Nichola Kennell runs along the pathway between Elk Lake and the Pat Bay Highway. The 20-year-old former West Shore resident is training for the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence Triathlon

Nichola Kennell runs along the pathway between Elk Lake and the Pat Bay Highway. The 20-year-old former West Shore resident is training for the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence Triathlon

Student of triathlon reaches for next rung

Sri Chinmoy race attracts many West Shore athletes

It sounds a bit unusual for someone barely out of their teens to be referred to as a triathlon veteran, but Nichola Kennell can certainly be considered so.

The former Langford and View Royal resident, who turns 21 in September, has competed in the Sri Chinmoy Self Transcendence Triathlon a number of times and will make her third appearance in the Olympic distance race on Aug. 2 in and around Elk Lake.

“I’ve loved it from a young age,” says Kennell, who grew up doing many types of sports, but latched onto triathlon in Grade 2 with the encouragement of her dad, Steve, an avid cyclist and volunteer youth triathlon coach.

A competitor who has been gradually transitioning to the more gruelling Olympic distance from the sprint, Nichola counts Victoria-based triathlon stars Simon Whitfield, Paula Finlay and Kirsten Sweetland among her inspirations. She trains with legendary Victoria runner Jim Finlayson, and Lifesport Coaching’s Paul Regensburg on the swim and cycling aspects of her event, but gives kudos to her dad for helping her climb the steep triathlon mountain.

“My dad’s one of my biggest supporters, he got me involved in triathlons and he’s been my strongest hand, guiding me along the way,” she says.

Kennell, who competed nationally as a junior but these days races directly against more seasoned athletes, is a natural runner who uses such events as the Island Race Series, GoodLife Fitness half marathon and TC10K to train.

She finished 19th overall among women in last year’s Sri and fourth in her category (age 20 to 24), which happened to include race winner Alison Hooper, a former national junior women’s champion and Canada Summer Games gold medallist. While Kennell’s best Olympic distance time came in her first attempt at the Sri Chinmoy race, she hopes to shave some minutes off this time with enhanced training.

“New techniques are always coming up,” she says, noting that preparing for an Olympic distance event takes far more training than the sprint.

“I’m getting the routine down for taking in nutrition for something like the (40-kilometre) bike. In the sprint you don’t really need a whole lot; a bit of Gatorade and water will suffice.”

The Sri Chinmoy Olympic distance event begins with a 1,500-metre swim in Elk Lake, followed by a 40K bike ride out West Saanich Road, then finishing with a 10K loop of the chip trail around Elk and Beaver lakes.

The sprint event cuts all of those distances in half.

“I like the course. I run Elk and Beaver all the time, so it’s like home turf to me,” Kennell says. “Definitely it’s a wonderful race to do; it’s so laid back, but it’s so organized at the same time.”

While reports surfaced earlier this year that 2015 may be the final Self Transcendence Triathlon and Duathlon in Victoria, race director Sumitra McMurchy says no decision has been on the event’s future. However, a formal announcement will be made following the Aug. 2 event, she adds.

McMurchy is thrilled to see athletes such as Kennell realizing their dream.

“The Self-Transcendence always aimed to encourage participation of people at all levels, encouraging them to reach a little beyond what they have achieved in the past,” she says.

The event, popular with many West Shore athletes, also features a duathlon (5K run, 40K bike, 10K run), plus a relay category at the Olympic distance and a youth triathlon.

Kennell, an avid student of triathlon who trains hard in spring and summer when not working toward a degree in Exercise and Wellness at the University of Victoria, hopes to one day compete in an Ironman distance event. But in preparation for the upcoming race, she is happy to continue learning and as the name implies, to transcend beyond what she has previously achieved.

Visit victoriatriathlon.com for past results and other information.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com