When you look into his racing results, it is hard to imagine that this Toronto, Ontario resident has only been at it since 2007. The success Bruce has achieved in only three years makes you wonder, “Where are all the earlier stats”?
Did they just disappear? Did he race under another name?
No, this rising star of the local triathlon scene is still a relative newbie and is attracting a lot of attention event after event. Making the most of an opportunity to meet this driven Age Grouper at a race in Grimsby, during the 2008 season, I realized just how enthusiastic and motivated he was to better himself as an athlete. From our first conversation, I knew he could match my passion for the sport. That is not easy to do.
Bruce started his multisport career with two duathlons in 2007 before jumping into a full schedule of this sibling sport in 2008. Using his awesome cycling power to move into contention during his early races, he ultimately would drop back from the leaders on the final run as he lacked the experience and confidence to push to the next level. His competitive fire would not allow that for much longer and he quickly found out what it takes to be a winner in just his fifth race on the challenging Muskoka Long Course.
This snowballed into a dominating 2008 on the Subaru Duathlon series where he claimed four victories in seven starts. He carried this roll into the Ontario Championships that year, where he pulled off an incredible second place overall finish sandwiched between two of the elite duathletes in the province (Matthew Pieterson and Kevin Smith). Next, he travelled to Montreal to compete in the Canadian Duathlon Championships in the Age Group category. Again, he rose to the occasion and celebrated a silver place showing in only his rookie season of multisport.
Having conquered the Run-Bike-Run, Bruce decided he wanted to test the waters of triathlon in 2009 and he started his swim training in the fall to prepare for the very big jump to the masses of the local triathlon world. As if that was not enough, he also wanted to prove himself in the cycling community and pushed even harder in that discipline to prepare for a grueling year to come.
His efforts paid off in a big way as he had one of the most successful athletic seasons an Age Grouper could hope for. After some early season issues in the water, he found his comfort zone and posted several top five finishes among the experienced elites of the province. One of those being a victory at the Toronto Island Triathlon as well as a second place showing at the Ontario Triathlon Championships (turned to Du because of wild weather). As his confidence grew throughout the year, he used his lessons learned to produce the top Amateur result at the autumn Muskoka 70.3 event. This was a monster feat alongside some of the top Half-Ironman athletes in the world and secured a spot at the 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater, Florida.
On the cycling stage in 2009, Bruce squeezed in a handful of events in the M2 category with equal success. He started out with a second place finish at the Good Friday RR followed by a huge victory in Niagara the next month. In the 40k TT in Peterborough (M2), he finished a very respectable second and then raced to another huge win at the Provincial RR Championships (M2) before gearing back up for a busy fall of triathlons.
Add in four duathlons and you can see that Mr. Bird loves to race. In those competitions he captured the overall title at the Ontario Duathlon Championship in Gravenhurst and a solid tenth in his Age Group at the World Duathlon Championships in Concord, North Carolina.
I recently caught up with Bruce to ask if he was interested in answering a few questions and he was more than happy to supply the following...
1. You have only been racing duathlon/triathlon since 2007, what brought you to the sport?
Bruce - First it was challenge from a friend of mine from Delaware (Jay Zorn). Then it was a nagging ankle injury from years of Basketball, I needed to change sports.
2. Being a very accomplished cyclist, what makes you such a threat on the bike?
Bruce - Thank you for the compliment. I feel that I am constantly learning how to be a better cyclist; just yesterday (5/12) I had my A$$ handed to me by three of my Wheels of Bloor team-mates during high speed training at Exhibition place. Last year in a 40km Time Trial in Peterborough, Ryan Roth (one of Canada’s best) was five minutes faster than me; as well as a dozen+ other guys who beat me on that day. I take the losses as lessons and use them to spur me on to more intense and focused training sessions. Genetics definitely comes into play as it does in all sports.
3. Who is the pro triathlete that inspires you the most, why?
Bruce - That’s an easy one for me – Simon Whitfield. I loved watching him throw off his hat and turn on the burners in Beijing. He really inspired me with his amazing effort. I am also incredibly impressed with Craig Alexander and his sub 1:12 half marathon in the Muskoka Half Iron in 2009; how did he do that?
4. Like most Age Groupers, you have a full-time job, family and a busy life away from triathlon. What drives you to improve year after year?
Bruce - A competitive spirit, it may be tied in to a midlife crisis of sorts as I want to get faster but inevitably I will be faced with diminish returns as I age.
5. What is your major focus in 2010?
Bruce – 1. I want to have a great result at the Ontario Provincial TT Championships in the 40+ age group. I would also like to close the gap between myself and the top pro in the event (+5minutes to Ryan Roth in 2009). 2. I would like to do well in the NYC Triathlon. 3. I would like to qualify for Half-Ironman Worlds again and finish in the top 3 in my age category. I am probably fooling myself with this one as the drafting situation may make it impossible for me to exploit my strength in the cycling leg as some of my competitors my draft during the bike and save energy to hammer in the run (a strategy that I refuse to follow). 4. I would also like to get a bit closer to the amazing Len Gushe this year – he destroyed me and the entire field last year and he was 46.
6. What is the one thing most of your triathlon buddies would not expect to find out about Bruce Bird?
Bruce - I went to an arts focused high school that had no organized sports until our class formed a Basketball team in grade 10.
7. What is the one element you really need to work a lot harder on to improve you overall results, why?
Bruce - Swim. Last year was my first year competing in Triathlons and I had little swim exposure and experience. I panicked during swims and ultimately gave up huge chunks of time to my competitors. I would love to minimize my losses in the water this year.
8. Is there a triathlon rule that you would like the governing bodies to consider changing? What bugs you about the current ruling?
Bruce - The enforcement and harshness of the drafting rule at the Half Ironman Worlds in Clearwater can be improved. The pros should be racing draft legal for events like that one – that is what is happening anyways.
9. How hard is it for you to stick to a healthy diet?
Bruce - I am hungry all the time, especially after a swim workout and I eat a lot of food. I set a goal of competing at 185lbs this year down from 195lbs last year. My goal was based on physics; lighter with similar power output = faster. I read in Lance Armstrong’s book ‘It’s not about the bike’ where he spoke about how they would not even consider a rider for his team unless they had made every effort to maximize their power to weight ratio. Twice I got down to 185 and twice I got sick. I realized that given my body type and lifestyle, 190 was a more productive weight than 185 even if it meant that I would not be considered for team Radio Shack.
10. What is your biggest achievement in multisport racing?
Bruce - Hopefully it is yet to come. I was happy with being the top amateur at the Muskoka Half-Ironman last year which is a tribute to the level of competition at the event.
Bonus. What is your ultimate multisport goal?
Bruce - After watching Simon in Beijing I secretly imagined myself competing in London in 2012 at the age of 43. Reality Check: The top guys are able to run a 29 minute 10km which is astounding by itself let alone after a 1.5km swim and 40km bike at insane speeds, and I am a part time athlete over 40. I would like to find balance in my life within and outside of multisport and find a way to be in contention for an age group podium spot at a world championship event.
If you would like to follow Bruce on his journey to the top, please check out his blog below.