Why I Tri? by Jerry Carpenter
I had always been a participant in sports in high school (mid last century J), but didn’t realize how much I enjoyed endurance activities until after the Munich Olympics of 1972 when Frank Shorter won the Gold medal in the Marathon. I began cycling to work occasionally from Acton MA to Waltham MA using some very pleasant back roads, passing by Walden Pond, on my way to work. My bike was a Raleigh touring/recreational bike with a Sturmey Archer three speed shifter!
Also began to run in the evenings, but as you know, multisport events like triathlon had not made an appearance until the grandfather of them, the Fiesta Island multisport event hosted by the San Diego Track Club was discovered by a friend of Commander John Collins, in August 1974. This was what originated the idea of the Ironman event according the Mike Plant, the author of “Iron Will”. Like many others at the time, I was curious about the Hawaii Ironman.
When and how did triathlon or multisport become a part of your life?
Watching the ABC presentation in February of 1982, and seeing the effort of Julie Moss crawling to the finish line, only to be passed by Kathleen McCartney with just a few yards left to finish. OK, that’s it, I have to see what it takes to train for this sport.
It was several years later, 1986, that I discovered a way into the sport. There were several called the Bud Light U.S Triathlon Series, run in cities around the U.S. So, I began to train for this distance, not realizing that beginning triathletes like me, would eventually want to do an Ironman distance! But being the analytical that I am, my first step was to go to an Olympic distance event as a volunteer and see how it was handled. This would be the 1986 USTS Bud Light San Francisco event, and did I learn a lot from just being there. Several weeks later, I registered for my first triathlon, held just north of San Diego, at Solana Beach, CA. In those days, the pros like Scott Tinley who lived in Del Mar, Scott Molina, Dave Scott, and Mark Allen comprised the four Men pros who dominated any race they entered! It was quite common to go out on a bike ride on the Pacific Highway from Del Mar to Dana Point and back and have Tinley be one of the riders. Pros and age groupers, mingled freely together, both on and off the event. I received great support from one of the best female pros, Kirsten Hansen, on a flight to a triathlon in Ixtapa (Zihuatanejo). A few of the best U.S. women pros in those years were Kirsten Hansen, Jan Ripple, and Joanne Ernst. I became a regular competitor in the Bud Light USTS series from 1986 to 1989, qualifying for the National Championships in Hilton Head in 1987, 1988, and 1989. I was just happy to be included in this race, and was a “middle of the pack” finisher each year.
What has been one of your greatest accomplishment as an athlete?
1989 was my best year competing, when I finished the 1989 Ironman Canada in Penticton. Following that year, I devoted my time to career, spending five years in Moscow, Russia after the fall of the Soviet Central Committee, as well as Warsaw. This was a period of time when training was difficult if not impossible. Thus I entered a period of neglect to my level of fitness.
After returning to the US in 1997, and moving closer to my wife’s family here in Washington, I took up triathlon training again, and since then have completed two 70.3’s in Black Diamond, Clear Lake Tri, Tiger Tri in Colville. Federal Escape sprint, and Bonney Lake sprint. Since 2014, I have dedicated my fitness to endurance training. One day last year, a riding buddy, after a climb up Sunrise and Chinook, casually suggested that I could probably complete the Ironman distance, with my swim and bike times, by just walking fast! Got me thinking that it might work! So since then, I have trained on long bike rides, long runs (you don’t want to know what pace a long run is for me), and Ironman distance swim workouts.
What is the most challenging thing for you to do in triathlon?
It has been both a challenging and satisfying project to see what kind of fitness I could achieve compared to 1986-1989. One of the most difficult skills for me to get back is a decent pace in the run. I seem to have lost the ability to generate any leg speed. My winter goal will be to lose another 20 lbs to see if that is the answer to my lack of leg speed. Also, use stretching, core strengthening and yoga. Use indoor track workouts to improve leg speed.
What is your biggest challenge, and what do you do to manage this challenge?
My biggest challenge as I complete this blog today after Ironman Canada and not finishing, is to remain focused on training for shorter distances leading up to another full Ironman next year. I am thinking about Vineman 2017. Meanwhile completing Olympic distance and 70.3 races. Didn’t do enough of these leading up to Ironman Canada 2016.
One item that continually frustrates me is my love of great food and especially dairy products like cheese or ice cream. I manage this challenge by using portions of healthy foods that are consistent with good diet and exercise books.
Some final thoughts:
….(Written here after Ironman Canada 2016) After Ironman Canada 2016, and my disappointment at not making the run cutoff for the second run loop to Green Lake, I was forced to reconcile that my build up to a full Ironman was done without sufficient shorter distance races and not enough time from the beginning of my training to the full Ironman. For the next year, I have set some goals of shorter distance races, and at least two 70.3 events to gauge my readiness for a full Ironman. Several weeks before IM Canada, I tested my readiness with an Olympic distance event at Heidi and Phil’s. My run time was pretty slow at the distance, and I had that suspicion that I would by very fortunate to finish IM Canada! And I will not race again without mustard packets! Funny story in Whistler was that on the day before the race, every fast food place in Whistler Village was completely out of the mustard packets usually stocked for free condiments!
Bottom line is that age is only a small factor in fitness and multi-sport results. The main ingredients for me have been weight control through diet and the use of today’s technology in wetsuits and bikes. I give all my current results to huge improvements in wetsuit and bike technology from my last IM finsh in 1989. And of course, a much smarter training routine, along with lots of group interaction on swim and bike workouts. I am so grateful for the members of Raise The Bar with whom I train, and their willingness to propose swims and rides, which in some cases require patience to “wait up” for a swimmer or rider with my pace. I feel fortunate to be able train on a regular basis, and be surrounded with very supportive triathletes.
The camaraderie fostered by meeting up after a long climb or open water swim is unbeatable in my mind. The friendships I have made while working on improving my fitness are priceless! Here are some of my personal beliefs.
What was the best advice you were ever given?
Leave your work day in the office or workplace, no matter how important you may think your responsibility at work is. Don’t take yourself too seriously and balance your personal, professional and spiritual life equally.
Do you have a saying or motto that you live your life by?
Well, one of my favorites is one used by Lance Armstrong - “Pain is only temporary, but quitting lasts forever.”
Where do you draw your inspiration from? –
My Dad, who was an excellent track athlete, musician, sailor, and professional engineer.
From all my current training buddies, who continually encourage me. It is very gratifying to get their feedback on the inspiration I provide for them to train, compete, and make their goals! It keeps me going through the hard times.
Finally, along the way, I have collected a fairly extensive library on diet, fitness, triathlon history, and fiction. Some of my favorite books are these:
“Captain Money and the Golden Girl” – A Ponzi scheme concocted by J. David Dominelli and Nancy Hoover. They sponsored a Triathlon team called Team JDavid in the 80’s containing Scott Tinley, Scott Molina, Mark Allen, Kathleen McCartney, Julie Moss and Nancy Hoover’s son George Hoover to name a few. Get more info on Team JDavid from snippets in this web link:
A book called “The Iron War” Mark Allen, Dave Scott & the greatest race ever run.
“Iron Will” by Mike Plant- An accurate history of the origins of The Ironman Race created by Cmdr. John Collins, USN.
Raise the Bar
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