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True Grit: The Road to Ironman

An Ironman Competition is widely considered to be one of the most challenging and physically demanding single-day sporting events in the world. Comprising a 3.8 km swim, followed by a staggering 180 km bike ride and topped off with a full 42 km marathon, it’s easy to understand why.

Despite the competition’s fearsome reputation, longtime faculty member, Giles Campbell, made it his mission to complete his first Ironman over the summer and accomplished this feat on August 19th in Mont Tremblant, Quebec. Read on to hear (in his own words) how he used grit and perseverance to carry out this incredible achievement.


Written By Giles Campbell

In a rash moment back in September 2017, I signed up for my first Ironman competition in Mont Tremblant. I’d been racing the sprint distance (750 metre swim, 20 km bike and a 5 km run) for several years, but always thought I’d like to try something more extensive. To get a taste of what long distance racing is all about, I entered the Welland Long Course—a 2 km swim, 56 km bike and a 15 km run.

Training for an Ironman is tough and requires endurance. Some can prepare for the race in six months, but I felt I needed a head start. I gave myself a year to train, starting in September 2017. I ran, biked and swam several times a week. At first, the training lasted between six and eight hours a week, but by Christmas it went up to eight to ten hours a week and by summer I was training for about 17 hours a week. It was exhausting and I burned many calories each day. On one five-hour bike ride in the summer I burnt 5,500 calories in one shot! I loved the training and spent many hours preparing with members of my tri team, TryForce Niagara.

The Ironman triathlon has been running since 1977 and was founded in Hawaii by U.S. Navy Commander, John Collins. It started with three separate events – the Waikiki Rough Water Swim (2.4 miles), the Oahu Bike Race (112 miles) and the Honolulu Marathon (26.2 miles) that a group of military athletes were competing in individually. As the story goes, Commander Collins dared them into competing by saying, “Whoever finishes first, we’ll call him the Iron Man.” The races were combined in 1978 to form the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon and is now known as ‘Kona,’ the Holy Grail of triathlons. Of the 15 competitors who started the race, only 12 of them crossed the finish line that first year.

My race took place on August 19th in Mont Tremblant, Quebec. I was surprised just how big the competition was with 2,272 racers competing with me. On race day, I rose at 4 a.m. to eat breakfast and ready myself. I was at the course by 5:30 a.m. full of jitters but confident that all the training had prepared me for the race—I was ready! Fireworks went off and the Canadian Air Force jet flew over the start line indicating the beginning of the race. We had a rolling start so not all 2,272 athletes started in the water all at once! The water was warm and fairly calm, and I was pleased with my time—I finished the 3.8 km swim in one hour and 14 minutes.

The bike route was laid out as a 90 km loop that we all did twice. The first loop was fine as I ate my nutrition and hydrated well. At about 120 km, however, I was hurting. My neck and back ached as I was in the hunched over aero-position on my tri-bike for four hours. When I made it to the turn-around corner I was re-energized knowing that the end of the bike section was coming soon. All I wanted to do was get off my bike! Mont Tremblant is very hilly with some extremely steep ups and downs to contend with. The biking portion took me six hours and 19 minutes to complete and as I returned to the transition area, I was amazed I had no cramps and that my muscles actually felt good.

Heading out into the run with the thought, “Okay, I’ve just ridden 180 km and now it’s time to run 42 km” was daunting, but I clicked into my metronome pace and took the road head-on. There were lots of aid stations, so I kept myself hydrated and continued to eat my energy gummies, ice chips and a few cups of salt water. The course was similar to the bike route, as you had to complete two loops. The first loop runs just beside the finish line and it’s quite hard to turn left for another 22 km and not right to finish. I had my wife, Fiona, and many friends cheering me along, which further motivated me to keep going.

The second loop of the run went well even though I was very tired. All day I’d felt that at some point, likely during the run, my body would begin to seize up, but thankfully it never did. So, as I approached Mont Tremblant Village, the reality that I was going to finish really hit me. Up the last hill and into the village, the route became about a metre wide with thousands of people cheering and ringing cowbells. You simply can’t get enough cowbell! 

“The finish line was amazing, lights cameras and the announcer saying over the speakers, ‘Giles Campbell, you are an Ironman!’”  – Giles Campbell

An absolutely amazing and an emotional finish—I could not believe it! I finished the run in four hours and 10 minutes the whole race in 12 hours, 6 minutes and 44 seconds. As I entered the ‘finisher tent,’ I realized I had prepared so much to get over that finish line that I had forgotten to prepare myself for what comes after — intense pain, uncontrollable shivering, hunger and thirst — but then you get a great medal and the congratulations from loved ones, plus for me a big mug of tea!

Here are my stats:

106th out of 332 of the men in my age group – M45-49
577th out of 1,669 men in the race
687th out of 2,272 competitors


With one Ironman under his belt, what’s next for Giles? He is considering entering the Lake Placid Ironman or the Niagara Barrelman next year. On top of that, he is in the process of recruiting his brother-in-law to join him in the competition with a two-year deadline. For Giles, the road to Ironman is ongoing and he plans to keep challenging himself in this mighty competition.

Tigers Meet in Times Square 

On November 10th – 14th, 2016, two groups of Ridley students journeyed to New York City, where they would spend their weekend exploring the many different facets of the Big Apple. For 40 students, the trip was purely about taking in sights and sceneries, while another group of 30 Tigers set out to be artistically inspired. What was not on the itinerary was a serendipitous meeting in Times Square.

