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Written by Lindsay McWilliams
Photos by
Samantha Weald

Train with Triathletes Eric Lagerstrom and Paula Findlay

Triathletes Paula Findlay and Eric Lagerstrom

Winter is a long season in Bend but that’s also why many of us live here. For Bend-based, professional triathletes Paula Findlay and Eric Lagerstrom, winter is their “off-season,” a transition from their intensive training and competition schedules to spending more time with friends and family, but they also make time for getting in their workouts. During their competition season which may run from spring to the end of the year, they spend about twenty-five hours a week training. In winter, they scale back those hours but “hold their base” by running through Shevlin Park, biking Skyliners, or skiing uphill at Mt. Bachelor with backcountry skiing buddies.

In 2021, an opportunity to move to Bend presented itself and they eagerly took the plunge. “One reason we moved here is that we can either train right from our front door or drive five minutes to Juniper,” added Findlay.  Numerous outdoor “soft trails” provide multiple running and biking opportunities, depending upon the snow, and the Deschutes River is a seasonal open-water swim spot when the weather warms.

“Triathlon is an individual sport but you really need a good community and structure to train in,” said Findlay. “We’ve met so many supportive people and have been able to create these really fun communities of people and networks to train with.” It also helps when your training and life partner is the first one out of bed to start the coffee in the morning. 

So how did they get to this point?

“I was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, and started competing in triathlons when I was 16,” said Findlay. Eric, who was born in Salt Lake City but moved to Portland as a baby, grew up swimming and participated in his first triathlon at age 12. 

With competition in their blood, both Findlay and Lagerstrom pursued separate Olympic dreams. Paula competed in the 2012 London Olympics for the Canadian National Triathlon Team and Eric was an alternate on the U.S. National Triathlon Team for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Triathletes Paula Findlay and Eric Lagerstrom
Eric, Paula and their dog Flynn run on trails above Shevlin Park.

“We were both on this Olympic pathway and knew of each other but had never really spoken or hung out together,” said Findlay, “It was several years later when we were more focused on long course triathlons that we met and started dating.”

Their success, and some downtime during the COVID pandemic, allowed them time to pursue another dream: creating and developing content for their project called That Triathlon Life. Through TTL, they feature videos and podcasts with Paula, Eric, and their amateur triathlete buddy, Nick Goldston, discussing everything from triathlon life to good coffee. That Triathlon Life is a way to give back to their sport. “TTL stands for triathlon as a lifestyle. It doesn’t matter if you compete, do all three sports each week, ride a $100 bike or a $10,000 bike. What matters is enjoying being outside, being friendly, and being a little better you each day,” said Eric.

Triathletes Paula Findlay and Eric Lagerstrom

The trio often gets asked the “How do I start?” question. “The various types of triathlons make the sport very accessible to a lot of athletes,” said Findlay. There are short and long course triathlons, but they all include an open swim, road bike, and running component. Eric and Paula have found recent success at the Half Ironman or 70.3 Ironman (total miles of the race). In 2022, Paula won the Indian Wells 70.3 Ironman and was second at the World Championship 70.3 in St. George, Utah. Eric won both the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in San Francisco and the Ironman 70.3 in Santa Cruz.

Though the winter gives Paula and Eric somewhat of a break, they appreciate each season. “We’re lucky to be able to make triathlon our jobs and thankful we’ve had success to make a decent income, but it’s pretty inspiring to us knowing that people get to the pool at 4:00 a.m. to get in their workouts, when we roll up at 8:30 a.m.,” said Paula. Year-round, and in all four seasons, it is truly a triathlon life.  See thattriathlonlife.com. 

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