After 30 years with the Victoria Police Department, Rob Dibden has turned his full attention to triathlon.
Yes, he competes on occasion, but his focus, at least for right now, is fostering a love of the sport in the youth of the community.
“I retired from policing in 2012,” he says, “and I was looking for something to do with myself that I really love, and triathlon was at the top of the list. They say if you find something you love to do, you’ll never work a day in your life, and that’s the point I’m at right now.”
Human Powered Racing, the organization Dibden and Mike Neil formed in 2006, has overseen the Victoria Youth Triathlon for the past four years. They’ve now turned their attention to spreading the love over here on the West Shore with the upcoming West Shore Youth Triathlon.
The inaugural event, in collaboration with West Shore Parks and Recreation, is scheduled for May 17 and is currently accepting registrations.
“It’s the first time our youth race has been out here and we’re really excited about it,” Dibden says.
“Initially, we had a meeting with the Westshore Chamber of Commerce, just about events out here in general. They were very interested in bringing some more high-profile sporting events out to the western communities,” he says, so they got to talking about possibly relocating some events. Through those conversations, however, they began to consider the possibility of starting a new one, instead.
Once the idea started germinating, Dibden approached West Shore Parks and Recreation. He had “scoped out possible sites for the race” and determined the area around the Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre would be the ideal location for the event.
“They were awesome,” he says. “The staff (at parks and recreation) were really supportive of trying to get it going. And now it’s full steam ahead.”
There were 260 participants at the Victoria Youth Triathlon last year – the maximum number they could accept – so it’s clear there is a significant amount of interest, at least regionally.
“I don’t expect that for the first year out here, the event will not be that big,” Dibden says, “but hopefully we can generate enough interest that it’s successful. I’d like to get over 100. That’s a big enough number to show that there’s a real interest within the community for having an event like this and that it’ll continue to grow. I think the interest is there.”
The key to gathering that interest is in getting the word out to the schools. That’s where Sooke School District Trustee Dianna Seaton comes in. She’s leading the charge, Dibden says, in spreading the message.
“I think it’s just fantastic,” she says. “It’s such a great thing for our kids out here.”
Seaton says it’s a challenge getting the word out over spring break, with so many families either out of town or busy with other activities. As soon as school is back in session, however, the posters will go up and the promotion mission begins.
“It’s really something that I want to encourage,” Seaton says. “To give our young people the opportunity to engage in something like this, that can lead them to long-term healthy lifestyles. It’s something that we just can’t put a price on and it’s wonderful that it’s become available.”
The beautiful thing about having the race at the Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre, Dibden says, is that the entire race can be contained within the grounds, which makes it both safe and very easy to manage. It’s also easier for the parents to come out and watch, he says, because it’s a loop course. Participants will swim a certain number of laps of the pool, based on their age category, the bike course is created using the various driveways of the facility and the run will take place on the chip trail in the park.
“It safer for the kids,” Dibden says, “because you keep everything contained in a small area that you can manage well. It’s a little more onerous on the organization side of things, because you need lap counters to keep track of people and other extra volunteers, but it’s better, overall, I think.”
Approximately 30 volunteers are needed to help with some of those ancillary duties, including marshals to assist with traffic control, people to supervise the nutrition and food tables, lap counting and other roles.
Registration is $50 per participant, which includes a medal for all who finish their circuit, a participant shirt for everyone, the awards, as well as the cost of operating the nutrition stations.
But it’s not about the medals and ribbons. It’s about participating in something that could lead to a life-long love of physical activity, and having fun, Dibden says.
“Triathlon is the type of sport where it develops an active attitude. From a lifestyle aspect, it really fosters the attitude that physical activity is an important part of life.”
Especially for the kids’ races, he adds, “we try not to emphasize performance, it’s more about participation. When you make a big hoopla about who did the best, the kid who came last feels pretty bad about themselves, so we make a point of not doing that. We make it about the fun of doing it.”