It all started with a marathon in 2003. Now, seven years and two kids later, Whitehorse’s Colleen Latham is one of Canada’s elite triathletes.
Latham cracked the nation’s top-10 at the Pushor Mitchell Apple Triathlon, Canada’s national championship, in Kelowna, BC, on Sunday.
Competing in the women’s elite division – the highest level – Latham finished 15th overall and 10th out of Canadians.
“That morning was a lot chillier than most people were used to and it had rained during our course, so we went out on the swim and the water was really rough at that point,” said Latham. “There were a couple girls that got through it, but didn’t get on the bike because they probably had some issues with the water.”
Had Latham completed the swim – her weakest event – a little faster, the race could have ended a lot quicker for her.
Soon after starting the cycling portion of the race, Latham had to avoid a collision on the road ahead of her.
“I ended up behind a group that wiped out, but I was far enough back that it didn’t affect me. But a couple girls got hurt – not too seriously,” said Latham. “I think a couple guys in the men’s race wiped out as well because the rain, of course, makes the road really slick because they don’t get it very often.”
Roads are the most slippery when it rains after a long period with no precipitation because the water draws out all the motor oil that has collected in the pavement since the previous rainfall.
“The oils on the road make it a little rough, so you have to slow down just a tad,” said Latham.
After taking seventh at last year’s race in the women’s 35-39 division, Latham attempted her first tri at the elite amateur level at the Mazatlan ITU Triathlon Pan American Cup in Mexico in March.
At the Mazatlan, Latham failed to complete the race, getting “lapped-out” by the lead-rider in the cycling portion.
“It’s just a rule that they came up with this year,” said Latham.
She then had better luck at San Francisco’s Treasure Island Triathlon in July, finishing 16th in the elite female class. However, she was mistakenly listed as disqualified from the event because an incorrect charge against her by a judge who thought she made a helmet infraction. The mistake was later corrected.
“There was a mix up because a tire tube had come off my bike and it was wrapped around my neck and I was trying to remove it, so it looked like I was taking my helmet strap off,” said Latham. “So at any rate, I finished that race and that was a tough one as well. The water was really rough, the cycling was very technical, but the run was alright.”
Closer to home, Latham has won the Whitehorse Triathlon’s women’s Olympic division the last two years, finishing first overall this year, beating out the men’s winner Ian Parker by a little less than four minutes.
Although she is unsure whether she will compete again this season, Latham does have long-term plans in the sport. This fall she will travel to Alberta to attend a coaching clinic, hoping to establish a role as a coach for triathletes in the Yukon who face the same obstacles as she does.
“Gaining experience is the biggest thing for me, because I’d like to coach the sport in the future,” said Latham. “The disadvantage living here is the swimming – for me, anyways – the access to the type of water you need to train in to compete with these girls at this level.
“We don’t have a lot of open-water options until our ice leaves the water here.
“And swimming in the ocean is a lot different from swimming in lake water. The salt for one – the taste, but you can get over that. It’s the waves; it’s a different kind of water to swim through.”
Although she did not make mention of Olympic aspirations, Latham does hope to compete internationally, once she can reach mandatory times for the national team.
“I think the ultimate dream would be, in the next year or following year, if it’s possible, going to a world cup. That means meeting standards that national athletes have already met.
“In running I’m close, in the swimming I need work. I need to swim the 1,500-metre in about 20 minutes.”
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