Triathlon coach Al­lan Pit­man trains grand­daugh­ter Kar­lie Jen­nings in the gru­elling game of Iron­man en­durance



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.


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

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