Celebrating ourselves

March 7, 2001 (www.slowtwitch.com)

I recently attended the Competitor Sports Awards in San Diego, held in La Jolla at the Museum of Contemporary Arts. Lots of warm fuzzies and great memories – that’s largely how I'll remember the night.

This was my first time attending triathlon’s celebration of itself. Since I don't have anything to compare it to, and have only heard a few snippets about these awards over the years, I'd have to conclude this event is always worth going to.

Many of the top athletes and industry leaders were in attendance, all dressed up to honor a few special achievers. Other than the Ironman in Kona it would be hard to find another gathering of athletes and industry leaders quite like this one. Having a few top athletes from other sports added a considerable amount to the show.

Some of the athletes who were honored were: Khalid Kannouchi (World record holder in the marathon) - as runner of the year; Lori Bowden, Peter Reid, Joanna Zeiger were each honored for his or her outstanding season in triathlon; Jennifer Gutierrez, Sheila Taormina, Siri Lindley, Joanna, Hunter Kemper, Ryan Bolton, Nick Radkewich, and Victor Plata were all honored for making the U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team.

Hearing the rags-to-riches story of Kannouchi was great––even more so to hear and see him in person. The guy has run 2:05:42! Viewing the story and video of Rudy Garcia Tolson moved everyone in the house. What an incredible little guy he is. As a representative for the Challenged Athletes Foundation he is a very courageous role model.

So I was already pretty worked up by the time Bob Babbitt put up some video footage of my win in Kona in '88. I've only watched that clip twice before––and not since 1990––so it was a very touching moment. It brought back a lot of memories of my many battles with Mike Pigg over the years. I distinctly remember thinking during that race that I had finished 2nd to Pigg seven times in '87, as well as suffering terrible stompings by him in St.Croix and in the World Champs in Kelowna in '88. Those memories were burning very bright during our battle in Kona in '88 and thankfully they've dimmed a bit. All I know is the next time I go to a race he's in, I want him on my team.

I try not to view old video of myself or look through old clippings & magazines. I've got them stored in a shed out back so I can give them to my kids one day. Looking at that stuff just reminds me how many hard miles and races are on the odometer, and that makes me feel tired! It makes me feel like I should just go sit on the porch in my rocking chair with a wooly blanket on my lap and a big glass of port and a pipe full of something to soothe my aches and pains.

The other side of the coin, of course, is all of the old dudes who showed up looked pretty damn good. But not as good as the women. Triathlon women at awards evenings are something to behold: shimmering, glowing, radiant bundles of energy that can dance all night and then get up the next morning and train all day. Exhilarating women they are.

I was there to receive an award from Triathlete Magazine inducting me into its Hall of Fame. Having nearly all of my old training partners and toughest opponents there on that night was absolutely wonderful. Grip was there along with Pigg, Dave Scott, Souza, Tom Gallagher, Mark Montgomery, Huddle and ST. ST introduced me and said some flattering things. He's a bit prone to exaggeration after a few beverages. His stories about me rarely reveal his true part played in the story but they are always entertaining and mostly accurate.

During my acceptance speech I did remember to thank Jim Curl and the other race directors who put together events for me to race and prize purses for me to chase. The USTS in particular provided a consistent platform for me to strut my stuff for 8 years. I won 50 of those races and its largely due to the excellent PR job that Mike and Cathy Plant did that I could ask my sponsors for bonuses for good performances. If there is a reason that I'm in any Hall of Fame it’s because of race directors like Curl who provided me with an opportunity to leave my mark on the sport. They were high profile events and the sad situation that the current crop of pros find themselves in can be largely attributed to not having that type of national series to attract individual sponsorship. (I'll endeavor to discuss this issue further in the future).

My folks were able to come along to share the evening and that was very special as well. Thinking of them always comes first in my mind, but how do you properly thank your parents for supporting you for a lifetime? All of those early mornings driving me to training sessions and to races. All of those pairs of running shoes and entry fees! I suppose I feel the deepest satisfaction knowing how hard I tried over the years to show them that I was worthy of their support and how much I appreciated it by going out and training and racing the best that I could.

The next morning I was able to stumble through many of my favorite trails that are still left in Del Mar. That's still one of the best ways in the world to start a week. Then we went to a photo shoot organized by Babbitt to recreate "The Big 4" cover we did for his magazine years ago. And we had some laughs over some of the stupid stuff we've all done over the years. I was throwing down Kit Kats and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and drinking coffee, and Dave was having an apple and water! Much the same as it ever was.

On the way back to New Zealand I had gathered sufficient motivation to poke my head out of my back yard a bit more and I'm looking forward to having some more adventures in the sport before I finally kick the bucket.