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Pro triathlete Jackson Laundry forced to compete virtually

A nasty shoulder injury and now the pandemic have left the Guelph triathlete yearning to compete

Guelph pro triathlete Jackson Laundry considers himself fortunate to have been able to compete in a race a weekend or two before the coronavirus pandemic shutdown.

“I was lucky to be able to do one race in March before the shutdown happened,” he said in a video chat.

Laundry needed that race to see exactly how his recovery from a serious injury about eight months earlier was going. In March he finished second in the Ironman 70.3 Campeche in Campeche, Mex., finishing about a minute and a half behind the winner, Matt Hanson of the U.S.

“Last year I broke my collarbone and I broke my scapula in 12 places so I had surgery and my shoulder was really messed up for a while,” Laundry said. “I was off early last season. The last race that I finished was in July and then I was able to race once in March. I came second so that was great and then everything shut down.”

The injury was the result of a spectacular crash during the Ironman 70.3 world championships in Nice, France.

“I was going down a mountain descent and I just took a turn way too fast and I crashed into a fence post,” Laundry said. “I basically flew off the bike and I hit the fence post with my shoulder and it just broke everything in there. It took about three hours to get to the hospital just because of where I was on the course and stuff.”

It also took 11 days before he could get surgery on the broken shoulder and then it was time for the recovery.

“I basically didn't use my shoulder for a long time and just did light exercises with my legs and stuff. I just focused on rehab, icing and range of motion and then gradually worked strength training back in,” he said. “After three and a half months I was able to swim normally again. I just didn't have much strength, but that came back pretty quick.”

That’s why that race was so important to Laundry.

“Honestly, I needed it for my career,” he said. “If that race didn't happen, it would've been over a year without a race. As a professional triathlete, you have to assume that there's going to be chunks of time where you're not getting much of an income, but well over a year without a single race would've been really tough. I'm really fortunate that I was able to do that and I'm hoping that races start coming back in September, October or November.”

During the shutdown Laundry has been competing in virtual cycling races against other pro triathletes including a four-race series run by cycling and running app Zwift.

“It's been a long haul for me without a lot of racing,” Laundry said. “The virtual racing has come up and that's been good. It's just a way to focus and stay motivated and there's a little bit of prize money in it so it's not totally just for fun. It's been good. I really want races to come back, but until then I'm just going to do whatever I can to just be flexible with what I have available. I can't complain too much and there's no cost to these races. I don't have to take plane tickets all over the world and stuff so there is some upside to it.”

Laundry won one of the four races of that series and finished fourth in the series’ final standings.

“I'm really glad we've got to race with our peers, even in a different way,” he said. “We just don't have those social interactions any more. There is something different about racing in real life, for sure, but I'm kind of optimistic that there'll be a couple of races this year, hopefully.”

Laundry has a virtual Ironman race coming up in a couple of weeks and that will also feature running.

“I'm going to try for a 3K (personal best),” he said. “I honestly haven't run 3K since high school. I believe my personal best was within a 5K that I did and it was around nine minutes flat or 8:59. Hopefully I can go 8:40 or something. That'll be cool.”

While Laundry has had the virtual competitions, he’s also been training outside in sessions with fellow Guelph-based pro triathletes Cody Beals and Taylor Reid.

“We've been training together,” Laundry said. “As they were opening things up, we basically decided -- Cody and I and Taylor -- that we were going to be in a bubble together because this is our jobs. We train together and this is us getting back to work.

“It's important for your mental bandwidth. You just can't train 25 hours a week on your own. It's just too much. We're training together more than ever now and we keep each other honest.”

Laundry’s also in the process of setting up his own training area at his house.

“I have a training garage for training and I'm going to be getting a treadmill. I don't have one yet, but I'm going to set it up,” he said. “I have a gym in there and everything so I will be doing a lot of indoor stuff. You just can't rely on gyms anymore. Even when they do reopen, I'm going to be way better off just training in my home gym. I'm looking to get that filled up with the rest of the equipment that I need. For now I'm running outside. The weather's great, although it's hot as heck.”

He’s also found that he isn’t quite as strict with sticking to his workout schedule since there are no on-location events on his schedule.

“Right now there's not too much pressure,” he said. “I just kind of do what I feel like and since there's no races, I don't feel really stressed if I miss a workout or something.”

Like all other pro athletes, Laundry is yearning for his sport to restart.

“As soon as there's a race available, I'm going to go.”