A bit of fun that became serious

NIGEL MUIR: "Since Christmas I have lost 11kg as I lamely attempt to capture some form from my youth."
NIGEL MUIR: "Since Christmas I have lost 11kg as I lamely attempt to capture some form from my youth."

Many of the Nelson triathletes heading for the age group world championships in Auckland got started in the sport by accident.

Some, like Sport Tasman chief executive Nigel Muir, had no inkling that a chance event would have a life-changing impact.

That's the way it is with sport - you do something because your mate dares you to or asks you to come along as a buddy - and suddenly a switch is flicked.

Muir's been no slouch in the past. He's done four Coast to Coast events, twice with podium finishes. He's done a heap of triathlons, raced kayaks, played football for Wellington and rugby for Marlborough at various levels, and has been an occasional swimmer in the Port Nelson sea swim series (and a champion pool swimmer as a teenager).

But in recent years competitive events didn't really feature on his 45-year-old radar: “I only ended up doing the NZ Aquathlon champs in Nelson earlier this year as part of a biggest loser competition I was having with a few of my mates.

"My kids thought it was a hoot that I got third in my age group. Aside from the odd sea swim and football match I had not done much training.”

It was a result that was to have far-reaching implications, as that result was enough to propel Muir into the New Zealand team for the aquathlon world championships.

If you don't know what an aquathlon is - it's like a triathlon with no bike ride. In warmer temperatures - like the Nelson qualifying race last summer, it's made up of a 2.5km run, a 1km swim, then a final 2.5km run. There's no opportunity to get into a wetsuit, so it suits a certain type of swimmer.

In cooler waters, as will be the case in Auckland on October 17, a wetsuit is needed, so the race starts with the 1km swim and ends with a 5km run.

Having qualified, Muir decided some application was going to be needed. “I have no expectations at the worlds other than to give it a good go and not embarrass the New Zealand uniform.

“I have found it quite a juggle to balance family life, work pressures and community activities in with the training. In fact the training has been a real inconvenience to life with 5.30am starts most days for a swimming session with Jon Linyard.

"Jon has been an absolute legend in sharing his knowledge, time and experience and I'm really grateful that he puts up with me at his early morning swim sessions each week.

"The swim sessions leave me a wreck at the other end of the day and more than once in the last few months I have been in bed before my 10-year-old.

“Since Christmas I have lost 11kg as I lamely attempt to capture some form from my youth."

Along with the swimming, Muir has put himself in the hands of run coach Greg Lautenslager, to try to squeeze a few more seconds off the run time, and in the hands of physiotherapist Karrin Aitken-Meehan to deal with a very painful plantar fasciitis injury.

With slightly more than two weeks until raceday, Muir can look back over a training journey that hasn't been easy, but has been very satisfying.

“To my mind training is mainly about character - the ability to continue working hard for a goal despite the many reasons that come along to distract you. Like life, there are influences outside your control that can derail you if you are not fully focused. Injuries, bad health, work pressure, family events and poor motivation all test an athlete in training just like they come along and test all of us in our working lives.

"The trick is to keep chewing the elephant one bite at a time, to measure your efforts and to buddy up and take support from others along the way.”

While he's put heart and soul into training through the winter, Muir hasn't taken his eye off the expanding ball that is the Sport Tasman organisation: “We have a great crew and everyone is really passionate about getting more people, more active, more often."

Whether it's key events like the South Island Masters Games or the Weetbix Tryathlon, or initiatives like the rollout of Kiwisport funding with Sport New Zealand, the focus is on getting people active.

“Sport helps make our communities more vibrant places in which to live and work.”

The Nelson Mail