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

The Tampa Bay Bud Light U.S. Triathlon Series event in 1984 broke new ground with a format that would become a triathlon standard. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A field of some 80 pros heads to the water at the Tampa Bay USTS in 1984, and the landmark series inaugurates a new format that included wave starts and new distances. Photo courtesy of Jim Curl. 

by Jim Curl 

The first triathlon wave start was staged on April 28, 1984, at the Bud Light U.S. Triathlon Series season opener at Fort DeSoto Park in Tampa Bay, Fla. But the wave start concept came out of a discussion the previous season at the USTS race at Belmont Shores in Long Beach, Calif.

The Long Beach race in '83 was to have been an unlikely showdown between a pair of identical twins: Sylviane and Patricia Puntous of Montreal, Canada and Jan and Diane Girard, from Austin, Texas. The totally unexpected winner was Dave Scott's girlfriend at the time, Linda Buchanan, whose too-short but quite glorious career would include a victory at the Nice Triathlon in France later that same year.

In any case, after the Long Beach event, my old friend and mentor Sally Edwards complained bitterly to me about the swim. As was usual for all triathlons at the time, the entire field went off at once (we used to call it the "Cuisinart" start), with a single turn around a single buoy placed 750 meters offshore. Sally had been pummeled in the blender at the start that morning, then pummeled again, even more severely, at the turn. What were we going to do about it? Sally demanded.

I was still trying to answer that question in the off-season when I came upon a description of the Bolder Boulder 10K run, which had instituted a wave start system that year to ensure that runners of all ability levels were able to enjoy the event on their own terms and race (or not) at their own pace.

"If you just fired the gun and everybody took off, most people wouldn't be able to ever get up to speed and race," Bolder Boulder founder Steve Bosley, recalled at a recent talk at Colorado University. Bosely is now a member of the CU Board of Regents. In 2014, his race will deploy 104 waves to accommodate some 51,000 runners.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

It was a cold December day in 1982 when Dave Epperson snapped this image of me in wetsuit #0000001. The Speedo towel was a sponsor-required prop

Robert Scott is on the phone. His voice is choppy and laced with emotion. He has something to tell me, he claims, that will change the future of triathlon. But the dramatic pauses get in the way of his telling.

"I read about the Malibu race."

Long pause.
"Must have been tough."

Long pause.

"I know how to keep you guys warm in the water."

Ripples from the Feb 1982 Ironman Triathlon & The Crawl Felt Round The World 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Julie Moss made history the hard way.  The impact on the sport of her dramatic finish was felt around the world and for many years to come.

The short and thick man in the bar keeps looking over his shoulder toward the door. He wears a tweed jacket with pressed slacks, matching, and appears to be having an intimate relationship with his cigar. The short and thick man appears to stand a bit taller than the other Kiwis who are actually bigger in this small town bar on the shores of New Zealand’s Lake Wanaka. He seems confident in a New York style. Nobody messes with him and his cigar. And I am intrigued.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Mike Plant photo 

He had only been a triathlete for a little more than a year, but by 1983 the legend of Mark Allen had already begun to emerge. He was known by his JDavid teammates as “The Grip,” short for “The Grip of Death,” a reference to what it felt like to train with the guy when he was having a good day and you were having… well, a good day too. But as hard as he drove his training partners, he pushed himself even harder, exploring his own physical limitations with intellectual fervor.

Notebook

Triathlon Greats Named to USA Triathlon Hall of Fame

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Tom Warren in the mid-80's, running on his home turf in San Diego, at the Super Frog Triathlon.  The Hotel Del Coronado is in the background.  Mike Plant photo

Five individuals, whose involvement spanned the breadth and length of the sport since its inception were named to the USAT Hall of Fame in March

John and Judy Collins translated the fledgling, cobbled-up sport from its muddy roots on San Diego's Fiesta Island to what would become the grand stage of the Ironman in Hawaii. The story of how Naval Commander John Collins loosed the Ironman phenomenon on the world has been widely told and mis-told; the reality is less dramatic than some tellings, but still fascinating and always crtically important to the establishment and growth of the sport.

Roman Catholic Religious Sister Madonna Buder, recognized for her long and enduring career as an age group triathlete, has completed more than 300 triathlons over the course of more than 30 years – each with the humility and goodwill one might expect from someone of her religious persuasion. Along the way she has no doubt motivated any number of individuals, young and old, to set aside doubts and take to multi-sport. The media, understandably, has loved her every step of the way.

Pro triathlete Mike Pigg announced himself to the triathlon world with a third place finish at the Bud Light USTS race in Livermore, Calif., in 1985 and was a major factor in every race he entered after that. With his family often in attendance at his races, wearing pink "Pigg Power" T-shirts, Mike Pigg was the first triathlete to consistently and successfully challenge the reign of the Big Four – Allen, Scott, Tinley and Molina – at Olympic-distance races across the country. Appropriately, his best finish at the Ironman in Kona came with a second place to his old USTS rival, Scott Molina.

The iconoclastic Tom Warren, winner of the 1978 "Iron Man" Triathlon on Ohau, personified the early days of the sport with a lifestyle and philosophy that was beholden to no preconceived notions of conformity. It was as much Warren's personality as the Iron Man itself, that turned Barry McDermott's article in Sports Illustrated that year into a cornerstone of the multisport movement. No one has every collected the wisdom of Tom Warren in a book of quotations, but someone should. "Why should you assume you should go slower when you get tired? He mused. "Why not try going faster?" And, "I don't care much to go back and try a goal after I've failed, he said. "Because I already have it figured out."

Former Winners Still Going Strong in Kona

Friday, January 24, 2014

Mike Plant with Gordon Haller, winner of the first Ironman race in 1978, at the 2013 event in Kona. 

Among the Age-Groupers at the 2013 the Go-Pro Ironman in Kona… were two influential former winners of the race: Gordon Haller, 53, who won the first Iron Man Triathlon on Oahu in 1978, and Kathleen McCartney, 54, whose dramatic victory over Julie Moss in Feb 1982 helped kicked off an international multisport movement. Haller finished his 23rd Ironman event in 14:19:41. (His time in 1978 was 11:46:58). McCartney finished in 13:19.59.

USAT Introduces Retro Tri Series

Friday, January 24, 2014

USAT recently announced their 2014 Retro Tri Series… a fifteen race series of events scattered across the country. Distances are advertised at “300-400 yard swim, 5-10 mile bike and 2-5k run.” USAT website claims that “the Retro Tri Series is taking a step back to those days by offering a unique series that highlights the retro allure that once was. Retro attire is encouraged to enhance the experience and atmosphere!” TriHistory.com loves the opportunity to bust out crusty 25 year old Speedos in an effort to enhance the allure that never left. USAT also suggests that “all events within the series are not required to be timed, but timing is acceptable.” TriHistory.com is also intrigued by what else in the sport might not be required but acceptable.

Happy 15th Anniversary to Multisport.com

Friday, January 24, 2014

In 2014, Multisport.com…arguably the first group to create and disseminate generic triathlon training programs online, celebrates its 15th anniversary. Founder/principles Paula Newby Fraser, Norm Paul Huddle, Roch Frey, and Heather Fuhr represent a kind of micro royalty of triathlon with dozens of international titles amongst them. Their group set occupational standards for what an elite athlete might do for “real work” after their retirement from sport.