Nicole Valentine-Rimmer at Thetis Lake

Conquering the fear of open water

Third annual Fort Street Cycle Beginner Triathlon for MS at Saanich Commonwealth Place, May 3

Facing her fear of open water, Nicole Valentine-Rimmer has put four triathlons on her summer schedule, including a pair of open water events in Saanich.

“It’s not just open water but any swimming that I’m uncomfortable with,” says Valentine-Rimmer.

The new triathlete spent an extra two months in the teaching pool with her TriStars’ triathlon coaches at Saanich Commonwealth Place last year until she was confident enough to enter the lap pool. Growing up in Cordova Bay, boating was a regular part of life for Valentine-Rimmer.

Actually getting into the water, well, it just wasn’t her thing.

When she told her mom she was doing the Fort St. Cycle Beginner Tri for MS, the response was one of surprise. She’s doing it again this year, May 3 at Commonwealth Place, with the goal of adding three more to her season schedule: the Subaru Ironman sprint distance (750-metre swim) and Olympic distance in the Self Transcendence Triathlon (1.5-kilometre swim) at Elk Lake, and the new Langford triathlon.

“It’s funny because in terms of triathlon, swimming has become my better of the three disciplines,” Valentine-Rimmer says. “I was a runner but I was having too many physical issues and the cross training of triathlon gives my hips a chance to recover from running.”

While many people use the Beginner Tri for MS as a launching point to get into the sport, many return to do it again, said organizer Carolyn Gebbie of TriStars Training.

“There have been athletes just as afraid of the water as Nicole, including one person who wanted to do an Ironman. It took work but by the time the summer was over they did the 3.8km open water swim and completed Ironman.”

It’s the patience of TriStars’ coaches that’s kept Valentine-Rimmer into the sport. She could just as easily give up some of her six training sessions per week (three with TriStars, three on her own) to focus on drag racing. She spends many of a spring and summer night behind the wheel of her 66 Coronet.

“There’s a no-drop mentality during training, which means no one gets left behind by the coaches at any training event and that was important to me,” Valentine-Rimmer said. “Everyone is so supportive, even though we share the same concerns about our ability in triathlon, we manage to help each other because of the common goal.”

A triathlon for all abilities

In 2013 TriStars, which runs the Beginner Tri for MS, had it sanctioned by Triathlon B.C. and opened it to the public. Seventy people completed the 500-metre swim (in the Gordon Head Rec. Centre), 17.5km bike and 4km run.

They moved it to Saanich Commonwealth Place for 2014 and 85 people completed the triathlon. This year it’s back at Commonwealth Place, and for the first time the triathlon is likely to hit its capacity of 120 entrants, with 103 already signed up as of Monday.

“We ran the event for years as a warm up for the season and a chance for new triathletes to experience the race in a positive, non-timed environment,” Gebbie said. “It’s very exciting this year as we have many people coming from the Lower Mainland and as far as Saskatchewan,” Gebbie said.

The Beginner Tri for MS raised $15,000 in 2013,  $16,500 in 2014 and is already at $10,000 for 2015, with Gebbie confident they’ll hit $15,000 once again. To register visit tristarstraining.com.

Participants in the Fort St. Cycle Beginner Tri for MS earn an entry for a $1,300 Cannondale road bike with every an $50 of pledges raised.

The race is open to all abilities.

reporter@saanichnews.com