REPORT - by Barry Voevodin
Fade in on a vaseline smeared long shot of semi-deserted beach, early morning (summertime) Barbara Streisand can be barely heard in the background crooning "Mem-oreeess light the corners of my mind..." Two figures approach, running hard along the tightly packed wet sand their yellow Nike LDV's squeak and bite as they finish with a not quite all out sprint. Hands on hips and heads bowed they adopt post work-out recovery position as their breathing eases quickly from gasping to gulping, to calm.
"Now let me get this straight. You have to swim 1.6km, then cycle 43.5km then run 16km". "That's right. It's a proper triathlon with the field limited to one hundred entrants. So we'd better hurry up and enter".
"That means we've got 4 weeks to train. I guess that'll be enough....it should be fun.
That was Dec 1st. 1981 and the two naive runners were yours truly and Peter Raeburn. The event was the Sri Chinmoy Triathlon held at Tallebudgera, Gold Coast on January 2nd 1982. And so we began training. Peter already had 2 marathons under his belt (the second a sub-3hr) and he was a good swimmer, while I had been running for only 2 years having been 16 stone and a 2 pack a day smoker. So we were fairly evenly matched.
We mounted our trusty treddlies and rode about 25kms that first morning finishing up at the Southport Olympic pool at about 5.45am. As the pool was closed we scaled the fence and swam a mile, Peter recording about 27 mins. and myself about 31. That afternoon we ran 9 miles (equal to my longest run at the time) and felt very pleased with ourselves (and quite tired as well). A friend of Peter's ran with us that day but he had to stop and wait for us to return as he wasn't fit enough to go the whole way (he did progress rather quickly however, eventually running under 17 mins. for 5km in the Qld Aquathon 4 months later. His name? Mike Harris!)
Our training for the 4 weeks preceding the event saw us swimming about 5 times a week, cycling about 4 times a week (the longest ride being 35km) and running about 60km a week. The only crossover training we managed was the bike/swim work-outs which were in reverse order anyway. We continued on, blissfully unaware of what was in store for us in the New Year.
Jan 2nd dawned hot and humid for 15 nervous bodies (the 100 limit was safe) who eyed the tepid water of a Tallebudgera backblock canal. Animesh Harrington gave us some words of encouragement and soon we were off, 15 demented lemmings with but one goal.
It's funny when you swim in a river or canal how you can be thrashing as fast as your arms and fitness will allow and yet the shore and it's inhabitants seem to be moving in slow motion. As I made my way through the swim I was able to perceive the vaguely amused, somewhat bewildered stares of canal residents whose usually quiet Saturday morning vista had been slightly disturbed by our efforts at their backdoor.
Bill Dymock, a Coolangatta lifesaver, emerged first from the water in around 26 mins with a slender lead over Peter Raeburn. Three and a half minutes later I emerged in third spot. This gave me a mixed feeling; firstly joy at having done well and then anxiety as my 5 minute changeover and subsequent inexperience on the bike saw about 9 of the field pass me in the cycle leg.
One of the first to pass was John Griffin whose crewcut and wrap-around sunglasses have since become a familiar sight wherever multisport masochists gather. Actually John epitomised the feeling of camaraderie which pervades most triathlons because he tried to give me some cycling tips re correct gear selection as he rode past. I had borrowed a $2000 bike from local bike shop owner Mike Stout and I was paranoid lest I fell and scratched it. So it was perhaps a relief when I got puncture and had to swap to my old discount store special to complete the bike course. By this stage my backside was pleading for mercy as the combination of hard seat and limited preparation had resulted in combustion. So it was with little regret that I finally pulled into the changeover area.
The first few steps of the run felt as if I had mini-trampolines attached to my shoes but this was soon replaced by that concrete feet feeling which was my companion for most of the 16km journey. The hardest part of the run was the fact that you passed the finish area at the halfway point then had to head back out for the second loop. By this time the temperature had risen to the high thirties and the run became a mission of getting from garden hose to aid station to finish line without collapsing. Finally some 3 hours 43 mins and 29 secs after the race had started I was able to "run" into the finishing zone in 9th place having somehow passed three guys in the run and just holding off the fast finish of top veteran runner, Des Law.
As I recovered under a hose I congratulated Peter on his win over Bill Dymock. Apparently they were neck and neck throughout the cycle and began the run together. Peter was worried until he looked down and saw that Bill's running shoes were a rather dilapidated pair of Dunlop Volleys, not usually the symbol of a distance runner's prowess. Peter was able to pull a way from Bill and establish a 5 minute lead which was never challenged as he finished in 3 hours 19 minutes. John Griffin who runs like a L.P. record played at 78 R.P.M. finished third having made up a lot of ground in the final section.
That was three years ago and since then we've seen Julie Moss crawl her way into our hearts and help make triathlons a recognised phenomenon. Nowadays barely a running magazine cover appears without some reference to multisport mania and media attention through the Ironman has progressed to a stage where the bewildered look I receive in the lift with my bike turns to one of semi-understanding when I tell the usually elderly questioner that no I'm not a cyclist, I'm training for triathlons, to which they reply "isn't that where you swim and cycle and then have to run? I don't know where you get the energy." Twenty minutes before the end of the run leg in most triathlons I don't know either but ten seconds after I finish I know it's all worth it.