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

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria Royals dress for Pink in the Rink as they play the Kelowna Rockets 4–3 in a shootout on Feb. 22, 2020. (James Mackenzie/News Staff)
Victoria Royals netminder Adam Evanoff joins AHL’s Heat on amateur tryout

Evanoff has split his 101 WHL games between Victoria and Moose Jaw

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner’s report confirms cause of death of three men at Sooke River in 2020

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen drown while ‘puddle-jumping’ in pickup truck

The Pacheedaht First Nation is planning a $1-million expansion to its campground in Port Renfrew. (Pixabay photo)
Expanded camping announced for Pacheedaht Campground

$1-million project is part of the B.C. Rural Economic Recovery program

Soloman and Zev Nagler enjoy time on the beach at Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park on a summer day. The Capital Regional District is in the process of determining whether to institute parking fees at this and eight other CRD parks. (Black Press Media file photo)
CRD parks committee rejects new Greater Victoria parking fees – again

More arguments against fee hikes, pay parking at nine parks, brought forward by committee members

A wind warning is in effect for Greater Victoria Thursday afternoon. (Black Press Media file photo)
Strong winds predicted for Greater Victoria

Environment Canada issues warning for Thursday afternoon

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media File Photo)
POLL: Are you struggling with Greater Victoria’s cost of housing?

While Victoria remains one of the most expensive cities in the country… Continue reading

Migrant farm workers transplant jalapeno sprouts from trucks into the tilted soil at a farm. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)
‘They’re afraid’: Coalition sounds alarm over COVID vaccines for B.C.’s migrant workers

Though health ministry says anyone can get vaccinated, critics say barriers are keeping migrants from their dose

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
Island-raised musician records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah closes out the movie

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in an altercation that started with a disagreement about physical distancing. (File photo)
Argument about physical distancing escalates to stabbing in Nanaimo

Victim, struck with coffee cup and then stabbed, suffers minor injuries; suspect arrested

A battery electric-hybrid ferry, pictured here, is expected to make its way to Vancouver Island in late 2021, says B.C. Ferries. (Submitted photo)
Hybrid ferry for Gabriola-Nanaimo route launches in shipyard in Europe

Two hybrid vessels to replace MV Quinsam by early 2022, says B.C. Ferries

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

The Port of Nanaimo has signed a 50-year-agreement with DP World around short-sea shipping operations at Duke Point Terminal. (News Bulletin file photo)
Lease ‘important first step’ in $105-million Nanaimo port expansion project

Port of Nanaimo and DP World sign 50-year shipping operations agreement for Duke Point

Most Read