When I first started this journey about five years ago, I built up a lot of pre-race stress. Often, I would be sitting in the registration line questioning my motives for driving to the event in the first place. As soon as I racked my bike, I could not wait for the darn thing to be over with so I could get to the food tent and just relax. Thankfully, I bumped into our featured Age Grouper early in my duathlon life and was able to pick up a few tricks to help smooth over many of the jitters I used to feel before stepping up to the start line.
It was my first time on the Grimsby course and many had extended a warning about the descent coming down the Park Road hill so I was getting a little worried as I set up my transition zone.
In a chance meeting, Paul “Speedy” Gonsalves, calmed these fears and helped me stay loose. He was in need of a tire pump and I happened to be nearby and able to assist in his search. During our conversation, as he inflated his race wheels, I was pleasantly surprised that someone very competitive in the sport could display a sense of humour and be so friendly in the moments before an event. Those usually tense moments were eased in a big way as we spoke and I had all but forgotten about the nerves I was battling minutes before.
From this encounter, I learned not to take things too seriously when approaching this hobby. I now make the time to mingle with those around me in transition which keeps my mind free of a lot of negative energy and gives me the opportunity to meet so many amazing people with the same passion for multisport.
Thanks to “Speedy”, I realized that you can have a bunch of fun at these events and still satisfy that tiny, competitive fire that burns inside us all.
10 Questions with "Speedy"
Q1. What brought you into the sport of tri/du?
- I started as a marathon runner back in the early 80’s (Yes, I’m that old). I lived in Rexdale but worked in downtown Toronto. I decided to ride to work 2 or 3 times per week for injury prevention and discovered I loved going fast. In 1986, I heard about a “Biathlon” in Mt. Tremblant that was an 80k bike and a 21k run. I did the event and recall having a blast and did very well at it. Soon after, I started racing Du’s with Trisport Canada. I wish to be still racing well into my 70’s and 80’s.
Q2. Have you always been strictly a duathlete? If no, why did you leave the swimming behind?
- I started off as a runner and started cycling as a means of injury prevention. I was also inspired as a kid by my Uncle Hilary, a world class rider who rode for the West Indies.
I don’t see myself as leaving swimming behind. I’m a decent swimmer and the reasons for doing Du’s has nothing to do my ability to swim.
Q3. You race a lot during a season, is there ever a point when you wake up the morning of a race and wish you had taken the day off running or duathlon?
- No, I rest like a “Rock Star”! lol
I also have enough experience to know (i.e. Old) when I’m pushing too hard and when to ease off the training.
Q4. Are you more proud of what you currently achieve or what you accomplished in the past?
- I haven’t thought of what I do in terms of pride. Regardless of race results, I have a sense of accomplishment that on that day I raced as smart and as hard as possible without leaving anything in the tank.
Q5. What moment in your multisport life do you look back on with fondest memories?
- When I first heard my eldest son, Christopher, yell “Go, Daddy, Go!”
Q6. You told me you used to take the sport too seriously for a recreational outlet. Are there any examples of things you did back then that you shake your head at these days?
- Nothing specifically comes to mind, but definitely no joy. Intense focus and little or no social interaction with fellow racers, spectators and race volunteers/officials.
I’m surprised when people make the assumption that my nick name is a function of my performance. “Speedy Gonsalves” is just my way of keeping the racing real and fun. I must admit, I do get a kick out of hearing people cheer "Ándale! Ándale! Arriba! Arriba! Hepa¡ Hepa! Hepa! Yeehaw!" ("Go on! Go on! Up! Up!).
Q7. At what moment did you change the focus from purely results driven to a fun, social event that should not be taken too seriously?
- The turning point for me was 2001 at my 1st World Championships in Italy. I was in Italy on 9-11 and the race was a few days later. I was getting more and more anxious about world events and the upcoming event. I remember cheering on the Canadian ladies race the day before my event and I couldn’t help but notice that the women were embracing the moment, flying through the course and appeared to be having so much fun. It was at that moment I remembered why I raced and that was to do my best and have fun. Immediately, I felt my shoulders relax as my anxiety faded away. The next day, I set a personal bests on the 10k run and 40k bike as part of the overall event. The more relaxed I am, the better I seem to do for the same fitness level.
Q8. Can you describe your bike mascot and the origins of this aerobar ornament?
- You must be referring to “Rocky the Rooster” who is my 3rd rubber chicken/mascot. I can’t remember when the 1st mascot came to be but it was following the 2001 World Championships and my renewed “Sense of Fun”. The 1st time I used it, a fellow competitor complained to an OAT official that it “Gave me an unfair aerodynamic advantage”. I remember the OAT official having a good laugh. Now it’s true that it does represent an unfair aerodynamic advantage, but whoever said life was fair was selling something.
Q9. What keeps you motivated to stay in great racing shape with so many other responsibilities?
- My love of dark beer (Waterloo Dark, Smithwicks, Newcastle Brown, etc.), chocolate and cheesecake.
Q10. What is the greatest piece of advice you have heard during your tri/du career?
- "Keep the rubber side down"