The long road to ‘living the triathlon dream’

Barry Herbison has gone from zero to hero in Ironman challenges.

Arkles Bay resident Barry Herbison, 59, blames his brother for getting him into Ironman racing.

When he joined his brother in their first half Ironman, in 2019, Barry had no running or cycling experience and was unable to swim 50m without stopping.

“I bought a road bike for $600 and on my first ride I had to stop on the side of the road and watch two YouTube videos to work out how to change gears,” he says. “I ended by walking up the hill instead of riding. Eventually I graduated to clip on pedals and bike shoes.”

But he persisted, entering more and more races. 

Training for a 10km Misson Bay run involved running up and down Manly Beach eight times the week before the event. 

He joined the Hibiscus Coast Harriers and Triathlon Club and eventually got up the courage to ask a local coach, Ally Boggs, for help. 

“That was the turning point,” he says. “I had been brought up on the mantra ‘no pain, no gain’ which leads to injury and disaster. Having a coach is what has kept me in the sport and helped me make it to the start line in one piece and injury free.”

Mental toughness was also a mountain he climbed. 

“Your body tells you to walk instead of running, but there is nothing wrong with you. The body will always shut down way before you need to, so you have to overcome that.”

When Barry lost his work contract due to Covid-19, he decided to train for a full Ironman, 

with the objective of completing it in under 13 hours. He completed it in 13:36 after walking part of it – “still not mentally tough enough,” he says.

Two years later, he did the full event, with his son, in 12:50.

Many national, and international events followed. Currently, Barry is competing in France. He took part in what he says “could be my last full Ironman event”, on September 10 in Nice, as part of the Ironman World championship Race – an event known for a tough bike course.

In the last 12 months he says he has been “living the triathlon dream”, having completed two full distance Ironman events (including Nice), one long distance triathlon (in Ibiza, Spain), six national and international half Ironman events, two Olympic distance triathlons, one Olympic distance aquabike and two aquathons.

He says a huge plus is that both his children have been inspired to do triathlons with him.

“Triathlon has let me play with my children again,” he says. “But also, my health has improved – I’ve lost 20kg and would have been on high blood pressure pills by now, if not for the training. It has probably added a few years to my life.”

“ You have to be patient with your training, and enjoy it, which I do. Some weeks it can be as high as 20 hours but generally around half that. I look forward to my Saturday sea swim at Manly Beach at 8am with a large group of keen swimmers (all abilities), then possibly a chat and coffee before a bike ride round The Circle in Manly a few times and a beautiful run before brunch at the Manly Café.

Getting started
Barry recommends: Get in touch with the Hibiscus Coast Harries and Triathlon Club for advice; get a coach early; consider Smart bike trainer equipment that connects with online platforms that allows you to train and race with people around the world. As always, if embarking on a new fitness regime, see your health professional for advice first.