When Newcastle athlete Peter Vaughan crosses the finish line at Ironman Western Australia on Sunday, 3rd December, he will join a very exclusive club of athletes who have completed 100 Ironman races.
When the single dad lined up at Forster in 1989 at Ironman Australia, little did he know how much his new ‘hobby’ would change his life. Since then the 64-year-old Ironman pioneer has been on an amazing journey competing in races across the globe, making new friends and seeing some stunning destinations.
“My first wife had passed away, and about 6-12 months later I was in the doldrums, and I decided I had to get out and challenge myself and break out of the mindset I had. I had always wanted to do a marathon, and I did it, but I didn’t get the sense of achievement I was looking for. Then someone told me about Ironman. I first entered a short distance race in Newcastle, so I had some idea of what it was about, and then I went out, bought a bike and entered Ironman Australia in Forster.”
“Back in 1989 no-one had heard about Ironman and I had to ring around a lot, and someone said there is a guy called Ken Baggs who is organising it. You ring him at his home, and he sends you an entry form, and you are in the race. I went into the race oblivious for the first five years, and everyone was in the same boat.”
“We did the race on jam sandwiches and water because people said don’t drink the sports drink it will make you sick. It wasn’t the sports drink that made you sick. It was because you were running out in the heat and didn’t know how to handle nutrition. After my first Ironman, I had trouble walking for a week, but I couldn’t do any running for a month. You were almost crippled in those days, but it didn’t stop me from wanting to do more, but of course, in those days there weren’t any others in Australia.”
Once the Ironman bug had bitten and Peter had sorted the logistical issues of travelling with a bike, it was full steam ahead, and he was always on the road in search of his newest adventure.
“In those days people said if you travel to do an Ironman your bike will get wrecked. So I couldn’t afford to wreck my bike, so I didn’t do more than one a year until the first year in Busselton in 2004. Then I did Ironman New Zealand and Malaysia and just started travelling around as much as I could doing Ironman races.”
“When I did my first Ironman I couldn’t have imagined that I would be capable of getting to Ironman 100. No way. When I started Ironman racing at 36, I had a dream that I would love to be able to do it at 50 and perhaps even 60. By going back every five years to do an Ironman race to see if I still had it in me. It wasn’t until I was in my 50s that I started doing multiple races. Now at 64, I am doing five races this year, but when I was 60, I did ten races that year. I think I am living the dream from that point of view.”
If you want to know anything about the various Ironman races across the globe, Peter is the man to ask because if he hasn’t done it, he is planning to do it. To him, they are all unique, but there are a couple that are more special than others.
“I love every race. When people say ‘What is your favourite? It is the last race I have done. I love it so much. I love Lanzarote, but Ironman Australia is a sentimental favourite because I know so many people there. It is like going home and this year was my 28th year at Ironman Australia. Busselton is also an outstanding event, but it is hard to pick a highlight because the whole Ironman community is so good. The volunteers, the organizer, I just love it all.”
“Ironman takes you to places that you may not otherwise go to. I am a country person who grew up in Wyong, so I don’t like cities but I love the places where the races are. I see all these lovely country towns were all the people are so friendly. In Japan I went to the race in Goto where they don’t get many overseas travellers, so we were very special. Where the Ironman races are, they are beautiful locations.”
“My personal view is the tougher the race is the better it is. The hardest is Lanzarote and that is spectacular, it just blew me away with the big mountains and the wind. You go there and think it is impossible but you put your head down on the day and you do it and you achieve something you didn’t think possible. Every race is tough and there is no such thing as an easy race. To me the tougher the day I get that great feeling afterwards. I always say to myself, ‘If it was easy they wouldn’t call it Ironman’. That is my mantra,” he said.
Peter said the reward for his three decades of Ironman racing are good health, wonderful memories, amazing friends and the ultimate collection of race memorabilia – t-shirts, bags, finisher medals and towels.
“There is no shortage of towels in my place,” he laughed. “I have all the medals on display in my den, and I have put all the race t-shirts away for when I retire. Then I am really going to start wearing them.”