Hard to believe it has been eight years since I moved out to Victoria. When I came out here in 2005 I had my bike and a bag full of training gear. That was it. Simon picked me up at the airport and I settled in to a room at the Li family residence (their son Harvey used to race triathlon). I had no means of transportation. I rode my bike to swimming every morning. I caught the odd lift to the grocery store but otherwise I was eating, sleeping, and training. I was 20 years old with only one objective, soak up whatever I could from the Olympic Champion.
I got the impression that many people viewed it as an exclusive group and that you needed a special invitation from Simon to get in, which was funny because in reality, it was very different. Heck, I had little to no race experience but I committed and was therefore welcome. The philosophy was quite simple; you had to show up willing to do the work and commit to doing it day after day. The only catch was there was no end date; it wasn’t a four week, four month, or even four year commitment. You were either all in, or you were out. I never had a problem with it as I have always genuinely enjoyed putting in the hard yards.
Sport aside, moving across the country at the age of 20 came with some personal obstacles too. I missed my family. I missed the comfort of familiarity. I missed home-cooked meals! Holidays were hard but my family did everything they could to support me as we all knew I was where I needed to be in order to achieve my goals.
Financially it wasn’t always easy either but I lived a very minimalist lifestyle for a long time and eventually I figured it out and it paid off. It was a struggle but I knew that I would miss critical development time if I tried to figure out my finances and then go after my dream; I would have been too late.
This was also my approach to my education. I attended two different universities in the hopes of completing some sort of degree along with training full time. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my education and I wasn’t enjoying it because I felt like it was impeding my sport goals. When I made the decision to leave university I did it with the mindset that my opportunity to be an athlete was now and that I would return to school when my athletic career was over. This was the right choice for me and I don’t regret it. That being said, it may not be the right choice for everyone and at the end of the day you have to be accountable to yourself.
As a result of the move, I was exposed to the highest level of the sport and learned quickly what it was going to take to reach my goals. My development started to progress rapidly and the following year I was named to the National Team and began racing on the World Cup circuit. Then, my results started to get better on the circuit. I came up just short in 2008 but still traveled with the team to the Beijing Olympics as the alternate. Fast forward four years and I made that Olympic dream a reality in London and had undoubtedly my most successful season to date. To summarize, it’s been a long road and I’m still striving for more. Aside from a couple encounters with the pavement, my 2013 season looks promising coming off my best winter of training yet with the new squad.
This brings us back to the purpose of this update, my decision to move back to Ontario. There were a number of different factors that contributed to the move but to put it simply, it just didn’t make sense for me to be in Victoria anymore. Training under Joel and working with the squad means we’re not based in one particular location for the year. In fact, I am the only Canadian male in this squad and my new training mates are American, Spanish and South African. As a result, I need to be in a location that makes logistical sense. The last two seasons we’ve spent the winter in Clermont, Florida and aside from a couple early season races in Australia, the bulk of the ITU World Series takes place in Europe. These were all huge factors in our decision as it’s much easier traveling in and out of Toronto to these locations.
In addition, there are exciting times coming up in the GTA with the 2015 Pan Am Games being held in Toronto. We will be living in Milton which will present some unique opportunities that I look forward to. On a personal level, Kelly and I now have much more established careers and as a result are at much different points in our lives than we were eight years ago. In the next few years, support of all kinds will be paramount as we work toward our own individual career goals and having family close by is an added bonus!
The first part is done. Packing up our condo full of stuff. We put it all on a moving truck (5000lbs of it) a few days ago and we are hoping that it arrives at our new place. But, if it doesn’t that’s okay too, I’m traveling with everything I need… my bike, a bag full of training gear and my wife at my side.