By Jaymie White
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
PORT AUX BASQUES – Local sports enthusiasts have a reason to celebrate as one of their own, Dylan MacDougall, will soon be on his way to the 2022 Canada Games for the very first time.
MacDougall will be part of Team NL, competing in the three triathlon events, one of which will see him tackle a 750 metre swim, a 20 km bike ride, and a 5 km run.
“I grew up running cross-country through the school and I swam on the swim team too. I started the swim team when I was in third grade, and I ran cross-country from second grade up until I graduated. When I got in grade 11, my gym teacher, Jason Quilty, sent me an email saying they were looking for athletes for triathlon for an Identification Camp in Feb 2020, so I went down, and I’ve been training since then.”
MacDougall said that even though the pandemic put a delay on everything, he used the time wisely to improve his skills and that hard work paid off. He was ecstatic when he found out he would be on Team NL.
“I was very excited. When I first started, I knew pretty well that I wasn’t going to make the team. There were people there that were definitely better than I was, and then COVID delayed it and some of them went on to do work terms and other things. They had to quit. Other people switched sports. By the end of it, from the original six people that were trying out, it was just me,” said MacDougall. “COVID helped me. Not because of that, but because it gave me time to work on the skills that I needed to work on. I was persistent. I did a lot of open water swimming during COVID because the pool was closed, up at Murray’s Beach up in the Valley.”
MacDougall also works at the Bruce II as a lifeguard, so it allows him the ability to train more frequently at the pool.
“I get to swim for free because I work there, so I can pretty much go up and swim whenever I want, and the rest of it I just try to get it in before I go to work.”
This summer there haven’t been many events for MacDougall to compete in, but he did compete in an indoor race in June, another in Quebec on July 17, and he left for the Canada Games on Thursday, Aug. 4.
“I’m nervous. I know in my head I am as prepared as I ever could be in the time frame that I had, but I’m still extremely nervous.”
Even though the idea of competing at the Games is nerve-wracking, MacDougall said he was looking forward to it.
“I’m excited to see the people from other places. I went to a race in Quebec on the 17th with some of my teammates with Team NL, and some of the people, they were just so fast. It wasn’t even all the people that I’ll compete against at the games. I’m curious to see how it’s going to be for me.”
MacDougall said he has been getting a lot of support from family, friends, and the community.
“I’ve been answering a lot of the ‘when are you going, how long is it going to be,’ questions from a lot of people, so I get the feeling everybody is pretty excited,” said MacDougall. “I’ve got a charter plane to Niagara, so me and some of Team NL are going to go up on the plane first. They will get the rest after, and my family will be going up sometime after I leave as well.”
MacDougall has no plans on slowing down after the Canada Games.
“I don’t think I’m eligible following this year because they have age requirements with the Canada Games, so I don’t think I will be eligible to represent Team NL for Triathlon again, but I will definitely continue racing following this year.”
MacDougall said he loves all aspects of the triathlon.
“I’ve swam since I was an infant. My mom would take me to the pool when I was six weeks old. There was never a time in my life when I wasn’t in the water. I love the water and the bike, it’s so fun because it’s so fast. The max speed I’ve ever seen on my bikes is 60km/h. That’s going down a hill with the wind at my back. At my last race in Quebec I averaged 35km/h. The bikes are designed to go fast, but you’ve gotta work hard to get them up there too,” said MacDougall. “And I find the running relaxing, as odd as that may sound.”
The triathlon, while challenging, has moments that are more difficult than others, and for MacDougall, that is the moment when you leave the water and are getting on your bike.
“When you’re going in the swim, you’re horizontal for so long, and when you stand up so quick, you get the spins. The first time I raced, I got them really bad. I came out of the water in St. John’s and I fell right over, but you get better at it with lots of practice.”
MacDougall said, if he had any advice for future triathlon athletes, it would be this, ‘training hard is good, but training smart is better,’ and that taking breaks is very important.
“When I first started my coaches were always telling me, ‘You don’t have to run fast all the time,’ and I never listened, and when I finally started listening, running a little slower and training a little smarter, running slow when I needed to run slow and running fast when I needed to run fast, I got way better. It sounds backwards, but if you’re going out and you want to run eight or nine kilometres, don’t try to max out the whole time. Just enjoy the scenery.”