A 58-year-old Fort Macleod man followed his passion for a three-event sport to New Zealand earlier this month.
Alan Poytress was one of 2,000 people from 58 nations who took part in the New Zealand Ironman triathlon, which this year marked its 30th anniversary.
They swam 3.8 kilometres in open water, cycled 180 kilometres and finished with a 42.2-kilometre run.
This was the third Ironman for Poytress, who took up triathlon about 13 years ago. He took part in the New Zealand Ironman in 2011 and last year was in one in Texas.
“I just like the physical challenge of it all,” Poytress said of the Ironman. “I’ve done a couple before and I want to get better at it.”
Poytress completed the race in 15 hours and 55 minutes to place about 70th out of 100 people in his age group in the New Zealand Ironman.
Poytress began getting serious about training in September and stepped things up in January and February. Due to the Canadian winter, much of his training was indoors on treadmills and trainers.
“The process of getting to an Ironman, conservatively has been 10 years,” Poytress said, explaining he began with the sprint, Olympic and half Ironman distances. “Each one is a significant jump from the one before it. It took a long time.”
Poytress spends one to two hours a day training from Monday to Thursday, stepping it up to four to six hours on Friday and Saturday.
“It’s an everyday thing,” Poytress said of training. “If I’m not doing it, I’m thinking about it. Thinking that I should be doing it.”
Despite that commitment to training, participating in an Ironman does not get easier with the passing years.
“It doesn’t seem to,” Poytress said. “What gets easier is the mindset in that I’m not driven to be on the podium. I’m okay where I’m at.”
The New Zealand Ironman was blessed with a beautiful day. The water was a little choppy and there was a 20 km-h wind for the cycling portion.
“It was a beautiful run,” Poytress said. “You run right along the side of the lake. The fans are there, and they stayed out late cheering us on. The community made a real party of it.”
The people of Taupo, New Zealand get solidly behind the Ironman, with about 2,000 people volunteering in the community of 22,000 people.
Poytress was pleased with his performance this year in the Ironman.
“It was totally shocking this year. The other two that I did, when I finished it hurt to blink. This year I had a blister on my left foot and that was it.”
Poytress felt so good, he started training right away for his next attempt, a half Ironman in May at St. George, Utah that he will attempt with John Herweyer, Rob Slawson and possibly Klaas Vandenbeld from Fort Macleod.
In June Poytress will take part in a half marathon at Boise, Idaho with Beckie Gouchie, Brendan Grant, Corinne Slawson and Melissa Herweyer.
Poytress and John Herweyer will take part in a full Ironman next fall in Florida.
With a busy schedule in front of him, and a desire to improve his performance by cutting an hour off his time, Poytress is rededicating himself to training.
“I’ve finally come to the epiphany in my Ironman training that if I’m going to continue this I’ve got to pay much more attention to nutrition,” Poytress said. “Before I’ve been able to bull my way through and not pay attention to it but if I’m going to get better at it I have to be much more conscious of what I put in my body.”
“I’m guilty of bad fuel sometimes.”
Poytress has now sworn off junk food in an attempt to shed 30 pounds and improve his performance in his next Ironman.
It’s not a matter of moving up in the standings, rather a desire to know that he has done his best to prepare.
“I would like to finish an Ironman and say I’ve done everything I possibly could to train and prepare mentally, physically and nutritionally, and I’ve done the best that I can.”