Swim, Bike, Run

Year-round they meet – on the trails, along the roads, in local pools and quarries, and even in banquet halls. After 15 years of uniting everyone from Olympic-class athletes to toddlers and grandparents in the joys of active living, Caledon’s C3 still offers Canada’s premier cross-training environment. Here’s why.

March 24, 2011 | | Back Issues

Caledon’s C3 is still changing lives

Year-round they meet – on the trails, along the roads, in local pools and quarries, and even in banquet halls. After 15 years of uniting everyone from Olympic-class athletes to toddlers and grandparents in the joys of active living, Caledon’s C3 still offers Canada’s premier cross-training environment. Here’s why.

It’s not intentional, but even the name “Mega Day” sounds a tad intimidating. And to the uninitiated like me, C3’s twice-monthly, full-day, multi-sport training event can be just that.

Pounding dance-club-like music vibrates through the corridor leading up to the banquet hall of the Caledon Community Complex. Peering into the dimly lit room, I see 100-plus C3 members spinning madly on bike trainers, some watching cycling footage on a large screen in the corner. Directly up front, a spotlight highlights two athletes spinning on an elevated stage, calling out bits of inspiration and guidance.

Two thoughts come to mind. First, that’s a lot of Lycra. Second, could my body fat percentage be more than the combined total of this room?

C3 founder and former Olympic coach Barrie Shepley. Photo Trent Dilkie

C3 founder and former Olympic coach Barrie Shepley. Photo Trent Dilkie

However, first impressions can be deceiving and, as C3 founder and former Olympic coach Barrie Shepley points out, the strength of the non-profit Canadian Cross Training Club, C3 for short, is still very much in the diversity of people it inspires.

He points to a middle-aged woman in a loose sweatshirt. “She’s here training to compete in a 5K run for charity,” he beams. “And that guy up front in blue is 62 and a prostate cancer survivor. He was a marathon champion and is now training for Ironman Austria.”

Then he points out Claudia Johnston on the stage – a 37-year-old mother of five who came third in her age group at the fabled Kona Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. “And there’s Niko, 13,” Shepley says. “He came out running with a few of us in minus-27° weather last Sunday.”

Although Shepley’s extensive credentials in-clude training Canadian triathlon icon Simon Whitfield to Olympic gold in 2000, it’s clear he just loves a good cross-training success story, never mind the subject’s shape, size, age or fitness goal.

In this, he reminds me of the minister at Streetsville United Church when I was growing up. He used to say, “The measure of a person is not where they are, but how far they’ve come.”

It seems Shepley and his C3 followers use the same measure for an athlete. And indeed, it’s with religious-like fervor that they embrace and support members, no matter how grand or humble their goals – winning a national title or shedding a few pounds.

On the following pages we meet a few of the many athletes who, with the help of the C3 community, have come a long way and inspired others in the process.

Niko Racicot

Nico completed the running portion of the Port Sydney triathlon short a shoe.

Nico completed the running portion of the Port Sydney triathlon short a shoe.

For multi-talented, multilingual, grade-eight honour student, Niko Racicot, the stark challenges of triathlon would seem a natural fit with his innate focus and determination. Any success this wiry 13-year-old has achieved, however, has been hard won and Niko himself gives his connection to C3 a good deal of the credit.

Niko first attempted triathlon in 2005 at an event near his family’s Muskoka cottage. “Triathlon is just so unique,” he says. “It was a fun challenge that I really enjoyed the first time I did it.” Despite this enthusiasm, Niko struggled to improve upon several near-last-place finishes in those first few years.

Over the spring and early summer last year, he signed up for some C3 clinics. Barrie and the other coaches helped balance his training in swimming, biking and running, and the skills he picked up had an immediate impact on his performance.

“I learned things like how to dolphin dive to start my swims,” says Niko, “And how to cut time by hanging my helmet upside down on my bike or not putting on socks in my transition to the bike.”

In July, Niko celebrated his first podium finish, a bronze medal at the 2010 Port Sydney Triathlon near his cottage. “The most exciting and rewarding moment was hearing my name called and climbing on the podium to get my third-place medal,” he says. “Here I was – second to last in the same race five years ago and now I’m third!” Soon thereafter Niko signed up for C3’s year-round training.

Niko says C3 has taught him just how much work is involved to succeed. Most influential is the chance to train alongside such elite triathletes as Dave Sharrat and Sean Bechtel. He says, “It’s just inspiring to work with people who compete at nationals and world championships.”

Still, you don’t have to be an elite athlete to be an inspiration. Following his son’s lead, Niko’s father Mark recently joined C3’s Sunday runs – joining all the newcomers at the rear while his son helps set the pace.

Kim Nelson

Kim has qualified five times for Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.

