Sunday, March 20, 2011

Who said older people are not competitive

TAUPO IRONMAN, Saturday 5 March 2011

A GREAT ARTICLE BELOW>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The Contest of the Calliopeans Taupo 2011

Most of the media coverage before Ironman this year focused on the contest between the two race favourites, would the young pretender Terenzo Bozzone knock the reigning champion Cameron Brown, 13 years his senior, off his throne. In the event once Cameron caught up with Terenzo on the bike halfway through the race that proved to be the end of the challenge with the pretender having to settle for second once again.

Zero media attention was given to the contest between two Calliope athletes. Little wonder as the younger of the two 72 year old Tony Jackson had always won in the nine ironman they had both competed in together. Not only won but won comfortably. But, as the Tiger Wood incident shows, every champion is human. One week out from race day rumours were rife amongst the running community in Auckland that Jackson had been admitted to hospital; that he was back home;that he had had some sort of stroke; that he had been ordered to have absolute rest for two weeks. Nobody however was brave enough to say out loud what they thought; that he would not be able to compete in the New Zealand ironman on Saturday, something he had done on the first Saturday in March every year for the last 26 years.

But rumours are not always fact. When Jackson was asked at the pre event pasta party  how his training had been going he replied "absolutely perfectly" and credited his fitness to his hard driving coach (his wife). Like a true champion not a whisper of any reason for a sub par performance. Later in the evening Cameron Brown took centre stage. Instead of dwelling on his own disappointments and setbacks he spoke on how much he admired those further down the field who had to struggle to make it. Like Tony Jackson who just a fortnight ago was admitted to hospital !  A sympathetic gasp went up from almost all the 1500 people present. One person who did not gasp was Garth Barfoot, a fellow member of the Calliope running club. His mindset had already moved to that of a hunter who senses his prey is wounded, this year of all years was the year to make history. The contest was on.

The swim start saw Barfoot getting over-hyped up by the noise of the cannon and take off like a younger man. Jackson took his time, reeling in his club mate at the 3 km mark. Barfoot retaliated by infecting Jackson with his cramp so that Jackson was forced to stop and stretch his affected leg down towards the lake bottom. Recovering quickly Jackson took the lead again but became disorientated in the near white out conditions created by the torrential rain hitting the lake surface. Barfoot meanwhile put his effort into seeking out the pole line. After the race Barfoot confessed that had seen Jackson swimming out to sea but at the time his thoughts were more about beating his friend  than saving him. And beat him he did, by just 12 seconds in an 106 minute swim.

Watching this drama shoreside were their wives. The taughtness on Verna Cook-Jacksons normally smiling face face betrayed the extent of her concern, understandably as her husband was 20 minutes outside his usual time. In contrast Judy Barfoot was visibly pleased to see her husband finish, with 5 minutes ahead of his last Taupo time being the bonus on the cake.She yelled out as loudly as any lady of her age can "Well done, well done". Her husband did not even hear her, perhaps because another hundred people were yelling the same thing.

On the 182 km bike leg Barfoot, showing the fitness he had achieved in his recent once round Lake Taupo and twice around Coromandel Peninsular endurance cycle races, put the hammer down in the wet and cool conditions. Jackson struggled as best he could, no doubt regretting the wonderful six months holiday they had just had in England and the Continent. By the time he got to  the exit of the bike transition to start the run he was 42 minutes down on Barfoot, one minute to make up on every kilometre of the run. On whom was the smart money going now?  It was definitely a case of "hold on to your tickets folks".

A silent spectator to this contest of the Calliopeans, Cushla Barfoot, was sitting in front of her computer in an apartment in Istanbul. As her father passed the electronic measuring point at each quarter his running speed  flashed up on the screen; first quarter 4..41miles per hour, second quarter 3.63 mph, third quarter 3.51 mph. Her heart began to sink. To take her mind off the memory of her fathers last ironman race at Taupo when he missed the official finish by 3 minutes she looked up Tony Jackson another competitor still out in the field and  whose name she could recall. His comparative speeds were 4.15 mph, 4.11 mph and  4.26 mph. She thought of that normally delightful story of the hare and the tortoise but the problem was her father looked like he would end up being the hare. Meanwhile out in the misty rain on airport hill with 6 km to go the hunted passed the hunter. Not a word was said; neither had the energy left to create an appropriate comment. Back in Turkey the results flicked effortlessly onto the screen. Jackson finish time 16 hours 34 mins (last quarter 4 .27 mph), Barfoot finish time 16 hours 43 mins (last quarter 3.43 mph).. The contest was over, one was the victor, the other was the loser.

In the recovery tent the medical assessment team sat the two Calliopeans beside each other. Barfoot, as a good loser should, congratulated a subdued Jackson on his win and on his record breaking 28th New Zealand ironman finish.

"Thanks Garth but what has got into you, why are you looking so happy?"

"Well Tony, the answer is easy. I have finished the race with 16 minutes to spare, I am not the last ( there were 9 finishers behind  plus another 58 starters who did not finish)  but best of all I am now, at the age of 74 years and 9 months, the oldest New Zealander to have finished an ironman.

contributed by a special correspondent


Kiri said...

Go Dad! You are such an inspiration!


Anonymous said...

Hello Keegan!
I'm Daniel Balsa, reporter of VO2, a Brazilian Magazine, how are you?
We would like to do a interview with you to talk about Ironman Brazil 2011. Can you send a e-mail for me?
My e-mail is
Thank you and good luck in our country!
Daniel Balsa

Keegan Williams said...

Hi Daniel

I just send you a email