It seems like Belinda Granger has been around the top of our sport for as long as I can remember. Hardly a few weeks goes by without a photo of a podium adorned with Belindas beaming smile. In 2007 Belinda contributed some Tri-Gold of her own to Transitions and her simple philosophy, no doubt accompanied with lots of hard work, has surely been a contributor to her longevity.
I began triathlon way back (not giving you the exact year) when I was in Sydney University- actually did my first Olympic Distance triathlon at the 'University Summer Games' when they were in Perth- Angela Milne smashed us all and I met 'Macca' for the first time- but not at the triathlon. He was at the athletics track running for Uni NSW. He really didn't know much about triathlon back then but you could tell he was intrigued by it. Funny to think that he is now one of the best in the sport. Back then he was more interested in the girls and the beer- well he was only a boy back then.
I began as a very average age-grouper who really didn't show a great deal of natural talent- well nothing like Macca or MJ. But through a lot of hard work, and the sheer fact that I loved the sport, I managed to work my way up from age-grouper to professional.
I stuck with Olympic Distance racing until I finally won my age-group at the World Championships when they were held in Perth for the first time- that was my very first 'real' goal that I had set myself in the sport. From there I decided to venture into the 'longer' events but definitely NOT Ironman- I still thought this was crazy.
Justin and I travelled to Boulder in 1996 as Justin had completed his first IM in Australia and had qualified for Hawaii- he wanted to make sure he trained properly for the 'big one'. So I took leave from teaching and off we set. We were really lucky that we were able to hook up with Welchy and Sian, Chris and Sara Legh. Greg and Sian had rented Mike Pigg's house for the summer and we shared a downstairs unit with Chris and Sarah. It was my first experience of living the life of a full-time athlete and I can tell you that I was hooked! I did most of my training that summer with Sian and Julie Moss- they taught me so much and they were both my idols. Sian was training for Hawaii and so a lot of my training was Ironman specific.
I still remember a session we did in the garage of Mike Pigg's house as it was snowing outside and we couldn't ride. There was Welchy, Sian, Chris Legh, Christian Bustos, Justin and myself. We did what is known as a "sutto special'- it was the old Nice triathlon course done on the turbo- took us 4hrs in total and was bloody hard but I had probably one of the best times ever in that sweaty garage. Welchy and the boys kept us entertained the entire session. I still laugh when I do that same session on the turbo today.
I trained all that summer for Ironman but I honestly never had the slightest intention of doing one- even after I went to Hawaii and watched the race. I loved Kona but was more interested in 'Lulu's' than actually doing the race. To tell the truth I really didn't think that I could do it.
Funny how things change. Finally in 1999 I was convinced to give IM Oz a go- I trained so hard for it and really took it way too seriously- which was not how I usually approached races. Long story short- I dnf'd. My first Ironman race was a failure. I was devastated but, looking back, I went into that race with the wrong attitude, unrealistic goals and a 'big head'. As a result, I got a good kick up the bum. I have never gone into a race with that attitude again- so far it seems to be working. So tip #1- never forget the reason you first got into this sport- because you love it, because it is fun, because it is so satisfying to run, walk or crawl across that finish line.
Now I have completed 25 Ironman Distance races and have not dnf'd a single one since the first- I honestly do not know life without Ironman but please do not think that this means I do not have a life outside of Ironman- the difference is that I have never taken this sport so seriously that it is just a job to me. I love this sport- the training, the racing, the socialising, the travelling. It is a lifestyle for me and not just a way of making money. I still find it funny that I am able to do this sport full-time.
I am here sitting in my little one-bedroom aparment in Leysin, Switzerland as I type this, looking out over the mountains- I can see as far as Mont Blanc. It is the most perfect afternoon- never in a million years would I have guessed that this is what I would be doing with myself at 36 years of age. So my second tip to you all is never, ever be afraid to dream big. I am not that talented- just ask my coach, but what I do have is a hard-work ethic, determination, a competitive spirit and I am a big dreamer- what else do you do on long runs!!!
Friends still ask me when I am going to give it all away and I used to answer 'in a couple of years'. Now I answer -'I honestly don't know'- I still love the sport as much as I did when I first started. I still get to the start line of a race and giggle in anticipation, I still thrive on the thrill of competition and I still love the after parties and the 'post race' chatter. When I was in Lake Placid the other week I had a good chat with Karen Smyers- an absolute legend in our sport- she looks amazing, still loves the sport and is still kicking serious arse- she is not thinking about retiring anytime soon- I think that is awesome. I want to be like her!!
So, again I am living up to my name as a seriously BIG talker- but my advice to you all is to enjoy the sport, don't take yourselves or the sport too seriously- there is a big world out there for us all to enjoy. But in saying that, I think it is OK to be totally addicted to the sport of triathlon- I am and I am not afraid to show it. It is an amazing sport and a great way of life.
Ed: Good luck on Sunday Belinda from all at Transitions and best of luck with the next phase of your life.
Text: B. Granger
Photos Courtesy: Challenge Family