ALI Day will never forget the first time he watched Australia’s elite ironman race at North Wollongong Beach – or the memento he took away from it.
Then still a nipper, Day made the trip up from Kiama with his parents to watch a round of the iconic Kellogg’s Ironman series. The action was fierce and Day bagged himself a memorable souvenir.
“I would’ve only been eight or nine and mum and dad took me up to [watch] my first ever ironman race at North Gong,” Day recalls.
“It was a Kellogg’s series race and they used to fire these t shirts out into the crowd and I remember falling over a barrier just to catch one. I wore it till it was falling apart I loved it that much.
“It had such a big impact on me and I’ve just been in love with [the sport] ever since.”
Day will go full circle when he returns to North Gong this weekend as the current Nutri-Grain Ironman series leader, having claimed line honours in round two at Coolum.
It puts him in the sights of a host of veterans, as well as new crop of youngsters headed by training partner and round one winner TJ Hendy.
Having started his career nipping at the heels of legends like Ky Hurst, Zane Holmes and Shannon Eckstein, Day described being the hunted man as “bizarre.”
“You do catch yourself thinking about it,” he said.
“When I first came into the sport you had your Zane’s, your Shannon’s, your Kye’s. Shannon’s obviously still there but now they’re chasing guys like Matt Poole, Kendrick Louis and myself.
“It reminds me of when I was 20-21 years old just trying to grab every chance I got. TJ’s an amazing athlete and there’s a whole cluster of guys around that age coming through.
“The experience of being the series for a while certainly helps but there’s no substitute for youth. They certainly make you appreciate it more and push you to train harder.”
Having notched a record-equaling fifth Coolangatta Gold victory in October, Day remains driven by the desire to add to the sole Nutri-Grain series crown he claimed in 2015.
“When I won it a few years ago it was one of the most rewarding days of my life. I often look back and think ‘did that really happen?’ because I was so young,” he said.
“I’d obviously love to do it again. I’m in a really good position now but, I’ve said it before, consistency is the key to winning this series.
“I’ve had a first and a third and I just want to be really consistent over the next four rounds.
“It’s going to be hard to hang on from here with the likes of Shannon and Kendrick and Pooley, and all those young guys, breathing down my neck but I'm confident in the preparation and the training that I’ve done.
“I really believe I’ve done everything in my power so, if I do the little things right, the result will take care of itself.”
With his favoured endurance round to come in January, Day can take a big step towards claiming the overall crown with a strong performance in this weekend’s sprint eliminator.
“It’s probably the most important couple of weeks of the series,” Day said.
“There’s a really good opportunity on Sunday to get a good result and keep my foot on the accelerator.
“You really want to capitalise on these next two races because a good result can really set your series up.”