. But then came Shawnigan (on May 29) to start (2011),” Nielsen said.

When she was a kid, Nielsen’s favourite T-shirt boasted a No Fear slogan: “Nobody trains for second place.”

“It’s karma I guess. That was my favourite shirt. Of course, I never lost any track races as a kid, I never thought about it back then.”

Nielsen isn’t a shoe-in to win on Sunday. She plans to shave more than 10 minutes from her time of four hours and 40 minutes at Shawnigan to below 4:30. She’ll be among many tough competitors in the female elite category with former Canadian Half Ironman champion Lucy Smith of Sidney, Shawnigan 2010 winner Rachel Kiers, and Victoria’s Sara Gross attending.

“All are very strong, Kiers on the bike, Smith on the run. I’ll come out of the water with them in the lead pack, then it’s my job to stay with them,” Nielsen said.

Expect Victoria’s Adam O’Meara to be in the lead for his second title in a month. O’Meara was the top male at Shawnigan. He’ll have to contend with former Ironman Canada champion Jasper Blake and Kamloops’ Mathieu O’Hallerhan.

Of course, the weekend isn’t all about the elites.

Sunday’s field includes an array of locals and visitors who trained through thick and thin this winter.

About 200 of the estimated 1,000 competitors are registered for the sprint distance (500m swim, 20km bike and 5km run) and there are relay teams doing both the sprint and the Half Iron.

“The sprint people do it because they want to try a triathlon,” said LifeSport’s Lance Watson, an organizer of the event.

“It’s much more manageable. You’re done in an hour or two. And we really push the relay as a starting point.”

Added Watson, “We see regular people of all shapes and sizes get the bug to sign up for next year.”

Won by international sensation Kirsten Sweetland last year, the sprint is also populated with youth elite junior and under-23 triathletes. Most of Canada’s best youths, however, are resting for the Pan American Cup, June 25-26 in Coteau-du-Lac, Que.

As for Nielsen, it’s been four years since she trained with the under-23 national triathlon team. And in two more years she’ll be ready for her first full Ironman, hopefully with a Half Iron win on her resumé.

Nutrition: the fourth event

The Half Iron distance requires: 250 millilitres of fluid replenishment every 15 minutes; about twelve energy gels, each 100 calories, every 25 minutes.

Calorie burn

Estimated calories burned by a high performance athlete during a race are as follows:

Sprint 1,000 to 1,500

Half Iron 3,000 to 4,000

Ironman 6,000 to 8,000

Of course, some participants are going to take much longer to finish the Half Iron.

“In some ways those people are even more hardcore than the champions because they’re working just as hard and we try to recognize and cheer them on,” Watson said.