Kim has qualified five times for Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.

“Barry and the C3 network of people connect us to the entire world triathlon stage right here in Caledon,” says Kim Nelson, company CEO, wife and mother of three. Nelson’s children, age five to eight, compete in C3’s annual Kids of Steel Triathlon. For this former competitive swimmer with twelve Ironman competitions under her belt, the resources available to her and her family mean a lot.

The self-described goal-driven Caledon native says C3 provides, “this network of great friends and like-minded people.” And these relationships have inspired great things in Nelson since she first sought out Shepley and C3 in 1997 to help tackle her first Ironman.

Among her many accomplishments, Nelson has qualified five times for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii (it involves a 3.8K swim, a 180K bicycle ride, and a 42.2K marathon run). Last year, she came first in her age at Ironman Brazil; and just turned 40, she’s ranked twelfth among the top 25 CEO athletes of the decade in North America, all of whom are participat-ing in a reality TV special that will air on an American network next year.

Although she describes the euphoria of crossing an Ironman finish line as something she’d “beg, steal or lie for,” (oh, that it were that easy!), Nelson insists it’s the daily routine of training that she loves most and racing simply justifies doing that.

“This discipline helps me every day in business,” she says. “You have a plan, you work and you execute.” And she says that’s the common thread at C3: “Goals are the big focus for everyone, even those who are not highly competitive. It’s the same drive to push on, whether you’re finishing a 5K or winning the Ironman.”

Michael & Adrien Brown

Father and son, Michael and Adrien, have become C3 training buddies.

Father and son, Michael and Adrien, have become C3 training buddies.

When Caledon father of two, Michael Brown, turned 40, he set a goal – one that a lot of parents talk about, but seldom do.

“With today’s childhood obesity problem, I wanted to set a good example for my kids,” says Brown. “My kids were like most, with their Xboxes and not a lot of outdoor activity. I wanted to change that, starting with my own priorities.”

He began by joining a running club in Brampton and actually ran a couple of marathons. Three years ago, he learned that he could sign up for just running at C3. Eventually, the triathlon influence of the group took hold though, and he became intrigued. “I started using my mountain bike. It was a natural progression. And last year I bought a road bike and switched over to C3’s full triathlon program.”

At the same time, his then 10-year-old son Adrien started out with Caledon Kids of Steel triathlon. He attended the kids’ tri-camp before the race with Sean Bechtel and was enthralled. Now Adrien competes in two or three triathlons a year.

“He just enjoys the fitness aspect of it,” says his father. “We spin together Saturday mornings and swim in the quarry in summer. There are people in each activity at every level. It’s a tight-knit group and a very positive environment with a real family feel.”

Now a C3 board member, Brown says the entire family is far more active these days: “In winter we all ski and snowboard together. My daughter Julia volunteers at C3 events, has done some races and works out regularly; my wife Mary walks with the club and completed her first half marathon last fall.”

As training buddies, Michael and Adrien, now 12, celebrated some big milestones last year too. Brown describes finishing his first half Ironman in July as “the sport highlight of my life.”

That same season, he shared another huge breakthrough with his son. Recounting his first adult-length quarry swim with his dad, Adrien says, “I was feeling very tired and my arms hurt, but I was trying to keep a positive attitude about completing my goal … I do remember thinking that the quarry seemed beautiful in the morning light … As I got close to the end I felt really proud, like I was now a proper member of the C3 club.”

Mission accomplished, Dad.

Sean Bechtel

National champion Sean Bechtel refers to himself as C3 Member 001. Photo Trent Dilkie

National champion Sean Bechtel refers to himself as C3 Member 001. Photo Trent Dilkie

When 16-year-old Caledon local, Sean Bechtel, first contacted Barrie Shepley in 1999, he probably seemed like a hundred other kids just curious about triathlon. An active teenager, he’d done some cross-country running and competitive swimming.

“At first, I had to prove myself to Barrie,” said Bechtel. “I did the work he told me. I put all my faith in what he said and just kept getting better.” Still, Bechtel wasn’t winning any races when he started. In fact, he recalls placing 120th in one of his first times out. However, four years later his talent appeared any-thing but common when he qualified to represent Canada at the 2003 Pan American Games.

A graduate of McMaster University, Bechtel went on to win six medals at national championships and has represented Canada five times at world championships. Most recently, he made the podium at the Syracuse International Half Ironman competition. Today, in addition to training to be the best triathlete he can be, Bechtel helps inspire greatness in others, both as a C3 member and coach.

“During the off-season, I’m helping prepare 80 people for Ironman Austria this coming summer.” He also helps with the Kids of Steel clinics in spring and he’s sharing the nuances of elite professional racing as captain of the C3 High Performance Team.