Our larger group of students represented Ridley well, as they wound their way through the many “musts” of New York. The students visited the Brooklyn Bridge, experience Fifth Avenue and strolled through Central Park – where they partook in the viral sensation known as the Mannequin Challenge. Some students also visited the new World Trade Centre site and Strawberry Fields.

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The other group – comprised of Grade 12 Visual Arts, Design Technology and Film students – hopped from one gallery to the next, as they explored the world of creation throughout the ages. Their stops included the Museum of Modern Art, the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum and even the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where they could appreciate traditional and modern masonry. While the focus of this group’s trip was to discover and explore creative expression, they too made time to visit some of New York City’s highlights, such as Times Square.

As the weekend progressed, both groups made time to visit one of the world’s busiest pedestrian intersections, preparing themselves for the overwhelming experience that is Times Square. What they weren’t prepared for was running into their friends from home. Completely unplanned, both Ridley groups managed to find one another amongst the hustle and bustle of Midtown. It was a serendipitous moment that led one to feel that no matter where you may find yourself, a fellow Ridleian is never far away.

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On Monday, the students made their way back to campus, with many stories to tell their friends and families.

The weekend was an awe-inspiring one for all who were present. Each Tiger was able to explore the big city and discover something that spoke to them – be it a piece of history, a piece of art, or a piece of pizza.

Student design competition produces the newest Ridley accessory

For more than 125 years, Ridleians have displayed their love for our school by wearing items with official embroidered insignia. Whether for music, arts, academics or even the Houses of Ridley (that many come to call ‘home’), a number of motifs have been designed and sported over the years to honour these facets of our school’s culture.

In the fall of 2015, Board of Governors member, Mr. David Carter ‘88, decided that the Board should also sport a custom necktie and scarf of its own. Ridley’s Board of Governors, made up of 14 dedicated members, who ensure that our school continues to grow and flourish, has become an invaluable addition to the Ridley community and thus, were well deserving of this dedicated accessory.

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The 2015-2016 Board of Governors

Mr. David Carter requested that a tie and scarf be designed by a current student and that the ultimate pattern only be recognizable and understood by Ridleians. The top three students competed for a chance to make history – with the winning design being made into a tie and a scarf to be worn by the members of the Board– and were also vying for a monetary prize.

This was not only an opportunity for the Board to collaborate with the students, but also a chance for the students to express their creativity. A process such as this one required research, traditional art skills, the use of computer design software and of course, a connection to Ridley and the community.

Fifty students submitted their drawings that symbolically represented life at Ridley College. Of those 50 designs, three were chosen as finalists by Mr. David Carter along with Board Chair, Ms. Georgina Black and Headmaster, Ed Kidd. The designers of these three patterns were brought on stage during assembly to be recognized in front of their peers by Headmaster Kidd.

As each design was projected onto the big screen in the Mandeville Theatre, it was clear that each member of the audience felt a connection to the images and that these three judges had selected designs that truly evoked a sense of pride.

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In third place was Sarah Wang ‘18, with her design depicting the Marriott Gates, an iconic landmark of Ridley College. Sarah explained, “I wanted to draw something that would represent Ridley in the most simple way. The gate may not be the most obvious structure that shows the Ridley campus, but a gate indirectly suggests direction for the future and the welcoming nature of Ridley.”

In second place was Paddy Yang ‘18, with his design depicting a roaring tiger. Paddy says, “You can see the tiger was howling. It shows our bravery. I would like to say thank you to my teacher, Mr. Campbell, I couldn’t have done this without him. He helped me a lot and during the process he gave me many useful suggestions.”

The winner of the Board of Governors insignia design competition was Callum Campbell ‘18. His tie and scarf design depicted the archway that leads into Upper School, “because these gates are so iconic to Ridley, I wanted to do them justice.” – Callum Campbell

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Callum’s winning design will be used on the Board of Governors tie and scarf, being produced in September of 2016. Congratulations to all the participants, with special congratulations to our top three designers.

Adding Dimension to Ridley’s Digital Learning Studio

Ensuring that our students learn and grow in an exemplary environment is a part of our vision at Ridley College. It is of utmost importance for us to provide our students with access to cutting-edge technology and rich learning experiences, whenever possible.

Thanks to our generous donors, we were recently able to fulfill this promise by introducing three 3D printers to our Digital Learning Studio! This state-of-the-art rapid prototyping device has been revolutionizing the way the world creates and what better way to teach modern technology then with hands on experience.

Last year, Mr. Giles Campbell, Co-ordinator of Design and Technology, carefully researched which model of 3D printer would best suit our students’ needs ­­– one that would be easy and safe to use, while providing high quality results. As school let out for summer, Mr. Campbell was still undecided on which model to select, until a student submitted a project he had completed using the Ultimaker² 3D printer. It soon became clear that this brand of rapid prototyping device would provide Ridleains with the best features to explore three dimensions.

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Ultimaker² printers work in a very interesting way – using high heat and fused filament to create clean and accurate 3D models of any design that is input into the system. Our Ultimaker² 3D printers, which arrived over the summer, temporarily reside in the Design Technology classroom, while a dedicated lab is established for them.

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Students have just begun their term project that utilizes the 3D printer’s capabilities to create iPhone speakers that amplify sound without electricity. They’ve begun designing their projects on paper; filling their sketchbooks with ideas and concepts.

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Next, they will bring their final design to life on the computer screen before sending them to be printed on the new printers.