This is the kind of story we tell each other over a beer. It’s a triathlon classic from the wooly early days of the sport, when the world was just waking up to the notion of triathlon, and even folks in the business were learning as they went. It was on-the-job training for everyone,...Read More
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Here is some of the latest news in the world of triathlons and triathlon history.
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.
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
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."
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!
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.
With the finish line end of Alii Drive turned into a pedestrian mall for most of race week, chalking the road to inspire or congratulate friends and family has become an important part of the Ironman spectator ritual. Which is not to say that too many folks running down that last stretch after being on the course for more than a normal workday will actually notice, but the good wishes are genuine , often touching, and add a lot to the big-event atmosphere.
Spotted this pair of fit guys from England at Huggo's on Friday, the night before the race. The man on the left is dad, to the right is his son, who was scheduled to race the following day. (I know, they look like bloody brothers.) I couldn't resist asking if the son knew what the term "Dig Me" meant, and to my surprise he did: "Sure, it's the beach where the race starts, isn't it?" he replied.
"Exactly," I said. "You know, I'm pretty sure my partner Scott Tinley coined that phrase back in 1981. Have you heard of Scott Tinley?"
"No," he said, breaking my nostalgic, history-loving heart. "Well, he won the Ironman here twice," I said. I turned over a coaster and scribbled trihistory.com on the back. "You might enjoy taking a look when you get home. And good luck tomorrow."
My journalistic skills are rusty, I admit. Had I asked the kid his name I could have checked on how he did in the race. I hope well.
I have no idea whether the faux aero wheels on this rental bike was a local spoof or a triathlete with a sense of humor. Good either way, though.
I bumped into a U.S. Triathlon Series old-timer Bill Van Horn, now 81, and who's been doibng triathlons since... well, coincidentally, 1981. I can't count the number of awards I presented to this guy over the years, but it was a lot. Good guy. Good friend. Hadn't seen him in 30 years or more. Kona is like that.
If you stopped by the Endurance Conspiracy T-shirt tent along Alii Drive in Kailua-Kona anytime during race week, you would have met the talented silver-haired designer and former professional triathlete Tony DeBoom. TH will have lots of good things to say about Tony in the near future, but what nabbed us in Kona this year was a cool, retro-looking, limited edition Kona T, commemorating the initial three-event Ironman concept. A talented designer knows how to keep things simple, and Tony's work in this case has all the makings of a classic. Not sure if you can still get one, but you in case you want to try, here's where to look: http://enduranceconspiracy.com.