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Fledgling triathlete tackles aversion to swimming

Beginner triathlon draws athletes to Commonwealth Place in Saanich
Travis Paterson/News staff Nicole Valentine-Rimmer
Amateur triathlete Nicole Valentine-Rimmer relaxes with her bike beside Thetis Lake. Getting involved in the sport has meant getting more comfortable with being in the water. Now

Facing her fear of open water, Nicole Valentine-Rimmer has put four triathlons on her summer schedule.

“It’s not just open water, but any swimming, that I’m uncomfortable with,” says Valentine-Rimmer, who resides in Metchosin.

The new triathlete spent an extra two months in the teaching pool with her TriStars’ triathlon coaches at Saanich Commonwealth Place last year until she was confident enough to enter the lap pool. Growing up in Cordova Bay, boating was a regular part of life for Valentine-Rimmer. Actually getting into the water? Well, it just wasn’t her thing.

When she told her mom she was doing her first Fort St. Cycle Beginner Tri for MS in 2014, the response was one of surprise. The fledgling triathlete will be at the starting line again for this year’s race,on Sunday at Saanich Commonwealth Place.

Valentine-Rimmer has three more races in her sights this summer: the Subaru Ironman sprint distance (750-metre swim), the Olympic distance in the Self Transcendence Triathlon (1.5-kilometre swim) at Elk Lake, and the new Langford triathlon.

“It’s funny, because in terms of triathlon, swimming has become my better of the three disciplines,” she says. “I was a runner, but I was having too many physical issues and the cross training of triathlon gives my hips a chance to recover from running.”

While many people use the Beginner Tri for MS as a launching point to get into the sport, many return to do it again, said organizer Carolyn Gebbie of TriStars Training.

“There have been athletes just as afraid of the water as Nicole, including one person who wanted to do an Ironman. It took work, but by the time the summer was over they did the 3.9K open water swim and completed Ironman.”

It’s the patience of TriStars’ coaches that’s kept Valentine-Rimmer in the sport. She could just as easily give up some of her six training sessions per week (three with TriStars, three on her own) to focus on drag racing. She spends many of a spring and summer night behind the wheel of her 1966 Coronet.

“There’s a no-drop mentality during training, which means no one gets left behind by the coaches at any training event and that was important to me,” she said. “Everyone is so supportive. Even though we share the same concerns about our ability in triathlon, we manage to help each other because of the common goal.”

In 2013 TriStars, which runs the Beginner Tri for MS, had it sanctioned by Triathlon B.C. and opened it to the public. Seventy people completed the 500m swim (in the Gordon Head Rec. Centre), 17.5K bike and 4K run. They moved it to Saanich Commonwealth Place for 2014 and 85 people completed the triathlon. This year organizers expect to hit capacity of 120 entrants, with over 100 signed up as of Monday.

“We ran the event for years as a warm up for the season and a chance for new triathletes to experience the race in a positive, non-timed environment,” Gebbie said. “It’s very exciting this year as we have many people coming from the Lower Mainland and as far as Saskatchewan.”

The Beginner Tri for MS raised $15,000 for the cause in 2013,  $16,500 in 2014 and is already at $10,000 for 2015, with Gebbie confident they’ll hit $15,000 once again. To register visit

Participants in the Fort St. Cycle Beginner Tri for MS earn an entry for a $1,300 Cannondale road bike with every $50 of pledges raised.

The race is open to all abilities.