Since I started with Triathlete magazine in 1999, the only time I'd see Peter Reid was every October on a little island in the Pacific. Seeing the guy pre-race was akin to an Elvis sighting; he was out for requisite sponsor obligations, but outside that, he was under ground, super-intense, and ultimately, breaking a ritualistic coffee fast, unreal fast on race day.
Now that the three-time Hawaii Ironman world champion has retired from the game, well, he's still fast. But seeing him in a more relaxed setting, as I and a group of triathlon campgoers saw in early March, is a unique opportunity few are afforded.
I'm not going to go into how bitchin Tucson is, I've already gone there, I think we're all clear on the fact that Boulder and San Diego need to bow down to this true training Mecca. But Peter has long known the wonder that is training in Tucson. It's in this town where he's craftedIronman world titles. It's where he could just get away from it all and focus 100 percent on training. So it was no surprise he's been hosting camps out of Tucson the last few years, and where he conducted a spring camp early March.
Peter was joined by his friend Clint Lien (in the yellow shirt at right) and coaches Paul Cross and U.S. National Team coach Cliff English. This braintrust assembled to give a bright collection of campers tons of knowledge from some of the best in the sport for the Endurance Specialists camp.
Aside from the instructors and celebrity having Peter in attendance, there were a few special guests: fellow Canadian Samantha McGlone (2007 Hawaii Ironman runner-up and Cliff English's fiancee), made the trip to Tucson, as did powerhouse biker and newly-sponsored Specialized athlete T.J. Tollakson (2007 Eagleman 70.3 champ), who's in town prepping for Ironman Arizona. The campers had some of the best ride partners you could dream up.
There were classroom sessions aplenty, but being that it was early March, there was ample outdoor training at our doorstep. Thus, while Atlanta deals with freak winter twisters and the midwest deals with snow, we were riding without arm warmers.
The one day I joined the campers, the camp had scheduled an easy loop out Tucson's east side, up ruler-straight Freeman road then six miles up Mount Lemmon to Molino Basin turnout. It'd been years since I'd ridden up Lemmon, so I was pretty rapt about riding up this beautiful, sweeping incline.
But coming to Tucson, I didn't know the ride plan. I brought my tri bike with and wished I'd brought my road bike. Still, bombing downhill at 44mph on my Specialized Transition—the first time I'd done that descent on a tri bike—was pretty impressive, super stable and confidence-inspiring.
The coaches delivered daily lectures on nutrition, Ian from Specialized delivered some fit info to the campers, and the campers soaked it up like sponges. Between that, they trained, with rides over Gates Pass and runs at Saguaro National Monument east. To run and ride being dwarfed by saguaros, and flanked by chollas and prickly pears is one I never take for granted—just don't get too close.
But the opportunity to catch Peter was one I was looking forward to. There was much talk about a return to racing last year at Ironman 70.3 Monaco, but an injury derailed that plan. At this point, he said there will be no return to racing, period. He has found a new passion, one that he's as myopic about as he was with triathlon: flying.
He's been up in British Columbia training to fly pontoon planes, and finds this to be his unequivocal new love and career path. I asked how flying would earn him a salary and he explained: the flights would be to deliver such things as blood, body organs or mail, small urgent or basic necessities to and from tiny outcropping towns around B.C. As he talked about it, you could tell he truly is excited about where this will take him, the sheer joy he gets in flying. I was stoked he was so rapt about it. From it I could also gather that no, there won't be a comeback. He enjoyed his career, but has full closure and is moving on to the next chapter of his life. It happened to Brett Favre just as it happened to Peter: both were at the top of their game, but the pressures, the stresses and expectations, whether personal or external that came part and parcel with training to such a high level, were just too much. So it was time to go out, on top. I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks he could take another title or two in Hawaii, but it comes down to desire to put in the ungodly work to earn that title.
I for one am truly happy for him that he has found something that made him as happy as racing. You can find a bit more about Pete's new path in my interview with him in my mini interview at right. Peter has always been one of my favorites, and the one guy who out-tech'ed me when it came to tweeking about bikes. I was stoked to see him at Interbike a year ago for the first time. I knew it was a place he'd wanted to go, but that damn race in October was always in the way every year.
While I was there at camp, I had a look at Sam and T.J.'s rides, which I posted for you to check out below—T.J.'s Specialized Transition S-Works on the left, Sam's Argon 18 Gallium on the right. Sam recently signed with SRAM for groupset, as well as Zipp for wheels, hence the Zipp-made Flashpoint FP60 training wheels. As for T.J., he told he he much prefers clinchers over tubulars, hence his using the Zipp disc 900 with its bulged rim section. That was before the hype of the negative drag Sub-6 Pro came about. I reckon he was on to something.
Meantime, I think Peter's time in triathlon, even in this camp capacity is soon coming to a close, on his terms. And it's his right and is well deserved. Thanks for the great ride, Pete. It's been a pleasure to watch you do what you do best, now some lucky Canadians will have a world champion delivery pilot on their hands.