Tuesday, January 15, 2013

#9 Issues 74 -82 1996

The Story So Far:
Karen's suspicions mount as Spencer heads back to the track after picking up Michellie from the pool. Richard is at his wit's end with Carol who has left a message for Mike who's unsure when Annie intends to do  hill reps with Mark who was seen to share his PowerBar with . . . . .

Spencer Smith's Specialized
Spencer: It was not a production bike, Specialized built me three bikes every year, two Tri and one Road.  I was also sponsored by Campy at the time which pleased me no end because I really wanted to be like Big Mig. The wheels were super rigid and compatible hilly or flat it didn't matter, the combination rode well. One negative was the hardish ride it gave with the 26 inch wheels. And one regret - it was not available in pink.


I don't want to make a big thing of this but it is part of our history.
We had an full time employee who's job it was to visit all the local and county councils, police forces and anyone else from whom we would need permits or permissions to put on our races from. After four years he asked to go freelance and do the same job for a fee, which I agreed. He then went to Bath Council, told them he was now the owner and pocketed five grands worth of sponsorship money. When I eventually found out and looked closer at the other transactions he was responsible for over the years, a very worrying picture emerged. To this day I can not understand how someone who I thought was a friend could be such a shit and rip us off so shamelessly.
End of rant, back to the nice stuff.


Leafing through the first 90 odd issues, I didn't realise how many articles Julian Jenkinson had written or pictures of him posing in various triathlon clobber (or even racing, for that matter) there were. I told him recently that he really deserved his own desk at the 220 office.


Ian Sweet: 1995 was special for Karen Smyers as she won the "World Championship" double within one month: Karen's win at the Hawaii Ironman and then the ITU Worlds in Cancun, Mexico, saw her join an exclusive women's club of two with Erin Baker who won the double, but not in the same year, let alone within one month. Cancun was also another double as we had the Triathlon Worlds one weekend and the next weekend we had the Duathlon Worlds. The week in between saw many of us media types drink far too much tequila... well we had to get into the Mexican spirit!

Not only was Karen an Ironman and ITU World Champion but her fund of indecorous jokes had me blushing.
From Karen Smyers: 
I have loved reading all the early220 posts up through 1994—brings back some great memories.  Michael (my husband) and I remember lots of laughs over those years with the gang from 220 (British accents make every joke funnier to Americans).

The ITU World Championships in Cancun (thanks for the cover shot!) were significant that year in that it was the first time that drafting was allowed.  In 1994 the ITU had done a draft-legal experiment at the Goodwill Games and I found out the hard way what not to do; I had surged over and over again trying to whittle down the lead pack, which was completely ineffective at whittling down the pack, but very effective at frying my legs for the run.  

I was a USA delegate to the ITU in 1995 and spent the days leading up to the World Championship speaking at the Congress against allowing drafting in triathlon.  I thought it was going to turn the event into a swimmer/runner event rather than a swim, bike, run.  In my opinion, the spectacle of having a fast biker out front being reeled in by a faster runner (like the Mike Pigg/Mark Allen or Spencer Smith/Simon Lessing races) was the essence of triathlon racing. 

The USA delegation tried (in vain) to have the draft-legal concept defeated.  We were in the minority as the ITU had already done a lot of back-door politicking to line up votes. We were intimidated and ostracised all week long for fighting against them.  (I was mysteriously not invited to the press conference before the race even though I had won Worlds in 1990 and the Pan Am Games earlier that year.)  I remember being so upset after the Congress on Friday that I met Michael at an outdoor cafĂ© right afterward and had a giant Margarita to de-stress.  We remarked that it was a good thing I had raced well in Hawaii because I had set myself up for a less than stellar outing at this race.  Cancun was five weeks after Hawaii where I had won my first…er, only… Ironman.  

As the race unfolded, a few fast swimmers formed a small pack out front on the bike and I was in the larger pack behind that slowly gobbled them up.  I was very careful not to repeat my mistake from the Goodwill Games and conserved as much energy as I could.  About ¾ of the way through the bike, we had formed one pack with all the favourites in it and the pace slowed dramatically.  I remember sitting up on my bars in the middle of the pack mostly just trying to avoid a crash, and Joanne Ritchie (World Champ from 1991) who was riding next to me, saying “Can you believe this is a World Championship and we are sitting up on the bike talking?”  I agreed it was surreal but we had a nice little chat as if we were sitting in a coffee shop catching up on old times.

I had a great transition from bike to run and managed to stay in the top five  for the first 5K with Emma Carney, Jackie Gallagher and Joy Hansen Leutner trading off the lead.  It was significant that Michellie Jones, one of my big rivals at the time, had decided not to race in protest at the draft-legal format.   I couldn’t believe it when I found myself surging to take the lead for good at 6K.   Ironically, the drafting on the bike probably was key for me to have enough in my legs to win the race that day.  That, and the salt from the Margarita.  I felt a little guilty—but hey, I didn’t make the rules, I just played by them! 

Simon Lessing outran the field to win his second World Championship in the men’s race. And so began the draft-legal era.

