Home > Profiles

Calgary’s Critical Speed Racing Team

Despite its elite reputation, in typical Canadian fashion the CSR team welcomes everyone.

Strictly by the numbers, it sounds more like a Canadian sports dynasty than a triathlon club: nine world championship titles, two Olympians, 35 national championship titles, 10 Triathlon Canada annual awards, an astonishing 350 Ironman Canada finishes, three summits of Mount Everest, 10 Marathon des Sables finishes, a Guinness Book of World Records entry-the list goes on and on.

Numbers only tell a small part of the story, of course. Add the human element and the Critical Speed Racing (CSR) Team seems even more impressive. The two Olympians are Carol Montgomery and Jill Savege. The Guinness world record was established in 2007 by Sandra McCallum; she did six desert running races, the highest recorded number of desert running races by one person in one year. Head coach and club founder Calvin Zaryski is a world-class triathlete and the club he started in 1998 is one of the oldest multisport clubs of its kind in Canada. Despite its elite reputation, however, in typical Canadian fashion CSR welcomes everyone.

“We’ve had people join strictly to lose weight,” Zaryski says. But, he admits, “Often, even those who sign up solely for health and fitness benefits end up getting hooked on the sport of triathlon.”

Rosemarie Gerspacher, a CSR member since 2005, was the top amateur in 2007 at her first Subaru Ironman Canada. She was also the fastest Canadian woman at the world Ironman championships in Hawaii the next year. She credits Zaryski for her own success and the success of the club. “One of Cal’s main strengths is he has incredible experience coaching all types of athletes with wildly different goals, racing different events and distances. The common component is he will get you extremely fit and to a point where you feel you can reach whatever goal you’ve set.”

Zaryski emphasizes a scientific approach to tri training based on his academic research in the area of human kinetics, his own competitive experience and his over 25 years of coaching. He’s obviously found the right formula: in addition to being an overall and age group medalist in road and XTERRA (off-road) world championships, Zaryski has won multiple national and provincial coaching and athlete awards. In 2008 alone, Zaryski won three Triathlon Canada awards: Olympic Distance Over 40 Athlete of the Year, Off Road Over 40 Athlete of the Year, and Junior and Age Group Coach of the Year.

A typical CSR training week, depending on the season, might include swim workouts on Monday and Wednesday, a group run or stairs on Tuesday, a two-hour bike or spin on Thursday, a lake swim or a day off on Friday, a long run on Saturday and a group bike, snowshoe or brick on Sunday. Club members do stair workouts on the punishing 167 timber stairs at McHugh Bluff downtown and brick workouts at the Olympic Oval, which has stationary bikes and an indoor track. Zaryski says a core group of 30 triathletes train with the club every year, but the brick workouts are so popular they attract 40 to 50 club members each session. Beginning in January, epic brick workouts are gradually introduced, consisting of 45 minutes of indoor cycling followed by 15 minutes of running, stairs, conditioning and strengthening. “We keep repeating this for five hours,” Zaryski says. “These sessions are brutal, so they’re only done once a month.”

In addition to regular workouts, CSR training camps are, for many members, the highlight of their involvement with the club. “Coach Cal has made me realize the value of cross-training, where you can get fit while enjoying yourself snowshoeing or mountain biking. At our training camps, the training volume and quality are instrumental in helping you become the athlete you want to be,” Gerspacher explains. “At the same time, we’re all enjoying the incredible scenery and doing what we love with great friends.”

The CSR coaching staff offers triathlon training camps throughout the year: three high-altitude camps, two of them in Banff; a four-day IronSpeed Coeur D’Alene camp on the course of Ironman Coeur D’Alene in Idaho; a week-long IronSpeed Maui camp in Hawaii; a three-day IronSpeed Penticton camp in May designed specifically for Subaru Ironman Canada entrants; and a week-long IronSpeed camp, also in Penticton.

You don’t have to be a member of the club to sign up. For more information, please go to www.criticalspeed.com.