This past weekend I traveled to Marathon, Ontario for a Teck Cominco Kids of Steel triathlon. I flew into Thunder Bay Friday afternoon and drove 3 hours along Lake Superior to the small town of Marathon. This was my first visit to Northern Ontario and the drive was beautiful.
When I arrived I met up with Roger Souckey, a Teck Cominco employee and Marathon legend! I swear this guy knows everyone in town and they all love him. He’s a very active member of the community. He took me for a drive around town and within minutes I saw my first bear. I had never seen a bear before and in my first sighting I saw eight! It was pretty cool. After I took a few pictures we headed down to Penn Lake, the sight of the triathlon event to meet up with the race director, Joe McGill. Joe, an avid triathlete, had just returned from competing in the Lake Placid Ironman. He seemed very excited for Saturday’s events. In addition to the kids of steel event there was also an adult “pursuit” race consisting of 2 sprint races contested over 2 days. Based on the results of day 1, each competitor starts in descending order, in the attempt of having one big sprint finish at the end.
That evening I was treated to dinner by Roger and his wife at one of the local restaurants. Following dinner we headed down to the hockey arena to meet with Joe and some of the participants from the Adult Traithlon to do a community fun run. It was nice to get out for a run and meet a few of the locals.
When I woke up Saturday morning I went for a nice run along a gravel trail beside the lake. After my run Roger took me to see Pukaskwa National Park, one of the many beautiful parks in the area. Pukaskwa was celebrating its 25th anniversary and we were able to catch the opening ceremonies of the 3 day event. There was native singing and dancing followed by smudging and a prayer from one of the elders. It was really neat to experience some native culture. On our way back from Pukaskwa we saw another bear and three of her cubs crossing the highway. I had now seen 12 bears in less than 24 hours!
When we got to the race the kids were starting to set up their equipment in the transition area. Seeing the smiles on all their faces reminded me of my first triathlon in Orillia, Ontario and how excited I was. There were a number of kids ranging in age from 6 to 13. I did a small presentation with the athletes and their parents and answered any questions they had. Just before the start of the swim I did a short warm-up with the kids to get them ready and then it was time to race!
I had the honour of being the race starter. I yelled 3-2-1 Go and the kids hurled themselves into the water. For the next 30 minutes I got to cheer them on as they tore up the course! I was very impressed with all the athletes. The rest of Canada should look out for these young guys in the next few years!
Before I knew it, it was time to head back to the airport. It was a short visit but it was packed with activities. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Marathon and the black bear sightings made it a true northern experience. Thanks to Roger, Joe, and the rest of the Marathon community for the great hospitality! Also to Teck Cominco for making this trip possible and for their continued support of Triathlon Canada. I look forward to returning to Marathon sometime in the near future.