The Indoor Triathlon in Bercy was probably the most unique, fun triathlon I have ever done. It was in a huge indoor stadium with a temporary pool built in the middle, a velodrome around it and a run course that had a snaking lane that looped around  the stadium floor between the pool and the velodrome.  I had never been on a velodrome before and was petrified that I would fall down the steep sides if I didn't go fast enough, so I hammered the bike purely out of fear (not only in the race but in practice and warm ups too!) It was something like 40 laps on the velodrome and each lap took just 15-20 seconds.   They could only race 6-8 people at a time because we all had our own lane in the pool (for the 400m swim) so we had several heats in the "Trials" and the top two in each heat qualified for either the "Consoles" or the "Finals" the next day.  At some point, they realised that wet triathletes on a velodrome was a recipe for disaster so they instituted a mandatory 10 second stop for drying-off in T1.  There were several glitches in the first few heats that had to be worked out; trouble counting laps and a light system that malfunctioned that was supposed to show how many laps to go for each competitor. 

What can you say? Rina then Karen ending up third.
I qualified behind Sabine Graf Westhoff and Rina Bradshaw Hill (coached by Brett Sutton at the time) who both beat me in the swim by a chunk. Once everyone converged on the velodrome, there was very little chance to get away. In the trials I had ended up down two laps to Sabine and one lap to Rina at the end of the bike and was beaten handily.  So I knew if I wanted any chance to win, given how we matched up on the run, I had to get on the velodrome before they completed two or one lap(s) respectively, then blast the first part of the bike so that I would catch up to them rather than them catching up to me from behind.  In the finals I managed to do just that by the skin of my teeth. Sabine got off a lap ahead and Rina and I came off together and took off after her.  Rina passed me early on and I hung close but could never re-pass her.  It came down to the final stretch of the run. Rina caught Sabine right near the end to win and I fell two seconds short of catching her for third. Mais c'etait magnifique!

Karen with her husband Mike and of course a copy of 220 lolling in the Dead Sea.

Two Volunteers who didn't actually volunteer
they were persuaded by our kids to attend.

Jimmy, Tom, Deano.
Jimmy D.
Having been an inadequately paid 220 volunteer for a number of years I decided it was time to participate in a race. I chose the 95 Swindon race as part of a relay team, me on the bike. I had done some training so thought that a trip to see the Stranglers at Brixton Academy the night before couldn't do much harm. After way too many beers and not much sleep I got on my bike, feeling good for the the first few miles I got to the infamous Snap Hill where the other volunteers (the lads) were waiting to cheer me on. Near the top of the hill and in front of my audience I was passed by a 17 year old girl. I never recovered from that. Not sure if it was the beer, lack of sleep, the jeering or the young lady, but all of my energy left me and I limped home. I was lampooned for a long time after (despite the fact that it was Jessica Harrison who was European Junior Champion at the time) however on a positive note the Stranglers were fantastic.

Tom asked me to help out at the 220 races, he said "You have to do it, coz you sleep at our house nearly every weekend, you owe my ma and pa". He had a point so of course so I agreed.

What I do recall mostly are the early ones. The ones that started at about 6am on a Sunday. The ones where we had raging hangovers. I remember one held at the Link Centre in West Swindon, I was dropped off at some roundabout with no clear instructions of what to do exactly. So there I was stood there, all quiet on a Sunday morning, News of the World under my arm, then hurtling down the hill in front of me came a bunch of bikes and I thought "Crikey, what do I do now?!" The guy at the front started shouting "Which way? Which way?"...........I just pointed left and shouted back "That way mate" and this carried on for ages…."That way", "That way", "That way"......I got the knack fairly quickly.

At least my weekends weren't wasted sleeping-off the nights-before. I have very fond memories of those days and I also remember the fit females clad in lycra staying chez Lillie, eating bowls of pasta. Great times! After the races us lads used to catch a lunchtime refresher or three at The Bell Hotel in Old Town. Brilliant days!

Simon Lessing just about to collect his shampoo and conditioner. You can see his wristband with tabs affixed by Velcro. Like everyone else, he gave one tab in at the end of each discipline. The Timing Crew didn't have to spot bib numbers as the tabs told the whole story.

At the first Swindon race I organised a dressing table with a big mirror and a set of brushes and combs to be put in transition, strategically placed just by the exit. It was a service to our competitors who needed to adjust their mascara or dop on more lippy before cycling the roads of Wiltshire - apparently it wasn't used that much and I don't think the girls used it at all.

Simon's Suspension forked Cannondale.

It might be easier to list who did not, at one time or another, write for 220. Mark Allen wrote articles for us as well as fellow Hawaii Ironman winners like Scott Tinley and Karen Smyers. The thing with all these athletes, whether they were Ironman Champions or Back of the Packers, was that they were all enthusiasts; by definition they were over-achievers, so writing about their passion wasn't a chore (they may not have agreed while sweating over a keyboard) but the end results were almost always wonderful. I was proud that all our contributors took so much time and trouble to write and get paid either nothing or a few pennies. They made the magazine what it was - a fanzine, for fans and by fans.

Lorraine, Sally.
I had to deal with other problems (or not, depending on which way you looked at it) suffice to say that Sally and Lorraine took command of the magazine until they found a new owner, and all these years later 220 is thriving.

Goodbye everybody, I've come to the end of my 220 Memory Lane. Thanks for reading; there's a bit more stuff and a few more pics on the Extras page and I'll leave it open if you want to send me a story or an anecdote: Only one rule, the word AWESOME is forbidden (especially in caps).

¡Adios Amigos!

(I keep a personal blog, more of a family thing here: MENFOT )


1 comment:

  1. Brilliant, such a great read. So much history and background on both the sport and the people. Thank you for everything you did for the sport in the UK and the contribution to keeping it "alive" but writing it up.


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