New Plymouth's Shorty Clark knows what it is to travel throughout New Zealand, and the world, as he pursues his passion for triathlon.
The 60-year-old has been competing in the sport since 1995 and has attended 12 ITU world age-group championships and hundreds of events around New Zealand.
On Sunday, March 23, the triathlon world is set to return to Clark's backyard for the ITU New Plymouth World Cup sprint and age-group races.
Clark works for naming rights sponsor Port Taranaki and has cheekily asked his boss Roy Weaver for a few extra days off to train. And he is determined to lead the charge when it comes to getting behind this year's event, remembering what it was like when the ITU World Cup left the region back in 2009.
"It's vital and important for the whole community and province to get in behind this race and give it 100 per cent support. It was definitely missed when we lost it to an Australian venue," Clark said.
"The support, vibrancy, crowd interaction and inspiration that is produced from this race is partly what has brought the event back, vindicates the sponsors and makes the complete event viable and attractive to competitors - both the locals and the visitors from outside the province.
"We have the best and most beautiful, natural triathlon playground anywhere in New Zealand right here in New Plymouth, coupled with brilliant training and racing facilities."
Clark said it was not too late this year to take part in one of the many age-group and corporate events.
"Triathlon is easier than bowling underarm to an Aussie! That's what makes doing a tri enjoyable, rewarding and a buzz. The distances are short, your gear and equipment are basic and the time to do the event is minimal," he said.
Clark makes no bones about what the sport has done for him, with benefits far beyond the competition.
"For me personally, my involvement in triathlon has been an absolute 110 per cent life changer - something of a revelation to me.
"Triathlon has turned back the clock for me, improved my health, wellbeing, mental powers, motivation and overall life expectancy massively. It's taught me how a person can go from an ordinary average kiwi bloke - rugby, racing and beer, with no sporting background or pedigree, to become a national champion and be highly recognised on the international world age-group circuit, with a ranking of fourth in the sprint distance and sixth in standard distance."
Age-group racing on the Sunday morning will cater for everyone from beginners to experts, all over the short sprint distance (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run) with a relay option where competitors can do one of the disciplines before passing on to their team-mate to complete the next leg of the race.
The elite women race is at noon, with the elite men starting at 2.30pm.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Do you think New Plymouth's recycling collection system is up to scratch?Related story: Council wheels out new approach to recycling
Get Taranaki's frequent news and sport updates