| Jun 18, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - June 11, 2009 Pioneering triathlete in Nepean Sports Hall of FameBy Jeff Green

Pat Dowdall and Dianne Lake preparing to step out the door.

Rudy Hollywood is a familiar face in the Sharbot Lake area. He was born and raised south of the village and has had a cottage on Sharbot Lake for many years. Along with his wife Joan he founded the Sharbot Lake triathlon in the 1980s.

But Rudy is equally well known in Nepean, where he lived and worked for 31 years before returning to Sharbot Lake five years ago.

Last month Rudy returned to Nepean to be inducted into the Nepean Sports Wall of Fame. While he is known as an organiser and advocate for the triathlon in Sharbot Lake, it was his athletic achievements that were honoured in Nepean.

In accepting the award, Rudy traced his athletic career back to his youth on the farm. “When I was a kid and living on the homestead one of my daily chores was to take my cow dog, Rex, and before and after school we would run through the fields to collect the cattle for milking. I certainly never would have imagined that simple acts would have an impact on this memorable day.”

Rudy became a runner in the 70s and later discovered the punishing sport of triathlon. In addition to competing for Canada in the age group Olympic distance triathlon (1.5 km swim, 40 km bike ride, 10 km run) Rudy has completed full distance, iron-man events, around the world. One year, he placed 6th in his class at the Hawaiian Ironman World Championships.

The Hawaii race is the peak race in triathlon. It is where the sport was created just over 30 years ago, supposedly to settle a dispute over whether long-distance cyclists, runners, or swimmers were the most fit athletes. So an extreme event was invented. A 3.86 km ocean swim is followed by a 180 km mountainous bike ride, and the whole thing was capped off with a marathon distance run (42.2 km) The winner was dubbed the ironman.

“The race starts at 7:00 in the morning, and you have to finish before midnight,” Rudy said of the Ironman race, “but in order to qualify for Hawaii you need to do well enough in other iron-man races around the world.”

Rudy said it was certainly unusual for a married man with two boys and a career to become a role model in a sport dominated by younger, unattached athletes.

“I was lucky enough to have a wife who encouraged me to get out and train… maybe she just wanted some peace and quite around the house?”

Training in advance of iron-man events was particularly intense, including daily workouts, with a careful tapering down period before races, which led the Hollywoods to travel across Canada, the US, and Europe for races.

Summers have always been spent back on Sharbot Lake, and during the 80s and 90s they were dominated by the Sharbot Lake Triathlon on the August long weekend. Although the triathlon no longer takes place in Sharbot Lake, it lives on in Canadian sports history because Canada's most celebrated triathlete, Simon Whitfield, competed in some of his first races at Rudy and Joan Hollywood's race.

Rudy's influence on the triathlon community was given a home on the web in 2000, with trirudy.com, a website for triathletes. The “Rudy Award” is an athletic feat that takes one year to complete, but it is not an easy year.

It requires the winter triathlon, the 50km Keskinada Loppet, the 180 km Rideau Lakes bicycling tour, an official marathon and an official ironman competition.

Among his own athletic highlights, Rudy Hollywood represented Canada on the age group Olympic Distance Triathlon team in Cleveland (1996), Switzerland (1998), Montreal (1999), and Edmonton (1991). He also competed in the Boston Marathon in 1986, 1996, 2000, and 2001.

In recent years Rudy and Joan have been too busy converting and renovating the house on Sharbot Lake where they now live on a full-time basis.

Now, there is a new project in the works, which might swallow up even more time. Rudy's mother Ada died last year, and with his father Ken now being 92 years old, Rudy, his brother and his father are thinking about what to do with the family farm, a 400-acre property on Shibley Road that borders both St. Georges and Sharbot lakes.

Rudy has thrown himself into a development plan on the property, which includes his long-time dream of establishing an 18-hole golf course on the site, along with a seniors' housing complex along the lines of the condominium complex in Richmond, where Rudy and Joan lived in the last few years before they retired.

As they begin to work through the zoning and regulation process, it is becoming clear this might turn into an iron-man event of its own. And there is the matter of finding investors.

“Come and talk to me anytime about the project,” Rudy said, “and bring your checkbook with you.” 

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