Today we sit down with Dale Tiessen, Whistler resident, former Race Director of the Whistler Off-Road Triathlon and active member of the Whistler Triathlon Club, fresh off a flight from Ibiza, Spain, where Dale represented Canada at the World Multisport Championships, finishing an incredible 19th in the Cross Triathlon World Championship event!

Triathlon BC (TBC) How did you qualify for the 2023 Cross Triathlon World Championships?  Was it as easy as targeting a particular event, then crushing the race?

Dale Tiessen (DS): I qualified for 2023 Cross Triathlon Championships at the Dodge City X Triathlon in September 2022. I targeted this race for a few reasons. Ryan Parton, the Race Director, was someone I’ve got to know over the past couple of years and I definitely wanted to check out his race. BTW, it’s an amazing course and super well run event. Also, it was 2022 National Championships, so that was also a substantial draw. And then it was also a qualifier for Worlds. After a hit and miss early season, I did try to put my head down and train coming into this race and was delighted to win my AG, become National Champion AND get a qualifying spot to Worlds in Ibiza, Spain!

TBC: How did you land on Cross Triathlon as a discipline?

DS: There is a long story here. I did my 1st XTERRA in Whistler in about ’97. I had completed a few standard length triathlons in the mid ’90’s. Coming back to triathlon about 5 years ago, I completed a couple of 70.3’s, enjoying the training and competition once again. I saw that Squamish was hosting an offload triathlon and immediately signed up. I primarily identify as a cyclist, and more than that, a mountain biker. So Cross Triathlon seemed a natural fit for me. I placed 1st in AG at Squamish and 3rd overall – so this really inspired me to focus on this discipline where my mountain biking skills could really be leveraged. Since that time, I’ve founded the Whistler X Triathlon (now XTERRA Whistler), bringing Cross Triathlon back to Whistler as well.

TBC: BC has an emerging Cross scene, are the athletes recycled ‘on-road’ triathletes that have developed off-road skills, or have you found the athletes to be a different  animal altogether?

Great question and I think the answer is really a mix of all of these things. From talking to other athletes I see a few types of participants. Certainly there is a core contingent of athletes focused on the Cross Triathlon discipline almost exclusively, These are people who work specifically on both the fitness and technical rigours of mountain biking and trail running. Then there are participants who’ve completed road triathlons and are looking for something they deem ‘more fun’ or an event after the serious racing is done for season. Of course, these athletes come to Cross Triathlon with some degree of mountain biking skill. And then the other big cohort is people new to triathlon and perhaps intimidated by the pointy helmets and spaceship bicycles they see at road triathlon events. Cross Triathlon may seem less intimidating and potentially the perceived barrier to entry is less as many people have some type of mountain bike, but may not have a road or triathlon specific bike.

TBC: Once you qualified for ‘Team Canada,’ was it stressful building fitness, knowing you will be racing alongside some of the World’s best age groupers at the World Championship? What did you do, how could you do it better, or would training be largely the same?

DS: I made the decision to race at Worlds with conviction and a commitment to train hard and show up ready in Ibiza. As with all good plans, life gets in the way! And this will be true for almost all participants in Age Group categories, that balance training and racing with their families, personal lives, and careers. I, personally, have been struggling with some long standing injuries. Only 1 month before Worlds, I was inside a CT scanner getting a corticosteroid injection in my SI joint wondering if I’d even be able run in Ibiza. But the registration was done, tickets were paid for, I was going regardless if I had to walk the run! Thankfully I am almost pain free for running now, but certainly it affecting my training and racing plans. I am fortunate to have a great local group of dedicated athletes near home with which to train. The Whistler Triathlon Club is awesome, and I benefited from weekly swim coaching from Karsten Madsen (former pro Cross Triathlete). Additionally, I coach cycling throughout the winter for TaG Cycling, which provided key focused high intensity workouts. If I am fortunate enough to join Team Canada again next year, my only changes will hopefully to be injury free and to try an incorporate some brick workouts – which is difficult in the snowy region of my home base Whistler.

TBC: What was the Multisport World Championship atmosphere like in Ibiza, did you have an opportunity to meet athletes from around the World?

DS: Ibiza was an amazing atmosphere! My biggest regret is not coming in earlier and getting to participate in the opening ceremony and spectating (or event competing in) more of the events. Staying with many Team Canada athletes at the central hotel made it easy to meet lots of people. I was fortunate to develop some ‘fast friends’ who were also competing in the Cross Triathlon and we hung out, prepared and trained together for the week. Unfortunately I did not have a chance to meet many other international athletes. This was a miss on my part for not being social enough!

TBC: Did the race largely unfold as planned? With Whistler as your backyard, how would you rate the technical difficulty of the bike and run?

DS: My race unfolded exactly as expected (but perhaps not as planned). I’m a mid pack swimmer, a good MTB’r and not so good runner (even when not injured). The water was warm, clear and full of fish. Beautiful and enjoyable. The bike was fun. Short, punchy hits with a lot of twisty cornering. And the run was decidedly flat but set against stunning views of the Mediterranean running along rocky outcroppings on the beach. You’re correct – for me personally, the bike was not very technical at all. I think our terrain here in general in BC is a couple of notches tougher than elsewhere. I heard others remarking about how technical was the bike course, but I’ve raced Whistler, Squamish, Victoria and Cumberland – and all are more technically difficult than the Ibiza course. The run was technical in a different way. Not with elevation, climbs and descents, but rather with rocky and sandy terrain at the water’s edge. It was a game of light feet and good foot placements with 2-3m ups and downs. Again this is very different from the technical rocky, rooty singe track of the West Coast. 

TBC: Overall impression of the Multisport World Championships?  If there are athletes sitting on the fence, pondering whether or not to throw their hat into the qualifying process, what would you tell them?

DS: Firstly, I must say that I am humbled at the competitors at the Multisport World Championships. In my AG, I witness truly world class performances – which I guess we expect! But then also to see many of the other AG (notably seeing the M80-84) and para athletes is also very inspiring. I had an amazing time, and am already planning Townsville Australia (host of the World Championships 2024). Now I need to keep training hard and earn my spot again on Team Canada! Without hesitation I would recommend the experience to anyone. Wearing the Team Canada kit and representing my country was one of the proudest moments of my athletic career!

Sounds like a bucket list achievement that’s filled with memories, thanks for taking the time to speak with Triathlon BC! We wish you continued good health and happy training as you chase after a spot at the 2024 World Multisport Championships in Townsville, Australia!

Interested in flying the Maple Leaf next year? Click HERE to learn more about 2023 World Championship qualifying opportunities here in British Columbia that will lead you to the 2024 World Championships!