Growing up in the early 1990s, Ben Rudson played hockey, but he never idolized Wayne Gretzky or Sidney Crosby. Instead, he looked up to Peter Reid and Simon Whitfield, watching them on TV with his dad in their Nanaimo basement. Though Rudson was exposed to triathlon at this early age, it wouldn’t be until two decades later that he signed up for his first race.
“In my first year at Queens I had a lot of fun, I did well in academics, but let my athletics slide,” Rudson says. “Then it dawned on me, as I was cleaning up empty bottles and spilled beer on my floor after a party, there were better ways to make use of spare time.”
To kick start his new lifestyle, he signed up for triathlon. A sprint-distance did not instill the motivation (read that – fear) for training seriously, so he chose a longer race – the 2014 K-Town Long Course. There were obstacles Rudson had to overcome on the way to his first start line. Problem one, he couldn’t swim. He attempted to remedy that deficit by watching YouTube videos, then applying what he learned in the university pool. Problem two, he had no bicycle. Rudson was apprehensive about asking his dad for a bike, believing he would think this venture was foolish and potentially dangerous. With four weeks before the race and no major manufacturer ready to sponsor some unknown university kid, he swallowed his pride and fear, went home to Nanaimo, and asked his dad if he could borrow his stuff. The question was met with a challenge.
“If you can swim 1,500 m in Westwood Lake, you can have my gear.”
Rudson rose to the challenge and headed back to Ontario, along with his dad’s bike and his approval. Although swimming in the waves of Lake Ontario bore little resemblance to the pool in Kingston, Rudson finished the race with pride and inspiration. He returned to Queen’s University that fall with a new lifestyle and new passion. Through his remaining undergraduate years Rudson improved substantially, making the university’s triathlon team. Not only was he able to train with faster athletes and learn from them, healso gained valuable racing experience in the varsity-level competitions.
By the summer of his third year at Queens, he had the confidence to go to Mont-Tremblant and try his first Ironman. The demands of studying for an engineering degree and training for Ironman may seem stressful, but it only served to show to the world what Rudson was capable of. Not only did he complete his first Ironman, he placed well enough to qualify for Kona. At the end of his fourth year, before embarking on his career as an engineering consultant, he moved to Guelph for the summer to experience what it would be like to live and train as full-time triathlete, should he want to try that career path.
Since the fall of 2017, Rudson has been performing a balancing act – that of being a full-time management consultant and a professional triathlete. That balancing act turns into a circus act when you add in the constant travel that takes him away from home almost every week. Ben takes the challenge in stride and focuses on the positive elements, including meeting new people and always having new running routes.
Another challenge Rudson has taken in stride is COVID-19. Since his job is “COVID-resistent,” he continues to work full-time and avoids the financial pressure that a professional who lives on prize money and sponsorships endures. Because of that advantage, Rudson is living a comfortable lifestyle, resting and eating well, while maintaining a solid training schedule that will allow him to return to racing full force, whenever that may be.
This story originally appeared in the January, 2021 issue of Triathlon Magazine Canada.
Kevin Heinz is a regular contributor to Triathlon Magazine Canada and the host of the endurance sports podcast Fitspeak.