Erin Baker

Interview conducted October '99
by Dan Empfield

Every once in a while an athlete comes along who simply dominates an entire sport. Mark Allen is well known as being the man who fulfilled that promise in triathlon. Mark and his exploits are well known to triathletes because of his many Ironman & Nice victories, his equal prowess at short course and the fact, quite frankly, that he is a man and not a woman.

Erin Baker is every bit the equal to Mark Allen. She "only" won the Ironman twice, but the event never meant that much to her. What Baker is most known for is her sheer and complete dominance in any event she wanted to win and was prepared to win--any race at any distance.

She was also known for telling it like it was. This got her in the dutch with certain pro athletes (not that she cared). Like when she spoke out against start money, admonishing race directors to throw the cash into the prize purse (that went over like a lead balloon to the pros who were hauling in several thou just to show up).

Erin Baker now lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, with husband of nine years (and contributor to SlowTwitch) Scott Molina, and a boy and girl with red freckles, flaming red hair, and singsong Kiwi brogues. She no longer does triathlons, but regularly beats up on city officials who dare stand in her way (more below).

SlowTwitch is proud to bring you Erin Baker. Even in retirement she is not afraid to tell it exactly how she sees it...

ST: When you look back on it all, which multisport accomplishments are you the most proud of?

EB: I was most proud of winning the Bix Road Race [running race in Iowa] in a record time that was never beaten. They have since shortened the course a few blocks and hence I don't have the record anymore.  Nice [Triathlon in France] was always a great event for me, especially the year I won by 43, I think, minutes and ran extremely fast, only approximately five minutes behind Mark in 32 kilometers. Those were just incredible days when I just flew along and it all came together and it was magic.  Hawaii, OK, but I never loved it and never really loved the victory.

Hawaii Two firsts

Two seconds

Nice Three firsts
World Tri Champs Two firsts
World Du Champs One first
Zofingen Two firsts
ST
: What do you think about the racers of today? Do they impress you as a group? Or do you think they were not made of the same stuff as racers of the '80s and early '90s?

EB: Of course you are not allowed to say it (!), but in the women's field it's still the same people, really, and they don't run any faster.  I am still waiting for a GREAT runner to come along and blow them all away.  Having said that, there is some great talent amongst the young Aussies, but still nobody who can run a 31 minute ten thousand on the track.  I think ditto really goes for the guys.

Considering they don't have to bike their rings off anymore, I would expect they should run REALLY fast.  They are also a little too much the primadonna for my likings - don't race much, all need coaches, managers, trainers, etcetera, etcetera.

ST: What was the best trip every year? Zofingen? Nice? Or something smaller and more remote?

EB: Loved Europe, ALL of it. Not keen on the islands. Probably Zofingen was way up there.

ST: How did you and Skid [husband Scott Molina] get together? I never heard that story.

EB: Met him at Provo, Utah. I was on my way back to New Zealand to QUIT triathlon. It was July of '88.  The lift door opened and there he was, he asked ME to breakfast, we went out to dinner that night and back to Boulder together [wink] two days later. Love at first bite!

ST: You've got two young 'uns. Are they going to follow in the athletic footsteps of their parents?

EB: No, the sport was too hard and too debilitating. HOWEVER, we feel like shits now for SERIOUSLY considering having Tandia in tennis now (she is three!), and Miguel is just starting golf. To balance and justify all that, however, they both take French: Miguel has for two-and-three-quarters years; Tandia starts ballet next week; and Miguel goes to advanced maths!

ST: Where do you think the sport is going? Are there any organizations out there that you're rooting for? Or against?

EB: IOC are the shits, useless corrupt old men. Officials and administrators in general are looking out for themselves, much like politicians.  On drugs, I think it should be open 'slather.' Nobody really knows what the next person is taking, there is no level playing field, and I guess if athletes want to pump themselves full of crap then it's their own personal decision. 

ST: Who devised your training regimen? Weren't you coached by John Hellemans? I think everybody would like to know the secret of your success.

EB: John helped me a little at first, and he was very hard on me! But I really was self-trained. I just trained as much as my body would handle, and that was a shitload. I trained and trained, and I trained more if I had time. I never got injured, so I would often do more in case somebody else was training while I was resting.  I was exactly like Scott Molina in that respect; we were peas from the same pod living on different sides of the planet. When I was a swimmer I was training ten sessions a week by the time I was 11 years old.  I often trained in a non-heated pool in NEW ZEALAND. ALSO, I ran extremely hard every single track session-- almost every week.  I would run six by one-thousand metres descending from 3:15 in BOULDER.  I would run my quarters descending from 70 seconds. I would feel sicker in my track sessions than in my races!

ST: Skid is not just talented, he truly loves to do gnarly outdoorsy stuff. He's kind of crazed in that way. Are you likewise afflicted? I always got the impression you liked running and riding up to a point, but then it was sort of like going to work for you. But maybe I've got that wrong.

EB: You are completely correct.  He loves it.  To me it was a JOB. I still like to be a little fit, but I have no triathlon in my blood at all.

ST: You're a councilperson now, are you not? In Christchurch? You used to deal with those who got in your way by taking them uptempo, out of their heartrate zones. How do you deal with city politicians?

EB: I really have not worked it out yet, BUT I have a certain cunning that I had in sport; I put myself in the position of "achievement." I am on outside boards so I interact with successful and powerful business people.  But mainly MOST people are LAZY, so they have little ability to succeed because they don't have a clue about hard work, so it's very easy to wear people down.