Canada’s Bob Knuckey aims to push world Ironman envelope at age 70

The 70-year-old retired teacher from Ontario has pulled out all the stops in training to both win his age group Saturday in Kona, Hawaii, and to break the record currently held by another Canadian.

Bob Knuckey wants to be the fastest man at the world Ironman championship among men in their eighth decades.

The 70-year-old retired teacher from Caledon, Ont., has pulled out all the stops in training to both win his age group Saturday in Kona, Hawaii, and to break the record currently held by another Canadian.

While the TV cameras will follow the professional triathletes racing for US$650,000 in prize money, there will also be more than 2,000 racing amateurs for whom Kona is also the holy grail of their sport.

“My two goals are to win my age group this year and, if the weather co-operates, break the record as well,” Knuckey told The Canadian Press.

“I’ve been thinking about this for a long while. I started I would say two or three years ago really putting a big focus on this.”

Knuckey (pronounced NUCK-ee) will be among 118 Canadians competing as age groupers Saturday.

The Kona record for men 70 to 74 over the 3.86-kilometre ocean swim, 180K bike ride and 42.2K marathon is eleven hours 45 minutes five seconds set by Regina’s Milos Kostic in 2011.

“When you are the baby in these age categories, the 70-year-old, versus the 74-year-old, you’ve got to be ready when your zero comes around,” said Knuckey’s coach Barrie Shepley.

A former marathoner, Knuckey completed his first Ironman in 2007 in Wisconsin just weeks after treatment for prostate cancer.

He won the men’s 70-74 division at this year’s Ironman Texas in 11:20.07, as well as the men’s 65-69 title at the 2013 Ironman Arizona in 10:44.09.

But Kona is considered the most challenging Ironman because of searing heat and variable crosswinds. Course records stand for years until a race with favourable weather conditions allows them to fall.

The top men have yet to race under the eight-hour barrier there.

Related: Long distance triathletes ready to battle the world

Related: Convincing age group win for Kelowna triathlete

Knuckey twice raced the world championship in Kona in his sixties, most recently finishing fifth in his age group in 2014 in just under 12 hours.

“If it’s a good day and not too hot and not too windy in Hawaii, my goal is do around 11:40,” he said.

By comparison, the fastest man in the inaugural Hawaiian Ironman in 1978 finished in 11:46.58.

Knuckey doesn’t have the running pace he once had and can’t log the same amount of training mileage he once did, but he compensates for that with swimming and biking.

“Believe it or not, my swimming has gotten faster,” he said. “My biking is a lot stronger. I don’t know why.

“You figure you’re getting older and you’re lacking muscles. My massage therapist seems to think my muscles have gotten stronger and my power on the bike has gotten stronger.

“I guess it’s because of all the training partners and workouts I’ve been doing.”

Knuckey is challenging some perceptions about what’s possible for “master” athletes, Shepley says.

“One of the things we try to do with our master athletes, it sounds weird, but as you age you want your rate of decay to be lesser than your competitors,” the coach explained.

“You try to make sure that rate of decay is less by strength training, by yoga and all of the things that Bob is doing.

“What I see in Bob, even though his run is just slightly slower than nine years ago, his swimming and biking is faster and his overall time is virtually what he did a decade ago and maybe even slightly faster.”

In a nod to his age, Knuckey is diligent about stretching, nutrition, massage and getting on top of aches and pains quickly.

“You have to listen to the body,” he said. “If something lasts more than three days, I’m getting chiro, I’m getting physio, I’m getting massage.”

Knuckey says he isn’t nervous about Saturday’s race, which is considered one of the ultimate tests of body and spirit.

“I try to keep happy thoughts in my head. I try to think about my past successes,” Knuckey said. “It’s not going to be easy, but I think I’ve done all the work that should get me to the finish line first.”

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Local Cowichan youth shines in national writing contest

Cowichan Tribe member Danika Smith places fifth in her category in Indigenous Arts & Stories contest

Child hit and killed in driveway in Cobble Hill

The driver of the vehicle remained at the crash scene and is fully cooperating

Cobble Hill’s Price sprints to first Dirt Cup championship

Robbie Price’s first win on the Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series… Continue reading

Cowichan police warn of cryptocurrency scam

More than $64,000 in losses so far

Campers hailed heroes in rock face rescue at Cowichan Provincial Park

The campers quickly noticed the man in distress and jumped into the river to swim across.

VIDEO: Killer whale steals fisherman’s catch off North Coast

Fishing duel results in eager orca snagging salmon in Prince Rupert

Fate of accused in Canadian couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbott’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

PHOTOS: North Island home gutted in fire deemed ‘suspicious’

No injuries reported; firefighters prevented blaze from spreading

Eating sandwiches, putting on makeup behind the wheel could land you a fine

RCMP say if you cause an accident while eating you could be penalized

Cat badly hurt in animal trap was likely stuck for days, B.C. owner says

Blu, a three-year-old house cat, suffered severe damage to his hind leg after being stuck in trap for days

Vancouver Island woman assaulted after confronting thief

RCMP warn residents to call for police assistance

Island Health issues safer drug-use tips ahead of music festival season

Health authority aims to reduce overdose risks at festivals

40 cats surrendered in apparent hoarding at B.C. home

Officers found the cats living among piles of garbage and feces, suffering from fleas

Vancouver Aquarium drops cetacean ban lawsuit in new lease agreement

Ocean Wise CEO Lasse Gustavsson called the updated lease an exciting new chapter for the aquarium

Most Read