Photo: Triathlon BC                                 Surrey resident Nathan Killam runs with the Canadian flag at the ITU Cross World Championships in Penticton.

Photo: Triathlon BC Surrey resident Nathan Killam runs with the Canadian flag at the ITU Cross World Championships in Penticton.

Surrey’s Nathan Killam conquers triathlon at worlds in Penticton

“I hung in there, I didn’t give up,” says Surrey athlete after encountering setbacks during race

Trevor Beggs, Surrey Now-Leader contributor

It was going to take more than a flat tire or a wonky seat to deter Surrey triathlete Nathan Killam.

Racing in front of his friends, family, wife and newborn son provided unparalleled motivation for Killam, who was competing at the ITU Multisport World Championships in Penticton.

“When you have the people who are the biggest part of your lives there, it makes you really proud,” said Killam, who grew up in Whalley.

“It’s something you don’t get when you’re racing elsewhere in the world.”

Killam took part in the two separate events during the ITU World Championships. The first was the ITU Cross World Championships, which included a 1,500-metre swim, a 31-kilometre mountain bike, and an eight-kilometre trail run.

“I had a good first hour,” said Killam. “Then I got a flat tire.”

The flat came right as the downhill portion of the mountain biking started. Killam pulled out his puncture kit, but that broke as he tried to fix his flat. So, as bikers zipped past him down the mountain, Killam ran with his bike for about 15 minutes. Eventually, an American biker pulled over to offer Killam his puncture kit. The American’s generosity allowed Killam to squeeze into the top 20.

Four days later, Killam competed in his stronger event, the ITU Long Distance World Championships. The event included a three-kilometre swim, a 120-kilometre cycle, and a 30-kilometre run.

More challenges came Killam’s way. Just two kilometres into the 120-kilometre ridehis bike hit a large hole in the terrain and his seat post dropped three inches. In a race full of world-class athletes, this presented a glaring disadvantage.

He stopped at two mechanical booths along the way. The first one didn’t have the right tools to fix his seat. At the second booth, they raised it, but the seat was still too short. Killam said he was essentially riding a fancy children’s bike with his seat resting too low. It wasn’t until the 40-kilometre mark that a mechanic raised his seat properly.

Despite the challenges, Killam still finished with the sixth-best bike split of the day. He held down a top-10 spot going into the 30-kilometre run, but two athletes surpassed him, and Killam wound up 11th.

Although he narrowly missed his goal of a top-10 finish, no one could question Killam’s drive.

“I hung in there, I didn’t give up,” he said. “You just have to roll with the punches. Life is going to throw haymakers your way and you just have to keep going.”

It’s been an incredible 2017 for Killam, with other strong finishes earlier in the year.

Back in July, Killam won the Great White North Triathlon held in Stony Plain, AB near Edmonton. He finished the race in less than four hours, beating the second-closest competitor by almost four minutes. Killam also placed second in the Challenge Penticton Triathlon, losing out by less than a minute.

His biggest victory of the year though, said Killam, was the birth of his first son on June 6. His wife Jennifer brought their 12-week old out to Penticton to watch him race in the ITU World Championships.

“I’m trying to set a good example for my son, even though he’s 12 weeks old and has no idea what’s going on,” said Killam, “I want to show him that it doesn’t really matter what happens as long as you do your best, leave everything out there, and try your hardest. It makes me proud to show him that I’m not going to quit, even if things don’t go my way.”

With Killam’s drive and determination, it might not be too long before his son is out on the course.

“He’s only 12-weeks old but he’s been training for six weeks. He’ll be ready in no time.”

Before he started competing in triathlons about a decade ago, Killam was overweight and out of shape.

After finishing over 150 kilometres worth of swimming, cycling and running in less than six hours at the ITU World Championships, there aren’t many who can match his fitness level.

“I love motivating people to take up an active lifestyle,” he said. “It’s what gives me the most pleasure out of racing.”

There’s not much rest for Killam who balances being a father with training and a full-time job as a firefighter in Delta.

“I’m just a regular, everyday normal guy. I had no background in endurance sports. If I can do it, anyone can. Just dream big.”