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THINK THE IRONMAN IS TOUGH? REID'S ROAD TO THE START IS TOUGHER

IN THE CROSSHAIRS

THE REID FILE

BORN May 27, 1969, Montreal

SIZE 6' 2'', 165 pounds

KEY STAT Three-time Hawaii Ironman champ;winner of 10 ironman-distance races

Nobody said triathlons were easy, but consider this: more than 50,000 athletes will race in some 45 ironman-distance triathlons (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run) this year. Yet there is still a cruel majesty to the 27-year-old Hawaii Ironman-the hottest, windiest, oldest and meanest iron-distance triple test of all. In the past decade, no racer has traveled the lava-lined layout with more mojo than Peter Reid. The 36-year-old from Victoria, B.C., won in 1998, 2000 and 2003, and took second in 1999, 2002 and 2004. "Ironman is all I really care about," he says. It must be. Just to get to the starting line at Dig Me Beach, Reid has overcome illness, injury, burnout, divorce and his father's death. When he pulls on his goggles Oct. 15, can he overcome the course and pull together a re-Pete performance?

MIND OVER MATTER

The 6:45 a.m. start will send 80 pros and 1,700 amateurs into Kailua Bay off the Big Island's Kona Coast. Reid and the elite will race for the next eight-plus hours, burning about 8,000 calories each; amateurs must finish within 17 hours. "It's not a race where the fittest guy wins," Reid says. Who does? The guy with poise. "A lot of people go into the race confident, and when stuff starts going wrong, they crack." Winds gust to 60 mph on the bike course; runners bake on lava and asphalt that can top 100*. "You go through these dark periods," he says, "but you have to be confident that eventually you'll feel better."

"YOU COULD SEE THE LOOKS ON THE FACES OF THE OTHER GUYS, SAYING, `I BEAT PETER REID.' "

SORE LOSER

Reid, one of Ironman's strongest cyclists, spent 10 weeks in Arizona this spring for intense bike work. He built a great base but bonked his immune system. "I tried to train like I was in my 20s," he says. "But I'm 36, and it caught up." In late April, saddle sores led to a staph infection that in May turned into a bacterial infection. Doctors prescribed eight weeks of couch surfing, just when he should have been logging 35 to 40 hours a week training. But Reid didn't panic. "It wasn't like, 'Oh no, I can't win Hawaii.' It was more like 'I need to take some time off and get healthy.'" He was not surprised when he lost three races following his return. "You could see the looks on the faces of the other guys, saying 'I beat Peter Reid.' But that look and smile push me a little harder. I'm going to have that smile in Hawaii."

SHAMAN YOU

After his father died of diabetes in August 2004, Reid stopped training, then tore a quad muscle when he started again three weeks later. Ironman legend-turned-coach Mark Allen devised a three-week crash program, but Reid still lacked confidence. So the mystical Allen got Reid to attend a shamanic ceremony. Says Reid: "There was chanting and feathers - I saw myself swimming, biking, and running, and I looked so strong." On race day, he got off his bike in 14th place, 24 minutes behind the leader, but then ran a stunning 2:46:10 marathon and finished second. For 2005, Reid is using a less New Age stragegy: he's coaching himself. Says Reid. "I want to win and say I did it my way."

SPLIT TIMES

Reid and fellow Canadian triathlete Lori Bowden were married in 1998, separated in 2002, then decided a week before the 2003 Ironman to get a divorce. "Every time I saw her on the course I was mad," Reid says. "There was no way she was going to win and I wasn't." When both won, organizers rearranged the awards ceremony so the two would not appear together on the podium. "It was a classic ugly divorce happening on race day," Reid says. Bowden and Reid still live blocks apart in B.C. and swim at the same pool. So imagine Reid's shock in March when he received a press release, mistakenly sent him by the agent for both athletes, announcing that his ex-wife was pregnant by someone else. Reid nearly moved to Boulder but changed his mind. "I like it here," he says. "The situation with Lori is not as intense as it sounds."

LONE RUNMAN

Conditions at Ironman are so crushing that Reid moves to Hawaii for three weeks of intense training in September. This year, he set up camp in the hills overlooking a village in Waimea. He swims, bikes and runs as much as nine hours a day. He lives and trains mostly by himself, except when he swims in the Pacific. "I get a little freaked out swimming alone. There are a lot of big critters in there." The solo sojourn tops off his physical and mental prep: "I need to figure out why I'm doing the race. I want to make sure that when race day comes I don't have any doubts."