A triathlon is the ultimate test of endurance, bringing together athletes who embrace the challenges of swimming, biking, and running consecutively. U of T’s Triathlon Club is a community where athletes find a supportive space to dive into this multifaceted sport regardless of their levels.

Embarking on a journey that extends beyond the ordinary boundaries of sport, the club members constantly push their limits to define what it means to be a triathlete. Club executives Eva Graf and Katy Tiper sat with The Varsity to discuss some of these journeys. 

The club supports each other in all their challenges and journeys. COURTESY OF TRIATHLON CLUB

Unravelling the triathlon

A triathlon’s allure lies in its diversity. Many triathletes are drawn to the sport because it allows them to excel in three disciplines rather than specializing in just one.

The club’s focus spans everything from sprint races, comprising a 750-metre swim, 20-kilometre bike ride, and five-kilometre run; to the Olympic race distance of 1.5-kilometre swim, 40-kilometre bike ride, and 10-kilometre run; to the Half-Ironman, which doubles the Olympic distance; to the ultimate test, the Ironman, which doubles the Half-Ironman. 

Graf is a fourth-year Rotman Commerce student and the club’s treasurer, having been involved since 2021. She stumbled into triathlon, seeking an alternative to Varsity swimming. “I was definitely not good enough at swimming for a Varsity team. So, I got in touch with the head coach of the swim team… and he recommended [I] look into the Triathlon club,” Graf explained. This unexpected turn led her to form friendships that kept her rooted in the club. 

What sets apart the Triathlon Club is its inclusivity. There are no mandatory practices or requirements for joining the club. Participants of all levels, from beginners to seasoned athletes, are welcome. With track workouts, group runs, and stationary bike sessions that run at different paces, the club ensures that no one is left behind, creating an environment where everyone can thrive.

“Everyone’s going at their own level — you don’t need to be good at everything. Some people are better at one sport; some people are better at another one… As I would say, it’s almost more like a lifestyle,” said Graf. “Everyone is so supportive, no matter how you’re doing. It pushes you always to go to the best of your abilities.”

Triathlon is a diverse sport that includes: running, swimming and cycling. COURTESY OF TRIATHLON CLUB

Unleashing the triathlete spirit

The club has witnessed remarkable journeys, including athletes who transitioned from novices to professionals. Professional triathlete Tamara Jewett started as a Varsity-level runner at U of T, but after facing injuries, she shifted to triathlon to diversify her athletic focus. She learned to swim during her time with the Triathlon club, later achieved professional status, and became a top-ranked triathlete globally. 

While the club proudly acknowledges its high-performing members, its primary identity is that of a community. Tiper is a PhD candidate in the biomedical engineering program and has been in the club for seven years, serving as the club’s social coordinator and bike leader.

“U of T is a very hard place to make friends — it’s very big,” said Tiper. “I’ve been at U of T for a very long time, and I just wanted a release in terms of mental health, to be active and have something going on outside of school… as well as make friends.”

She started at the club with zero experience and eventually progressed to doing her first triathlons by the following year, advancing to the Olympic and the Half Ironman the next summer. “I just kept building and building. I think that’s what the club does… it really just takes you and sucks you in,” said Tiper. 

Graf also emphasized the club’s supportive environment where individuals come together to train, forge friendships, and celebrate each other’s successes. “I personally wouldn’t say we’re a performance kind of group… It’s the best opportunity to actually meet people, and for me, it was a life-changer.”

The club is a great way to meet people. COURTESY OF TRIATHLON CLUB

Social bonds and overcoming setbacks

The club also organizes monthly social events, ranging from skating in the winter to outdoor activities like the Toronto Tour in the summer. Gala nights add a celebratory touch, recognizing members’ achievements and reinforcing the club’s commitment to acknowledging each member’s contribution.

Triathlon, like any sport, comes with its share of injuries. The club encourages members to seek professional help for injuries and utilize resources like the David L. MacIntosh Sport Medicine Clinic. Due to the versatile nature of Triathlon, however, injuries don’t have to interrupt their training: athletes can focus more on other dimensions while still aiming for a healthy recovery. 

Any U of T Athletic Centre members — whose membership is open to students, faculty, alumni, and other community members — can join the club. Many club members have played particularly key roles in ensuring the club’s vibrancy. 

Paulette Dalton, a lung transplant nurse, has been dedicated to the club for two decades in various executive positions while qualifying for the Ironman World Championship in Kona. Another standout member is Sierra Valeriano, a lawyer who attended the full and half-distance Ironman World Championships within a year. Edward Ing has provided unwavering support in welcoming new members and ensuring they feel embraced by the club. Lastly, Marina Carr has served as the club president for several years and has been crucial in organizing events and maintaining effective communication. These passionate individuals embodying the triathlon’s spirit define the club’s heartbeat. 

Competing in a triathlon can be life-changing. COURTESY OF TRIATHLON CLUB

Every mile is a triumph 

The beauty of triathlon lies in its adaptability. “The experience is what you make of it,” said Tiper. 

U of T’s Triathlon Club is more than just a sports club; it’s a community, a support system, and a journey of self-discovery and camaraderie. Members dive, ride, and stride their way into the heart of this club, where the journey matters as much as the destination. Find out more about the Triathlon club through its website, Instagram, or Twitter page.