Hunt ready to tri one on

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

While pursuing a CFL franchise for Ottawa, Jeff Hunt has also been chasing a personal goal.

By land and water.

Hunt, the 67's owner and frontman for the group trying to bring pro football back to the nation's capital, is going to Texas to compete in the Rockin 'R' Toobin Triathalon in San Antonio tomorrow.

The "sprint" triathalon starts with a 400-metre swim and morphs into a 20K bike ride, then a 5.5K run.

Employees at the junior hockey headquarters on Bank St. were both surprised and amused at their boss' latest venture.

Not much of a swimmer, biker or runner through the first 43 1/2 of his 44 years, Hunt decided to undertake this challenge after kicking the butt of one previous to it.

"Last year, my major personal goal was to quit smoking, which is something I've tried many, many times without success, and I was really committed to making sure I followed through with it," said Hunt. "So last August I quit, and my intention was to get to 2009 still having not smoked ... even if I gained some weight, which I did.

"Come 2009, I said I needed a new goal and it has to be somewhat health and fitness oriented, because among other things I wanted to lose weight. I guess when you incorporate new good habits into your life, other good ones seem to follow.

"I said for me, I'm going to participate in a mini-triathalon, and I needed to book it months and months in advance, so that I was locked into going. I got a friend to go, and now a third friend has come on board, and bought the non-refundable airline ticket and registered and did all the things that would commit somebody to doing something. And basically, I had 4 1/2 months to get ready."

Hunt, who had put on about 10 lbs. since last summer, has dropped 22 during his makeover. He believes the exercise that has helped him lose weight the most is a simple, back and forth head movement. Universally, it is known as a "no."

While he's been working out at the Ottawa Athletic Club with his personal trainer, Eric, for the last 10 years, most of his three hours a week at the gym has been focused on power lifting. Only since January has he had the strength to deny himself some of life's little pleasures.

"What I figured out is the three hours a week I've spent in the gym are the least of my worries," said Hunt. "It's the hundreds of hours I spend outside of the gym, maybe around the supper table, that has made it difficult for me to lose weight. It's the habits.

"So what I've really done to lose weight is not so much the physical activity, but just reduce the food I've been eating."

Specifically, the timing of his feedings.

"One of the things I've learned to be able to do is go to bed hungry, which is something I've never suffered in my life. Especially the eating from 7-8 p.m. to whenever you go to bed," said Hunt. "That's probably been the most difficult time for me. I've just gotten used to it, and I would just tell myself that in the morning, when I weigh in, which is what I do every day so you're always accountable to those scales ... when you have the reward of weighing in, and you see the results of not eating at night, it reinforces the behaviour."

Hunt originally decided to enter a triathalon in Bermuda, in November, but it was cancelled. So he had to hunt for another. After choosing San Antonio, he sent out a mass e-mail to friends, asking if anyone wanted to try the "tri." Two took him up on the offer -- Hudson Travel's Peter Hudson, who plays hockey with Hunt, and Paul Donnelly, a high school buddy who is CFO of Vipond Inc., a sprinkler system company in Toronto.

Hunt also put in a call to Julia Aimers, a former athletic director at the OAC who now coaches Team Triumph, a triathalon club "for anybody who wants to become a triathalete."

Aimers, who usually has 7-9 months to work with someone before their first triathalon, had to pick up the pace in this case. Hunt kept up.

"He's a pretty determined guy," said Aimers. "He's going to do it."

Yes, just getting it done is priority one for a first-time triathalon competitor.

Hunt has shaved more than two minutes off his time on the first discipline, developing from a "thrasher" who could only breathe on one side to what Aimers now refers to as a "swimmer." He has also learned shortcuts in the transition phase, such as spraying cooking oil on his arms and legs to help the wet suit slip off easier when he's getting set to bike.

"If you take two minutes off your time in the pool, then spend four minutes going from one sport to the next, changing into your running shoes, T-shirt and shorts, what's the point of training?" she tells him. "Training transition is really important."

But the truth is, how long it takes to complete the triathalon is not the focus for a rookie. Completing it is.

'A great sport'

"For Jeff or anybody else starting out, in their first race, the goal is to finish," said Aimers. "It's to have fun and enjoy the race, and then hopefully get hooked on the sport. It really is a great sport."

She also knows Hunt, like herself, is competitive. Crossing the finish line won't be enough for him.

"I know there are going to be a few hundred people there, but there are only two people I'm worried about beating right now, and that's Peter and Paul," he said. "We kind have agreed that in the swim, it can be a very stressful thing, the first time you do it, where hundreds of people are descending upon a river at the same time, and everybody thrashing about. We're going to kind of hang back and let the wave of people go in the water, and we're going to go in last.

"I said once we get out of the water, though, all bets are off. We'll probably get into more of a competitive mode once we're over the swim part.

"It's certainly been fun preparing for it, and I know Paul and Peter have had the same experience. I mean really, it's a guy's trip, with a very positive event at the front end.

"I think the triathalon, for me at least at this stage, is about finishing. I don't know that I'll be savouring the moments while it's happening, but once it's finished I'm sure we'll have a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

"It makes that beer you might have later on taste that much better."


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