GAVIN NOBLE - TRIATHLON
Gavin Noble was the youngest athlete competing in the triathlon at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester. A decade later he was leading the cycle race at the London Olympics.
A triathlon is an endurance multisport race consisting of swimming, cycling, and running over various distances.
Triathletes compete for fastest overall completion time, racing each segment sequentially with the time transitioning between the disciplines included.
Noble’s triathlon career which also included the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games started at school although it was more through accident than design.
“I started out doing Triathlon by signing up as a relay swimmer in 1995 Ulster Schools. On the morning of the race our team cyclist pulled out, so I ended up doing the whole thing, and I guess that's how it started,” explained Noble.
“I was in Enniskillen Lakelanders swimming club when I was young and there was also Enniskillen Triathlon and Athletics club, so after the Ulster Schools I joined that club too. I loved the variety straight away as opposed to years of only following the black line inside.”
“I swam well (enough) at a young age. I was in the era of Andrew Bree and Michael Williamson in the pool and was making finals, but I was doing that alongside running and cycling in my late teens.”
“I had to work quite a lot on my biking and running but I enjoyed it.”
“I drifted more toward triathlon specific, and I was offered a sports scholarship to Stirling University in Scotland.”
Competing in three disciplines meant a strict training regime for Noble.
“You basically train as a swimmer, cyclist or runner would, with a little bit less overall mileage perhaps.”
“A good triathlete swims around 25k per week, bikes 12-15hrs and runs 90-100km.”
“Depending on the time of the year or which sport is maybe a weakness on an international level, you might have a different focus or intensity in that discipline, but I'd say the overall mileage per sport stays consistent.”
Noble achieved a top 20 finish at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
“Manchester for my first ever senior games. It was very much a learning curve, and I was by far the youngest in the race.”
“I can remember the opening ceremony in the newly built stadium (where Man City now play) and staying in Manchester halls of residence.”
“I didn't realise it at the time but next door to me was cyclist Tommy Evans who was racing the road race and we would meet later in my career and he would coach me around London 2012.”
At the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Noble improved his finishing position in the Men’s Elite race to finish 15th.
“I was four years older and wiser by Melbourne and it was perhaps a little more exciting than Manchester, perhaps just because of the location.”
“I moved to Melbourne in November and lived there for 6 months up to the games, I loved it there.”
“I picked up an injury in the final month leading in which was a low point but still, it was another multisport games and my second time representing Northern Ireland.”
“My family made the trip over and again it was amazing that they too got to experience it.”
“I think Northern Irish athletes do have a little more of an advantage at a home games or UK based event and that might simply be psychological. “
“Whilst the travel is less, everything is more familiar and perhaps there is a little more focus from home too, which can spur you on to give your best.”
Noble was the first male athlete to represent Ireland in the triathlon at an Olympic Games.
“I was very proud in London, it was a 'home games' and all my family and friends got to experience an Olympics with me.”
“It was our Olympics.”
“I wouldn't go as far as saying I was leading but I was taking my turn to keep the pace on.”
“I needed to get off the bike with a smaller group in order to place as high as I could. I was happy with it, but again, I’d done it 100 time before.”
“The guys in the group were the same guys as all the races before and I sometimes think people forget that. It's how you keep things simple and not get over awed or distracted by the additional noise.“
Noble finished 23rd out of 55 at London.
“The placing doesn't seem amazing perhaps, but I was happy enough. I had done my best on the day.”
“London was incredible, everything I had ever imagined an Olympics to be.”
“I didn't dwell too much after the race. I left the debrief for the place home, the day after I moved from the holding camp to the village, went to as many events as I could and took it all in.”
As well as competing in major games Noble enjoyed play of success in his career winning triathlons at home, Spain and Hong Kong.
“I am very satisfied with my career in triathlon, I won races all around the world, competed at two Commonwealths and the London Olympics.”
“It wasn't always rosy but I look back with only fond memories.”
Noble has also competed in ironman events.
“I did a few long distance events in Ireland, Irish long distance champs etc, the transition wasn't too difficult as I was a high mileage trainer.”
“I raced a 70.3 in 2013, 70.3 Austria, and won. I hadn't really prepared but I knew I was moving on to something else after that summer so I wanted to do one to satisfy a curiosity.”
“Pro Ironman versus ITU triathlon is very different, it's a little more relaxed, but it does take longer.”
Noble has no regrets about giving up racing.
“In some ways it wasn't hard to stop competing. I had been to the major games that I had dreamed of, I was a little tired of being on the road and I was offered a job in California with Specialized, a bike brand.”
“So that was exciting, I guess I missed being as fit but then again I had new challenges and my competitive fixes were still being satisfied.”
After returning from America, Noble started HupHup which helps to train athletes.
“I came back to Ireland and after a few years I started up HupHup with a good friend of mine Eanna McGrath.”
“We coach many of the best Irish triathletes and it's a very satisfying project.”
“Before COVID we had a nice little group set up in Greystones where we live - athletes from around Ireland (triathletes and cyclists mainly) based themselves there too - and we are linked in with Base2race in Dublin which is amazing.”
“We coach both in person and online to further afield. I'd say HupHup is a passion project for us both, we have other interests and roles in sport too.”
“I am currently working with Team Ireland for example, so that's my main day to day job at the moment.”
“I am deputy chef for Tokyo and I lead on the Team Ireland Brand.”
“But Huphup keeps me connected with the sport I grew up in, it keeps me learning and motivated to help others.”
Athletes that Noble has worked with at Huphup have achieved success.
“They do all the hard work and it's not just those who are winning Irish titles or representing Ireland.”
“I get as much satisfaction from someone breaking a goal time for the marathon, winning a local bike race or finishing their first Ironman.”
Noble is expecting Team NI’s triathletes to have a similar experience at the Commonwealth Games next summer in Birmingham as to his own in Manchester 20 years ago.
“As with all English/UK events I know it will be very well run.”
“There should be a lot of 'familiar' things as per Manchester or London and so the athletes can keep to their routines, especially when it comes to diet and preparing for racing in a local environment.”
“I am sure too that being part of the Northern Ireland team will be exciting. Hopefully the team go there with medal hopes and they have early success as that will lift everyone.”
Triathlon has taken Noble around the world and he believes there is a lot of benefits for anyone interested in taking up the sport.
“I'd simply encourage anyone interested in triathlon to checkout www.triathlonireland.com and find a local club and assess what’s happening in their area.”
“You don't need 'all the gear' so start off easy. Swim, bike and run as much as possible and enjoy it.”
“It is a sport for all ages and for people of all ability. With the three sports you have the variety that most sports don’t have. It can be a challenge to complete or a sport for life.”