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Posted: October 14, 2005

Triathlon: Winning is Getting to the Starting Line

Ottawa couple racing in Saturday’s World Ironman Championships

Chris Macknie and Zoe Panchen from Ottawa are in Kona for Sunday's Ironman Triathlon (Photo: Steve Bower)

Kona, Hawaii (October 13, 2005) – “Average” is a word not typically associated with an Ironman athlete. It’s certainly not the way you’d describe Zoe Panchen and Chris Macknie who are about to take on the world’s ultimate endurance challenge this Saturday in Kona.

Panchen, a software design manager at Nortel and Macknie, an advertising designer at the Citizen, are among 1,800 competitors who qualified for the Ford Ironman World Championships. In getting here, they managed to beat out more than 38,000 others who were vying for a spot at the starting line.

Between them, the couple has completed 13 Ironmans, averaging three hour training days. A standard week includes a steady diet of 350 kms cycling, 65 kms running and 8 kms of swimming.

Panchen’s idea of a typical training run is a 20 km jaunt to work from her home in the Glebe to Nortel’s Moodie Drive campus. “People at work don’t really understand what I do. I don’t think they realize what it takes to do this race and compete at this level. They see a 5km run as a marathon.”

MacKnie’s way to keep fit includes completing 4 Ironmans in the past 14 months, with 2 marathons thrown in for good measure. “After Hawaii, it might be time for a break,” he says. His idea of rest and relaxation? “A rock climbing trip to Patagonia.”

This is the couple’s second straight trek to the Ironman World Championships. They qualified at Ironman USA at Lake Placid this July and at Ironman Canada last year, placing highly in their age groups on both occasions.

“It’s quite an achievement just to get here,” says MacKnie. “For me, the winning is in qualifying.”

Since it’s their second visit to the Island, they’re much less awestruck this time.

“I remember last year on the bike,” says Panchen. “A big grin came over me. I couldn’t wait to run down the blue carpet. I had to pinch myself, seeing all the big names in the sport out there on the course, the NBC cameras and all the hoopla that went along with it.”

This year, their goal is to finish smiling, knowing that a huge Ottawa contingent will be following them throughout the day on “We know we have to look good because the WebCam will be there.”

“My next goal is to finish race the “Ultraman” here in Hawaii one day, “says Panchen. (That race includes a mind-boggling 11.4 km swim, 543 km bike and 126 km run over three days).

“I guess I have to admit I’m an endurance junkie.” Certainly not your average one.

This article was also published in the Ottawa Citizen, reprinted with permission of Lynne Bermel

© Copyright 2005 Lynne Bermel

Lynne Bermel, a former world-ranked pro Ironman competitor, is a senior marketing & PR consultant living in Ottawa. She is also a freelance writer and TV sports show host. You can reach her at:

You can access previous columns by Lynne at: LB_Columns

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