Q & A with Race Director Ryan Parton
Allan Prasky, executive director of Triathlon BC, recently sat down with our own Race Director Ryan Parton to discuss what participants can expect from Frontrunners Fit Chiropractic Dodge City X, particularly after being awarded the national championships.
Triathlon BC (TriBC): After hosting a successful Provincial Championships in 2019, the Dodge City X Triathlon was one of the few events that made a comeback in 2021. Now in 2022, we’re thrilled to see the event take on the National Championship title, the first Cross Triathlon Championships in Triathlon Canada’s history. Will the race course be the same as past years, or will athletes be facing a new system of trails?
Ryan Parton (RP): After two years of running our event we changed the route for our 2021 race and will use that same course in 2022. It’s a fantastic course with a good long climb, followed by a short technical section and then a long, flowy descent that’s absolutely brilliant. I was actually just told by an XTERRA pro athlete that it’s hands-down their favourite course.
TriBC: The Dodge City X Triathlon is dubbed to be “Canada’s Toughest Off-Road Triathlon.” For the uninitiated, how would you describe Cross Triathlon, and, perhaps more importantly, how would you summarize the Cumberland course? Is it technically demanding?
RP: Cross triathlon is so much more than just taking traditional triathlon off-road. I find there’s much more of a sense of camaraderie between the athletes and a much more laid-back vibe. Après race is my favourite time, just hanging out at race central, listening to music and chatting with new friends. As for the course itself, there are definitely some technically demanding sections, but there’s also lots of non-technical climbing that will reward fitness and some equally long, flowy descents that are hard not to love regardless of your mountain biking ability.
TriBC: The course features a lung-busting 1,000m elevation gain, how does this break down over the bike and run?
RP: It’s actually closer to 850m total, which is still a decent amount of climbing. Roughly 600m of that climbing is on the Dodge City Cycles bike course, mainly in one long climb over the first half of the course. The Thomas Dargie run course features about 250m of climbing and spreads it out a little bit more. You’ll still do the bulk of it over the first half of the Standard course, which is the entire sprint course, but Standard athletes will have to be ready for another bit of a grunt at about the halfway point of the run. If that sounds like a lot of climbing, you’ll be relieved to know that our Comox Physiotherapy Clinic swim course doesn’t feature a lick of elevation gain!
TriBC: Can you share any tips or advice for racers that have never ridden the Cumberland trail system? Are there any special features they should be incorporating into their training?
RP: Cumberland is home to more than 180 trails cutting through more than 200 kilometres of temperate rainforest, rock bluffs and surprisingly scenic clearcuts. When planning our route, we tried to showcase some of the best of this world-class network while avoiding any overtly dangerous or challenging features. So that’s the first thing: anyone who’s comfortable riding blue (intermediate) trails will be fine with our bike course. Other than a good fitness base, you’ll want to practice maintaining speed and picking lines through root gardens, which may be greasy in September, and you’ll do well to get comfortable going fast downhill on blue singletrack. As long as you’re not an absolute beginner rider you’re going to love this course! BodyNetix, a gym in Courtenay that offers group classes and personal training, has a special deal for Dodge City X participants, so that’s a good place to start building your base fitness.
TriBC: What’s the best thing about the Dodge City X Triathlon?
RP: The opportunity to discover Cumberland if you’ve never been. It’s a super-chill community full of people who love to play in nature. Otherwise it’s just the fun, super-chill vibe at Race Central after the race.
TriBC: Now a little about you, if you don’t mind. What brought on the idea of Cross Triathlon?
RP:Back in 2017, I learned that a local Triathlon BC board member was looking for someone to put on a cross triathlon in Cumberland. I knew nothing about putting on a race, but I knew lots of people in the local triathlon, trail running and mountain biking communities so I told her I’d try to find someone to take it on. The more I thought about the race, though, the more fun it seemed. Eventually I stopped looking and decided to race direct it myself. I was surrounded by so many enthusiastic people who supported me, so we put together an awesome organizing crew backed by dozens of local volunteers, and together we put on Cumberland’s first Dodge City X in 2018.
TriBC: What’s the best and worst part of Race Directing?
RP:The worst part is the night before the race when you’re exhausted from setting everything up but you can’t sleep because you’re thinking about all the little things you think you forgot. The best moment, though, is right after I blast the horn to start the final swim leg. That’s it — the race is on and athletes are in the hands of our stellar volunteers, who are all doing their things to make this whole crazy thing a reality. It’s so amazing to watch everyone enjoy the fruits of all your labour.
TriBC: When you’re not acting as a Race Director, what are you most likely doing?
RP: My day job is Recreation and Culture Supervisor for the Village of Cumberland, based out of the Cumberland Recreation Centre. Most of my evenings are spent at home with my wife and two boys. Most weekends you’ll find me in the trails on my bike, and I still try to get out for the odd run here and there too. I used to compete quite avidly in cross triathlon myself, and there’s still a chance I might make a return.
TriBC: The Village of Cumberland, about 100km north of Nanaimo, is quickly becoming a destination for the outdoor enthusiast. Are there any must-do attractions in the area?
RP:Other than the world-class mountain biking and trail running, Cumberland is also just a really cool place to hang out. You won’t find any chain stores, but there are lots of cool local shops, many featuring art and other items from local artisans. And there’s no shortage of places to eat, from tacos and okonomiyaki to fresh pizzas, gourmet burgers and pub fare. You should definitely schedule some time after the race to hit the trails on your own. Before you do, though, ask the guys at Dodge City Cycles for some of their favourite loops, and don’t be afraid to leave them a “tip” from the cold beer store across the street!