Upon his urgent return to Canada from racing in Europe, Olympic triathlete Tyler Mislawchuk retreated to his basement for two weeks of mandatory isolation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Fourteen days of no human contact,” he says from his home in in Oak Bluff, Man. “Mom and Dad left food on the stairs and would throw out the plates after.
“I’m a bit of an introvert, so I don’t mind time alone. But I think it’s different if you choose to be alone or if you are forced to be alone. I guess it’s an important social experiment.”
Like so many of us, Mislawchuk ruminated over world events and a personal game plan gone awry.
“The first week was a shock to the system,” says his coach, Jonathan Hall. “We had a lot of conversations and talked about how irrespective of training for the Tokyo Olympics, we were always also training for Paris in 2024.
“We talked about how we can sit at home and be upset about the uncertainty and the differences, or we can make the most of it.”
Mislawchuk is choosing to make the most of it. Thanks to a smart trainer, he is racing virtually with his Canadian teammates from the comforts of his sun room.
Given the current circumstances, Triathlon Canada is partnering with FulGaz, an indoor training app that allows cyclists to ride some of the most iconic courses in the world via high-quality video imaging.
“In the grand scheme of things, I’m doing okay,” says Mislawchuk, ranked fifth in the world by the International Triathlon Union. “I’m healthy. My family is healthy. Those are the most important things.”
Winner of the Olympic test event last August in Tokyo, Mislawchuk is planning to compete in the Triathlon Canada World Series April 28 to May 10 — on virtual courses that include Beach Road Complete in Australia; Lake Como to Bellagio in Italy; Alpe d’Huez in France; and Going to the Sun Road West in the U.S.
The virtual champion will be crowned at the peak of the Axel Merckx Climb near Penticton, B.C.
“Because of the weather, Canadians are well-conditioned to these treadmills and home bike trainers and doing what they have to do.” Hall says. “One of the things about training indoors is you lack the environmental stimulus around you. When you’re looking at the wall in your basement, it becomes tough after a period of time.
“This new program gives us video and it allows us to be interactive. You can create races. You can create scenarios.”
WATCH | Mislawchuk reacts after winning Olympic test triathlon event:
From May 15 to 29, Triathlon Canada will host a five-stage, virtual National Tour Series with stops in Shelburne, N.S.; Mont Tremblant, Que.; the 1000 Island Parkway in Ontario; Banff, Alta; and Vancouver’s Stanley Park.
A live leaderboard will track results, while a digital “yellow” jersey will be presented to the leader following each stage. Winners also will be recognized based on gender and age group.
“It’s a great way to be social in a socially distant world,” Mislawchuk says. “I’m a competitive guy. It’s an outlet for me.”
Mislawchuk is a good bet to win any time he clips into the pedals. Every ride is preparation for the Tokyo Summer Games, now scheduled for July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021.
Training in his ‘pain cave’
“I’m looking at the positives,” he says. “I’m 25 turning 26. I’m just coming into my peak four or five years at this time. I still look at myself as an athlete on the rise. Another year won’t hurt me and that won’t necessarily be the case for other athletes internationally.”
In the meantime, Mislawchuk has set up a “pain cave” in his basement where he runs on the treadmill, lifts weights and uses exercise bands to mimic the movements of swimming. In the weeks ahead, with the weather warming up, he plans to train extensively in his backyard pool.
None of this is ideal, but it is what it is.
“What’s going on for Tyler is a bump in the road, it’s not a mountain we have to get over,” Hall says. “We focus on what we can do and not on what we can’t.”