Triathletes and Survivors

Nov 13, 2014


Lynda Lemon has medalled in her age group every year for the last five years at the ITU world duathlon championships. She feels lucky to have discovered multisport the same year she was diagnosed with breast cancer. At age 47, Lemon did her first few triathlons in the summer and then had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation beginning that fall. “Training definitely helped keep me strong through i t all,” the 7o-year-old Welland, Ont. resident says.

The Canadian Cancer Society estimates 88 per cent of new cancer cases last year were among Canadians over 50, and 43 per cent were among those over 7o. But for older triathletes diagnosed with cancer, there is some consolation.

Victoria’s Evan Fagan had prostate cancer in 2011 and took a year off competing but not training. “l did a swim, ride or run everyday before my radiation because it helped with the treatment, which really knocks your socks off.” Fagan, 77, advises others to do the same if they can. “lt doesn’t matter how slow or how far you go. Just get your heart rate up for a bit. Triathlon training can be a big help in sustaining you physically and emotionally through cancer.”

  • They have support. Their spouses, siblings, children or friends are happy to form a cheering squad, especially at world championships.
  • They value their physician’s advice– but don’t always follow it. While Barnes was training for last year’s ITU world championships in London, England, his doctor suggested he was getting older and should take it easy. “l told him I was going to the world championships, and how was I going to get onto the podium if I took it easy?” Mississauga, Ont.’s Gord Brockie was told by a doctor 25 years ago to quit running for good. Instead, he started taking glucosamine and his knees stopped hurting. He’s still running. Al George of Abbotsford, B.C. says whenever possible older triathletes should have a health care provider who’s a kindred spirit. “You need a doctor who understands endurance sports, and who can think further than a hockey stick.”
  • They accept that they’re slowing down. Sport is about the now, and future goals, rather than those long-gone PBs. For example Batnes, 76, says his plan is to bring home gold at the world championships the year he moves to the 8o+ age category. “lt’s kind of scary to think someday I may no longer be able to do triathlons,” Barnes admits. “This in itself is another incentive to train hard and do the best I can right now.”