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
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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.
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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. But in the context of what was at the time the faint whispers of a coming multisport movement, it was The Shot Heard ‘Round the World, a revolutionary leap forward that introduced triathlon to the masses and introduced to triathlon the four men who would dominate the sport for the next decade and more.
As trite as it might sound, it was the race that had everything. In addition to the world premier of the Big Four (Dave Scott, Scott Molina, Scott Tinley and Mark Allen), it was also the launch of Dave Scott’s campaign to take back his Ironman title from Tinley; the first meeting between Tinley and Molina (Tinley introduced himself to a surprised Molina during the run, at top speed); Mark Allen’s first triathlon; the first triathlon to offer prize money in a true, professional sense (significantly, equal for men and women: $800 each); the first rematch between Julie Moss and Kathleen McCartney since the dramatic February 1982 race in Kona. Future triathlon personality Bob Babbitt competed on a relay with his friend and future multi-time world mountain bike champion Ned Overend. Endurance pioneer Sally Edwards was in the field (she finished 2nd in the women’s 30-34 age division). Curl and his soon-to-be business partner, Carl Thomas, were working together under fire for the first time in a trial run for what would become CAT Sports.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the first steps of triathlon’s march toward the Olympic Games were taken on the chilly sand that morning.
Before triathlon existed in Northern California, I raced triathlon Hall of Famer, Dave Scott, in a run-swim event.
Back in the day when people were still looking at triathletes as if they were gods or fools, Miranda Carfrae was still in diapers, and fig newtons and chocolate chip cookies were the multisport energy foods of choice, a young man in Walnut Creek, California decided that he had what it took to be a triathlon coach.
Some stories are told through pages; visual text in black and white. Other stories are orally-woven, verbal campfire chronicles that rattle and shake. And sometimes the best are too often never told in the quiet settlement of a singular person’s quest—a regular person in a regular life, denying the banality of his or her existence by asking why not? Why shouldn’t I do what compels me, what keeps me up at night, however measured or far away? I’m no hero but there is this thing that no one has done.