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Guelph Ironman Cody Beals sets his sights on world championship

Set to make his Ironman World Championships debut in Hawaii next month

You’d think Guelph native Cody Beals must surely pinch himself when he looks at his record as an Ironman triathlete.

He’s unbeaten -- three Ironman races, three wins. The 29-year-old won Ironman Mont Tremblant  and Ironman Chattanooga last year and repeated his Ironman Mont Tremblant victory this year.

“Defending my title at Ironman Mont Tremblant, I surprised myself as much as anyone else, really,” he says.

“It’s been a bit of a shakey start to the season for me. I’m 29 years old and for the first time I’ve been dealing with some injuries and it has really forced me to kind of reevaluate my approach in general. I was finally able to put together some good training heading into Ironman Mont Tremblant and I really surprised myself with a sub-eight hour finish and defending my title.”

However, Beals isn’t exactly shocked as the wins sort of follow a trend he’s set in his competitive endeavours.

“It’s a pretty good record so far,” he says. “Every time, going all the way back to my history as a competitive swimmer as a kid and then a track and cross-country runner in high school, every time I’ve moved up in distance I’ve done relatively better so it wasn’t particularly surprising to me that I found my strength at Ironman. I almost regret it in a way because I really enjoy the dynamic and tactical nature of shorter racing, but I always suspected that in the long run my true strength would lie with Ironman.”

Born in Guelph, Beals grew up in the area and ran for Centre Wellington District High School in cross country and track and field after his family moved to Fergus. He moved to Kingston where he earned his BSc in physics and was, not surprisingly, top of his class. After that, he moved back to Guelph and now lives in the shadow of the basillica.

“I did my first triathlon as a 16-year-old at the Belwood Lake Triathlon,” he says. “I kind of dabbled in that for a while and I kind of had a runner/triathlete identity crisis for a long time. After running as a varsity runner at Queen’s, I kind of realized that running would never really open a lot of doors for me, but I had a lot of potential in triathlon so I doubled down on triathlon after that and started to have some success pretty quickly. Thankfully I had some people around me who started to whisper in my ear that I could make a career at this. I kind of scoffed at the idea, but I’m thankful I listened to them because that was six or seven years ago now. Every year I’ve been tumbling down the rabbit hole of this insane career slash lifestyle.”

Beals entered the sport with a competitive background in swimming and running, but not in cycling which is considered the most important of the three disciplines. Generally, more time is spent on the bike than in the swim or on the run.

“Cycling’s actually my strongest discipline now and swimming’s my weakest discipline which ironically was the first sport I picked up as a kid,” Beals says. “Both my parents are avid cyclists and that’s kind of the missing piece of the puzzle. They got me going with cycling and my mom’s also an avid runner as well. Between the swimming as a kid, cycling with my parents and running with my mom growing up, I was able to pick up all three sports. It wasn’t until many years later that I became aware of the sport that combined all three I was already enjoying.”

Beals also figures that Guelph is a great place for him to live partly because of the number of training partners he can have here.

“Guelph is very much a triathlon hotbed and it’s no coincidence I ended up here,” he says. “I chose Guelph for a few reasons. I was born here and grew up here and largely around here, just north in Fergus for the most part. I moved back here after university and it kind of took seeing a large part of the world through this career to appreciate what a wonderful city Guelph really is. Specifically as an endurance athlete, the community here is so vibrant and there are so many opportunities for training partners. I do a lot of training with (fellow pro triathlete) Jackson Laundry, who actually won 70.3 Mont Tremblant earlier this year.”

Since turning pro six or seven years ago, Beals has had to learn to deal with the other aspects of the sport, the aspect that has little to do with physical activity.

“What few people appreciate about this career is that there’s a whole business side to the sport as well and I really do enjoy that,” he says. “On a typical day I might spend three to five hours training, three to five hours at my desk and maybe a few hours at the end of the day working on my bikes. It’s a nice combination between very cerebral intellectual type work, networking and, of course, the physical training and then maybe even a little bit of menial manual labour type stuff.

“Sponsorship accounts for the greatest amount of my revenue, which is surprising to most people. It’s very difficult to pay the bills through prize money alone. I think last year, my best season to date, prize money only accounted for about 40 per cent of my revenue. So sponsorship was closer to 60 per cent and a small amount came from appearance fees.”

On the sponsorship front, Beals usually works with eight to 10 companies.

“They’re quite a mix – triathlon industry sponsors and non-andemic, that is to say non-triathlon sponsors,” he says. “Some of them wouldn’t be surprisingly. You have your bike sponsor and your nutrition sponsor, your wheel sponsor and your shoe sponsor. But some of them would be quite different than some people might expect. I work with Martin’s Family Fruit Farm which is a local apple orchard with a growing international footprint. That’s been one of my most interesting partnerships and these partnerships often involve a social media component and there’s content creation such as writing for them. There might be appearances. There might be speaking engagements, photo and video shoots. It’s really a mix and no two partnerships are alike for me.”

His sponsorship partners have got to be thrilled by his showing in the Ironman races.

“Certainly my three Ironman performances over the past year have been kind of the pinnacle of my career,” he says. “I really surprised myself the most at my recent Mont Tremblant win with the sub-eight hour performance. I think most people believed it wouldn’t be possible to go sub-eight hours on that course and I would’ve put myself in that camp. There’s a great photo from that day where I looked just utterly shocked when the announcer told me I went under eight hours. I’m not in the habit of looking at my watch or my bike computer while I’m racing, so I was just out there racing very much inside my own head and not paying attention to what time I was going to finish in so it was kind of a cherry on top of what was otherwise a very enjoyable day.”

It’ll also be a great performance for Beals to build off of heading into next month’s championships in Hawaii.

“I’m making my debut at the Ironman world championships in October and that has kind of been the product of a multi-year plan,” he says. “This won’t be the only world championships I race, hopefully, and I’m not putting all my eggs in that one basket, but I think given my strength in heat and given my focus on Ironman, that will ultimately be where I want to make a splash in my career.”

And what will his goals be for his Kona debut?

“In terms of objectives for my first world championships, a top-10 finish there would almost be unheard of from someone making their debut, so that would be spectacular. I realize that it’s a pretty audacious goal, but some athletes take the approach of making a very understated debut in Kona, not really sweating it and looking at it as a learning experience. I’m doing that very much and I fully expect there are going to be some very humbling learning experiences, but I’m also not there to not make money and have a disappointing result. I’m certainly going in all-in with it.”