NCAA National Champion Triathlete Maira Carreau sat down to share her story with LetsGoDU. The star freshman from La Prairie, Quebec, Canada is a world-class triathlete and has big plans for herself and DU Triathlon, an emerging NCAA DI sport.
LetsGoDU: What has it been like since you became the NCAA Individual champion?
It’s been pretty hectic – I’m not gonna lie! A lot of attention in a short amount of time. There has been a lot of coverage on NCAA Triathlon. I’ve had other successes (in triathlon) but never anything as big as this. I’m super proud of the team. They raced super hard too and training with them the whole season has helped me. It’s a relief too, to get the season done – we have finals this weekend. Once I get back home (for the holidays) and relax a bit, it will sink in what an amazing season I just had.
LetsGoDU: When did you develop an interest in Triathlon?
I was pretty young when I did my first triathlon. I was 6 years old my dad was doing age group races. My brother and I said we want to do that too – that would be exciting. We started on a bike. Then, my parents signed me up for swimming in the fall. I swam competitively for 10 years I fell in love with the sport. I reached the eastern national championship level in Canada. At around the same time, at 8, I started doing road cycling. I was doing two-thirds of a triathlon competitively individually so it was bringing everything together and finding my way to triathlon. When I was done with high school in Quebec (which is a year less than in the US), I combined swimming and biking in spring and I was always a natural runner so the transition to Triathlon became an easy option. I really started to focus on triathlon only 3-4 years ago. That’s when I started my international career at the same time.
LetsGoDU: How did you end up coming to DU?
I saw the opportunity to come to Denver later on because I am an older student because of the school system in Canada. One of my friends on the Denver team, Clara Normand, who transferred here said, “You should email Barbara (Perkins) because the program and school would suit you.” I took a chance. I emailed Barbara and within two weeks, I had scheduled a visit there. As soon as I came (to DU) I said, ‘This is it – This is where I want to be for the next four years of my life.’
LetsGoDU: You had an excellent regular season. How much did that prepare you for last Saturday?
It prepared me because I knew I had a solid base of training this season. I was feeling pretty confident. It was a question of getting the little things right. You know, triathlon is often about the ‘little things’ that you can improve on here and there. It was nice to have a training block between regionals and nationals – we had a solid 3-4 weeks focusing on training. Prior to that time, I was training and flying somewhere to race, training for a week and a half, and flying to another race. I was glad to have the uninterrupted training time to be ready for the NCAA national championship.
LetsGoDU: What was your mindset race day morning? Did you feel ready to compete at a high level?
Yes – I was ready heading into the race. I was a bit more stressed than other races this season. I knew I could compete for a title so I had that pressure that I put on myself. I tried to escape the pressure by reminding myself that I had done the training needed to be successful. Like Coach (Perkins) said, ‘The hay is in the barn. Let’s light the match. Make the magic happen.’
LetsGoDU: What was the team race strategy heading into the championships?
Enjoy the moment. The hard work was done. Go have fun. There is no specific team strategy because it’s mostly an individual sport. It was about mindset – not building stress, finding fun in what we are doing. After that, it was trusting the process and racing the best that we could.
LetsGoDU: Talk about what you were thinking after each segment starting with the swim, then cycle and running.
On the swim, I felt strong. There were a lot of girls at the start – over 100. It’s rare that I race against that many on the start line. It was hectic. The first half of the swim I was back more than I wanted to be but I found some room inside and moved up toward the front where I like to be. I hopped on the bike and tried to stay with the front pack. We were working pretty well (drafting). I was looking around the pack to see who was there and not there. I know the strengths of the fastest girls -where they are as well as who was not there. I realized then that I had a chance to win. On lap three, I told myself to focus on what I do best – ride safely – no risks and stay up front. On the run, 500 meters in, I was in front. I was telling myself to keep it steady, push the pace but not too much – to see what the other girls would do. After the first lap, I opened the gap and it remained steady through the final lap. I was like, ‘keep it under control. You have this.’ So, I went for it!
LetsGoDU: DU women have won individual national titles in gymnastics, skiing, golf and tennis. Yet, no Denver women’s team has won a national title yet. Has the team and coach Perkins talked about getting the first women’s team championship banner hung in Magness Arena?
It is one of our goals. We have an amazing team and building (on talent) each year. We have an amazing environment here for girls to develop. That motivates us to push harder, train harder, to fight for the resources to be the best version that we can be. Also, triathlon is becoming deeper and deeper as more schools add the sport – more athletes along with a more competitive field we must improve, too. It’s up to us to find, recruit, and develop girls that have the potential to be a part of our team and fit in with our goals.
LetsGoDU: This win makes you a leader on the team. Describe your leadership style now and in the future.
All the girls on the team bring something. I was not team captain this year – coming in as a freshman. Even if I am older or stronger in some areas, everyone has their place and contributes to our success. For example, I feel like being strong in the run brings up the level of the team because they want to excel, too – so that helps the overall team. Also, coming in with a lot of international race experience helps. I can share how I see things – what I have learned, race tactics and share my experience.
LetsGoDU: Becoming a champion as a freshman is a great accomplishment. What personal goals do you have going forward?
Going forward, four (national titles) would be nice (laugh). One season at a time. That (winning again) would be great. Looking forward to racing on the World Triathlon Circuit and my first World Cup next season. One of my bigger objectives is going to the Olympics (for Canada) LA 2028. If I graduate in 2027, I’d have a year to focus on training for the Olympics. If I could make that happen, that would be pretty good.
LetsGoDU: Being a freshman is hard – especially being so far from your parents and your support network. How do you balance training, competing, and academics?
I take time to plan my week. Get a calendar and enter your classes, put your training in – include when to study and when to spend time with friends. It’s a bit harder with the time difference to Quebec for family calls. I feel like being a member of this team really helps, too. We are always together – that helps with the transition. We’re doing a bunch of things together (away from triathlon).
LetsGoDU: What do you miss most, aside from family, being away from La Prairie, Quebec, Canada?
Poutine! I’ve had a craving – it’s the first thing I am getting when I get back home for the holidays. (Note: Poutine is a dish of french fries and cheese curds topped with brown gravy.)
Top photo of Maira Carreau who won Triathlete Freshman of the Year and the Individual NCAA Triathlon Champion trophy at Tempe, Arizona.