Should you give a tri a try? Yes! say these participants in this year’s TriMuskokan

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There are almost as many reasons to participate in a triathlon as there are triathletes. Some, like Leigh Fettes, do it as a way to return to an active lifestyle. Some, like friends Lydia Arnold and Sarah MacPhee, try it for the first time together as a way to challenge themselves and support each other. And some, like mother-daughter duo Joanne McLeod and Sierra Johnson, use it as a training opportunity for other events. All will be participating in the 2018 TriMuskokan on June 24.

These are their stories.

Leigh Fettes, a teacher, mother and athlete who is a member of the TriMuskoka triathlon club in Huntsville will be participating in the TriMuskokan, not as a first-timer but this will be her first regular tri in the last ten years. Fettes was a racer in the Muskoka Sprint Triathlons in 2008 and 2009, and then the Orillia Sprint in 2010. She suffered from a chronic overuse and poor form technique injury that got worse over time. “I became quite inactive, had my son Sul, and then was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s,” she says.

Fettes comes from a very active family. Growing up, she enjoyed skiing, cross-country running and participating in marathons. “My nearly 73-year-old dad recently beat me at a 5-kilometre run. Maybe I’ll be able to catch him when he’s 80, but likely not.”

Last summer’s TriMuskokan try-a-tri was Fettes’ first race as she eased back into the fitness lifestyle. “Despite being moderately petrified registering, doing the try-a-tri was the best decision I’ve made in a while. Many thanks to Rich Trenholm for encouraging me (and countless others) to register.”

Participating in such a sport takes dedication, commitment and heart as an athlete. When asked why she is participating, Fettes says, “I am participating because it’s fun and exhilarating, as well as a little scary. Just thinking about the day makes my heart race a little, in a good way. It sometimes bothers me that I missed so many years of being active, but am also so grateful to be out there, moving, again. Better late than never.”

Huntsville has many opportunities for training, says Fettes, who has been going to a weekly swim class since the fall, taking indoor spin classes with the TriMuskoka group during the winter, and she joined the SportLab’s Running Improvement Program this spring. Fettes added that there is something for every type of athlete along with support from others that train and race in Huntsville, including TriMuskoka coach, Jessica Adam. “She prepares thoughtful and varied workouts, and explains the whys of what we are doing.”

Leigh Fettes out for a training run (Photo by Jason Sprathoff)

Leigh Fettes out for a training run (Photo by Jason Sprathoff)

Having a goal makes it all worth it, and Fettes’ personal goal is to have fun and to finish. “I don’t have time goals…I have a goal of doing more events. I’d like to run the Limberlost Challenge, the Orillia Triathlon, Run Off the Grid, and hopefully the Fat Ass Trail Run with my sister. It just sounds too much like my last name to not do. I want to be active until I can’t anymore.”

Fettes continues to train for race day and is looking forward to volunteering at the Ironman Muskoka 70.3 in July. “Volunteering at events is a great way to share in the excitement of the day and is pretty inspiring, too.”


Joanne McLeod and her daughter Sierra Johnson are training for the TriMuskokan together. The family call themselves ‘empty-nesters’ as they have spent their winters in Huntsville for the last 16 years but are now spending more and more time in Huntsville as it feels like home.

The TriMuskokan will be McLeod’s first short-course triathlon; she took part in the try-a-tri last summer. McLeod and her family lead a very active lifestyle and look for different events to train with and to challenge themselves.

Joanne says that the timing of the TriMuskokan is perfect: she’s using it to gear up for this year’s Ironman Muskoka 70.3 on July 8 to celebrate her 60th birthday.

Johnson is a competitive speed skater in Calgary and is beginning to get into the multi-sport world alongside her mom. Johnson cheered on her mom in the TriMuskokan try-a-tri last year and this year will be participating in the short-course duathlon, a ‘run, bike, run’ event. Her motivation is to enhance her ability to skate and to build a great foundation for her running ability. This will be her third duathlon but her first race with her mom.

Both athletes enjoy Huntsville’s terrain as they say there are benefits to be able to use the home course while living in Huntsville when swimming in the canal and being able to bike the roads you drive on.

Based on last year’s experience, the pair say the TriMuskokan is fun and very well-organized. It’s open to a variety of people and you don’t have to be good—you are supported no matter what ability.

McLeod says her personal goal for this event is to finish and to not drown! “This is only my second season swimming and I am not totally comfortable in the water.”

And both McLeod and Johnson plane to race smart. Johnson explains that the most important thing during an active event is to fuel the body properly. “Your body needs gas to get to your final destination.” To prepare for a race, you need to know how much water and how much food the body will need every ten minutes.


Friends, like Lydia Arnold and Sarah MacPhee, even compete in triathlons together to support one another. The TriMuskokan will be Arnold’s first triathlon and MacPhee’s first try-a-tri, although both participated in the TriMuskoka Winter Indoor Triathlon Classic, a fun event that gives a taste of what a triathlon is like, twice.

Arnold and MacPhee have both joined the TriMuskoka club and attend the bike and run sessions together in preparation for their TriMuskokan events.

Sarah McPhee (left) and Lydia Arnold at last year's Band on the Run road race (Photo by Eleanor Graham)

Sarah McPhee (left) and Lydia Arnold at last year’s Band on the Run road race (Photo by Eleanor Graham)

Arnold wanted to challenge herself to do something that was out of her comfort zone. Her husband joins her in taking swimming classes at the Canada Summit Centre and she tackles Boot Camp at FITT Gym. She will also take part in the Band on the Run event in early June to help train for the triathlon.

Her goal is to have fun and to cross the TriMuskokan finish line. “I want to experience the sense of accomplishment of knowing that the early mornings, long training sessions and months of preparation were all worth it,” she says.

I encourage anyone who’s on the fence about participating in the TriMuskokan or joining the club to take that step outside of your comfort zone, like I did, and we’ll be there to welcome you with a smile and pat on the back as your train.
First time triathlete, Lydia Arnold

MacPhee moved to Huntsville in 2016 and began her journey towards triathlon training. “It seems fitting for my first outdoor triathlon experience to be here in Huntsville, a place I’ve come to love, and put on by TriMuskoka, of which I became a member a couple of months ago.”

Training for MacPhee has included coached workouts to keep her accountable along with personal fitness routines to build her endurance and consistency in her regime. Her goals are to be able to complete the try-a-tri while doing the best she can, and to have a blast and create another Huntsville memory. She also wants to gain experience and tips for her next triathlon. “I feel like my triathlon journey is just beginning, and I am looking forward to where it will lead.”

If you’re ready for the challenge, there’s still time to register for the TriMuskokan try-a-tri, short-course triathlon, duathlon, swim/bike or relay on June 24. It’s a fun, homegrown event that supports athletes of all abilities. You’ll find details here.

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