This is the kind of story we tell each other over a beer. It’s a triathlon classic from the wooly early days of the sport, when the world was just waking up to the notion of triathlon, and even folks in the business were learning as they went. It was on-the-job training for everyone,...Read More
Welcome to trihistory.com
History, it has been argued, is written by the victors. But in this case, it is being written by a few of us who were there and are willing to write it. A fool’s errand, perhaps. Surely, the question will be asked and answered: Does anyone really care? Time will tell.
Why trihistory.com? Well, why history of anything at all? Historians are driven to remember, record, interpret. It feels almost genetic. You’re either interested in the past or you’re not. It means something to you or it doesn’t. But if it does -- and particularly if it’s connected to a physical activity in which you are actively, perhaps even passionately, involved – you’re all in. We’re interested in the history of triathlon for the same reason we’re interested in the history of our families, our parents; it matters how it all came together. It matters because we are both players in the ongoing genealogical drama and products of all that has gone before.
All oral history is lost. Those cataclysmic moments when a parent or a preacher, a crook or cop pulled us aside and spoke to us of better times, of worse periods, of something or somebody or some idea that came before us, before Snapdoodle was our source of historical inspiration, are dead. Speaking in a human voice to another human being for the sake of their (and our own) humanity have gone the way of the town crier—left for the elderly and the luddite and the less-than-hip.
Our response is this—bullshit. Now more than ever we need to listen to our progenitors, our forebears, our merely-mature men and women of the world who brought us to the table if not designed and built it while they harvested the feast from which we feed. This is the first is what we hope will be a long-standing series of oral histories from our triathlon’s mothers and father.
On the 25th of September, 2014 at 5:00PM PDT, exactly forty-years to the hour after he won the first modern triathlon, we sat down with eighty-four year-old Dr. William Phillips in a San Diego studio. We shared a few laughs, a Diet Sprite and a craft beer, turned the camera on and let authentic oral history spill out into the room. Before absorbing the grand thoughts of a grand man, a little written background.
It was sad to hear that running great Tom Fleming died last month of a heart attack at the still-young age of 65. Fittingly, he died while coaching a track meet. If he’d had a choice, I’m sure that venue for a finale would have been among his top three picks
This is the kind of story we tell each other over a beer. It’s a triathlon classic from the wooly early days of the sport, when the world was just waking up to the notion of triathlon, and even folks in the business were learning as they went. It was on-the-job training for everyone, athletes and race promoters alike. We’ve peered into most of the corners by now; most of us understand where the dangers lie. But back in the early 1980’s bad things could jump up out the dark and bite you hard, unexpectedly, in the strangest places.
In my home office closest, gathering dust and the fur of my support staff, sits 23 years’ worth of Triathlete Magazines, 1987 to 2009. Recent life events had me staring at the carefully dated boxes. What made me start keeping the magazines and why are they still in my house?
In the history of triathlon there is perhaps no more significant race than the first U.S. Triathlon Series event on June 12, 1982 at Torrey Pines State Beach in San Diego, California. It was, in retrospect, a rudimentary production, little more than a somewhat tentative proof of a wild-eyed concept born in the brain of one James M. Curl, an entrepreneurial endurance runner and non-practicing lawyer from Davis, California.
I had the opportunity to talk with Julie Moss the other day (Feb 6, 2017 to be exact). I was working on another piece for TriHistory. “Sorry I missed your call, Mike,” Julie said. “I was doing my anniversary ride with Kathleen.”
That would be Kathleen McCartney, Julie’s partner in triathlon legendry. And while it took me just a minute, the significance of the date finally struck: Feb 6. The Anniversary. Of course.