Age no barrier for these triathletes

It took Coquitlam’s Warren Slaght until middle age to become a world class athlete. 

That’s when he noticed all the competitors finishing with him at triathlon races were younger than his 61 years.

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Next August Slaght and his 55 year-old training partner, Paul Townsend, will travel to Lausanne, Switzerland, to compete for Canada against top triathletes in their age category from around the world at the International Triathlon Union world championships.

Getting there has been a journey that started with getting off the couch.

His kids grown and out of the house, Slaght decided his life needed some “me-time.” So he turned off the TV and got on a bike.

In 2014, Slaght trained for the Seattle to Portland Ride that covers the 327 km between the two Pacific Northwest cities in two days. The next year he tackled the distance in one day.

Slaght also got back into a swimming pool for the first time in 40 years. He said it was all he could do to complete two laps.

But a fuse had been sparked.

Slaght, who was a runner before his “soccer dad years,” started training in all three disciplines. He worked his way up to 60 laps of the pool. He’d go on two or three rides a week as well as a couple of five or 10 km runs. He started eyeing triathlon races on the calendar.

Slaght’s first competitive race was in Vancouver in 2016, although he said he wasn’t really competing.

“I was smiling,” Slaght said, adding he lost more than six minutes in one of the transition zones of the Olympic-distance race because he decided to go to the bathroom.

To get faster and hone his training, Slaght connected with Townsend, a casual acquaintance from church who’s been competing in triathlons since 1998.

Townsend taught Slaght how to speed through the transitions from the water to the bike, and from the bike to the run. He showed him little tricks of the sport, like using triathlon-specific bike shoes that don’t require socks and slip off easily when it comes time to switch to running shoes.

But most importantly, the training partners motivated each other.

“It really helps when you don’t feel like training,” Slaght said.

“We push each other to be better,” Townsend said.

Their team approach paid off with results that ultimately qualified them for next year’s worlds.

And while middle age might ease familial obligations, it brings other challenges.

Both Slaght and Townsend have busy careers so carving time for training isn’t always easy, Townsend said, adding he’ll often run along the seawall at Stanley Park and finish with laps at the Second Beach pool during his lunch break at a Vancouver-based international shipping company.

Slagt said his workouts help relieve the stress from his job as a general manager for a Coquitlam tool company.

“You have to create the time and space,” he said.

But with a world championship race beckoning in less than a year, Slagt and Townsend anticipate a busy winter and spring on the road, in the pool and at the gym, targeting muscle groups that will make them faster, fine-tuning the balance between their lives and their sport.

“Even at our age, you can take fitness to a higher level and enjoy the benefits of being fit,” Slaght said.

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