Sports

All in the family

Husband and wife triathletes dominate the ironman race

Susan McClelland October 30 2000
Sports

All in the family

Husband and wife triathletes dominate the ironman race

Susan McClelland October 30 2000

All in the family

Sports

It’s not surprising that Peter Reid asked Lori Bowden to marry him. After all, the couple had been living together in Victoria for six months and dating on and off for three years. But Reid wanted to be absolutely sure. “I needed to know we would be financially secure and that I had a career,” he explains. For Reid, who was an up-and-coming triathlete like Bowden, that meant winning a race—which finally happened in 1996, in Forster, Australia. Still soaking from his exertions, he sat down beside her and asked. At the time, Bowden was lying dehydrated after her own race, with an IV in her arm. She didn’t believe him. “He’d been saying he had to win a race. Then both of us had to,” recalls Bowden. “It took a month for it to sink in.” Since then, Reid and Bowden have not only wed, but have become two of the world’s most decorated athletes in the gruelling ironman. Four times as long as the triathlon, which made its debut at the recent Sydney Olympics, the ironman involves a 3.8-km swim, a 180.2-km bike ride and a 42.2-km run. The sport’s world championships are held each year in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, and for the past three years Reid and Bowden have alternated firstand second-place finishes. On Oct. 14, Reid won the men’s competition, while Bowden took second in the women’s, both of them cheered on by their friend Simon Whitfield.

Although Whitfield’s stirring Olympic triumph made him a household name, within the triathlon community Reid, 31, and Bowden, 33, inspire just as much awe —and the unofficial title of “the fittest couple in the world.” The nickname, says Bowden, “sort of grew on me. Now before a race, I think we have to do well or else we won’t be called it anymore.” Their relationship, naturally, was born on a race course, after taking up

Husband and wife triathletes dominate the ironman race

triathlon in their early 20s. The Montreal-born Reid, who had a background in cycling, entered his first race at a friend s urging. Bowden, a former crosscountry runner from Toronto, started the sport with her parents. In 1993, they were competing in Olympic-length triathlons—a 1.5-km swim, 40-km bike ride and 10-km run—and were invited to an ironman race in Japan. They had never met. “I hadn’t even heard of her,” says Reid, chuckling. “So I thought she can’t be that good. Later, I found out she thought the same thing about me.” They easily claimed the men’s and women’s titles in Japan. But winning each other’s hearts was harder. For three years, their romance blossomed during the racing season, but fizzled in the winters when they lived in separate cities.

That changed in 1996. The year before, Reid had started to place in the top 5 in ironman races and had moved to Victoria to train. He invited Bowden to come along. Lured by the image of mild

winters and a year-long outdoor training program, Bowden accepted, arriving in the middle of a snowstorm. “People kept telling me this never happens,” she says. “I just looked at the snowbanks taller than my head and thought, ‘Oh no.’ ” The snow melted, as did any doubts the two had about each other. “Every time we were together,” says Bowden, “it just got better and better.” So did their professional fortunes. Reid’s triumph in Hawaii earned him $100,000 (U.S.); Bowden walked away with $25,000 for her second-place finish. Between them, they have a number of sponsorship agreements. They also host a two-hour Sunday-night Internet talk show, bringing on guests like Whitfield and offering tips on diet and exercise. “We don’t train together,” says Bowden. “In the mornings, we head off in separate directions.” Adds Reid: “We’re really like any other couple who work different jobs from nine to five.” Only other couples can’t boast that they’re the fittest people on the planet.

Susan McClelland