Meet the Four Iron Men
Triatholon is a Family Affair
BY KEVIN PAINCHAUD
Meet the Vandermeer family. This is not your typical family. Yes they have four boys. Yes all four boys have a lot of energy. But what really separates this family from all the rest is that the entire family competes in triathlons. All of them!
Every single one of them competes in swimming, biking, and running for miles. Not only that, but they all typically win medals in their own classes. How did this start? I’ll let their amazing mom, Candi tell the story.
Before the kids came along: Dennis and I both were triathletes before we met (I was in Hawaii and he was in CA). We started dating and living a triathlon lifestyle together in California. Within a year and half, we completed Ironman Korea and Western Australia, then got married, pregnant, and decided to start a family in Santa Cruz.
Looking back, the boys –Kees 13, Nico, 11, Louie ,8, and Thys, 5– doing triathlons seems like a very natural progression. As each child was added to the family, they were just along for the ride in those early years– they’d get up early to spectate at races from the baby carrier, watch one of us leave the door for a workout or Dennis would often push them in the stroller for training runs.
Since Dennis still trains longer distances, they have had the opportunity to very much be a part of his training. As they got older, they would bike with Dennis while he was on long runs, carrying his nutrition. From the time our oldest was 7 months old, he has watched Dennis race the Ironman World Championships in Kona nine times. All the boys have had the experience of watching their father in Kona. There are so many lessons in this sport. I guess they were sort of “in training” in some way or another right from the get go. It is very much the fabric of our family and we feel very fortunate that we have the opportunity to expose them to this sport as more of a healthy lifestyle.
They all started triathlon around 3-4 years old. The boys were always excited to start because they watched us (and their older siblings) do it for so long and now it was their turn. Especially in the early years, there were never any structured training plans, just getting out there and swimming, biking, running and having fun whenever we could.
The local Super Kids Triathlon was the first race for Kees, Nico, and Louie.. Eventually they also started doing the NorCal Kids Triathlon Series over the hill, which is now the Bay Area Kids Triathlon series. All the boys regularly finish on the podium at the series races. They also cheer for each other on the course since they race by age group.
Thys races last, so the older brothers always run with the younger ones. Since Kees is getting older, he is transitioning to the adult sprint races. In 2018 and 2019 he raced Tri Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz Triathlon with podium finishes at all four races. Also, during Ironman Kona race week they do the Keiki Dip and Dash, a fun swim/run with a finish at the Ironman arches.
As the boys get older, there has been a natural progression to workouts. Kees, Nico, and Louie swim year round with the Aptos Cabrillo Swim Club (ACSC) and Thys will join soon.
They all love to swim and the excellent training they get with ACSC makes them super confident with a solid swim start. For biking they mostly mountain bike at Wilder Ranch. The older boys ride up Twin Gates, and if a younger one is not quite ready for all the hill climbing, Dennis tows them up with a rope but they at least have to help. Kees runs cross country at Mission Hill Middle School and the younger ones just run around for fun. During the summer months, Santa Cruz Junior Guards acts as a built-in training program since they get in open water swims and running.