We first met Robert St. Denis by chance, he was looking for something that could help sort out his sore back. This was two days before Ironman New Zealand 2020, and yes, he was still able to compete.
Robert is an age-group triathlete competing in Ironman distance triathlons. He has a passion for endurance sports that has seen him compete over a period of thirty five years. We took the opportunity to speak to Robert about his love for the sport that has endured over three decades.
Q. How long have you been competing in triathlons?
A: I participated in my first triathlon in June of 1986, that was almost thirty five years ago and since then I had the opportunity and privilege to race as a semi-professional triathlete/duathlete for two years from 1989 until 1991. Over the years I have managed to compete and complete in 9 Ironman distance races and close to a 100 multi-sport events.
Q. What has been the most difficult but rewarding race to date?
A: Ironman New Zealand 2019 was on the horizon, I was feeling amazing and ready for my first Ironman NZ. But sadly, a week before race day I got hit with a bad chest infection to the point that I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to race until race morning.
After a long training season with the focus on Ironman New Zealand and facing the prospect of not being able to compete was disheartening.
After getting the OK from my physician and Coach I headed up to Taupo to rest and hope for the best race morning.
I felt kind of OK the morning of the race but struggled a bit at the start of the swim as you can imagine wearing a wetsuit over an already tight chest, I had to do some backstroke to catch my breath during the first 100m of the swim but things got better afterwards. The bike went relatively well and as for the run, well this is where the wheel fell off, walking most of the run course, having cold sweat and on top of that I couldn’t keep any food in apart from some pieces of orange. I still managed finish with a time of 12:34:16.
After crossing the finish line, I told myself that if I can do this feeling this way what could I do on a perfect day?
Q. How has your love for the sport of triathlon changed over the years you have competed?
A: Today endurance triathlon is my happy place, it’s a lifestyle and as much as I love the camaraderie within the sport, I love the solitude of the long training sessions, visualizing race situation and reminiscing at some of my early race wins which still gives me goose bumps and gets the adrenaline pumping.
For me competing in triathlon was always a passion of mine and for that reason I always come back to it whenever I seem to stray away from the sport due to other commitments or life priorities.
I am very fortunate that I am still able to compete at the age of 54, but there is no hiding the fact that training between 14 to 18 hours a week takes its toll on your body and your health if not done properly.
Q. With racing back open and New Zealand back to level 1 restrictions, what is your race schedule looking like and what is available for New Zealand based athletes?
A: My aim for the 2020-21 triathlon season is to qualify for an age-group 55-59 slot at Ironman New Zealand next March for the Ironman World Championship in Kona in October 2021.
I have made big changes in my nutrition in preparation for Ironman NZ and will be competing in the Oxman Half Ironman Distance early December to test the body and those changes, following this up with a fine-tuning race at the Tauranga Half end of January making sure I’m ready for IMNZ
Q. What is the most important thing you have learnt from triathlon?
A: Time is on your side, be patient as improvements and results will come no matter how young or old you are, obviously you must have been putting the hard work first lol!!
Q: What tips have you picked up along the way that would be beneficial to those looking at getting into triathlon?
- Have fun
- Keep your goals realistic
- Join a Triathlon Club. Triathlon can be a very selfish and lonesome sport most of the time so bringing in people will allow to learn from them and enjoy the camaraderie that comes with being part of the triathlon family.
- Find a good coach and write down your expectations from her/him. Let them know from word go as there are different types of coaching levels and interactions.
- Nutrition: If you have specific requirements in regards to food restriction or other issues and your coach does not have the right qualifications Make sure that you consult a sport nutritionist. Nutrition can be very complicated, and that is why we call it the fourth discipline as it can make or break your day.
- Physio & Massage therapy: If required make sure that you are seeking help from a qualified and known sport Physio & massage therapist. There again all therapist aren't created equal, I like to look at their biography and look for
- Recovery: You must find the right balance between rest/recovery and your training sessions to allow your body to improve while keeping your body healthy and injury free. For me the Myovolt Wearable Recovery technology is a game changer and is now part of my training and race preparation combined with my stretching routine and core sessions.
Thanks Robert, for taking the time to chat with us about your journey with triathlon. The Myovolt team is wishing you all the best for the upcoming race season and we will be cheering you on at the Oxman Half this month and Ironman New Zealand 2021!