July 03, 2009

Ironman just is everywhere

With two Ironman triathletes, who are both eight weeks away from racing another Ironman, in the house the word Ironman comes up as often as it has in this sentence. It is amazing how much can be discussed about Ironman training and racing.

And as a retired Ironman I can't help but be swept up in the excitement too. So much that I was enticed to join Tony and Tim for my first wetsuit swim since March 2005 - that's right more than four years since I last wore that sleeveless piece of rubber.

We went to Alice Lake, just north of Squamish. This lake is also used for the swim of the Squamish Triathlon, in which Tony is competing this Sunday. The water is as green as the trees that surround it and the temperature was absolutely perfect.

The race course, which is 1.5km, runs along two-thirds of a triangle shape. I freestyled and breaststroked my way through about 700 metres, while the two guys swam about 1.2 km.

They are both solid swimmers, with Tony usually doing the 3.8km in Ironman in less than 60 minutes and Tim just over. My best time for the distance is 1:13 which I swam in the last of the five Ironman I have done in - March 2005.

July 02, 2009

One more Ironman in the house

As many runners do, I ventured into triathlon. I did my first triathlon race in June 1999, a month after I ran my first marathon. A year later I moved from Toronto, Canada, to Sydney, Australia - the land of triathlon. Almost immediately I signed up for my first half Ironman and didn't have too much trouble roping Tim into it.

Very underprepared we both finished that race, and enjoyed it enough to do a second one two months later. By then Tim had suggested we needed to look for a coach. And at the start of 2001 we started training with triathlon coach and triathlete extraordinaire John Hill.

John is an elite age-group triathlete who has done dozens of Ironmans including many Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, the holy grail of distance triathlon. He trains with the athletes he coaches and is very serious about the sport, both as an athlete and as a coach.

His group of athletes changes but invariably attracts high-achieving athletes. Some have joined him as beginners and are now professional triathletes. Others are like himself, elite amateur athletes, and some just like to finish that Ironman or improve their previous time.

I trained with John for 4 1/2 years, and he coached me to five Ironman finishes, a 3/4 Ironman, a dozen half Ironmans, and numerous other shorter triathlons. I learnt a lot from him, lessons that I still apply in my marathon running today. Tim trained with him longer but has switched to a new coach this year.

During our time training with John's group we met some great people on early morning rides, runs and swims. Triathlon attracts a wide array of people with one main thing in common: we all love a good challenge.

Over the years that we trained with John and his evolving group in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, we met people that have since become our best friends. One them was Tony, nicknamed Dingo.

Dingo has been doing triathlons for more than 15 years and is now training for his 10th Ironman - the race he's chosen is Ironman Canada, which Tim is also preparing for. Dingo's partner Gina, one of my best friends, has also signed up - it will be her third Ironman.

Dingo had some long-service leave up his sleeve and decided to spend part of that training and racing in British Columbia, moving in with us for two months. Those two months started yesterday, as I picked him up from Vancouver airport with a bike bag, a big duffel and a small backpack.

So here I am, living with not one but two Ironman training for their goal race of the season which is now only eight weeks away. As I type, the two of them are on their bikes checking out the course of the Squamish Triathlon, which Dingo is racing this Sunday.

Gina will join us in seven weeks. But until then, it's me, a puppy and two Ironmen - someone help me.