Sault Stryders
Running Club

A change in lifestyle;
Longing for return of vitality prompts group of ex-athletes to take up triathlon
Reported August 15, 2006 by Greg Layson for The Sault Star
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

The Sault's newest triathletes (from left) Rene Quevillon, Mike MacKay, Paul Milosevich,
Todd Ray and Mike and Steve Rouleau, gather following Saturday's triathlon.

This is an inspirational tale, a story of how one woman inspired one man. And how that man inspired a close friend and how, together, they inspired yet four more.

It's a tale of how six men became teammates, again. But they did so in one of the world's most individual sports.

It's a story that, as one athlete put it, "makes you realize anyone can do anything."

Two years ago, Sault Ste. Marie's 36-year-old Mike MacKay began to realize - and come to terms with the fact - he had finally lost a step, or maybe even two. Finding himself a stride behind the "younger" players in local recreational hockey leagues, MacKay knew he was several years removed from the athletic specimen he once was. "I couldn't keep up on the ice," MacKay recalled. "I hadn't done anything, I hadn't worked out since I quit playing hockey."

During his late teens and early twenties, MacKay played junior and university hockey in Waterloo. After his playing days - well, competitive playing days that is - he returned to the Sault, where he is now an established chiropractor.

Like many men and women in their thirties and raising a family, MacKay started to see middle-age settling in on the horizon.

"It had been coming on for a period of time," he said of his slowing on-ice pace and less-than-physically-active lifestyle. "I read about Sherri (Smith) and I decided the following year I'd do something about it."

Smith, a former NCAA track star at Baylor University, world champion triathlete when she was 30 and Sportsperson of the Year in the Sault, founded the St. Joseph Island Triathlon in 2004.

MacKay read about and followed Smith and the inaugural event.

"I called Mike (Rouleau) and said 'Let's really do something about (our fitness),' " MacKay remembered.

"I was way, way out of shape. Like way out of shape," Rouleau stressed.

He, like MacKay, played junior hockey.

Rouleau played one game with the Soo Greyhounds before playing for the Cornwall Royals and Sudbury Wolves in the mid-1980s.

To this day, friends and fans call Rouleau one of the toughest and fiercest fighters in the Ontario Hockey League, at the time.

So after three years of going toe-to-toe with the OHL's toughest, Rouleau accepted the challenge of a triathlon.

"I decided it was a good excuse to get in shape," Rouleau said.

He and MacKay began training immediately following the first annual St. Joseph Island Triathlon.

Countless hours were spent on the bike, in the water and atop tracks and roadsides preparing for the 2005 sprint triathlon, which consisted of 750-metre swim, 20-kilometre bike ride and 5km run, all of which are half the distances of a traditional, Olympic-sized triathlon.

MacKay finished 12th in a time of one hour, 28 minutes and 17 seconds. Rouleau followed just 12 minutes and nine seconds behind in 35th.

Waiting at the finish line a year ago were family and friends, four of whom ran triathlons Saturday with MacKay and Rouleau.

Rene Quevillon, Paul Milosevich, Todd Ray and Steve Rouleau, Mike's older brother, spent the next year preparing for 2006.

"Coming out here and watching these guys finish was a huge inspiration," said Steve Rouleau, 39, who, with brother Mike, owns Ro-Bon Steel. "Watching them come toward the finish line, just their determination, I was inspired."

MacKay said the next group of triathletes "literally the day after, started training for this year's triathlon."

Training got so serious that in the month leading up the this year's race, the men were training upwards of seven days per week, and never less than five.

"The beauty is that there is always someone doing something," said Quevillon, a 39-year-old water distribution operator. "You always have a partner to go with."

The men would either run, swim or bike in pairs or groups.

Every Wednesday marked bike class at Catalyst Fitness, downtown. There, Smith would conduct courses, offer strategy and ride with the men.

"Sherri Smith was awesome," Mike Rouleau said. "She goes above and beyond what she has to do."

After almost every training session, the men would almost always end up at someone's house. The barroom beer and breaded wings were traded in favour of an evening cup of coffee or chilled bottled water as the men chatted on the decks or kitchens of one another.

"We'd train and forget about all that," said 36-year-old Source for Sports owner Ray, who called Mike Rouleau's weight loss "just awesome."

So were their times Saturday.

MacKay finished eighth in the Olympic-distance triathlon Saturday, running it in a time of two hours, 27 minutes and 58 seconds. Ray was just 12 seconds behind him.

"I'm going to run my ass off and catch you next year, and you're not catching me," Ray said after the race as the men traded jovial jabs, glory stories and strategy.

Mike Rouleau placed 17th in the same race, pacing himself in two hours, 42 minutes and 47 seconds.

Rouleau quickly pointed out a 30-second hockey fight pales in comparison to a two-plus-hour triathlon.

"This is takes longer, those fights end pretty fast," he joked Saturday.

Quevillon was tops among the trio that ran the sprint triathlon, finishing seventh in one hour, 20 minutes and four seconds. Milosevich was 11th in one hour, 22 minutes and 58 seconds, with Steve Rouleau just 19 seconds and one place behind.

"If you did it by yourself, it'd be a hell of a lot harder," said the 41-year-old Milosevich, a fire inspector. "And it wouldn't be as much fun."