Triathlon Magazine Canada - - CONTENTS - By Gra­ham Fraser Gra­ham Fraser was a pioneer of long dis­tance triathlon race or­ga­ni­za­tion along with his brother Mitch. He was also an early par­tic­i­pant. He is the founder of Cen­tu­rion Cy­cling events.

Gra­ham Fraser Re­flects

In 1984 I landed in Kona to try the new event I saw on NBC called Iron­man, the lucky re­cip­i­ent of one of the 100 lot­tery spots for Cana­di­ans. I had a $200 Bianchi bike, Scuba mask, shoes with no cy­cling cleats and no idea what I was do­ing. I was not alone. Most of the 900 ath­letes com­pet­ing had very lit­tle knowl­edge of equip­ment, nu­tri­tion, pac­ing or what to ex­pect. We sol­diered on and walked the run in herds to en­ter­tain our­selves and to en­sure no one pushed the pace too hard. A few ex­pe­ri­enced and tal­ented people, lead by Dave Scott, had fig­ured out you could race these things, but most were still liv­ing in the un­known.

My race day ex­pe­ri­ence in­cluded 10 ba­nanas, some sug­ary sport drink, a few Fig New­tons and lots of walk­ing. In 1987, aero bars came on the scene, bring­ing with them more people who were de­ter­mined to race the event rather than just try­ing to com­plete it. An en­tire in­dus­try was emerg­ing with more races, highly spe­cific equip­ment, wet­suits, nu­tri­tion, mag­a­zines and TV cov­er­age. Great pro ath­letes be­gan to emerge like Paula Newby Fraser, Mike Pigg, Erin baker, Mark Allen and Scott Tin­ley who paved the way for a new gen­er­a­tion of elite ath­letes.

In Canada, I started the Royal LePage Triathlon Se­ries (now the Subaru Triathlon Se­ries) in 1987. It was the first mass par­tic­i­pa­tion se­ries here in Canada. We mea­sured swim cour­ses by swim­ming them to the times we thought we would do for that dis­tance. Bike cour­ses were mea­sured by cars and runs by Cat-Eye bike com­put­ers. We were many years away from see­ing our first gps unit. We man­u­ally timed races in those days be­fore tim­ing chips. There was cer­tainly no live cov­er­age or on­line reg­is­tra­tion.

In the early days most triath­letes were su­per com­pet­i­tive and the em­pha­sis was less par­tic­i­pa­tory. Coach­ing and ed­u­ca­tion came from mag­a­zines, word of mouth and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. Coach­ing did de­velop for top ath­letes try­ing for na­tional teams and, even­tu­ally, worked its way to the masses as Iron­man races grew start­ing in 1999 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

If you wanted to com­pete in an Iron­man be­fore 1999, it meant a trip to ei­ther Ger­many, Pen­tic­ton, New Zealand or Kona. Races had very in­ter­na­tional fields and the pros rou­tinely showed up to the races be­cause there were so few of them. Iron­i­cally, prize money was very sim­i­lar in the 1990s to the present struc­ture. As more races have been added to the cal­en­dar, events have be­come much more re­gional. While this has al­lowed many more people to ex­pe­ri­ence Iron­man, un­for­tu­nately many people are now “col­lect­ing” Iron­man fin­ishes, which takes away from the orig­i­nal con­cept – the ul­ti­mate en­durance test. It can be also be un­healthy on many fronts.

Now the masses can try any race dis­tance vir­tu­ally any­where in the world. They can get coached if they want and now have lots of in­for­ma­tion at their fin­ger­tips. Women’s fields have grown dra­mat­i­cally – they’ve tripled at Iron­man races – and triathlon is one of the few sports to of­fer equal prize money.

These days lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenges in­clude get­ting per­mits from mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, along with in­sur­ance and li­a­bil­ity cov­er­age. In 1999, in Lake Placid, they told us to make up our own per­mits and send them in. In the early days races were usu­ally put on by an ath­lete-turned-race-di­rec­tor. Now the cor­po­rate world has taken over most big events, which has added more re­sources, but taken away some of the per­son­al­ity.

The goals of ath­letes have changed over the years. They are more time fo­cused and brand seek­ing – the sport has grown to the point where brands now ex­ist. It is prob­a­bly nat­u­ral as the sport evolves, but as more people race ex­pec­ta­tions are very high and en­try fees have risen.

Ath­letes have so many sports to choose from, but what has helped triathlon grow as much as it has in 30 years are the abun­dance of high-level events and op­por­tu­ni­ties com­pared to most sports.

Ray Brown­ing be­comes the first man to break the nine hour mark at Iron­man Canada in 1988 in 8:55:39

Iron­man Canada 1983

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