Arguably, though, one of his most influential roles is just participating as a C3 member. As one of the first names on Caledon’s C3 rolls, Bechtel likes to refer to himself as “Member 001.”

He points out that C3 is unique in combining an ideal training environment with a membership that includes three or four top athletes in the province. “Other members like to see the athletes that have reached an elite standard. Sometimes you think, I just can’t do this any faster or better,” says Bechtel. “But just having us there, training with everyone, helps people learn and see how hard you have to work.”


After the kids’ training clinic in early May, C3 will partner again with Caledon-based sponsor, Kinetico Home Water Systems on May 29 to host the largest Kids of Steel Triathlon in Canada, with more than 1,000 entrants.

Started by Shepley in the late eighties, Kids of Steel is now a nation-wide program promoting triathlon and an active lifestyle among youth. After years of parents asking to join in, the event now includes divisions for every age group, from toddlers to grandparents.

Children take part in the Kids 1 Mile race as part of the Running Festival.

Children take part in the Kids 1 Mile race as part of the Running Festival. Photo Trent Dilkie

C3 and Kinetico also team up for the fall Running Festival on September 25. Geared to youth fitness, the event attracts kids from far beyond the Caledon hills, some who rarely experience country life. To ensure costs won’t be a barrier to participation, Kinetico pays for everything: a t-shirt, a gift bag, food and draw prizes. Participants just bring some non-perishable food item for Caledon Community Services. Last year, the festival attracted a national record-breaking 1,200 kids and gathered a truckload of food for needy local families.

Kinetico will soon be sponsoring Kids of Steel on a national basis. More than a sponsor, however, Kinetico Canada president Phillip Adsetts is also a participant, along with his daughter and four grandkids.

“It’s nearly impossible not to be drawn into the Shepley vortex of participation,” Adsetts jests. “Seriously though, sometimes it’s easy to be the sponsor, but the toughest thing is to give time. We’re hugely respectful of the support we get from the C3 group and their expertise in making these events so successful.”

Of course, the scope of these events requires scores of volunteers. “We have many people who’ve done the exact same job for the past eleven years,” says Shepley. “They’re the people who body mark the kids, count laps in the pool or stand on the corners of the course.”


Young swimmers at the Caledon pool. Photo Trent Dilkie

Perhaps most notable of among these is Stewart Barclay, well known as a coach at Caledon Ski Club. Barclay doesn’t have kids in the races, but he’s served tirelessly as race director for both the C3/Kinetico Running Festival and Kids of Steel since their inceptions.

From world-class athletes to parents, young kids and volunteers, the appeal of C3 is obvious, and fitness is only part of the story. Most seem to find a guiding metaphor for life here. Perhaps young Niko explains best: “In competition and training, I’ve learned that I’m not the kind of person who just gives up when things get difficult. No way. I keep going so I can see just how high my potential can go.”



For more information visit: c3online.ca

C3 Kinetico Kids of Steel Triathlon
May 25. Kids from 3 to 75 can participate in this short, fun pool triathlon. It includes a kids’ one-miler and adult 5K.

C3 Summer Camp
Seven one-week day camps with C3 coaches and elite athletes at the club’s James Dick Swim Quarry in Caledon. An opportunity to swim, canoe, kayak, play beach volleyball and more.

Kids of Steel Friday Night Training Session
May 6 to June 24. Swim-bike-run workout at Caledon Public School with C3 coaches.

C3 Kinetico Running Festival
September 25. Some 1,500 kids are expected to turn out for the one-mile run. An adult 5K and 10K are also featured.

C3 Golf Fundraiser for Future Olympians
May 25, at the Caledon Golf and Country Club with former NHL hockey Player Scott Thornton. All proceeds go to helping future Olympians.

C3 Support
Three to four swim-bike-run-hike-yoga workouts every week of the year for all ages and fitness levels.


More related to this article:

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by Nicola Ross

Video excerpts of the bike race!

BIKE EXCHANGE, Notes from the road and trail
by Nicola Ross

About the Author More by Liz Beatty

Writer and broadcaster Liz Beatty hosts and produces the award-winning North Americana Podcast (northamericanapodcast.com), which unearths surprising stories that connect Americans and Canadians. She lives in Brimstone.


1 Comment

  1. C3 gives me a purpose to wake up everyday. I have suffered a severe Traumatic Brain Injury which has also caused Epilepsy. I will never be able to drive again But I now am able to swim, bike, run with some of the most caring supportive people I have ever met. No matter how sad I am about my disability I can always count on someone from the C3 community showing up at my door to bring me to a swim, bike, run and leaving with a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart.
    THANK YOU SO MUCH, Anne Marie

    Anne Marie Gariepy from Hockey Valley on Jul 17, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Reply

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