By: JP Severin
JP: Scott, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. First off, can you take us back and tell us how you got into triathlon?
SM: When I was a teen-ager in N. California I used to hop into some Biathlons (swim/run or run/swim) and raced Dave Scott a few times. I also used to watch a t.v. program on the network ABC called Wide World of Sports and in 1980 they televised the Hawaii Ironman from Oahu. Dave won it and I thought “I could kill that guy!” So I started looking for triathlons to do to get ready for it. In 1980 there were only about 10 triathlons in the world and most of them were in California so I did a few then went to Kona in ’81 and ate a big slice of humble pie.
JP: When did you decide to give triathlon your attention in terms of a way to pay the bills?
SM: The very first pro purses were in California in ’82 and I did well at them. Then at the end of that year the Nice Triathlon had good cash and I got my travel and accomodations paid by the race organizer and had a good race there getting 2nd to Mark Allen. (The run was a marathon that year – ouch!) There was a team there named Team JDavid based in San Diego and they offered to sponsor me, move me to San Diego and give me a stipend so my wife and I jumped at the chance. My daughter Jenny was 1&½ at the time.
JP: What would you be doing if triathlon hadn’t taken off?
SM: Good question! Probably swim coaching.
JP: You and Scott Tinley were known for epic days of training. Can you take us through what stands out in your mind as the most ridiculous training day you ever completed?
SM: There were lots of them both separately and together over the course of approximately 13 years we trained together. The dude could go long! We did a ride called the Cyamaca loop a few times quite solid – that’s 150 miloes. I think the hardest sessions were in the late 80’s training out in Palm Springs getting ready for Kona. He took me on some 40-45C out to Borrego and also a loop going the Banner Grade and then through Idylwild. The heat on those climbs was just unbelievable but he was a desert lizard. Honestly – the guy just doesn’t sweat! I needed about 4-5 times as much fluid as he did and I nearly died about 3-4 times out there.
JP: Back in the day, you guys were racing all distances and killing every one of them. How did you manage to stay versatile and be successful over all distances?
SM: It was a mater of racing for cash and sponsor bonuses. When you‘re winning you think you can do anything, and we didn’t know any better. We were always prepping for some ultra distance races so even when we were racing 20+ races year for a decade we were always going long as there were always at least a few long races to get ready for. I know now I certainly would have done better at the shorter races if I had just given up on trying to win the long ones. I was always useless in the long, hot ones compared to ST, Grip and Dave.
JP: That being said, which distance was your bread and butter?
SM: Hilly Olympic Distance races for sure. I never lost any of those until Mike Pigg came along.
JP: In your career, which race stands out as being your best?
SM: Probably one of my 2 wins at a race called “The World’s Toughest" in Lake Tahoe in the 80’s. That race just agreed perfectly with me as it had so much climbing and wasn’t too hot. I think the year it snowed was my best performance. I was sorry to see that race disappear and even sorrier to see no other race like it in my career. EmbrunMan in France comes close and I loved that race too.
JP: How did you find the transition out of being a full time triathlete?
SM: OOOOOhhhhh …. That wasn’t pretty. First I was a physical wreck with a horrible low back. I missed my friends, the travel and the adrenaline of racing terribly. Lucky I had my dear wife to look after me and she allowed me lots of time to get my shit together. I think I painted our old wooden house in Christchurch for a full year when I first retired. I think I drank a dozen beers a day for that whole year.
JP: How did you come to be involved in Epic Camp?
SM: I started it with Gordo Byrn who was a training buddy and protégé of mine around 2002. We figured there had to be some people like us out there who wanted to really go for it in training in a fully supported, competitive environment and cover some new territory. We wanted it to be more like a stage race than what people normally think of when they hear the term “training camp”. So we held the first one here in the South Island in 2003. We wanted it to be a unique experience every time so we always planned to move it around. I’m really looking forward to going back to Colorado in August and to the French Alps in 2011.
JP: Lightning round!
Favorite Beer? That might be the hardest question you could possibly ask me. Currently its Tieri George by Emerson’s (a Dunedin, NZ brewery). Leffe Blond is my gold standard when travelling the world.
Favorite Candy? Caramello by Cadbury.
Favorite Training Session? Shirtless run on my Port Hills trails on a sunny summer’s day (finishes with a beer or two and a hot tub in the back yard).
JP: Scott, thanks a lot for your time. One final Q, what would be your best tip for the Age Grouper out there?
SM: Get up early nearly every day of your life. Make that part of your life until you die. No one is going to interrupt your training at 5am. Get up and get moving and get something done.