Welcome to trihistory.com

History, it has been argued, is written by the victors. But In this case, it is being written by a few of us who were there and are willing to write it. A fool’s errand, perhaps.  Surely, the question will be asked and answered: Does anyone really care? Time will tell.  

Why trihistory.com?  Well, why history of anything at all? Historians are driven to remember, record, interpret. It feels almost genetic. You’re either interested in the past or you’re not. It means something to you or it doesn’t.  But if it does -- and particularly if it’s connected to a physical activity in which you are actively, perhaps even passionately, involved – you’re all in. We’re interested in the history of triathlon for the same reason we’re interested in the history of our families, our parents; it matters how it all came together. It matters because we are both players in the ongoing genealogical drama and products of all that has gone before. 

The Latest Features

TriHistory.com hosts founders and legends in a wide-ranging opverview of the sports first four decades. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Anniversary Roundtable was professionally filmed and recorded for future use.  

Forty years to the day after the first triathlon was held on the shores of San Diego's Mission Bay, the pioneers of the nascent sport that combined swimming, cycling and running into an Olympic event and a lifetime passion for millions of people worldwide returned to this city for a historic reunion to swap anecdotes and share experiences about the early days of triathlon.

Among the participants were Don Shanahan, who along with Jack Johnstone, came up with the idea for the world's first triathlon — 6 miles of running, 5 miles of cycling and 500 yards of swimming — and Bill Phillips, the overall winner of that inaugural Mission Bay triathlon — a 46-person race that had to be illuminated by car headlights because it took place after work, starting at 5:45 p.m. on Sept. 25, 1974.

"We didn't realize it was going to be dark," Shanahan said. "We had no police, no permit, no authority. We just showed up."

That fact was not missed by the organizers of this event, two-time Ironman world champion Scott Tinley and triathlon journalist Mike Plant, who gathered some 30 of the movers and shakers of triathlon from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s last night around a boardroom table at San Diego's Challenged Athletes Foundation at 6 p.m., precisely 40 years later, to reminisce about the early history of the sport for their website, trihistory.com.

Nina Kraft's long road back from doping disgrace

Monday, September 1, 2014

Nina Kraft in Clermont, Florida. "I want it to be like 2001, and have fun. I want to let go of what people are thinking." 

A somewhat shorter version of this story originally appeared in Inside Triathlon magazine in 2007 - Ed.

After she made a disastrous choice to take EPO in 2004, after she disgraced herself on the sport's most sacred stage, after all her nobler rivals deplored her act and the triathletes in her country shunned her like a leper, and after she shook with guilt for the shame she had brought on her loving family – Nina Kraft looked back on more innocent days when her frequent smiles were returned.

Scott Tinley's 40 Defining Moments of Triathlon 

Sunday, August 10, 2014
Wally & Wayne Buckingham at David Pain's Birthday Biathlon

Wally (left) and Wayne Buckingham were among the top club runners in the San Diego in the late 70's and 1980's. They embraced multisport competition eagerly and were regulars among the leaders David Pain's Birthday Biathlon -- Moment #1 on Scott's Top-40 list.  

I must admit, I chuckled when I read my partner and co-founder Scott’s list of 40 big moments. What the hell else had I expected? White toast and tea?  I fully expect many of Scott’s decidedly esoteric choices will be controversial. Heck , even I don’t agree with many of them, and our literary/journalistic partnership goes back more than three decades. But isn’t that what lists are for, really? They put a stake in the ground and challenge folks to expand the game, enlarge the boundaries, generate circular discussions and never-ending disagreements.

WTC CEO Andrew Messick talks with Triathlon History's Scott Tinley about Ironman's role in preserving (and making) the sport's history

Sunday, June 22, 2014
Andrew Messick

The Big Kahuna -- WTC CEO and Ironman-in-Chief Andrew Messick. "We have a responsibility to the institutional memory of the sport."  

Where does Ironman, the Corporation, stand in the area of doing triathlon's history? What role do they take as stewards of the Ironman Dream? TriHistory.com's Scott Tinley asked World Triathlon Corporation's CEO, Andrew Messick, pointed questions about WTC's role.

ST: For many Ironmen and women, their first time crossing the finish line is held up along such lines of personal history with graduations, marriage, and childbirth. What is it like having that kind of responsibility to produce events that mean so much to these athletes?

Notebook

“Foxcatcher” Opens is Wide Release To Favorable Reviews

Monday, November 17, 2014

Steve Carell (center) as John DuPont, flanked by co-stars Channing Tatum (left) and Mark Ruffalo. The Team Foxcatcher logo was very familiar in triathlon circles in the mid-1980s.

Starring a physically transformed Steve Carell as the eccentric millionaire/sportsman John E. DuPont, "Foxcatcher" opened to wide release on Friday, Nov 14. In the words of The New York Times reviewer Manhola Dargis, it is and "eerie horror story" about a rich man "who collected monumental amounts of shells, birds and stamps and...other human beings."

The movie delves only into DuPont's disastrous and ultimately murderous patronage of amateur wrestling, but among the human beings DuPont collected were triathletes. Back in the mid-1980's members of the Foxcatcher triathlon team took frequent trips to the podium at races across the country. The team starred Ken Glah, and included, at various times, Glah's wife at the time Jan Wanklyn, Joy Hansen, Jan and Diane Girard, Brooks Clark, Jeff Devlin and Steve Fitch. Several of the Foxcatcher triathletes lived on the DuPont estate in rural Pennsylvania and trained at DuPont's Foxcatcher Training Center, the primary setting of the film.

