Tri legend Marc Surprenant dies at 49

Marc Surprenant, a triathlon star during the mid-1980s, died on the 25th of May, 2010. He was 49 years old.

Marc was one an original "Beast from the East" at a time when most top triathletes hailed from and lived in California. As was the case with most triathletes of that era, he was competitive across all distances. He finished 8th in the Hawaiian Ironman in 1986, and second at Ironman New Zealand.

But it was his shorter course talent that made him a top-10, and maybe top-5, triathlete across all distances during the middle of triathlon's formative decade. He appeared on the cover of Triathlete Magazine, and his swimming/cycling prowess meant he appeared at the front of every race he entered.

Marc was a New Englander by birth and upbringing, but moved to California after earning a swim and water polo scholarship to USC. But he returned to Massachusetts and helped popularize triathlon in his home state and region.

He is remembered for his love of life, his accessibility, his playfulness and his outsized personality.

"I remember racing against him at the Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon," remembers Scott Tinley, "and he'd cajoled a few of his local buds to be out there in a van with the back doors open and the speakers blaring AC/DC. When I finally caught him on the bike he looked at me and asked if I was a real rocker or not."

While riding in the company of Dave Scott at the Atlanta stop of the United States Triathlon Series, Dave recalls Marc saying to him, " Dave, this is cool, really cool, we're dropping everyone."

But, while Marc was having fun riding with Dave, that wasn't Dave's intent. "My reaction was that I was trying to drop Marc but couldn't," according to Dave. "His was totally indifferent—he just enjoyed the moment as we were both bearing down in the midst of the race."

Dave continues that, "Marc was a unique competitor in that he never had any animosity nor any vendetta against anyone. He was truly a great, free spirited guy who raced with a passion but more importantly was always there to shake your hand or ask about you. Marc was extremely well liked and respected by everyone."

"One weekend this guy traveled from Boston to California to race us heads-up, and killed it," remembers Mark Montgomery. "That was Marc, and from then on he was a regular fixture on the circuit, as well as a passenger in my old community race van.

"He raced hard," according to Montgomery, "partied hard, and lived each day to the fullest. His infectious smile and high energy attitude made it impossible to be anything but upbeat around him. This news saddens me, he was a great friend and travel companion. We have lost a true legend of the sport and one of the uniquely adventurous spirits that I'm glad to have known.

The cause and manner of death is pending, due to additional tests requested by the Massachusetts State Medical Examiner. Visiting hours will be in the John-Lawrence Funeral Home, 3778 Falmouth Rd., (Rte. 28), Marstons Mills, MA on Thursday, June 3, 2010, from 4-7PM. Services and burial will be at a later date.

Remembrances are arriving into the Slowtwitch email box, several each hour, by those who remember Marc fondly. We will compile and present them in a separate article.