My mom and dad gave us a box of old photos when we visited this weekend and this one really blew me away. This is me in the swim to bike transition at the Final Conflict Half-Ironman in Slidell, LA in September of 1985.
I’m not sure what’s funniest in this photo, me at 160 lbs with brown hair or my bike and all the assorted gear I was using. If the picture looks like that of a guy just getting ready to go for a bike ride it’s because there was little or no tri-specific gear in those days, at least not that I could get my hands on. If you did a short race you did it in a speedo or tri-shorts. In the case of a half-ironman (1.2 mi. swim, 56 mi. bike, 13.1 mi. run) most of us changed for each event.
This was my first “real” triathlon. I had done a couple of sprint distance races that summer, but this one was a biggie. When I called my mom and told her what a triathlon was and that I was going to do one, she asked how far the distances were. When I told her, she said, “You can’t do that! The human body is not made to do that!” I said, “Of course the human body is made to do that! Haven’t you heard about those African tribesmen who run for days and days to run down wildebeests?” She said, “Well, you were born in Fort Worth, Texas.”
We swam in the Pearl River, biked up to Bogalusa, LA and back and ran out and back along the highway we had biked on. I remember it being tough. I don’t remember my finish time, but it was good enough to place well in my age group. I’ve got a plaque in the attic somewhere. I'm almost positive I ran the whole run. It didn't occur to me that it was OK to walk if you got tired during a 5 1/2 hour race. I was 22 years old. I didn't know what hurt yet.
The bike leaning against my thighs was my first road bike: a Bianchi steel (of course) 21 inch frame with all the reflectors still on it. I bought this bike new for $275 from the shop that was located where the V-bar is now on College Main. Check out the steel toe clips, huge cateye cyclometer, zefal frame pump and wheels with about 57 spokes with 1 1/8” tires with schrader valves. As you can see by the bikes still racked around me, mine was pretty much state of the art. A bike was a bike – there was no triathlon or aero or Time Trial anything for the bike then.
I had no real plan or technique for getting through the transition from swim to bike quickly. I put my bike shorts on over my speedo (a mistake I never repeated) and you can see I’ve got my leather and crochet bike gloves already strapped to my handlebars. My borrowed helmet was the now-outlawed Skid Lid (I never wore a helmet back in those days unless required by a race). It’s on the ground in front of me (that was in the golden age of triathlon before a big goofy official would come over and disqualify you for having unracked your bike without first putting on and buckling your helmet).
I’m putting on the big ol’ ski glasses I borrowed from David Spence (future brother in law). I liked them because they had the big bendy arms that go around the backs of your ears. I took off the little leather flaps off the sides that guaranteed you to get the perfect raccoon face tan when you went skiing.
This was before governing bodies like Tri-Fed and USAT highjacked the sport and before the World Triathlon Corporation stole and trademarked the term “Ironman” so they could make a bunch of money off of it and put it financially out of reach for the average person.
Basically, nothing’s the same as it was.