Sports

Rach McBride
McBride came to the U of O for their undergraduate degree. Image: Trent Dilkie/Provided.

At 42 years of age, the non-binary athlete is developing their game as the years go on

Former University of Ottawa student Rachel McBride has been a professional triathlete for 10 years and has already established themselves as a force in the sports world. 

A three time Ironman 70.3 champion, they won their first half Ironman triathlon at 32, they are a two time Ironman bike course record holder, a Canadian national champion and the seventh female over the age of 42 who qualified for KONA. 

In 2019, they came in first at the Cascade Gravel Grinder and the Fort Langley 1K. In 2020, McBride came second in the Burnt Bridge Gravel Classic, losing by only 24 seconds. They came in third in the Canadian Tri Pro Championship earlier this year. They also hold two university degrees and are an accomplished cellist. 

Growing up, McBride moved around a lot: from Tacoma, Wash. to Germany before they came to the U of O for their undergraduate degree. 

“I was a shy kid but was quite physically active even at a young age,” said McBride in an email statement. 

It was at the U of O where they discovered their love of biology and research. McBride ended up working for a research lab in Germany before deciding to pursue their masters in developmental genetics. They eventually found their way to their dream career as a genetic counsellor. 

While they were physically active as a child, McBride dropped most sports to focus more on their creative and artistic side instead.

“I got more and more into punk, goth and riot grrrl music and began expressing myself creatively through clothing, hairstyles and other art mediums like music, photos, poetry and paintings,” they said. 

After moving to Toronto, McBride began getting heavily involved in the music and arts scene in the city which resulted in them partying a lot and “never getting more than [four to five] hours of sleep a night.” Before their shift to a healthier lifestyle, McBride struggled with an eating disorder, as well as being a drinker and smoker. It wasn’t until they turned 27 that they decided something had to change. 

They ran their first marathon in 2005 and recognized the need to start prioritizing their health and wellbeing. 

“I did really well in that race — so well that I qualified for the Boston Marathon and my mentor at the time suggested I could be an elite triathlete. Even though I was bordering on ‘too old,’ I realized if I wanted to pursue this professionally, I would need to start taking my body, health and athletic career more seriously,” they said. 

A major lifestyle change McBride made was adapting a predominantly plant-based lifestyle, which has had a substantial impact on their physical and mental well-being. 

“Over the past decade I’ve learned so much about my body — becoming plant-based has had profound impacts on my wellbeing and I would say it’s been a prominent factor in my success as an athlete.”

Turning towards a plant-based lifestyle has allowed McBride to solve digestion issues that they were not able to tackle before, saying “growing up I didn’t have a good handle on what my body needed to thrive.”

McBride also identifies as non-binary, a gender identity in which an individual does not identify exclusively as male or female.

“Identity and authenticity are topics that are incredibly important to me and I’m proud that I’ve been able to be involved in modernizing the world of sport — whether through having a voice in the conversation around gender in sport, or even around dietary practices as a plant-based athlete,” said McBride. 

McBride continues to share their story and is grateful for the fact that they have this platform and are able to inspire others. They are passionate about sports becoming more inclusive and inspiring others to be true to who they are and be proud of it. 

“Be yourself and be proud. Be confident that you, too, have a right to be recognized and celebrated in whatever endeavors you commit yourself to,” they said. 

“At 42, I’m fitter and faster than ever. Age is truly just a number.”