We’ve barely had a chance to finish off the last of the mince pies and the 2014 race season is upon us. Well, at least in South Africa.
If you completed a 70.3 or Ironman last year (good skills) in SA, the UK or Europe last year, there’s a very real chance that the chap who called you over the finish line or belted out those famous words every aspiring Ironman wants to hear, was Paul Kaye ‘The Voice’ of Ironman.
We’ve been lucky enough to throw a few questions at Kayeman post season opening South Africa 70.3, which took place at the end of January and saw Brit Jodie Swallow winning the ladies – making it 4 in a row.
Briefly, talk us through the journey you’ve taken to reach a point where you get to shout, “Troy Squires…YOU are an IRONMAN!”
A journey it has been! I started my working life at the age of 20 as a DJ on Cape Town’s biggest commercial radio station, Good Hope FM (no – not religious – named after the Cape of Good Hope!). During that time I also used to do the sports reporting. Through this I got involved in announcing some boat racing – and that’s how I got into announcing. I started my affiliation with triathlon back in 1994, doing the TV voice-overs for a Sprint Series in SA. The series used to open in Mauritius and in 2000 I was invited to go. There the pros (including the likes of Raynard Tissink) chirped me that it sounded like I knew what I was talking about – but had I ever done a tri? I hadn’t! It was the day before my 30th, I had been in radio station management the previous three years and wasn’t in any shape at all. But I donned my speedo and suffered through the 600m swim (I was last out the water) wobbled across the beach to T1 and put on the event cotton tee and jumped onto the hotel MTB (farm gate with wheels – a shocker) and set off on the 20K bike. I was second last on the run, and they were clearing the water points when I ran through. But – I was hooked, I absolutely loved it.
When I got home I put slicks on my ancient MTB and did a few more events and quickly realised I needed a road bike. I bought my first road bike 24 Dec 2000.After that things moved quite quickly. I did some road races and my first half marathon in 2001 and that year also announced my first Ironman – at Gordons Bay – won by the legendary Lothar Leder.The last time I went back to Mauritius in 2002, I actually finished in the top 10 – considering that in 2000 my 5K time was 31 minutes and some change.
In 2004 I raced the half Ironman in Port Elizabeth and have been announcing that event since 2005. 2008 I raced Ironman Austria and again in 2009, but in 2010 I announced Austria and that was my first international Ironman. 2011 I announced 5 events in Europe, 2012 it was 11 and last year 13. 2014 could be as many as 17 events (excluding South African IM events).
We estimated recently that I must have given about 20,000 high-5’s…..last year alone.
Speaking of journeys, once the European races kick-off, it’s pretty much a new city every weekend for the rest of the year. How’s 2014 looking?
This year is looking power – so many great events, so many new events. I start in Mallorca early May and finish there with the new full at the end of September. I’m really looking forward to meeting up with everyone again and making new friends at the new events like Budapest, Aarhus, Ruegen…
How do you handle the hours of emotional intensity on the Ironman red carpet?
Hmmm – so hard to answer – other than after an event I’m absolutely broken for days – feel as if I physically raced the event myself. But truth be told – it’s the emotion that fuels me and inspires me. Being able to contribute towards people doing something that is almost impossible. Watching them achieve, reach, exceed their goals. Seeing and feeling their utter sense of accomplishment – it fuels me. Not to mention witnessing first hand the amazing talents of our pros. Coupled to that, I try and keep fit. I’m 45 this year – so it gets harder, but I try and arrive in Europe with a base fitness that I try and maintain, which isn’t easy with all the travelling.
What elements make for an ideal race venue and if pushed to name a top 3, which would they be?
Great scenery, a relatively challenging race course, and awesome spectators – to me it’s all about the atmosphere and in a community that is passionate and wants ironman there – you get that. Different races are great for different reasons. I think Ironman Austria is awesome, massive finish line party and crowds, awesome race course. Ironman Sweden is also very special, the Swedes totally embrace having Ironman in Kalmar. 70.3 Haugesund in Norway is one of my favourites too. And, totally under estimated is Ironman South Africa – passionate, knowledgeable crowds who line pretty much the entire run course and support everyone, not just their favourites.
Your company, Focus.On.The.Finish.Line (we love the name by the way), has been in the eventing industry for some time. In that time, you must have seen a huge increase in participants? What do you think are the key factors?
