Jason Pohl, 30, a former Red Deer resident has risen in the Ironman triathlon ranks and is one of the best in Canada. (Contributed photo)

Jason Pohl, 30, a former Red Deer resident has risen in the Ironman triathlon ranks and is one of the best in Canada. (Contributed photo)

Former Red Deer resident Pohl overcoming odds in triathlon world

Jason Pohl, 30, has is quickly turning into one of the country’s top triathletes

At the beginning of this year, Jason Pohl suffered two torn Achilles tendons.

Pohl, 30, was preparing for one of the biggest Ironman triathlon races of his young career. An Ironman triathlon is just a simple 3.9-kilometre swim, followed by a 180km bike and a 42.2km run.

He took 12 weeks to recover, amped up his training and still managed to compete in Couer d’Alene, Idaho.

Not only did he compete – he finished fourth overall, was the top Canadian and earned a spot in the Ironman Kona in Hawaii, the sport’s world championship race.

“When I set out to become a professional triathlete, my goal is to get back to the world championships as a professional now, really become a world-class athlete,” said the former Red Deer resident, who now splits his time between Calgary and Boulder, Colorado.

“It was four years in the making and it finally happened. It was just a really, really good feeling.”

While all that seems like overcoming insurmountable odds, it was just a small step on the incredible journey Pohl has travelled to become one of Canada’s best triathletes.

As an adolescent, he had 12 collapses of his left lung, including two at 16 that led to surgery and a six-month recovery. They derailed which was once a promising hockey career for Pohl, who played goalie and much of his minor hockey in Red Deer.

After some time in junior A and junior B hockey, Pohl made the decision to pivot his athletic pursuits. He initially took up CrossFit, before finding triathlon.

“Going through that, it really gave me the motivation to challenge myself mentally and physically. Almost prove to myself that I could overcome anything and do one of the most cardiovascular demanding sports in the world,” he said, adding at times he can still feel the staple in his left lung.

That first race in Sylvan Lake in 2013, he got “demolished” which didn’t sit well with him. He also loved it.

“I had this hockey ego, I was fit and I’m doing CrossFit. I should be able to do this no problem. Went and did the triathlon and got demolished. It was a whole new realm. It was a humbling moment,” he said.

“I just fell in love with that whole physical and mental (aspect of) what you’re capable of.”

That casual love for triathlon grew and grew over the years and despite growing a successful wealth management business in Red Deer and Calgary, he knew there was more for him in the sport.

So, in 2019 he put everything he had into the sport and turned professional.

“At that time I was getting more and more serious about triathlon and in 2018, that was my second year as a professional athlete, but I wasn’t full-time at that point,” he recalled.

“At the end of that year, my heart was like I always wanted to be a professional athlete. I thought that was going to be in hockey. It wasn’t in hockey. I guess the universe kind of led me to triathlon… I’m young, my heart’s with this. Let’s just go for it.”

In just a few short years he went from a relative unknown to one of the country’s best triathletes. He has sponsors that allow him to train full time. He spends half the year training in Canada and half in Colorado, mostly during the winter.

And while he was riding a high from his world championship qualification, Pohl hit another bump in the road.

He was hit by a car while training in B.C. in September, leading to a hip injury and nagging concussion symptoms. That was just a few weeks out from Ironman Chattanooga, which he was unable to finish.

“I think it’s like how to do you manage the highs and the lows? For me, when you hit that obstacle or that setback, how do you take a lesson away or add it to the fire,” he said.

“Some of these down points give me the most motivation to overcome and come back stronger.”

So, it’s back on the recovery train for the budding triathlete. He’ll spend the next few months getting his body back into training shape, ahead of the biggest test of his career.

That was supposed to be in October, in Hawaii at the world championships. Then the race was pushed to February, then cancelled and rescheduled for next May in Utah.

It’s his goal to be a world champion and he was hoping that chance would come in Hawaii, where he first raced an Ironman as an amateur.

But it’s even more than that. It’s the driving force behind what helps him keep pushing through all the adversity he’s faced on his journey so far.

“The first one is to become an Ironman champion. Win my first race. I’m super close to that,” added Pohl.

“I got into the professional athlete field to become a world champion. I’m going to do everything in my power to pursue that.”

It’s that belief and his ability to manage adversity that is sure to power the once-promising hockey talent to new athletic heights.

 

Jason Pohl, 30, a former Red Deer resident has risen in the Ironman triathlon ranks and is one of the best in Canada. (Photo by Jackie Larouche)

Jason Pohl, 30, a former Red Deer resident has risen in the Ironman triathlon ranks and is one of the best in Canada. (Photo by Jackie Larouche)