“It was a really important part of my development as an athlete and as a person,” he said.
Now that he's the Beaton Classic's race director, he's unable to compete, much to his chagrin.
“I think of it as paying my dues for all the years I got to race it back in the '80s and '90s,” Phipps said.
The 31st running of the Beaton Classic, which was held at Moonlight Beach, involves a one-kilometre swim, a 24-kilometre cycle, a four-kilometre solo paddle and finishes off with a 7.5-kilometre run.
The addition of paddling to what would otherwise be a traditional triathlon makes the Beaton Classic a unique race, Phipps said.
“There's no event I know of in Canada that encompasses these four events,” he said. “They never really mix except for here.”
The 220 competitors in the Aug. 11 event were a mix of “serious athletes” and families and friends who were just there to have a good time, Phipps said. They're able to do the entire race on their own, or in pairs or teams of four.
“I'd like to think the idea of the event is kind of a community party for endurance athletes of all sorts,” he said. “It's a bunch of different sports coming to the beach and having fun.”
The steady wind that made Ramsey Lake a bit choppy during the Beaton Classic didn't phase 64-year-old John Larmer, who completed the canoe leg of the race in the men's four category.
In the end, Larmer's team — which also included James Clendenning, James Larmer and Hayden Kosmerly — came in second place in their category.
“An old dog like me, I've been paddling for many, many years,” he said. “It's a bit windy for people who don't paddle much. But for me, I like that, because I'm used to paddling on Lake Superior.”
Larmer, who has been competing in the Beaton Classic since the 1980s, said the canoe leg is actually the key to the race.
“If you've got a good paddler, you can make up a lot of time,” he said.
Lee-Anne Menard competed in the swim portion of the race for her four-person mixed team, which also included Colton Turner, Steve Underhill and Lindsay Bender. They ended up coming in ninth place in their category.
Although the air temperature was only about 11 C when the swimmers entered the water during the early morning race start, she said the cool weather actually made the water feel warmer.
Menard said she also found having the sun in her eyes difficult, because it makes it so you can't really see much. She navigated by watching where the other athletes were going.
“It was pretty good,” Menard said. “It's a good, challenging swim.”
Tamara Flannigan and Julie Rathwell took on the Beaton Classic together, with Flannigan doing the swim and the canoe, and Rathwell doing the bike and the run. They ended up taking first prize in the women's pairs event.
Speaking to Northern Life before the race, Flannigan said she was a little nervous about the conditions.
“I think it's going to be a little chilly for the swim and it's going to be a little windy for the canoe,” she said.
Guelph, Ont. resident Mike Mahoney, who completed the paddle leg in the mixed fours category, said he came up for the Beaton Classic because his triathlon coach is originally from Sudbury, and told him about the event.
His team, which also included Helen Bobiwash, James Delsaut and James McNaughton, took the bronze in the mixed fours category.
Mahoney said he always enjoys spending time in the Sudbury area, and the Beaton Classic was a good excuse to make the trip.
“I love it up here,” Mahoney said. “The lakes are wicked. You have the best swimming ever.”
To view the Beaton Classic's final results, visit www.sudburyrocks.ca.