Nelson resident Denise Uhrynuk competed in the ITU World Triathlon in Edmonton finishing the sprint distance in a fast time of 1:17.25. Representing Team Canada she placed 14th out of 59 athletes in the female 45-49 age category.
The Edmonton race in Hawrelak Park had its challenges for the approximate 4000 triathletes on September 1. The swim start was on a platform rather than a mass shoreline start as it was in a reservoir that had been dredged for debris and then chlorinated. Uhrynuk said, “I didn’t feel I got into the groove of the swim until 300 metres in, which is basically half way through.”
There were cross winds during the bike ride so she focused on not getting pushed off her bike and a head wind was an additional challenge. Plus the 300-400 metres in the transition area was longer than the typically 100 metres. (The sprint distance is a 750 metre swim, 20 kilometre bike, and a five kilometre run. The Olympic course is double the distance.)
None the less, she had the fourth fastest time in her run.
“I guess I was doing better that I thought,” she said.
Competing at the World’s for triathlon doesn’t happen overnight and for Uhrynuk it started when she was in her 20s. She completed an Ironman (3.86 km swim, 180.25 km bike ride and a 42.2 km run) in 1994 but took a break once her children were born. Her kids got her back into triathlon through their own interest in the sport when they were 8 and 11.
She first represented Team Canada racing the Olympic distance at the 2012 World’s triathlon in Auckland, New Zealand.
A hip injury from a bike crash two years ago caused Uhrynuk to make the change from the Olympic distance to the sprint. During a triathlon, a cyclist fell in front of her; she braked on the slippery pavement, crashing onto the road damaging her hip.
Once she recovered, she tried a sprint triathlon and did well. She also found the race recovery to be “so much faster with sprints”. Unfortunately she fell directly on the same hip while trail running this July. This meant she was not training for the upcoming triathlon with running. She only ran during races. She said any speed work bugs her hip and “she feels her hip injury all the time.”
Interestingly the switch from Olympic to sprint distance triathlon has resulted in more top podium times for her ever since, qualifying her for the world triathlon 2014. Her fast time at a race in Kelowna this summer has qualified her to be on Team Canada in 2015 as well. At the provincials in Penticton she finished first in her age class and second overall. She said she is moving up to the 50-54 aged group next year.
How does she race so well with an injury?
“I honestly don’t feel it in the race as I’m focused on the race,” she said.
Her first place finish at the nationals in Toronto qualified her for Team Canada. When she signed up with Team Canada there were 853 athletes, which is more than usual as the competition was in Canada. Athletes can’t make it to the Worlds unless they make Team Canada but they still need to cover their costs. The $400 team registration fee gives athletes access to online coaching and support during the last three months and a team uniform. It also gave her a chance for a formal course familiarization five days before the race. There is an additional $400 race entry fee.
Uhrynuk is humble about her podium finishes event though her age group has two ex pro triathletes and is known as one of the two most competitive age categories in the sport of triathlon.
“In my mind it’s all who attends the race,” she said. “People come from all over the world and some people cannot attend due to travel costs.”
“I don’t do my races to get in the top 10; I do it for myself. I don’t have time goals as each course is different. I just do my own thing, I don’t know if I could regimentally follow a coaches schedule but maybe things would change too if I had a coach.”
As a physiotherapist she also goes to professionals for massage and physiotherapy to heal her injury. She said in the off season she might try water running and she usually can be found cross-country skiing. If she decides to go to the World’s next year, she will swim all winter, 2-3 times per week at the pool and get into the lake at least once a week.
“I like being fit so it gives me a goal to be in shape. I thrive and enjoy the competition.”
It’s also the people she meet and the friendships she has made that keep her in triathlon.
“It’s like family,” she said. “You go from race to race and you get to know and see these people.”
Aside from her a career as a physiotherapist, Uhrynuk coaches for the Rocky Mountain Spirit Tri Club in Nelson.
“They are so supportive of me when I go to these races,” she said. “Every ability is there-elite to people who walk and run. Triathlon keeps you in shape and its less trauma on your body as it’s a variety of activities.”