IRON WILL RUNS IN FAMILY
Triathlon coach Allan Pitman trains granddaughter Karlie Jennings in the gruelling game of Ironman endurance
KARLIE JENNINGS, 22 STUDENT, RIVERHILLS
Allan is not your stereotypical kind old grandpa who sits in his chair and gives you hugs and lollies. He’s very tough and he’ll tell you what he thinks without hesitation, whether you like it or not. He’s so passionate about his coaching and he is very honest. It’s his way or the highway.
I don’t get any special treatment being his granddaughter … if anything, I get more brutal honesty.
I was born and grew up in Brisbane and went to Centenary State High School (at Jindalee, in the city’s west). When I was younger, I didn’t see Grandpa too much because we were all so busy and he was flat-out with his coaching. I only really started having a proper relationship with him when I started training with him about three years ago.
We’ve also worked together – he does house renovations and I help him mainly with painting and landscaping.
I’m studying a Bachelor of Commerce at USQ (University of Southern Queensland, Springfield campus) and I have a waitressing job. Between work, training and studying, I don’t have a social life. If I whinge or complain about being tired, he will remind me of my goals. He doesn’t see obstacles in the way, just the end result. He sees it all as a way to toughen me up mentally.
So far, I’ve done five Ironman Triathlon (3.86km ocean swim, 180.25km bike ride, 42.2km run) events. I really love trying to push myself and get the most out of my body.
My talent definitely lies in endurance sport. I’m not scared of hard work and I would love to be the best in the world, do this professionally and make a living out of it. But I’d also love to have a family.
Grandpa would watch me when I was younger doing cross country and school sports events. My mum (Maria) was good at sport and Dad (Geoff Jennings, former captain of VFL team Footscray) played Aussie rules football professionally, so he sees my bloodline. He knows what I’m capable of and that’s why he pushes me.
At 68, Grandpa is still doing Ironman events and my respect for him lies with the times he does. He’s pretty quick.
ALLAN PITMAN, 68 TRIATHLON COACH, FIG TREE POCKET
Ironman is an addictive sport. I started running training with my kids when they were in school after their swim coach suggested they try a small triathlon.
I had always worked hard as a landscaper and builder but my first 5km run came as a shock. When I first heard about the Hawaii Ironman, I couldn’t believe a human could do such a thing. Yet I was still inspired to give it a go in 1986.
The race defeated me but the more training I did, the more talent I uncovered. Now, I’ve done 42 Ironmans in Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii. I’m doing my 17th Hawaii Ironman in October.
In 1992, I started coaching and since then I’ve coached hundreds of athletes to Ironman races, with about 70 who have qualified for Hawaii.
Karlie is very strong. She has grown up in a sporting family and she’s a naturally physically strong girl. She has helped me on renovation jobs and she could outwork guys the same age. She can do anything from wheeling concrete to jackhammering to painting.
She’s mentally very strong too, but she will miss training sessions. She’s bone lazy and she knows it. I’m allowing her time to mature, so I haven’t been too hard on her about it.
To go on and race professionally in this sport, it takes about five years to develop and she is still in that stage.
For the past year, I have also been training my daughter (Karlie’s mum Maria, 44), who has had six children and has recently done her first Ironman at Port Macquarie (NSW).
Karlie has the talent to be the world champion – it’s just a matter of applying herself. Over time she’ll become more committed to what is the obvious path for her.
We get on well and I’m proud of her mental strength and her fighting spirit. We’ve certainly grown closer since she’s started training.
I purposely don’t give her preferential treatment in the squad and I’ve asked her not to call me Grandpa at training … the others have been very amused by that.
Allan Pitman with granddaughter Karlie Jennings: “I’ve asked her not to call me Grandpa at training”; ( above) endurance work for the cycling leg of triathlon. Pictures: Russell Shakespeare