DuPont had had some experience in modern pentathlon and fancied himself a multisport pioneer, going so far to bill himself as the "The American Eagle" and "Father of Triathlon in the Americas." He was an odd man at the best of times, but "things went really bad when his mother died (in 1988)" Glah recalls.

According to people who knew DuPont, he desperately wanted to be an elite athlete, but lacked the talent. His patronage of sports was his way of compensating for his competitive shortcomings, allowing him to associate with, and even guide, the level of talent he lacked.

DuPont's involvement with triathlon is an historical footnote (It's not even mentioned on the John DuPont entry on Wikipedia), but it was significant at the time, and lends a somewhat bizarre insider's note for triathletes who watch the current film.

Multisport Sponsor Clif Bar Terminates Five Sponsored Climbers, Citing Extreme Risk

Monday, November 17, 2014

Alex Honnold, in a free-solo climb of Mt. Sentinel, in Yosemite, was one of the extreme climbers whose sponsorship was revoked by Clif Bar, as the company sought to distance itself from excessive risk. Pete Mortimer photo 

Clif Bar, a longtime sponsor of multisport events and athletes, recently announced that it was terminating its sponsorship of five high-profile adventure climbers on the basis of the extreme risks the climbers take, according to The New York Times.

"We have and always will support athletes in many adventure-based sports, including climbing," the company wrote in an open letter to the climbing community that appeared on its website And inherent in the idea of adventure is risk. We appreciate that assessing risk is a very personal decision. This isn't about drawing a line for the sport or limiting athletes from pursuing their passions. We're drawing a line for ourselves. We understand that this is a grey area, but we felt a need to start somewhere and start now."

The Clif Bar website continues to promote a large number of its sponsored athletes in a variety of sports, including triathlon

Great Floridian Triathlon Will Turn 25 in 2015

Thursday, November 13, 2014

One of the oldest continuing ultra-distance triathlons in the world will turn 25 in 2015. Fred Sommer's Great Floridian Triathlon was first held back in 1991 and experienced a high level of growth into the new decade consistent with the boom in interest in the sport of triathlon in general and long–distance races in particular. The event has suffered in recent years, however, as the World Triathlon Corporation penetrated local markets nationwide with a sexier brand and the allure of Ironman World Championship qualifier slots.

"Our numbers have been in the tank the past few years, Sommer said candidly. "Everyone is chasing the Ironman, and there are lots of Ironman races to select from here in the Southeast."

Hoping to drive renewed interest in the GFT, Sommer's company, the Clermont, Fla-based Sommer Sports Inc., launched a bold initiative to drive entries to his anniversary event next year: All past finishers of the full-distance event – anyone who finished the 140.6-mile course from 1991-2014 – would race for free in 2015 if they registered by Nov 12, 2014. First-timers who beat the early-registration deadline had access to a reduced entry fee of $250.

"The Great Floridian Triathlon has always been the peoples race", Sommer said in a press release. "In appreciation of the tremendous support offered by age group athletes over the past 24 years we felt it would be great if we gave something back to the athletes. At the same time we are hoping the excitement associated with the 25th birthday celebration will expose the GFT to new triathletes who may only be aware of the corporate run, branded full-distance races."

On November 13, Sommer deemed the promotion a success. Four hundred race alumni had signed up, along with 150 first-timers. "Now we just need to keep the momentum going," Sommer wrote in an email to TH. "What is exciting is that I have received a bunch of emails from past participants offering to do everything they can to grow the race. We just need to capitalize on all that energy before the athletes get sidetracked with training."

Kona Notes - Go Dana!

Monday, October 20, 2014

It's not just the athletes, it's the hoards of supporters that help make the Ironman a big financial asset for the State of Hawaii. Let's hear it for Dana!

The early conflicts between the Kona locals and the Ironman event were resolved long ago. There are lots of reasons for that, not the least of which is a strong community relations effort on the part of the Ironman organization. But the enormous financial impact to the State's economy is a huge factor too. Pretty much everyone benefits – and not simply because the athletes stay on the island for 7-10 days and eat like horses throughout. Like this group demonstrating along Palani Road, at the beginning of the bike ride, the athletesoften bring entire teams of supporters with them: moms, dads, uncles, cousins, wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends. Hell, it seems sometimes like one of each. Go Dana!

Kona Notes -- Like It Was Yesterday

Monday, October 20, 2014

Standing with a photo of Julie Leach that I took 32 years ago. Seems like yesterday. 

The seawall along Alii Drive is decorated during race week with large images of former winners of the Hawaii event. It was great to see my image of Julie Leach, from the October, 1982, race, among the pics. That was my first trip to Kona; I was writing and shooting for my own publication, as well as for the debut issue of Triathlon magazine. I remember so clearly taking this shot – walking back and forth along the Highway, half-stunned to be where I was and almost breathless over the drama I was witnessing – from as close up as I wanted to be. Those early days were golden for the few of us covering the sport. If you had a press pass you could go anywhere. I did.