I was lucky in the gene department. My father was an avid swimmer, a below the knee amputee and huge inspiration. Mother skied in her youth, not too common back in the 1930’s. My grandfather was a top Cricket player and my Great Great Uncle designed the first bicycle gear. I established that I was a good athlete in HS playing Rugby, winning the schools Track and Field Championship more than once and representing Ireland at the Junior World Fencing Championship. Then I got lazy, or putting it in a better spin, got busy with a career after coming to NY to University.
When I met my future wife Ingrid, I was flying. On our first date I took her to dinner in the Catskills by plane. Flying gradually was overtaken by sailing and I conned Ingrid into quitting her job and spending a year sailing down the East Coast and wintering in the Bahamas. During that trip I got back into a routine of running, a great way to check out all the towns and islands we visited.
At 45, I mentally plotted the trend line of by body weight and did not like what I saw, 200lb+ was in the offing despite reasonably consistent running. We found ourselves with a pool in our condo complex when we returned to land living and my new boss had a bike for sale. Dave and Mark had their War and I got interested. I finished 4th in my AG in my first Tri, Seacrest Oyster Bay Tri on Long Island, with I think the fastest bike split, certainly the top 2. I was hooked, that was ’91.
During the first few years I stuck with sprints then I learned that the ITU Worlds would be in Perth in 1997. Visiting Oz was a very early bucket list item for me. Racing at Nationals in ’97 I learned humility, I only just made the team. After that the sport had me hooked, and reeled in. I was on team USA for the next three years racing in Lausanne, Canada and once more in Perth. Then my work career changed and I was working from home. IronMan was no longer an insane idea.
When I coach now, I try hard to convince my athletes that several years of racing sprints and olympic distance is the best approach to preparing for an IM. It worked for me, I qualified for Koan my first go in Lake Placid in ’01. 9/11 had just happened and that whole experience in Kona was one I will not forget. What was most incredible was when Tim DeBoom won it seemed like everyone there was an American. Perhaps Madame Pele was expressing her anger at us Humans for 9/11, she served up the worst wind conditions ever, 55mph gusts, it is still the worst day.
Luck is part of the equation of getting to Kona, it certainly is part of my story. A big part of that luck is having Ingrid at my back. Until recently, there were a lot of US athletes much faster than I but I managed to pick races were they had chosen not to go. As a result, I have qualified every year since 2001 when I wanted to go, 12 times now. Sadly, some of those great athletes are no longer with us. Steve Smith will be one I will always remember, fought cancer just as hard as he raced, he has many world titles.
We retired to Colorado in 2005, it was Ingrid’s suggestion but I had no problem with that. I met my head coach Mike Ricci, D3 Multisport, shortly after arriving along with Barry Siff. I could not have fallen into better company, that lead to coaching sessions with Bobby McGee and help from many new friends. With all this help and encouragement I moved from finishing in the upper teens to striking distance of a podium finish in 2006.
In 2009, my bike failed me and I road a borrowed bike getting to T2 at 5:15 and was the last person to leave T2. It will always be the best race of my life, I ran down Alii with super start Lou Hollander, then I think 79. Lou retired two years ago after trying to finish at 86. The rest of the night was rather like being at the finish line at Midnight but for 5 hours and I got to talk with these amazing people for who finishing was truly the only goal. Aging up is great, at 65 I finished third in Kona, and second at 66. Now 70, I am dreaming of big things this October.