John Bower prior to another workout. The Yarmouth Triathlon, which Bower has done every year since 1984, will be held Aug. 18.
ERIC BOURQUE PHOTO
By Eric Bourque
The Yarmouth Triathlon has undergone some changes in the three decades it has been held – changes to the course, to the distances covered, to the number of people taking part – but there has been at least one notable constant through all these years.
Local resident John Bower was among the eight participants in the first Yarmouth Triathlon in 1984 and he has never missed a year.
He plans do it yet again on Sunday, Aug. 18, when the Yarmouth race is held for the 30th time.
For most of its history, the triathlon has started at Ellenwood Park, where the swim is held and where the biking portion begins, but Bower recalls that the Yarmouth event initially started with an indoor swim at the YMCA.
“The first one we did in the pool, running down the locker room, getting changed,” Bower said. “And then we would go out and we’d get on our bikes out in front of the Y.”
Bower remembers training with Warner Comeau, another local triathlon pioneer, one of the participants in that first race.
Bower recalls having to work on his swimming in preparation for the first triathlon.
“It wasn’t until I did the triathlon that I actually swam a whole kilometre,” he said. “Of course, it was in the pool.”
Asked what he remembers about completing that first race, he said, “We felt pretty good about ourselves that we were able to finish. That was a good challenge … It was kind of neat.”
He says he has enjoyed doing the triathlon, hence his participation year after year. And while an injury or what not might have slowed him down from time to time, he says, it was never enough to keep him out of the race.
Not that things always went smoothly for him in the Yarmouth event. He crashed one year during the bike, although he wasn’t seriously hurt and was able to carry on. He remembers another year – when the swim was held at Milo – when participants had to contend with strong wind and pouring rain. All in all, though, he says the triathlon has been a positive experience for him.
Bower says there is a social aspect to the athletic lifestyle too.
“That’s the people I hang out with,” he said in an Aug. 7 interview. “We do a lot of things together that way. If it isn’t a triathlon, it’s a running race or a duathlon.”
Bower has seen the triathlon – the Yarmouth race in particular and the sport in general – grow in popularity.
While there are some competitive people – and this year the Yarmouth race will serve as the provincial championship – Bower says, “It’s a good atmosphere for everybody.”
Cindy Robicheau, the Yarmouth Triathlon’s race director, offers a similar view.
Asked about the Yarmouth event’s 30th edition, she said, “There seems to be a lot of buzz around the community … I think there’s a fair (number) of families who are going to take part. It seems like there’s a lot of excitement about the event this year, which is wonderful.”
Team competition, of course, made the triathlon more accessible to more people, given that it meant they didn’t have to tackle the entire course themselves. Robicheau says she’s pretty sure the Yarmouth race is the leader among Nova Scotia triathlons as far as team participation is concerned.
The Yarmouth Triathlon is an Olympic-distance event (1.5-km swim, 40-km bike, 10-km run) but it now also offers a sprint-distance option (essentially half the Olympic distance).
“This year we’ve added a sprint team event, which we didn’t have last year,” Robicheau said, “so that, again, will open it up to more people and perhaps more young people.”
Bower was in Bridgetown a couple of weeks ago for a triathlon there and says he found the shorter-distance options to be very popular.
“What you do is you get people’s feet wet,” he said.
Bower, meanwhile, has experienced the other end of the triathlon spectrum, having done an Ironman-distance event last year in Dartmouth. That’s about 3.8 km of swimming, 180 km of biking and 42 km of running. “That took a lot, “ he said.
As for the Yarmouth race, he admits it makes him feel a little old to think the event has reached its 30th year and that he’s done all of them.
“It’s what I do, I guess,” he said. “It’s been fun, really. It has been fun.”