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Nawaleniec takes young triathletes through their paces

An experienced local triathlete, Michael Nawaleniec is well aware of the importance of proper pacing. Thankfully, time is definitely on his side as he works with a pair of very talented, but very young local triathletes.

Re-branded this summer under the combined name of Sudbury Triple Threat Triathlon / PSP Multi-Sport, Nawaleniec is sharing the knowledge he has accumulated over the years with both Georgia Lepage (12) and Lucia Salmaso (11), both of whom are busy competing in the Triathlon Ontario Youth Cup Series.

In fact, both local products cracked the top eight at the recent Gulliver's Lake Triathlon, despite being among the youngest in the mixed gender 12-13 field of nearly 30 competitors.

"What I'm trying to teach the kids is that it's not always the best idea to go out and try and be as fast as we can in the swim, or on the bike, because we have to save something for the run," said Nawaleniec, shortly after completing a recent practice with the pair at the Delki Dozzi Sports Complex.

"To be a good triathlete, you have to be well-rounded, you have to be competitive in each of the events." Truth be told, the sport leans on more than simply the individual training block for each component of a triathlon.

"Don't underestimate what they actually get out of what you think is the simplest thing," said Nawaleniec. "That's been the biggest learning curve I've experienced in the past four years. I think it's actually the skills part of the training that they like the most."

In fact, as Nawaleniec explains it, he is perhaps more of a duathlon coach, armed with the additional knowledge necessary to properly execute the key transition period between segments of the triathlon.

"Because this is such a niche sport and the club is small, I don't actually offer swimming training. Fortunately, the kids belong to NCA (Nickel City Aquatics), so that's where they get their training in."

Unfortunately, this also limits the majority of their training to a pool setting, though there may be an unintended benefit. "I enjoy swimming, but I really didn't want to go into the water," said Lepage, reminiscing about her first triathlon earlier this summer in Peterborough.

"Because it was very weedy, it just pushed me to get out of the water that much faster." And that wasn't the only positive takeaway from the Lakefield Triathlon. "I was happiest with my run there," said Lepage.

"When you get off the bike, your legs just feel like jelly. It's hard to feel normal again in the run. But at the Sudbury Rocks, my pace for my 5 km was actually slower than my run pace in Lakefield."

And though it slowed slightly in the torid heat of the recent event in Cambridge, Lepage still had enough left to secure a fifth place finish in a time of 37:03, holding off Mikayla McDermott (37:03) of Oro-Medonte with one final sprint to the end.

A couple of minutes back, Salmaso is already a mainstay on the local running circuit, having competed in several 5 km races and a 10 km or two along the way as well - though it did not necessarily start this way.

"I actually started swimming before I started running," noted the young woman who will head to Marymount Academy to complete grade seven in the fall. "My mom showed me a video of people who were swimming, biking and running, and I thought it was really cool, so I signed up for my first one in North Bay."

Placing 5th in the run segment at Gulliver's Lake (2.4 kms in 10:18) and eighth overall (39:21), Salmaso has identified her training priority this summer. "I want to become more confident on my bike," she said. "I have a hard time being more confident on my bike because I just learned how to ride a bike last year."

"But I feel like I've gotten faster in everything over the past year." Which, of course, is the end goal, even if it is all in good time.

Competing in the 14-15 age group at Gulliver's Lake, Confederation Secondary junior Ian MacKenzie placed second in a field of thirty, clocking an overall time of 40:34, broken down as follows: 400m swim in 6:45; 8.8 kms on the bike in 18:38; 3.6 kms run in 15:12.

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