Lance Armstrong was to be triathlon’s global ticket to high profile coverage (outside the Olympics) but that hasn’t come to fruition. With this in mind we have to look at all the angles when considering Caine Eckstein’s tilt at Kona. There have been a couple of negative comments about Caine’s inclusion from die hard triathletes who look at Kona as the holy grail and something you have to earn. There are the lottery slots that are made available each year to non-qualifiers and like everything in the world, sometimes something comes along which a company (WTC) needs to grab with both hands.
26 year old Caine Eckstein has undoubtedly proven himself a world class, multi sport endurance athlete. With five Coolangatta Gold titles to his name and a reputation as someone who likes to suffer when racing and training, he can push himself through the pain barrier like few others.
We were chatting to Belinda from Multisport Australia over the weekend and Caine’s tilt at Kona came up. Multisport Australia time Coolangatta Gold and Belinda has both raced at Kona on more than one occasion and also timed untold iron distance triathlons. She rates the Coolangatta Gold on a par with iron distance triathlons as far as toughness goes.
Those who know Eckstein fully respect his decision to chase the dream of racing at Kona.
Let’s for a minute look at something from left field. If we ran a poll in Australia asking people what an Ironman is, the majority would say â€˜a sport where you paddle a surf ski, swim in the ocean, paddle a modified Malibu and run along the sand at a beach’. Now take one of the biggest names in the Surf Ironman series and give him the opportunity to race at Kona in what we (triathletes) all know to be the real sport of Ironman. Thousands of young nippers will be thinking â€˜if Caine can do it I will have a crack at a local triathlon.’
Australians have won seven Ironman World Champion titles since 2006 with barely a mention on the main news. Caine Eckstein racing Kona as an age grouper will generate more news than we have seen in the recent past. We already know that this will be the case. This is a win/win for the sport and Caine.
Both Ironman events appear to have come up with the â€˜Ironman’ phrase separately. The Australia Surf Ironman series dates back to the mid 60s whereas the use of the term â€˜Ironman’ as relating to the Hawaii Ironman was coined in 1978 by U.S. Navy Commander John Collins when he said â€œWhoever finishes first, we’ll call him the Iron Man.” when starting the first every triathlon â€˜Ironman’.
Eckstein has always been fascinated by the Hawaii Ironman and has held up Craig Alexander and Chris McCormack as his sporting heroes. â€œI have been a huge follower of Ironman (triathlon) since 2005 and Hawaii has always been a must watch. I am fascinated by the challenge of it and what these guys and girls go through at Kona.â€
The thought of doing an Ironman has been with Caine since he did his first Coolangatta Gold in 2005. He hadn’t run before that and started following Crowie and Macca etc. â€œI had one go at triathlon in an off season but killed myself with too much running. After last season I watched Ironman Melbourne and Ironman Australia. I watched a lot of mates do it and knew that I had to do it.â€
There are three sports outside Eckstein’s surf ironman career that he passionately follows. Hawaii Ironman, Boxing and Football. He spends his off season pursuing other sports to satisfy his thirst for adventure. While other Surf Ironman competitors have some time off in the off season Eckstein can usually be found pushing himself in some way and experiencing something new.
Three months ago Eckstein trained with mate, Les Sherrington, who is a professional boxer. â€œI spent about three weeks with Les and Brendan Smith (coach). It was a great experience and something that I just loved doing.â€
Distance running has been a part of Caine Ecksteins regime for the last 7 years and he loves this aspect of his sport. â€œI have been distance running since 2005 when I did my first Coolangatta Gold race. I usually run around 40-45km a week for the Gold but it has been a big step up to prepare for Hawaii. I have a base from the past four years. Last Friday I ran 33kms and discovered a few little niggles but they were just a result of running that far. Race day will be my first 42km.â€
Eckstein has been sponsored by Newton Shoes for four years and has built a good relationship with Marcus Altmann, co owner of Newton in Australia. Marcus has recently started Tri Edge coaching and is guiding Caine towards Hawaii and his other sporting challenges this year.
We know Eckstein can swim and that just leaves the bike. â€œI have always cycled in the off season and have been doing a big Wednesday session with Marcus which involves motor pacing. We then do a solid run off the bike. I did a 160km ride the other day with a long run off the bike and felt good.â€ Clint Kimmins is also training with Caine.
Everyone in the sport is going to be watching with anticipation to see what happens when the bike leg is finished. Eckstein is very realistic about the race and is experienced enough to give it 110% respect. â€œI am totally focused on having a good even race and not smashing himself on the bike. I know if I do, I am going to be in a lot of hurt on the run. I want to race without stuffing it up or walking and am really driven to get the nutrition right. I want to do a â€˜nice race’.â€ Eckstein is smaller and lighter than many of the other Surf Ironman guys which suits his transition to triathlon Ironman.
Eckstein has never been to Kona before and would be just as excited to go there and watch but to be able to race is the icing on the cake.
â€œI am finding the sport anymore addictive at this stage than. I think it is mostly to do with the honeymoon phase. I go to bed each night excited about what I am going to do the next day. I love going out on the bike and grinding away for hours on my own. I am putting myself through a lot more hurt training for Kona than I have before.â€
At Ironman Australia last year Eckstein was introduced to one of the more passionate supporters of Ironman in Australia and someone who puts his money where his mouth is, Urban Hotel’s Ricky Jeffs. He got to know Ricky even better after staying at the Urban Hotel in St Kilda while competing in â€˜Dancing with the Stars’. Jeffs has been a great supporter of Eckstein and has no doubt played a role in decision to race Kona. Anything Ricky does for the sport always has the best interest for the sport as the main driver.
Urban Hotels is now one of Caine’s sponsors along with Kurrawa Surf Club, Giant Bikes, QScan (Queensland Radiology Clinics) and Renault.
At this stage Eckstein does not have plans to do more Ironman races beyond this year. He will not be taking part in the upcoming Surf Ironman series. The Kona race is part of a three race adventure series that sees a film crew following Eckstein to produce a documentary. After Kona will be an Xterra race which he has to somehow fit in mountain bike training for. Caine only took delivery of his mountain bike last week and will be doing a session a week to prepare. â€œI am more apprehensive about the Xterra race as I just discovered that the bike leg is a lot tougher than I initially thought it was. After these two races I am off to do the Mark Webber Challenge in Tasmania with good mate Luke Bell. Renault are sponsors of mine and they also sponsor the race. It is a five day race and I am really looking forward to doing this with Luke.â€
Mountain biking is not totally new to Eckstein though, as he has previously competed in a 6 hour race.
And finally we can confirm that Caine will not racing in sluggos. â€œWith my newly found white thighs from cycling I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get back in to my sluggos.â€
2011 Coolangatta Gold â€“ Winner
2010/11 Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Series Race 3 â€“ 2nd
2010/11 Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Series Race 1 â€“ 2nd
2010 Coolangatta Gold â€“ Winner
2010 Byron Bay Ocean Paddler (Short Course) â€“ Winner
2010 New York Mayors Cup Surfski â€“ 2nd
2009 Coolangatta Gold â€“ Winner
2008 Coolangatta Gold â€“ Winner
2005 Coolangatta Gold â€“ Winner
For more information visit Caine’s website