Sociology major prepares for world’s best triathletes
Josh Brisson’s goal is to test his body’s limits, in three not so easy steps. To that end, the rising triathlete swam, biked and ran his way to the top in the Nova Scotia provincial championship. Now he has qualified to compete against the sport’s best at the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championship Series Grand Final in Auckland, New Zealand.
The 23-year-old sociology major will leave this continent for the first time this October when Brisson and his $4,000 Cervelo P2 triathlon bike heads across the globe to represent Canada in one of the largest annual gatherings of athletes in the world. He qualified for the race in June 2011 and will be racing in the 20-25-year-old age group.
Athletically, Brisson, also a member of Dal’s cross-country team, says he has never felt better.
“I know my body has a limit and at one point I’m not going to be able to get faster,” he says during an interview at the SUB. “I really want to be 65 and sitting in my rocking chair and know that I’ve made it, know that I could not have been better than I was.”
He began his athletic career as a hockey player at the age of five, but realized in high school that his smaller build put him at a disadvantage. His first triathlon about a year after graduation was just meant as a fitness goal.
“It was really tough and I got my ass kicked big time by a lot of way better triathletes than I was,” says Brisson. And so he tried again. It took two years of training for him to be satisfied with his progress. “It basically started from pride, and I just kept going and fully immersed myself in competitive racing.”
The ITU race he will be competing in is a sprint triathlon (750 m swim, 20 km bike ride and 5 km run). The average time at the highest level is between an hour to an hour and 10 minutes.
The running component is Brisson’s strength. “If there’s anybody ahead of me, I have it in my ability to actually catch them and win. That’s how I won the Nova Scotia provincial championships this year.” Brisson took first place in the last 1 km stretch.
It is a major confidence boost to end the race with his strongest discipline, he says.
“In my swim and bike I always feel like I’m on the limit, whereas on my run I feel like I can give it a little extra and I’m not going to explode.”
The challenges are constant when training for a triathlon. Balancing training and everyday life is especially difficult during racing season, which normally lasts from spring to fall.
“You have to be in full control of your life. You have to eat perfectly and make sure you get the perfect amount of sleep,” he says. While preparing for a race, Brisson keeps a very clean, balanced diet.
To keep motivated, Brisson uses a training journal to record his progress and goals. “If I miss a few workouts then I’m accountable because I can see them. It keeps me going. It keeps me on track.” He is currently endurance training with Dal’s cross-country and track teams.
The financial implications are also no small matter. Part of his trip is subsidized through Triathlon Canada, but it is mainly the athlete’s responsibility to find individual and team sponsorship. Race fees can be up to $500 and the flight is around $4,000. With existing student debt and a schedule that makes a job difficult to commit to, Brisson concedes, “It’s going to be quite difficult money-wise.”
His self-discipline is useful in other aspects of his life as well. His grades have only gotten better in his triathlon years, and he was named an Academic All-Canadian last fall for university varsity athletes who maintain a GPA of 80 per cent or higher. It is a difficult balance for Brisson, who cares equally about his education as his sport.
“I don’t accept anything but my best effort in either, and if anything, academics come first. If I don’t make it to the Olympics it’s not going to be worth sacrificing for,” he says.
As for the Olympics, if it is in his capacity, Brisson will be there. “My goal is to achieve the best possible result that I can get. Hopefully that’s the Olympics. If not, then I’ll [still] be satisfied.”