In the 1980s and ’90s, Nine’s Wide World of Sport (WWOS) was an institution with sports fans across the nation, glued to the television every weekend. For Aussie kids, growing up on a traditional diet of cricket, tennis and football, WWOS was their window to a wider sporting globe and a major inspiration of a generation of athletes.
One of the highest rating ‘specials’ was the annual coverage of the IRONMAN World Championships and every year Ballarat teenager, Arti Shaw would sit mesmerised by the magic of Kona and the superhuman achievements of Dave Scott, Mark Allen and Paula Newby Fraser.
“Growing up sport had been part of my life but it was the traditional tennis, football and athletics representing my school, Ballarat High at state level for 100 and 200m sprints. But it was the IRONMAN story and the mystery of watching the three hour special on Kona on WWOS that grabbed my attention and was my first inkling of interest in the sport.”
“But as normal kids go you get a car, start going out and have a good life with friends at parties and discos, then you get married and have kids. I was in the corporate world and it was part of the 90’s culture that you would drink after work and there would be lots of functions and customer entertaining. I really let my health go and didn’t really think about it because I was concentrating on work and bringing up a young family.”
“It wasn’t until my mid-thirties that through excessive drinking that the doctor said to me, “Son if you don’t change your lifestyle, you won’t make fifty.” When the doctor says you need to make a change, you need to make a change and that was when I decided to try to run. In hindsight, I was heavily drinking because I was suffering depression but at that stage it was undiagnosed,” Arti said.
Being from Ballarat, Arti did what all local runners do and headed for the 6km track around Lake Wendouree and he recalled “I went to see if I could get around it without vomiting.” Eventually, Arti joined a running group and began preparing for his first marathon and what was to be a major change in his life.
“Some of my training partners were heading up to Forster Tuncurry in 2002 for IRONMAN Australia. I went up to spectate and that brought back the teenage memories of watching WWOS. I was just pumped all day, Chris McCormack and Jason Shortis were racing and I barracking for the five people from Ballarat who were doing it that year. I thought Jason was Tarzan in a tri suit, this six feet of muscle and the way he ran the marathon was amazing. Then there was the excitement of the finish chute. I said, ‘Stuff this, I have to come back next year’.”
Arti’s first triathlon was an IRONMAN qualifying race in Shepparton but he didn’t make the cut, so he went to Canberra and got a roll down spot and the IRONMAN journey began.
“The biggest fear for me was swimming because I nearly drowned twice, once as a child and once as an adult on the North Shore in Hawaii so I had an underlying fear of open water. I wasn’t a great swimmer so that was the skill that I really had to develop. so it was a matter of getting through the swim. From there it was all about finishing and I was happy with my time around the 12:15, 12:20 mark.”
“After my first IRONMAN, I said to all my family and friends that it was so good that I am going to do ten in a row, which I eventually got to and got my legend number. IRONMAN has never been a chore, it became a lifestyle and my medicine for my personal well being and mental health. My boss basically told me it was the sport or the job. He couldn’t understand why I was doing it and thought it was a distraction from working the long hours that were expected. But I never adhered to his request,” Arti laughed.
In 2007, all of Arti’s dreams eventually came to fruition, making some significant changes to his work and lifestyle and finally competing at the Big Dance.
“In Port Macquarie that year, I remembered some advice I had been given ‘If you are going to have a business you should work in something you are passionate about’. In Port Mac, there was Gordon St Cycles with Peloton Café and when my wife Sharine and I saw that business model we decided that it was what we had to do back in Ballarat, establishing the Gove Cycles and Bike Rack Café five years later.”
“Gove Cycles is Ballarat’s oldest bike shop and my wife and I bought the business and freehold in 2011 and did a major renovation. This year we have expanded the café and we now have a really good network of cycling groups coming in before and after their rides and the back half of the complex is now a bigger service area with some boutique retail. I have a training group here and after their morning training session, they come in to get their caffeine fix. So, it is a real hub for people actively into triathlon, running or cycling.”
“Ultimately I got to experience what I had watched as a teenager and the IRONMAN World Championship was everything that they say it is. I still pinch myself that I have actually done it and I am just in awe of it. Every year I am glued to the screen watching it online to see how it pans out. It is an amazing experience and even with virtual trainers I often hop on and ride over the course. Even though it was 11 years ago I still remember every aspect of the day,” he said.
With some of Arti’s training group heading for the IRONMAN 70.3 debut in Western Sydney, they have lured their coach from his off season and convinced him he needed to join in the fun.
“It has been a good winter and I have kept the 5kg off that I normally put on in my down time. But I have maintained my training over winter this year and come out in spring healthier and slimmer. I was initially not going to compete at Western Sydney and I was just going to go up to support some girls that I mentor and help them do their first 70.3 but I have submitted to the peer group pressure. They said, ‘Nup, we are not doing it unless you are running around with us’. So I eventually signed up and I will be making my Western Sydney debut,” he said.