Rob Dibden wears many hats in the sport of Triathlon. As a life long Victoria resident, Rob is consistently at the forefront of sport development.
A retired police officer, Rob is an NCCP certified triathlon coach, working with community athletes for many years, including many young athletes from beginners to Junior Elite racers, and several that have gone on to compete on the international stage.
Rob’s long-time involvement in multisport includes a five-year stint on Triathlon BC’s Board of Directors, where he oversaw Youth Development, and delivered school programs to residents of Northern British Columbia.
As an athlete, he has represented Canada at the Age Group World Triathlon Championships in both Standard and Long Distance events, and has completed several Ironman distance races.
Rob’s extensive sport portfolio also includes being a Race Director, acting as the driving force behind Human Powered Racing Events, including the XTERRA Victoria, the Triathlon of Compassion, the Victoria Youth Triathlon, SwimRun Victoria, and The HPR Youth Triathlon West Shore.
Rob’s ongoing committed to the development of the sport of triathlon was recognized in 2019, as he received Sport BC’s President’s Award. Today, we spend a few minutes with Rob lobbing a litany of questions to him and listening to his answers.
Triathlon BC: You’ve been involved in the sport of triathlon for a very long time; as an athlete, coach, volunteer, race director and Board member. How did you start in the sport, and how has it changed?
Rob: I started in Triathlon in the mid 90s. I was looking for a challenge and thought Ironman Canada would be a good one. I had no idea what I was doing at the time. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. My life in triathlon grew from there and has mostly just happened.
I would say that the biggest change in triathlon has been the level of sophistication in the sport. What was grass roots when I started doesn’t exist any more. Some people rode mountain bikes and TT bikes were rare. There were races where transition was a grass field and everyone picked a spot to lay their bike down. Expectations have evolved. Now even the most basic race has electronic chip timing.
Triathlon BC: HPR is known for adapting to the environment and taking on new event formats. In the past, your team has hosted Xterra, swim/run events, youth races, embraced the high performance Draft Legal SuperSeries and, prior to COVID, were going to be part of the emerging Cross Triathlon Series. How do you maintain the motivation?
Rob: A lot of my motivation comes from being surrounded by awesome people. Triathlon is a good sport for attracting positive people and BC has a fantastic triathlon culture. I have been fortunate to be part of Human Powered Racing since the beginning. Mike Neil started HPR with the concept of ‘team’ and in the supportive team environment, it is easy to stay motivated. HPR is a true demonstration of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
Triathlon BC: When you’re not training yourself or coaching at HPR, or planning an event, what are you most likely doing?
Rob: I love the outdoors. I spend a lot of time out in the woods with my dog. A beer or a coffee on a patio with friends isn’t too bad either.
Triathlon BC: What is your most memorable moment in our sport?
Rob: I have a lot of great memories. If I have to pick one it would be receiving the Sport BC President’s award for triathlon. It was very unexpected and a great honour to be chosen by my peers to receive an award that recognizes contribution rather than performance.
Triathlon BC: Give us some behind-the-scenes Race Director insight on event day.
Rob: Something will go wrong. It always does. No plan survives first contact. The success of a race is all about athlete experience. No matter what goes wrong, it the athletes aren’t affected it doesn’t really matter. If it has a negative impact on participants it needs to be corrected.
Triathlon BC: What do you think is one of the most important elements of producing a good event?
Rob: Volunteers are SO important. I am very lucky that we have such a supportive team that like to help out with our events. Having volunteers that understand the sport makes my job as race director easier, and makes for better athlete experiences.
Triathlon BC: In a major city like Victoria, what are the hurdles of hosting an event?
Rob: One of the biggest obstacles to events in Victoria is the number of jurisdictions. With 13 municipalities, the Regional District, and federal and provincial government lands and parks, getting permits and cooperation between the different agencies can be challenging. Keeping an event to as few jurisdictions as possible makes life easier. Another hurdle is a positive that becomes a negative. Victoria is such an active city that there are many events competing for calendar spots and venues.
Triathlon BC: What’s your biggest fear on event day?
Rob: I wouldn’t say I fear anything on event day. I am always expecting challenges and I try to be as prepared as possible so that when something comes up everything else is working smoothly enough that I can address the issue at hand.
Triathlon BC: What advice would you give a novice race director who is thinking about getting in to the event-hosting business?
Rob: If you measure success by positive athlete experiences and find gratification in supporting our community you will have a fulfilling experience. If you are doing it for money or recognition you are in the wrong business.
Triathlon BC: As vaccines are rolled out, and restrictions begin to ease, what do you envision the post-COVID event landscape looking like, near term and long term?
Rob: That is a tough question because we are in uncharted territory. There has been a huge uptake of outdoor activities during the pandemic and hopefully that energy and enthusiasm remains once the pandemic is over.
In the short term, I think it will take people time to get over the impacts the pandemic has had on us emotionally and socially. Endurance events are well positioned as a relatively safe way for people to get back into participation after so much isolation. A lot of events have adapted to ensure the health and safety of our participants and volunteers during the pandemic and I think we should keep some of these adaptations in place as the pandemic passes to help people regain their confidence in participating in outdoor social activities.
Long term, I hope the pandemic has made people in general more appreciative of good health and fitness and that the increase in outdoor activeness we have seen during the pandemic will continue long into the future.
Triathlon BC: Some blue-sky thinking; budget and logistics aside, what kind of event would you most like to host and where?
Rob: I think a true multi-sport festival would be amazing. Three or four days with multiple events and distances in a setting where the participants stay on site and share the experience for the duration. It would have events for all ages and abilities, with entertainment, food and beverage services and industry vendors all on site. There are so many potential locations in BC for this type of event that I would be hard pressed to narrow it down to one location.
Triathlon BC: Parting words of wisdom?
Rob: Keep moving! Move it or lose it has never been more relevant.
Thanks for taking the time Rob with us, Rob, we really enjoyed this Q & A, and thanks for everything that you do for our sport!