Even at 8am Cozumel was a sweat box as triathletes of all shapes and sizes, ages and abilities gathered for the opening day of the 28th ITU Triathlon World Championships.
It was the traditional Aquathlon day – a 2.5km run, followed by a 1km swim and another 2.5km run.
The heat and the humidity and the appearance of Alistair Brownlee were the biggest talking points as maybe the greatest of all-time, the dual Olympic triathlon rubbed shoulders with the rank and file – amongst them 100 Australians -including two blokes named Frank and Keith Pearce.
“Did you see that Alistair Brownlee is racing ?” was the talk of the town, just weeks after he was crowned the golden boy of Olympic triathlon, again, in Rio.
His second Olympic gold celebrated in front of thousands of fans and a wall-to-wall media pack and then performing in front of a couple hundred people, mostly fellow athletes and volunteers and with just one camera to record his feat.
Gotta hand it to the boy..he’s a champ.
“Definitely my first ever run, swim, run,” Brownlee said after a frantic finish to open his campaign with a narrow victory over training partner, Slovakian training partner Richard Varga.
“I really enjoyed it, it was hard, really hard. It’s so hot, the running was tough.”
But then spare a thought for 79-year-old Australian warriors, twin brothers Keith and Frank Pearce – who turn 80 in November, with Keith winning the gold and Frank the bronze.
Keith, who Frank dubs “the professional” and himself “the amateur’ found the heat very much to his liking…but what more would you expect from someone who hitchhiked across the Nullabor from Perth to Sydney.
It was back in 1962 and young Keith had arrived in Perth from Rhodesia to watch the Commonwealth Games.
He and Frank were migrant children who were sent to Rhodesia from Great Britain when they were 10.
They began running and have kept running – Keith for all of his life and Frank for just some of his.
The pair, Keith who hails from Foster and Frank from Balmoral in Sydney both took to the course in Cozumel today, reuniting these days at triathlons.
When Keith arrived in Sydney in ’62 he actually kept going to Auckland, where he would spend the next 37 years, running against the world’s best, who all just happened to live in New Zealand while he was there.
“I ran against all of the New Zealand Olympians, all the champions, Murray Halberg, Peter Snell, Bill Baillie, Barry McGee..all of them….it was a wonderful time to run,” said Keith as he shared an ice bath with brother Frank.
“I remember lining up against the great Australian Ron Clarke over 10,000 metres in Western Springs in Auckland in I think around 1964.
“I was fourth (in a crack field) with Clarke winning from Halberg and Baillie with the rest of the Kiwis behind me…
“And I set a US Masters 10km record in 1979 of 31.16 in a race won by the legendary Boston and New York marathon king Bill Rodgers….”
What a champ…
Keith has calculated he has run over 365 races in his career..with still a couple to go before he and Frank celebrate their 80th, starting with the Sprint Distance World Championship triathlon with Frank tomorrow and Saturday’s Standard Distance triathlon just for good measure.
Definitely no rest for the wicked…..