Thanks – we love the name too – that’s pretty much the objective of what we do – we do everything so that all you have to do is focus on the finish line. We started at the Ironman 70.3 SA in 2011 and have seen tremendous growth. And our clients want us to provide our services at other events like the Cape Epic, Wines2Whales, Sani2c, Ironman, WTS Cape Town, the Cycle Tour and more. They love it so much they want us to assist on international events. We do flights, accommodation, transfers and tour, bike transport, masseurs, mechanics, supporter tours and anything else the athlete needs (except do the race) – ok, enough of the plug.
We see a strong uptick in participation in endurance events – people want to feel alive, challenge themselves and have a goal to keep them motivated to be healthy. The great events (from Ironman to Epic) sell out so fast and the waiting lists are huge. Unfortunately, the sponsorship support isn’t on a par with the demand for participation and this makes it very tough for event owners to keep the prices affordable whilst still delivering high standards of athlete experience. You have no idea how expensive it is to host events.
Ironman South Africa celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Quite a few of the Black Line London crew will be coming out to get stuck in. What do we have to look forward to – race and South Africa wise?
As a South African I’m very proud of how the numbers of international participants at the IMSA events has grown. We are far away for the Europeans, flights aren’t cheap and we are very early in the season for the athletes from the north, meaning they have to train through winter. But that extremely high standard of the event, the athlete experience, the amazingly warm and friendly South Africans and the fact that you can tick off a bucket list item by doing a safari have seen the word spread. Not to mention how delicious are wines are, the cuisine awesome and at the current exchange rate – it’s CHEAP. It’s a great race course, with a sea swim which can be intimidating. Now a 2 loop bike course which will test the legs for sure, and then finishes with the run lined with spectators shouting support. The volunteers are amazing. And the red carpet is a long one giving every finisher plenty of time to soak up what they have achieved……..and the after party is pretty epic too.
Ironman SA have got a lot planned to make sure that the 10th is a true celebration. I cant wait and thanks for bringing the BLL crew down to get the party started.
You speak to the first (8 hours) and last person (17 hours) crossing the line (and obviously MANY in between). Anyone reading this who thinks an Ironman is beyond them, how would you convince them otherwise?
In Ironman anything is possible – which means anyone who is truly committed and can put in the hours should be able to finish – and in Ironman (unlike other sports) to finish is to win! I have seen physically handicapped athletes finish, I have seen blind athletes finish, deaf…I have seen athletes that have had major heart surgery, or recovering from cancer – I have seen them finish. Team Garwood – Kevin with his teenage son Nicky who has cerebral palsy – they did it together and finished last year.
Have a reason. Have a will. Get a training programme. And slowly, slowly your journey will take you to the magic carpet and that very special and unique title of “you are and Ironman”
You’re very active on social media. How has this influenced what you do for a living?
Hard to answer that – but I use Twitter to follow what’s happening in the spaces I play in – it helps me stay informed and often gives me insights I might otherwise not have. It also allows me to develop the brand “Paul Kaye” in a way, as I become a (hopefully credible) source of info. And I suppose (considering I occasionally get wrapped over the knuckles for what I say on twitter by events I work for) events feel what I share, say…my opinions count. So I think that’s good for me. Facebook I use more to have a connection with athletes and sometimes be able to say more than just their name when they are racing.
But also – I feel very blessed to lead the life I do, and I like to be able to share that with others.
What are your goals for 2014?
I’m busy finalising the race schedule with Ironman. Very excited about the 10th IMSA and heading back onto the Ironman Europe Tour. My goal is to always just be better, do better. And deep down, I’m really hoping that will lead me to Kona. I’m also hoping to announce the first ever ITU WTS race on African soil – that will be my first stint for the ITU.
And for FOTFL – we have just hired our first employee and are looking to grow the number of events we offer our services at. And we are also looking to start FOTFL Europe. So, another quiet year ahead.
Lastly, if you could only play 3 songs at the finish of an event, name them.
Hahaha – you kidding me right? That’s impossible as music is so subjective and so local – we always tailor the music to suit the crowds – it’s never what we want to hear, but what gets the crowd rocking – this creates the atmosphere of celebration for the athlete.
Follow Paul on Twitter @Kayeman and check out the FOTFL website here.