Cana­dian aims to push world Iron­man en­ve­lope at age 70

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS - DONNA SPENCER

Bob Knuckey wants to be the fastest man at the world Iron­man cham­pi­onship among men in their eighth decades.

The 70-year-old re­tired teacher from Cale­don, Ont., has pulled out all the stops in train­ing to both win his age group Satur­day in Kona, Hawaii, and to break the record held by an­other Cana­dian.

While the TV cam­eras will fol­low the pro­fes­sional triath­letes rac­ing for US$650,000 in prize money, there will also be more than 2,000 rac­ing am­a­teurs for whom Kona is also the holy grail of their sport.

“I’ve been think­ing about this for a long while,” Knuckey said. “I started, I would say, two or three years ago re­ally putting a big fo­cus on this.”

Knuckey will be among 118 Cana­di­ans com­pet­ing as age groupers Satur­day.

The Kona record for men 70 to 74 over the 3.86-kilo­me­tre ocean swim, 180K bike ride and 42.2K marathon is 11 hours, 45 min­utes and five se­conds set by Regina’s Mi­los Kos­tic in 2011.

“When you are the baby in these age cat­e­gories, the 70-year-old ver­sus the 74-year-old, you’ve got to be ready when your zero comes around,” said Knuckey’s coach, Bar­rie She­p­ley.

A for­mer marathoner, Knuckey com­pleted his first Iron­man in 2007 in Wis­con­sin just weeks af­ter treat­ment for prostate can­cer.

He won the men’s 70-74 divi­sion at this year’s Iron­man Texas in 11:20.07.

But Kona is con­sid­ered the most chal­leng­ing Iron­man be­cause of sear­ing heat and vari­able cross­winds. Course records stand for years un­til favourable weather con­di­tions al­low them to fall.

The top men have yet to race un­der the eight-hour bar­rier there.

Knuckey twice raced the world cham­pi­onship in Kona in his 60s, fin­ish­ing fifth in his age group in 2014 in just un­der 12 hours.

“If it’s a good day and not too hot and not too windy in Hawaii, my goal is do around 11:40,” he said.

Knuckey doesn’t have the run­ning pace he once had and can’t log the same train­ing mileage he once did, but he com­pen­sates for that with swim­ming and bik­ing.

“Be­lieve it or not, my swim­ming has got­ten faster,” he said. “My bik­ing is a lot stronger. I don’t know why.

“You fig­ure you’re get­ting older and you’re lack­ing mus­cles. My mas­sage ther­a­pist seems to think my mus­cles have got­ten stronger and my power on the bike has got­ten stronger.”

Knuckey is chal­leng­ing some per­cep­tions about what’s pos­si­ble for “mas­ter” ath­letes, She­p­ley says.

“One of the things we try to do with our mas­ter ath­letes, it sounds weird, but as you age you want your rate of de­cay to be lesser than your com­peti­tors,” the coach said.

“You try to make sure that rate of de­cay is less by strength train­ing, by yoga and all of the things that Bob is do­ing.”

In a nod to his age, Knuckey is dili­gent about stretch­ing, nu­tri­tion, mas­sage and get­ting on top of aches and pains quickly.

“You have to lis­ten to the body,” he said. “If some­thing lasts more than three days, I’m get­ting chiro, I’m get­ting physio, I’m get­ting mas­sage.”

MAR­KETA SCHUS­TEROVA/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Bob Knuckey, 70, wants to be the fastest man in his age group at the world Iron­man cham­pi­onship.

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