Nelson couple John Know and Janice Poetsch coach a triathlon training clinic as part of the Mountain Spirit triathlon club. They help get new athletes ready to participate in the Cyswog’n’fun triathlon.

Triathlon clinic helps athletes cross the finish line

Each year about a third of the people who sign up for the clinic have never done a triathlon before.

For the past ten years dozens of Nelson triathletes have trained for their summer races together as part of the Mountain Spirit triathlon club.

The club was started by John Knox, an Ironman competitor who was looking for training buddies after relocating to Nelson. He’d been a member of the Pacific Spirit tri club in Vancouver and decided to start something similar here.

“The club was really casual when it first started — it would just be a few people cycling out to Kokanee Park or running together after work,” Knox explained.

That changed in 2004 when Mountain Spirit members agreed to take over a clinic previously offered by Nelson and District Community Complex to help new athletes prepare for the annual Cyswog’n’fun triathlon in Nelson. Knox and other experienced triathletes from the club became volunteer coaches for the 30 to 40 clinic participants who started training with them three times per week.

“It was good for the club because it brought a lot of new members in,” Knox said of the clinic. “People would start as newbies training with us, and after a few years they might start coaching the other participants.”

That’s what happened for Janice Poetsch. She signed up for the clinic the first year Mountain Spirit offered it and by 2008 she’d taken a coach training coarse and was certified to start leading other new athletes.

“Like many newbies who do the clinic, I did my first Cyswog on a mountain bike,” said Poetsch, who has since upgraded to a light weight road bike. “When I crossed the finish line that first year, it was such a huge accomplishment. I wanted other people to experience that.”

Each year about a third of the people who sign up for the clinic have never done a triathlon before. Others are returning athletes who may be working towards a longer distance race or just want the training structure. There about a dozen accredited coaches who help them along the way.

“There’s a lot of strong friendships that form in the clinic,” Knox said.

“We’re going through a life changing experience together. People who thought they could never do a triathlon are getting in shape and gaining the confidence to actually enter a race and finish it smiling.”

The clinic participants are easy to spot on training days in their bright yellow Mountain Spirit jerseys training on the race route.

Participants will swim, bike and run together until the first week of August when the Cyswog’n’fun triathlon takes place.

To get in touch with the Mountain Spirit triathlon club, email


What is a triathlon?

Triathlon is a three-sport endurance race beginning with a swim, followed by a bike ride and finishing with a run.

The Cyswog’n’fun triathlon in Nelson offers two race distances. The shorter Sprint distance course is a 500 metre swim, 22 kilometre bike and 5 km run, while the Olympic distance covers 1.5 km in the water, 39 km on a bike and 10 km running.

The local race offers the option for athletes to participate individually or as a relay team of two or three people.

This year’s Cyswog’n’fun triathlon goes August 3 at Lakeside park. Registration forms are available at Gerick Cycle or online at


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