Meet Collin Chartier, 3rd at IM Boulder 70.3, Heading to Collins Cup for U.S.–Interesting Background.

By Bill Plock

A couple of weeks ago at IRONMAN Boulder 70.3, the Sam’s, Sam Long and Sam Appleton crossed the finish line first and second, to nobody’s surprise, but then came Collin Chartier. If you had taken a poll of spectators not many probably would’ve picked Collin to be next. But why?

A “peak behind the curtain” will tell you being on the podium totally made sense. Collin answers some questions about his career and background here. He will be a guest on an upcoming podcast on the 303Endurance Podcast.

  1. Can you give a brief overview of your career and how you ended up in Colorado

My dad did a sprint triathlon in the late 90s while we were living in Spain. I was only 4 years old at the time. I would like to say this is where it all started, but it didn’t. He hated swimming and never did another triathlon.

Living in Fairfax, Virginia, I swam year around for summer league, club, and high school teams and played soccer. In 2008 my friend from the swim team invited me to do the Dewey Beach Triathlon in Delaware, and this is where it all began. In 2010 I started competing in the Junior Elite series with Endorphin Fitness (Richmond, VA). 

After high school, Zane Castro recruited me for triathlon at Marymount University, the first collegiate varsity triathlon program at the time. I competed in the collegiate series and a few ITU races through out 2013-2017. 

Collin Happy at the finish line, photo: Khem Suthiwan

The day after my last final exam in 2017 I packed my car and drove out to Colorado. 

I spent the previous summer in Colorado, I was invited to the U23 elite camp at the Olympic Training Center in preparation for the FISU University Games in Nyon, Switzerland. It was at this race where I placed 9th, a few seconds off of Rudy Von Berg, where I started to believe in myself as a triathlete. A turning point in my career. My uncle lives in Littleton and he invited me to come out after graduating to support me training in Colorado. 

In 2018, I joined Origin Performance, Ian O’Brien’s ITU training group. This was my first exposer to a daily training environment among likeminded athletes. I raced 14 times in 12 countries that year. I learned a lot from that year, mostly what not to do in training and racing. 

I saw my first professional wins in 2019. I had started to figure out what it takes to perform at the continental cup and World Cup levels. My run had been my biggest challenge, always dealing with injuries and inconsistent volume. I started to stack consistent milage and create durability. The highlight of this year was my 11th place finish in the Miyazaki World Cup, running a 31:37. The previous year I placed 50th and had a terrible experience in the rough swim and just wanted to be done with the season. This cemented in me that I was improving and I could try for a World Cup podium in 2020. 

2020 was a challenging year. It began with a life threatening car accident in early February while I was on the way to the airport flying to the first races of the season. 

My body was beat and bruised, yet I still went to Honduras and Cuba for the first continental cups of the year where I didn’t perform too well. 

Then the pandemic happened and the racing season was put on hold. 

I went to Karlovy Vary World Cup in September as an alternate. I paid my own way and traveled independently. I flew into Croatia, rented a car and drove. At this point, travel from USA to the EU was banned and there was a lot of confusion as to who could travel. I was stopped at many borders in Europe and questioned. I didn’t get to compete in Karlovy Vary so I continued on to IM 70.3 Aix en Provence. When I got to Aix en Provence to check out the course, I got the announcement it had been cancelled. I arrived to Girona where my friend said there was a race going to happen, Platja de Aro half distance triathlon. I finally got an opportunity to compete and I won by almost 15 minutes. Little did I know this was a mistake, competing for no prize money or rankings. I learned after the race that I could go compete at the Spanish National Championships for half distance in Bilbao just 6 days away. I traveled to Bilbao and struggled through a wet and cold race, finishing 2nd to Javier Gomez Noya. After crossing the finish line, I could not walk. Something was wrong. I figured I had strained my hip flexors. 

