I wish I could remember more about the triathlons I took part in when I was younger. The first one I ever did was at Sandvlei; I think I was in Standard 8 (so about 16 years old), and a school-friend Mike entered with me. The rest of the races were all at Gordon’s Bay. I think my Mom took me once, other times it would be Mike’s folks, or my older brother’s friends Melanie and Colin who raced as well.
I wish I had kept up with the sport and continued training and competing. But I guess it’s easy to imagine that I would have stuck it out. History tells me I have never been one to stick at one thing for too long. I finally dropped out of all sports in 1994 when I had surgery on my back, and was told I would never be able to compete in sport again as I would not be able to run, or bend over my bike’s handle-bars comfortably. Whilst I did wait many years before putting that prognosis to the test, I am glad they were wrong.
The photos in this post are from the Longmile Triathlon in 1989. I think it would have been an Olympic distance triathlon: 1.5 kilometres swim, 40 kilometres bike, 10 kilometres run. The swim exit photo is time-stamped 00:21:27 which seems pretty fast for 1.5km. The photo from the run taken just before the finish line has a 02:18:49 time-stamp. If I look at my current times, I am not too sure I could do much better now.
I have always been a good swimmer. One of my earliest memories is of learning to swim, and as kids we would spend hours in the pool.
I was a Lifesaver at False Bay Surf, Sunrise Beach, for a year or two, and was fairly comfortable in open water as well.
To this day, I am a natural swimmer, and for my first IronMan it was both the leg I did the least training for, and the leg I was most relaxed about leading up to the race, and even during the race itself.
As you can see I just wore a Speedo in the swim, and then simply pulled a vest with a race number pinned to it for the rest of the race. I did later progress to a pretty porno tri-suit. I would be curious to know more about the wetsuit the guy behind me is wearing — it can’t have been anything like my Orca S3 Wetsuit or any other modern-day wetsuit. I used to come out of the water in the top 10 overall, more or less hold my place on the bike, and then fall back through the field on the run.
I cycled all through my teenage years, completing a number of Argus Cycle Tours (4 in total I think) during Senior School.
I loved being on the bike, and spent hours cycling on the Peninsula by myself. I have always been a bit of a loner, and was not overly fond of the team sports we were forced to participate in at school (I played waterpolo and hockey). I had to fit any triathlon training in around school sports.
The bike in the photo is a Cannondale. I think it was called a Criterium 3.0 series, and was at the time when oversized aluminium tubing was the latest technology. I loved that bright blue bike, I know I was nowhere near grateful enough at the time that my Mom bought me such an amazing machine.
I had Look Carbon pedals on the bike which were pretty similar to my current Shimano 105 SPD SL pedals, and some pretty funky aero-bars. I had a Cate-Eye cycle computer which my Dad sent to me from the States.
The race nutrition was nothing like it is today. I am pretty certain that one water bottle contained watered-down Coca Cola. I do remember using corn syrup sachets on one of my Argus races, but I don’t remember using them in triathlons. I can’t imagine my pre-race meal was anything other than banana-flavoured ProNutro (which I survived on as a kid), and post-race nutrition would probably have been chocolate and Coca-Cola.
I hated running. It was my weakest leg, and whilst I spent hours on my bike, and hours in the pool, I probably skimped on the run training. And I am not sure I remember knowing what a brick session was. I do remember the two measured 5km routes I used to train, one flat and one with some hills in it. I still use that very same 5km route to this day when I need to squeeze a quick little run into my day.
Every race I blew on the run. I don’t think I had much of a strategy, I think we just went flat-out until we were finished. Considering there was none of the knowledge around nutrition that we now have, and I probably didn’t even bother too much with hydration, it’s no wonder I hit the wall each time.
When I revived my aspirations to be a triathlete again, I started out with becoming a runner first. I learned to love running so much that it was over two years before I realised hey: the plan was for swim-bike-run, and I bought my Cannondale 29er so that I could participate in my first XTERRA.