On September 10 the 2017 Gloucester Mountain Man Tri Challenge will be held attracting up to 300 competitors and more than 150 volunteers.
It has been a key event on the Gloucester calendar since 1991 when the first race attracted 117 men and woman from as far away as Queensland and Southern NSW to compete in what was quickly dubbed a “triathlon with a difference.”
Competitors will ride 20.4km on a mountain bike, paddle 10.7km down the Barrington River and then run the final 8.8km back into Gloucester.
Looking back with fond memories, founding race director Terry Hayes shares the story of how it all began.
“It was the summer of 1990 and our son Noel, who lived in Brisbane and was an active triathlete, was with us for Christmas Day at the home of Bill and Pat Radford and it was here that the idea was born as we sat gazing across the Gloucester River towards the towns beautiful landmark, the Bucketts Mountain Range.
After a brief moment of silence, Noel suggested we should run a triathlon in Gloucester, using the mountain, the river and the beautiful surrounds to its advantage.
Mountain bikes and kayaks were mentioned and so the seed was sown.
I mentioned this in passing, without any real commitment, to John Radford who was a member of the then Gloucester Development Board and before I knew it I was addressing the Board with my thoughts on the project.
Unfortunately both Bill and John have since passed away but from the beginning, both were a force to be reckoned with in the development of the event.
It was early February 1991, Noel had returned to Brisbane, and the Board, with their assistance of a donation of $400 to kick start proceedings, asked me could we have it up and running by September.
Without knowing anything about triathlons and particularly as our concept was completely new in NSW, or perhaps even Australia, the challenge was accepted and with the enthusiastic help of John Skinner who was Gloucester’s development officer, we set about determined to make this thing work.
We desperately needed the assistance and co-operation of the council, the community and indeed the landowners of the properties through which we needed to traverse in an effort to establish the uniqueness of the event.
At this point I must make mention of the wonderful help of the late Ted Stanton and also Warren Landers because if it wasn’t for their co-operation and their enthusiasm for the concept, The Gloucester Mountain Man Triathlon (as it was then known) just would not have happened.
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Similar assistance from Mrs Cliff Everett, Graham Forbes and Phillip Westley in allowing us to traverse their properties enabled us to put the event into place.
They were very brave people and we owe all of them a great debt of gratitude.
With their help, the course was mapped out and thus began the task of running the race with absolutely no experience of Triathlons and no expertise in obtaining sponsorship or, indeed, what was required of us in order to run it within the guidelines of an accredited Triathlon.
The number of times we walked the bike track, identifying and remembering where marshalls should be placed was something else.
Also communication along the track and the river became an issue as the Bucketts presented somewhat of a problem and mobile phones were not on the menu. It was here that the local bush fire brigades came to our rescue.
We were learning as we went.
I visited Triathlon Australia in Sydney to obtain official accreditation and they were uncertain as to the legitimacy of calling it a ‘Triathlon.’ They had never previously been confronted with such a request, but I assured them it would be always referred to as “The Triathlon With a Difference,” and subsequently gained their sanction which I eventually discovered wasn't really necessary.
Our then local police Sergeant John Boyd, (sadly now deceased) was a great help and he informed me of the protocol required to run the Forster Iron Man and so we took it from there. To get some idea of how a Tri was run I went over to Forster to witness the Iron Man event and see for myself what was required.
I had absolutely no idea what a transition area looked like, and certainly not how it was run.
It was only then that the enormity of what I had taken on started to take effect and it was only the fear of failure that kept me going. I must also mention at this point my good friend Geoff Barbour who eventually became the race treasurer, and was a great source of strength at this time.
We then realized that to run such an event we would need something like 350 volunteers throughout the course to comply with the guidelines that we eventually received from Triathlon Australia.
It was here that the invaluable, enthusiastic support of the services clubs and other community organisations came into being. The Gloucester Advocate was also a great help and became one of our original sponsors allowing us to canvass, through the paper, for volunteers for the day.
Our concept was that we would not approach any local businesses for sponsorship as they were always the target for donations and the Gloucester Mountain Man Triathlon (a name suggested by Geoff Kemp) would be run for the benefit of the business community.
By bringing people into Gloucester the businesses would deservedly benefit without them putting their hands in their pockets.
However, Gloucester being the town that it is, and without any canvassing, we were inundated with offers from local businesses to assist with our efforts.
It was greatly appreciated.
Our small committee had countless meetings and flyers were sent out to all the surf, kayak, triathlon, mountain bike, athletics and any other club that may be remotely interested in order to publicise the event only to find that we hadn’t included the date on the original flyer. It was an absolute “blooper” and so the whole procedure was repeated.
At our very last meeting two nights before the race there was some disunity as to the outcome of the event and one of the committee persons said he didn’t want to be part of a failure.
This was all we needed and we set out to prove that it could work and it was up to us to make sure it did.
At 8.30 am on Sunday September 9, 1991, the late Dick Guy started The Gloucester Mountain Man Triathlon with his legendary shotgun and it was only at this point that reality kicked in and I knew then that we had a race on our hands and the emotions were pretty close to the surface.
Our “Triathlon With a Difference” was up and running.
The race director since the year 2000 is Sam de Witte and the race secretary – from the very beginning - is Wendy Hughes.”