I had been on the start list for Arzechena World Cup in Italy, 2 weeks after Bilbao. I am still in pain with walking and running, but I decide to go any way. I felt I could still race well. I crashed during the race and took all the skin off my butt, shoulders, and back. I had stitches and had been full body wrapped in gauze. 

Once back in Girona, Spain, I got my hip checked out and I had torn my hip flexors and adductors. I decided to end the season and start rehabbing the injuries. 

In my rehab, I discovered the sport of ski mountaineering and it did not cause pain in my hip, so I went all in. I started training daily and racing on the weekends. 

I started 2021 skimo racing in the US, doing 6 races with a few wins and podiums in Colorado and Utah. I even went as far as competing for the US at the ISMF World Cup Finals in Madonna di Campiglio Italy. After being competitive in the US races, I was brutally crushed among world class skimo athletes. I strongly believe you can learn the most when you are thrown into the deep end and learn to embrace uncomfortable situations. I am no stranger to being in over my head. 

If my skimo debut is an indicator of who I am, then what I do next is no surprise. 

I put myself on the start list for Challenge Mogan Gran Canarias, (a super stacked field!) just 4 weeks post skimo World Cup. I haven’t been swimming, biking, or running much while focusing on skimo. I jump start the triathlon training with a really intense 3 weeks of training and then a week taper into the race. 

I was testing whether or not skimo fitness would translate to triathlon performance. It turns out, it doesn’t. 

I placed 16th and just didn’t have the power on the bike or the durability to maintain run pace. Every run mile I positive split. It’s not bad for not much training, but I wasn’t anywhere near where I wanted to be fitness wise.

I returned to Colorado to put in a 2 month training block ahead of IM 70.3 Des Moines. 

I hadn’t made the conscious decision to commit to 70.3 racing full time, I was only following racing opportunities and to try to pay my bills. I was also getting the hint that USA Triathlon wanted me out of the picture during the Olympic qualification cycle. I had enough points that I could get on some of the few races happening during the pandemic and they wanted some their lower ranked athletes whom they support financially in those events, so I stayed clear of their political drama. 

I am now in the situation where I have had some success in 70.3 racing yet I still have the World Triathlon (previously ITU) points and drive to continue in short distance racing. I will have to decide at the end of the year which path to take. I know USA Triathlon has voiced to me that WT racing is incompatible with long course racing, but now we are seeing many athletes, like Taylor Knibb and the Norwegians, have success at both. This could be the first time in the history of our sport where we are seeing a blending among short and long course athletes, which I believe is overall positive. 

2. Do you like (or not like)  being a bit of an unknown in the 70.3 distance and what are the advantages and disadvantages to that?

It’s funny because I had become known for my 70.3 ability pretty quickly, just not among the US social circles. I have been in interviews in Colombia after my debut 70.3 and win in Cartagena 2019 and in articles ahead of the Spanish National Championships. I was projected to have a podium placing at Challenge Mogan among Jan Frodeno and Patrick Lange. I had been more well known around the world then in the US. I am not sure there are any advantages to being unknown. I like the 70.3 races because you either have the fitness or you don’t, and the result doesn’t matter how well known you are. 

3. What did you learn most at the Boulder 70.3?

If Sam Long goes by, you better follow for as long you can. I made my move too late and he was gone. 

If you don’t commit to racing all out, you will seek the comfort of the group and the race will be dictated to you. 

Chainring selection is important, 58 tooth would have been wise for this course.

4. As a pro, what are the biggest challenges you face and what do you like most

Financial. I don’t have any sponsors and need to race to get a paycheck.

5. What is your greatest opportunity to get better

Time in the sport, consistent training year to year.

6. What other sports did you play growing up? Who are some of your sports heroes.

Swimming and soccer. Michael Phelps.

7. What interest do you have outside of Endurance sports? What did you study in College and what might you like to pursue someday after triathlon is all over

I studied Health Sciences in a pre-Physical Therapy program. Endurance sports is my only interest. 

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