Wednesday, February 29, 2012

1984 Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon

The Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon was a full Ironman distance race held from 1983 through 1988. It was one of the first Ironman distance races held in a place other than Hawaii, the birth place of the Ironman, and it saw many of the world's top triathletes race along salty ocean and windswept roads of the flexing muscular arm of the Cape Cod peninsula. Dave McGillivray started the race in 1983 (article posted here) soon after Julie Moss crawled across the finish line in Hawaii as he became the big promoter of triathlon racing in New England.

Today's triathletes would have a hard time recognizing such an old-school triathlon. In this second edition of the CCET in 1984 the water was 61 degrees, but we wore no wetsuits. My strategy to ward of the cold water was to just put an extra latex swim cap on my head. There were no aero bars or lightweight disk wheels for our bikes. I was riding a Centurion Elite bike that had cost me less than $300 the previous year. We used toe clips to hold our cycling shoes to the pedals. During the race, there were no power bars or energy drinks. I believe all that we drank was water and we ate sandwiches, bananas, cookies, or whatever else was handed to us on the course. It would be a couple more races before I discovered the pleasure of eating up a bag of jelly beans throughout the cycling leg of this race. The cost to do the race was a mere $75.

However, while the 1983 race had been an eye-opening endurance event for many of us first time competitors, by 1984 we were learning how to train and race and had probably put more time into our training knowing that such an event even existed (the 1983 edition had been announced in April of that year at the Boston Marathon. Still, I am sure many triathletes of the day where just self-coached like myself in one or two of the disciplines. I was a runner who taught myself how to swim and bike and had never even  trained with another biker or swimmer at this point. Heck, I didn't even know any bikers or swimmers and most regular people weren't even sure what a triathlon was. My philosophy was just to get out there and do it. In the summer, I would swim, bike, and run as much as I could and I had a blast doing that.

I recall the cold flat water in 1984. Boy, was it cold. I felt more like a racer than the mere survivalist I had been in 1983 and I remember trading places throughout the run with the lead woman Margo Thornton (Webber). I also went a lot faster than I had in 1983 and improved my time by 2 hours and 45 minutes, but everyone else went faster two. Triathlons were becoming a sport in New England and the CCET was the big daddy of all New England races.

The winners of the 1984 event were New England's top triathlete Marc Suprenant and Margo Thornton-Webber who was hit by a car on the bike leg of the race.

Here is a the race video as presented on a Boston television station.

Watch 1984 Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon in Sports  |  View More Free Videos Online at

The ocean was cold and still.

I was always happy to survive the swim!

Bike to run transition.

 Trying to find my running legs post transition.
Marc Suprenant was the winner.

 Gary Passler finished 2nd for the 2nd year in a row.

 Women's winner Margo Thornton-Webber

George Luckhurst (pictured) finished one place (5 seconds) ahead of me.

Banana on the helmet for future race director Richie Havens.

The course map.

You will notice that the athlete in 202nd place was a guy named Pat Griskus. He was the first amputee to finish an Ironman distance triathlon at this race and later finished Hawaii in 1985 and 1986. In 1987 while in Hawaii training for that years event, he was struck and killed by a truck. There is a triathlon named in his honor.

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