For the love of triathlon: Couple doing 35th Self Transcendence

Squeezing into his 1980s era Self-Transcendence T-shirt, Wayne Coulson’s excited for an excuse to wear the old garment.

If it’s a little tight, it’s probably because the cotton shrunk.

“Actually I’m not entirely sure this is from the first year but if it’s not, it’s definitely from the first couple of years,” he says of the shirt.

Coulson, from Saanich, is of a rare group who did the first Self-Transcendence Triathlon at Elk Lake in 1980. His wife Jacqui is joining him as they plan to complete the 35th annual running of the event at Elk Lake this Sunday (Aug. 3).

“It was 1980 and I saw the triathlon written up in the newspaper. I was teaching P.E. but not too active. I had previously run on the track team and I had swam, I just needed to get biking,” Wayne says.

He was one of about 18 people to do it in the first year and none had wetsuits. In contrast, only a handful of swimmers stood out among the hundreds of neoprene-clad competitors in the 2013 Self Transcendence.

“The combination of events motivated me to try it,” Wayne says.

It meant pulling out his rarely used steel-frame Apollo bicycle which he’d purchased for $129, a far cry from the triathlon bikes used today.

“I became serious about it, especially after the first one.”

It led Wayne to Whistler and Seattle for additional triathlons during the early days of the sport.

Back then, he taught elementary in the Saanich School District (later he would teach at North Saanich middle and Stelly’s secondary schools).

Jacqui taught music in the Victoria School District and wasn’t ready to do the Self Transcendence until 1985, a year after the birth of their second child.

She has the shirt to prove it, as eventually the T-shirts began including the race year in the design.

“Wayne was training a lot, so I thought, ‘I never see the guy, I might as well get out there and do this.’”

Fitness bonded the couple as their marriage moved through the 1980s. They were part of the original 10 members who founded the successful Team West Coast Triathlon Club. The club is now up to nearly 100 members with a focus on triathlon, but at the time, Team West Coast was committed to the running in the Victoria Marathon and the now-defunct Vancouver Island Relay run, which lasted about a decade, and saw runners take turns jogging from Courtenay to Victoria.

For Jacqui, it’s been two years since her last Self Transcendence.

She hasn’t done as many triathlons as Wayne, who peaked with five Ironman finishes in a row during the ’90s, and guesses he’s somewhere around the 75 mark for total triathlons, including a few more Ironmans over the years.

“It’s my 65th birthday this year and there seems to be a trend with me to do it on age markers, as I also did it on my 60th,” Jacqui says.

Wayne, who is now retired, will do the Self Transcendence’s classic Olympic distance (1.5 kilometre swim, 40-km bike, 10-km run) for the 20th time (he estimates) since he first completed it in 1980, while Jacqui will do the sprint distance, which is half the Olympic.

“For me this race is safe, volunteers make it safe, and it’s about accomplishing it for me, and the support that I get from the race and volunteers, I really cherish,” she says. “The whole point of the Self Transcendence is to look inside yourself and see what you’ve got, and to dig it out.”

The mass start for the event happens Sunday at 7 a.m. from Hamsterly Beach.


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