For the past 10 years, Steve Dyke has been virtually unbeatable in the Capital Subaru St. John’s Triathlon.
But those close to the sport believe this could be the year the reigning 10-time champ is dethroned, and Ryan Brown is the competitor most people figure is capable of doing it,
The 27th annual St. John’s Triathlon goes Sunday.
“My chances are as good as anyone else’s,” says a humble Brown.
“To beat Steve Dyke, you need a perfect race. He’s been doing it for so long and he’s very well known in the triathlete world. He’s just a phenomenal athlete.”
Brown is no slouch himself.
The 24-year-old from St. John’s played hockey up to midget AAA and swam with the St. John’s Legends Swim Club. After high school he attended Memorial University, where he swam three seasons for the Sea-Hawks and ran cross-country for a season.
Brown had never competed in a triathlon, but had always dreamt of one day completing an ironman competition. In 2009, he was getting ready for the triathlon world’s ultimate test of endurance when training partner George Colbert suggested he try the new Paradise sprint triathlon.
“I actually won it,” says Brown who surprised himself. “Whether it was luck or me, I’m not sure.
“I said to myself, I might as well continue doing this because I have a little bit of talent.”
In the weeks that followed, Brown would go on to place fourth in the Carbonear Sprint and take top spot in the Corner Brook Triathlon.
Then came his first St. John’s tri.
Brown had a 10-second lead on Dyke coming out of the water at Healy’s Pond and widened that lead to over a minute following the bike portion. It looked like Brown would find his place atop the podium.
“I was leading the race up until the run. That’s when he caught me.
“But in St. John’s, I’ve been one of the only people to beat Steve Dyke off the bike.”
Brown spent the 2010 triathlon season nursing a knee injury, but began training early in the new year for a return to action.
While he’s yet to win this season, he did finish fifth in the Carbonear Sprint where Dyke was second to 17-year-old sprint distance standout Jordan Baird.
Brown’s obvious strength is in the water, but he says he’s also “very strong on the bike.”
He’ll be that much stronger in the cycling discipline this season as a result of being coached by Ben Instone, a cyclist from Great Britain who has been at the top of the U.K. time trialling scene over the past several years.
Last September, Instone and his girlfriend moved to St. John’s and decided to open Bike Doc Ltd. to help meet the needs of the growing cycling and triathlon community by servicing bikes and fitting people for them and offering training support.
Instone also helps organize local time trials, of which Brown has won twice and finished second twice — both times to Instone.
Brown says while his specialty is cycling, Instone has helped him gain a better understanding of how best to approach training for a race that requires expertise in three disciplines.
“It’s overall fitness, how the body works, how to rest the knee, how to analyze workouts, when to slow down, even nutrition and what to eat and how to eat.
“He’s very good.”
Brown’s weakness, which he admits “is not a hidden fact,” is his running ability.
“But I try my best. Like everyone, you gotta put in the miles. It’s just a matter of whether I put in enough.
“My run is almost back to where it was, but hopefully it’ll be just as good or better this year.”
With that in mind, he plans to employ the same strategy that almost led him to victory in 2009.
“I’m going to try to be with him in the swim and try to get ahead of him on the bike and make up as much time as I can. If I cam make up enough, I can hold him off on the run.
“The drive is there to beat him, it’s just whether or not it can be done.”
The St. John’s Triathlon gets underway 8 a.m. Sunday at Sunshine Camp on Thorburn Road. It entails a one-kilometre swim, two loops around Windsor Lake for 46 km on bike, and a 10.6 km run through trails and along Bennett's Road. There is also a sprint distance event which is half the full distance, and a team option for teams of two or three athletes if you're not up to all three legs.