Meet the newest member of our Brand Ambassador Herd, Yvonne Timewell! Hailing from British Colombia, Canada, Yvonne is an Ironman triathlete who you might recognise from the 2019 Zwift Academy Tri team. Having raced at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, in 2018 and 2019, we’ll be following her journey as she makes her way to the start line of this year’s world champs.
We caught up with Yvonne last month to discuss how she got into triathlon, her 2022 race plans and – most importantly – her favourite training snack. Yvonne’s love of triathlon and enthusiasm for adventure truly shines through, and we’re so excited to have her in The Herd.
Get to know SG Brand Ambassador, Yvonne Timewell
Welcome to the SG Herd, Yvonne! Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself?
Thanks for having me! My name is Yvonne Timewell. I live in Penticton, BC which is famous for its wineries and Ironman Canada. I’m an Anaesthetic Assistant and Respiratory Therapist here at our local hospital, Penticton Regional. I’ve been married for 25 years and we have a 19-year-old son who’s away at university – so we’re officially “empty nesters”!
When did you first get in to triathlon and what made you want to give it a go?
When I was at university, I rowed on the university’s lightweight team. A team mate of mine asked if I wanted to try a triathlon with her. So I borrowed a bike which was too big – I couldn’t even lower the seat – and I just went along to have fun. I swam competitively at elementary school and high school, so the swim part was fine. And then the rest was history: I did one and I was hooked! After university rowing, I dabbled and did three triathlons… and then stepped right up to an Ironman, which was Ironman Canada. Year after year, I hit different races and that’s where it all began.
That first time racing at Ironman Canada, I went in as a total rookie. I had no expectations and so it was fun. The race actually want amazingly well. Back in those days, the age-groupers who finished in the top 10 got invited up on to the podium. So it was kind of neat, because I went in with no expectations, got in the top 10 and found myself lined up on the podium with all these professional athletes!
In 2019, you were part of the Zwift Academy Tri team. What was it like to have the support of Zwift and the pro mentors on your journey to the Ironman World Championships?
Being on the Zwift Academy Team was such a surreal experience – even now when I look at my Zwift bike (a Specialized Shiv disc) I have this big smile on my face, because I still can’t believe I was part of that. To have such amazing knowledge from Tim Don and Sarah True, and to be supported by the Zwift crew – it was just endless. The other members of the team were such strong athletes from all over the world, and we still keep in touch. Just the other day I was on Zwift and Levi (another Zwift Academy Tri 2019 alumnus) was Zwifting too, so we had a great chat. It was endless support, and endless friendships – even though we’re all far apart now, we still follow each other’s races. I’m hoping if I make it to Kona this year, I can reconnect with whoever else from the team makes it there too. The Academy was just a surreal, epic journey and I still can’t believe I got to be part of it.
If there was one stand out moment you had to pick out from your time on the Zwift Academy team what would it be?
The first stand out moment came during the process of actually making it on to the team. They shortlisted everyone and then we were contacted and told we had to get ready to do another Zoom interview with the board panel members. I was super nervous, and I had all these questions laid out everywhere. Then, the Zoom call connected and there was Sarah True (professional triathlete and Zwift Academy mentor) with a sign behind her saying “Congratulations”. I just broke down into tears, and then she started crying! So that was a true stand out moment. The second was when we were all flown out to Morgan Hill, California, to the Specialized Head Quarters and I got to meet all of the crew in person. We’d been talking via WhatsApp, so to finally meet in real life was really exciting. Again, it was all just a surreal experience – to this day I still pinch myself!
If you could invent a Zwift-style power up for real life riding, what would you choose?
The other day, I was riding into a headwind. I had my head down, tucking in, and it was just relentlessly coming at me. I was like: “do you know what would be a great power up in real life? To have 30 seconds where the headwind stops and you get this amazing tail wind to give you a break.” So I guess you’d call that a ’30 second tail wind power up.’ I think that would be neat.
