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A Canadian Winter Triathlon: The Ottawa Winterlude Triathlon

Updated on December 9, 2012

A Canadian Who Loves Winter

As a Canadian, I love the winters here in Canada in all its glory. There is nothing more majestic than the first snowfall of the season. It arrives with crisp grey clouds, cool temperatures and large snowflakes that flutter down towards Earth. Up here in Canada, we see a drastic change in the amount of sunlight that we have each day. Beginning on the fall solstice on September 22, we begin to lose daylight as the sun rises later and the sun sets earlier. By October, we can see a visible difference on a daily basis as our days get shorter and our nights grow longer. To survive a Canadian winter, one learns to love the outdoors and the sports associated with the cold weather. From street hockey to ice hockey, snowshoeing to dog sledding, skiing to skating, waterfall ice climbing to ice fishing, and everything in between, we take to the outdoors and enjoy the sun as much as possible. Without our outdoor winter sports, we would experience cabin fever – a craziness that sets in when one is “stuck” indoors for too long without a change of scenery and fresh air.

There are many sports that are very well known. Sports such as ice hockey, figure skating, speed skating, skiing, and freestyle snowboarding but have you heard about the winter triathlon? Unique to the Nation’s Capital of Ottawa, it is known as the Winterlude Triathlon.

The Traditional Triathlon


What is a triathlon?  Traditionally, a triathlon is a multi-sport endurance event that consists of three segments.  These segments are consecutive and require the athlete to swim, bicycle and run.  The race is timed, and the timing includes the transition times as the athlete changes from one venue to the next. 

For a general idea of the type of race that the athlete competes in are categorized as the following by the International Triathlon Union are:   Sprint distance (750 m swim, 20 km bike, 5 km run), Intermediate distance, commonly referred to as "Olympic distance" (1.5 km swim, 40 km ride, 10 km run), the Long Course (1.9 km swim, 90 km ride, 21.1 km run, such as the Half Ironman), and Ultra Distance (3.8 km swim, 180 km ride, and a marathon 42.2 km run). 

In the world of fitness, a triathlon is one of the sports that demand the athletes to be in top shape to perform properly.  Unlike most sports, a triathlon requires an athlete to be proficient in two out of three sports

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The Winter Triathlon

In a winter triathlon, it is common to have a combination of segments involving cross-country skiing, running and biking through snow. In Canada, our Winterlude Triathlon requires the athlete to ice skate, cross-country ski and run during one of the coldest months of winter: February. As it is challenging in the sense of temperature and terrain conditions, the skating segment for the 2012 Winterlude Triathlon will be 8 km, the cross-country skiing segment will be 5 km followed by a 5 km run through the snow.

The Ottawa Winterlude Triathlon


The Ottawa Winterlude Triathlon takes place on Dows Lake with ice skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway.  The Rideau Canal is infamous for being the world’s largest outdoor skating rink with a total cleared path of 7.8 km (4.8 miles) and an equivalent surface area of 90 Olympic hockey rinks.  The Rideau Canal, when not being used for the Triathlon, is a commonplace for gatherings of friends and families for recreational skating.  Along the Canal are stations that sell cups of hot chocolate, beaver tails (an original Canadian treat and a “must try”) as well as stations that rent ice skates or ice sleds.  There is always entertainment along the way from musicians to magicians to singing around bonfires.  As a tradition, the Rideau Canal Skateway is opened in conjunction with the beginning of the Winterlude Festival.  On February 5, 2010, the opening ceremonies will mark the 32nd Winterlude Festival and the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Rideau Canal Skateway. 

Enjoy the Winter!

For a bit of fun and a twist on an outdoor sport, come and visit (either in person or virtually) the Ottawa Winterlude Triathlon.

Not only will you be witness to a winter triathlon, but you will also witness many more unique winter sports!


Written By: Beth H.

Copyright © 2010


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