TRIATH­LETES OVER AGE 75

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - NEW FRONTIERS -

How they keep on tri-ing

Why are some triath­letes able to keep train­ing and com­pet­ing in their se­nior years while oth­ers have had to re­tire? We talked to some triath­letes in this coun­try who are still go­ing strong past their 75th birth­days to see what they have in com­mon. Here’s what we learned about them.

They are al­most all men. And most of them live in On­tario or B.C. In On­tario, eight out of 10 provin­cial triathlon as­so­ci­a­tion mem­bers aged 75-plus are men. In B.C., all 11 are men. But this is go­ing to change. (See the side­bar on fe­male triath­letes.)

They travel light. Char­lie Barnes, who trains in Guelph, Ont., is 5-10 tall and weighs in be­tween 145 and 150 lb. Tony Mar­riott, who lives north of Hamil­ton, Ont., is 5-4 and 120 lb. Both have medalled at world cham­pi­onships. In gen­eral, older triath­letes aren’t car­ry­ing any ex­tra pounds.

They don’t take drugs. What­ever came first – the al­most empty medicine cab­i­net or the train­ing regime – the 75-plus triath­letes we in­ter­viewed take noth­ing stronger than a choles­terol pill, a thy­roid pill or maybe a tiny daily blood pres­sure pill. Most take no phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals at all.

They have al­ways ex­celled at sports – or not. Vic­to­ria’s Mike El­lis swims, bikes or runs al­most ev­ery morn­ing. “Then we spend an­other hour hav­ing cof­fee,” he ad­mits. The 76-year-old has been on the podium in his age group in re­cent world cham­pi­onships. He also set a new Cana­dian record in the mile run when he was 15 and kept up the pace, set­ting an­other na­tional record in a 50 km ul­tra race at age 60. On the other hand, Win­nipeg’s Jim An­der­son, who won his age at the na­tional triathlon cham­pi­onships last sum­mer in Toronto with a time of 1:38 for a sprint tri, says he was ter­ri­ble at sports grow­ing up, and didn’t take up run­ning un­til he was 40.

Their spouses, sib­lings, chil­dren or friends are happy to form a cheer­ing squad, es­pe­cially at world cham­pi­onships.

They have sup­port.

They value their physi­cian’s ad­vice – but don’t al­ways fol­low it.

While Barnes was train­ing for last itu world cham­pi­onships in Lon­don, Eng­land, year’s his doc­tor sug­gested he was get­ting older and should take it easy. “I told him I was go­ing to the world cham­pi­onships, and how was I go­ing to get onto the podium if I took it easy?”

Mis­sis­sauga, Ont.’s Gord Brockie was told by a doc­tor 25 years ago to quit run­ning for good. In­stead, he started tak­ing glu­cosamine and his knees stopped hurt­ing. He’s still run­ning.

Al Ge­orge of Ab­bots­ford, B.C. says when­ever pos­si­ble older triath­letes should have a health care provider who’s a kin­dred spirit. “You need a doc­tor who un­der­stands en­durance sports, and who can think fur­ther than a hockey stick.”

Sport is about the now, and fu­ture goals, rather than those long-gone PBs. For ex­am­ple Barnes, 76, says his plan is to bring home gold at the world cham­pi­onships the year he moves to the 80+ age cat­e­gory. “It’s kind of scary to think some­day I may no longer be able to do triathlons,” Barnes ad­mits. “This in it­self is an­other in­cen­tive to train hard and do the best I can right now.”

They ac­cept that they’re slow­ing down.

Tony Mar­riott with his grand­son Matthew Mar­riott at the 2012 Subaru Guelph Lake Triathlon

Gord Brockie rac­ing the 2006 Iron­man Canada in Pen­tic­ton, B.C.

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