After they took place in St George, Utah, this year there’s been some debate about whether the Ironman World Championships should continue to always be in Kona, or move around. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think we’ll continue to see athletes heading back to the magic of the Big Island year on year, or should it move around to different locations like 70.3 worlds does?
I’m pretty firm on my decision here: Kona is special. It’s magical, and the Ironman World Championships should stay there. The Island has adopted the world championships, so I’m firm that it shouldn’t move around. The 70.3 worlds may be a different story, because I think maybe more athletes can go per country to that. But Kona is special – the elements you can experience on race day means it’s different year after year and that’s what makes it unique. The world champs need to stay there.
What are your race plans this year and what are you aiming to achieve?
On 4th June I’m racing Ironman Hawaii 70.3. That’s a race where you can qualify for the Ironman World Championships, so hopefully everything goes well and I punch my ticket to Kona. I do have a back up plan if not – there’s an Ironman in the US that’s still open. After that I’ll do a couple of other 70.3s either Oregon or Calgary. And then hopefully I’ll be going on to Kona for worlds in October! In terms of my goals, the ultimate goal is to get back to Kona again.
Update: Yvonne won her age category at Ironman Hawaii 70.3!
What advice would you give to someone who is aiming to qualify for Kona?
The biggest thing is consistency: being very consistent with your training, and also being very patient. Having that ultimate inner determination. And getting a good coach that knows what they’re doing! I think those four things are very important.
What would be your ultimate bucket list race?
I’ve always wanted to do the Cape Epic mountain bike race – an eight day, 700km stage race across South Africa’s Western Cape. There’s just something about that race, it looks hard and after seeing a couple of documentaries, it’s just always been on my bucket list. It looks like it stands by its name – it’s an epic race.
What’s been your biggest adventure?
For racing, my biggest adventure was doing Ultraman Canada (a three day ultra-triathlon which sees competitors take on a 10km swim, 420km bike and an 84.4km run). It took a big year and a half of training to prepare. I went all in with my coaching, my training and my crew that supported me during it. I ended up being very successful at the race – but I would never do it again! Taking place over 3 days, it was such a hard race and it was a big commitment. It took up a lot of my time. But ultimately, on the final day of the race everything came together and it was so worth it. It took so much of out me, but it was an amazing experience.
Quick fire round: this or that/would you rather?
Ride up super steep hills or ride into a relentless headwind?
Steep hills, big time!
Sunrise swim or sunset bike ride?
Sunset bike ride! Here we have this special ride, it’s a gravel ride up to this beautiful tunnel that oversees two lakes. We bring a Radler each and we all go up there and have a beer while the sun is setting.
Racing in the heat or racing in the rain?
Heat. I love the heat.
TT bike or road bike?
This one is hard! I love both. That’s a hard one, honestly. I have a road bike that I absolutely love… can I say tie!?
Favourite training snack?
Peanut butter, bananas and a little bit of honey in a sandwich. It’s so good and it’s a killer energy hit especially for long rides. You can cut it into four pieces and you can just grab a piece easily.
Ultimate training anthem?
Thunderstruck by AC/DC. We’ve driven up to a few races with the windows rolled down and the music playing and that’s the song.
If you could be a professional at any sport (other than triathlon) what sport would you choose?
I would choose hockey. I played all through elementary school and into high school. I loved it. And then I figure skated, so while I’d go to my figure skating lessons, I’d grab a hockey stick while the coach wasn’t with me and I’d skate around with the stick. But there was no women’s hockey where I grew up and I would love to play. A friend I work with is on a hockey team and has asked if I want to go play – I’ve said maybe after Kona this year!
We’re so excited to have Yvonne has part of our Brand Ambassador Herd, and after her recent age group win at Ironman Hawaii 70.3 we’re really looking forward to following her journey to the Ironman World Championships in Kona later this year. Make sure you follow Yvonne on Instagram to see her latest adventures!