Nelson triathlon a stepping stone

02:14, Feb 01 2013
WELL SUITED: Graeme Sellars, left, Yvonne Shaw and Stuart Hague prepare for the Nelson Mail Team Triathlon.

Fashions come and go in the sports world. I don't know exactly when the jogging craze took off, but I Googled "Peter Snell 1960" and found a YouTube clip of Snell winning the 800m at the Rome Olympic Games. How inspirational was that?

I was only 12 at the time. In those days, you heard the news of the games over the radio and in the newspaper. Six to 12 months later, a movie of the highlights would arrive.

I remember watching it and running all the way home in the darkness, feeling as if I, too, was an Olympic athlete, instead of a lowly third former at Whangarei Boys' High School.

The philosophy of Arthur Lydiard started to percolate through running circles, but it was James Fixx's 1977 work, The Complete Book of Running, that firmly established the running craze in the United States.

It spread around the world, with the marathon becoming the rite of passage that hobby runners aspired to - never mind if they were suited to it or sufficiently well prepared.

It was a strange irony that in 1984, at the age of 52, Fixx died of a heart attack while running, causing all sceptical couch potatoes to chorus "I told you so."


The running craze fragmented into various distances, then cycling came along, to be splintered in turn to road and mountainbike disciplines.

Triathlon got into the mix and so did sea swimming. Now there's an infinite variety of sport, but as the options have increased, so has the number of people taking part.

We're healthier as a nation for it, despite obesity being on the rise.

Strangely, the half-ironman distance triathlon has become the latest challenge to aspire to.

On the back of that, more and more runners and cyclists are looking to the pool to add the third and scariest discipline.

The Nelson Mail Team Triathlon offers the ideal environment for people to face their swimming fears and have a preliminary skirmish in the triathlon world.

Stuart Hague is well known as the face of Athletics Nelson. He's at all the pub runs, half-marathon and club races through the winter.

Stu entered his first half-marathon in 1986, when he ran Buller. Since then he's racked up two marathons and more than 150 half-marathons and countless other events.

He blames his mates in team Yeah Nah for his entry into the team tri - they blame him.

Whatever the truth, a prime motivation for their entry is the support of their mates and the desire to beat them.

As Stu says, "results don't really matter but as always I would like to have a better overall time than my team-mates, as the slowest shouts the first round".

The non-intimidating nature of the race helped Graeme Sellars with his decision to be part of a team.

"We went to watch last year and I was so inspired watching all kinds of people taking part and having fun, I knew at that point I wanted to be part of the event."

Yvonne Shaw is noted as a race walker. In 2006, she was 30kg heavier than she is today.

She started running, but switched to the walk discipline. In 2007, she was third in her age group of recreational walkers at the Buller half-marathon. The next year, she was first in all age groups, then she got into race walking.

The normal round of injuries has changed her to a runner and she will try that at Buller next week.

What all the team members have in common is that they are well experienced athletes ready for a new challenge.

The universal challenge is the swim. For the past two years they've considered doing the team tri and said "yeah", then said "nah".

Yvonne was probably the first to take the initiative, having coaching sessions with Lionel Padial.

She has given the other two some hints as they line up on Tahunanui Beach for regular swims.

Both Graeme and Yvonne have had a shot at the Port Nelson Sea Swims.

"I did my first sea swim last week. Was pretty scary. Nearly came last, but you have to start somewhere and I would love to do a half-ironman," Yvonne said.

Graeme's first sea swim helped him conquer a few fears: "Up to last week's first sea swim, the biggest challenge would have to be the swim, but now it will probably be the bike leg and transition."

Stu hasn't swum much for 30 years. I've lent him a wetsuit and hope to see him at sea swims soon. He is an experienced competitor and when he mentioned to me that the half-ironman would be a good thing to do next year, I'm not entirely sure he was kidding.