Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The First Triathlon


While doing the Race Announcing at the recent Re-Charge with Milk Triathlon Series events in Bala and Bracebridge, Ontario, both with their picture perfect race venues, I thought back to that first triathlon that I did in 1981, thirty years ago this summer.

I am not absolutely sure on this, but it may have been the first triathlon in Ontario. Back then there were not many - perhaps one a year. That was it. If others reading this know more, please feel free to chime in with your recollections.

Anyway, at both the Bala and Bracebridge races, the waters edge, the swim-finish, the transition zone and the start/finish are all steps from one another. That was the way it was, at the Cambridge Triathlon held in Paris, ON back in 1981.

At the time I was a distance runner who had experienced modest success through high school at the provincial and national level. In the summer I worked as a Lifeguard, and had OK swim technique and fitness, but was not really that fast in the water. Like any young person I could ride a bike, but at the time did not own one.

For the race I borrowed my next door neighbors rusty 10-speed Apollo road bike. That's 10 total gears - not just the cogs on a cassette!! However, I seem to recall that only three or four of the 10 gears worked properly!

Can't remember what I paid to enter the triathlon. I just know that I showed up and really had no clue what I was getting into. Some things never change, and like today, the big concern was what will I wear, and how will I deal with the changing clothing needs? I seem to recall swimming in a Speedo, then pulling on running shorts and my club running singlet in transition after the swim, plus my running shoes ( bike had platform pedals) and wearing that for the rest of the race. No helmets required for the bike!!

As I started off saying, the race venue was perfect, with a fresh-water lake swim in a conservation area near Paris, ON. We laid our bikes down on the grass at water's edge - that was the extent of the transition zone. The finish-line was drawn in chalk on a park road, not 10m from the waters edge.

Strangely I seem to recall few details of the race itself including the distances. My recollection was that the individual distances were similar to what is now considered a "Sprint" - so somewhere in the neighborhood of 750m swim/20k bike/5 k run.

The swim seemed to go on forever, and I was way behind. The bike went better and I passed many people. When I hit the run, someone shouted that I was "doing well" - whatever that meant. I was just happy to now finally be doing something that I did well! On the run I passed a number of other athletes, and I ended up third! The bronze medal pictured at the top is now a cherished Christmas tree decoration!

I was hooked. Problem was, as mentioned, there was only one or two triathlons a year back then, so I had to wait a whole year do do my next triathlon - which was the same Cambridge Triathlon. This time I was ready (making sure that the borrowed bike I had, had all 10 gears working!) - I won it that year!

Where and when was your first triathlon and what do you remember from it?

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3 comments:

Carlos Vilchez said...

we want pictures!! hot neon, soup bowl helmets, vintage road bikes!!

STEVE FLECK said...

Carlos,

Thanks for reading. No pictures from that far back.

I did find one from later on in the 80's a friend passed onto me and it's in a blog post a few posts ago.
http://stevefleck.blogspot.com/2011/02/what-heck-were-we-thinking.html Check it out. Full on pink neon. What were we thinking?

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