There is no easing back into the swing of things when it comes to the world of local triathlete Isabella Mastroianni.
The 18 year-old recent graduate of Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School has not raced in a formal compete triathlon since the summer of 2019.
On July 18th (2021), however, Mastroianni will be one of seven junior-aged Canadian entries at the 2021 Americas Triathlon Cup Long Beach in sunny California, vying for one of four berths on the national U21 team that will compete at Worlds in Bermuda in October.
“I’m nervous, but I’m also really excited, just because my training has been going really well lately,” she said over the weekend. “That’s given me some reassurance.”
For the better part of the past ten years or so, Mastroianni has more than held her own both as a competitive swimmer, but also a triathlete, her two passions jockeying regularly for a leading role. That’s one thing that really hasn’t changed a whole lot in the past year and a half, when so much else definitely has.
“Before the pandemic, I had shifted more towards swimming,” she suggested. “I was getting ready for university, and after university, I figured I would focus more on the triathlon. But because we haven’t been able to swim a lot, there's been more triathlon training lately.”
“Honestly, it changes all the time.”
In fact, plenty has changed for the local product who has one World Triathlon circuit race to her credit, taking part in the Magog CAMTRI Sprint back in July of 2019. Opting to complete a fifth year of secondary schooling while the world around her settled down, Mastroianni took advantage of a more limited academic schedule to add full-time employment to her resume.
“It’s been a lot more challenging getting a lot of training in, and I haven’t been swimming as much because the pools have been closed here,” she explained. Still, access to a trainer that provides winterized indoor cycling workouts, a device which is located adjacent to her treadmill, helped Mastroianni emerge from the winter in darn good shape.
“I hate running on a treadmill; I find it so much harder,” she stated. “I would much rather be outside. For biking, it’s a bit more of a mix. The majority of my hard workouts are done on the bike trainer. We don’t have anywhere in Sudbury where we can go and do a hard workout without worrying about cars and stuff.”
Where she was somewhat more undecided regarding post-secondary plans as a 17 year-old, Mastroianni now finds herself committed to the University of Guelph Gryphons, joining long-time Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club teammate Abby MacDonald. She’ll also be much closer to triathlon coach David Hopton.
It’s all started to come together nicely for the multi-sport athlete who was recently awarded the Dave Kensit Memorial Swim Scholarship. “Having to work full-time has really helped me mature,” said Mastroianni. “My schedule has been really time crunched, so I’ve gotten really good at time management.”
In May of 2021, she graced the cover of Triathlon Magazine Canada. After a full year without racing, the spotlight would shine back in her direction. “Nobody really knows what I’ve been doing - I don’t post a lot about my workouts or anything,” she suggested. “I went to Guelph, took a few pictures and then found out I would be on the cover.”
“It was really exciting, just because I know how many people get the magazine.”
What Mastroianni has done is chop critical time off the segment of the tri where she can most make up ground, dropping her 5 km time on the track to a personal best of 19:15 or so. Given her competitive swim background, one can sense the anticipation to give herself something of a test drive later this month.
“Usually I would say swimming is where I am most confident, but lately, it’s been my biking,” noted the northern girl who will travel to the land of the Beach Boys (I suppose something a little more current might be more fitting for the talented teen) with her older sister in tow, manning the bag.
“I’ve been getting really strong on the bike, definitely more comfortable. And the running is getting there, which is good. Running has always been the weakest for me.”
It was less than one month ago when Mastroianni was even made aware of this opportunity. Two Sundays from now, she will take to the start line of Alamitos Beach with forty female competitors representing a dozen countries or so, including Mexico, Brazil, Australia and the USA, among others.
For her part, the lifelong Sudburian will turn her attention to six other compatriots, all born between 2001 and 2003. With so much riding on this race and so little in the way of recent results to provide much in the way of competitive points of reference, Mastroianni has turned to a very familiar contact for helpful grounding.
“I talk a lot with Cole (Payette), my personal trainer,” she said. “We talk about how to plan for these races. One of the things that we have talked about is for me to just go out there, have fun and see how I can do, just because we haven’t had any races in a long time.”
“It’s a bit of a guessing game.”
Mastroianni has received no lack of sport specific training. Payette, on the other hand, provides more of a general umbrella approach. “I started with Cole when I was ten, so we’ve built up to the point of knowing what works for me and what doesn’t work for me. I’m not always sure exactly how his workouts are going to help, but they all seem to find a way in perfectly.”
Ironically, she has also come somewhat full circle in another key aspect of the race, one which Mastroianni had kind of set aside as she developed through her teenage years. “I used to practice transitions all the time when I was younger,” she said. “I got really good at them, good at getting on to my bike and off my bike.”
"I’ve been focusing more on that heading to California. If you come out of the water in the pack, you don’t want to have a slow transition and then miss that lead pack on the bike. It’s so hard to catch up with them when you are by yourself.”
If successful in cracking the team, Mastroianni knows her first few months of university will be nothing if not hellacious, acclimatizing herself to her Bio Chem studies while balancing her training. “The swim coach at Guelph knows that I also do triathlons, she knows that I want to do both.”
“It’s not just going to be swimming.”
For Isabella Mastroianni, it seldom is.