International Training Sharpens Murray's Skills
Former St. Albert resident tries to peak for Olympic triathlon
Edmonton Journal July 7, 2008 - Story by John MacKinnon
It was only last year that triathlete Carolyn Murray started to believe she could qualify for the Beijing Olympics.
It was only on May 4 of this year that the 31-yearold former 800- and 1,500-metre scholarship track athlete won her first International Triathlon Union World Cup race, at Richards Bay, South Africa.
Well, she’s going to Beijing to compete for Canada now and Murray certainly isn’t fighting the feeling, perhaps because it hasn’t fully sunk in yet.
“Every day I have moments where I think, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m actually going to the Games,’ which is amazing,” Murray said in a telephone interview from her training base in a ski resort called Les Angles in the Pyrenees in France.
“But I think until I get to our villa where we’ll be staying in Beijing and see all the Canadian clothing that I get to wear during the Games and then at the closing ceremonies, that will probably be when it hits me how amazing this is going to be and how far I’ve come to get to this point.”
It’s clearly a long way from her introduction to the sport in 1999, at the urging of veteran Canadian triathlete Jill Savege, a track teammate of Murray’s at Simon Fraser University.
“It was raining so hard they actually cancelled the bike portion of the race,” remembered Murray, who grew up in St. Albert. “That was probably just as well because I’d never been in clipless pedals before.
“I just really enjoyed the atmosphere of it all. Running is just so head-to-head and very intense, and I was looking for something new.
“Of course, World Cup triathlon is also very intense and very head-to-head, as well. But when I was starting out, it was really just for fun.”
Quickly enough, Murray discovered she was good at it, despite a lack of swimming background that has led to chronic shoulder issues she believes are provoked by a “stroke technique that is not perfect, by any means.”
Still, she was good enough to win her age group at the Canadian championships in Edmonton in ’99, the same year her mother, Laurie, won her age group.
“It’s not really related that we started (triathlon), but I’m so lucky to have my momas an inspiration,” Murray said. “It’s definitely inspiring to me just to see the amount of effort she puts in and how positive she is with the sport.” Carolyn grew into the sport, as well. In 2001, encouraged by her early success in triathlon, she began to take it more seriously, moving to Victoria to polish her skills at the national training centre.
Last year, energized by a 15th-place finish at the ITU World Cup race over the Olympic course in Beijing last fall, Murray made the decision to find a coach she believed would help her make another jump up in calibre.
Murray was top Canadian in that race, even though she had just overcome an injury that prevented her from running.
As it happened, Swedish triathlete Lisa Norden, who also had been training in Victoria, recommended Scottish coach Darren Smith. Within a week after exchanging e-mails with Smith, Murray had packed her bags and was off to Switzerland for a training camp Smith was conducting.DIV class=art-layout-b id=testArtCol_b
“It was a really good move,” Murray said. “It was pretty scary at first to decide to do that, but it has really worked out.”
Working under Smith included some training in the heat in Australia, which also permitted Carolyn and Laurie to spent time together in Australia and New Zealand.
Carolyn attended a training camp in Australia, and both competed in their respective categories in races over there. They also found time for some sightseeing in Sydney, site of the inaugural men’s and women’s Olympic triathlons at the Games in 2000.
Carolyn knew where the finish line was for those historic races, not far from the famous Sydney Opera House, and the Murrays paid homage to that setting — Carolyn actually running across the spot where Canada’s Simon Whitfield claimed gold back in 2000.
“It’s pretty inspiring to still be able to feel the energy,” Murray said. “It’s a pretty special spot.”
Coincidentally, victory at Richards Bay came about a month later. Murray knew she had a victory in her, given the quality of the training she had been putting in under her new coach.
Still, when she found herself in the lead about 300 metres into the 10-kilometre run, Murray had to work at maintaining her focus.
“It was definitely a new position to be in,” Murray said. “The guy on the motorbike ahead of me was pointing, saying, ‘You’re No. 1,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, I know, I know, I’m trying not to think about that.’ ”
The victory validated all the work and time Murray had invested, confirmed that leaving the Canadian training centre in Victoria to train with Smith overseas was the right move.
The victory made an Olympic berth an achievable reality.
With the victory, Murray could have punched her ticket to Beijing with a top-eight finish at the world championships at Vancouver in June.
But on a grim, chilly day, Murray finished 24th and had to wait for Triathlon Canada’s selection committee to decide which two athletes would join the pre-qualified Lauren Groves in Beijing.
In the end, Murray and Montreal’s Kathy Tremblay were selected, while 19-year-old up-andcomer Kirsten Sweetland was left off the list, owing to a broken foot. She’ll go to Beijing as an alternate.
Murray knows the Beijing course well, having competed there three times, and is looking forward to testing herself there on Aug. 18.
“I think it’s a great course,” Murray said. “Some of the courses don’t necessarily show who’s the best triathlete, they basically come down to the run.
“But this one, because it’s a hilly bike course and a hilly run, you have to be pretty strong in all three.”