Considering the healthy lifestyle Eric Piscopo pursues, comparing the Sault triathlete to any alcoholic beverage might seem less than appropriate.
But like the finest bottle of wine, Piscopo keeps getting better with age.
In his second appearance at the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii on Oct. 13, the 55-year-old dentist cycled, ran and swam his way to 29th place in the 55-59 age group. He completed the 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run in 12 hours, eight minutes and 44 seconds.
The feat came just six weeks after he qualified for the race with a second-place finish at the Ironman Canada event in Penticton, British Columbia. Piscopo finished second in his age category in B.C.
Three years earlier, Piscopo finished the Hawaii course in 12:37.50 seconds.
Even his finish at the Canadian event was better this time around. Piscopo was fifth in his group in 2003.
“My results, despite my being a few years older, are slightly faster, so I’m pleased with them,” Piscopo said. “I basically raced what I thought I would going into it. It was right on what I predicted.”
He can be a little more proud of his achievement because of how close it came on the heels of his qualifier. The Canadian race is the last of 26 such events held worldwide to determine the qualifiers for the prestigious Ironman Hawaii event.
“Six weeks might sound like quite a bit, but when you look at the time you need to train, to do your tapering and get ready to race, it isn’t much,” Piscopo said.
His first trip to Kona served as a learning experience for the Ottawa native, who used those lessons to prepare for the second time around.
Piscopo started out with Olympic-distance races in 1993 and continued for 10 years, but was later convinced by friends to try the longer Ironman events.
“It is an event that takes time to learn,” he said. “The prior experience I had with Ironman races in 2003 and 2005 taught me how to do the race, taught me pacing and proper hydration.”
It also helped teach him how to win, something it looked like he’d stop doing when chronic injuries threatened his athletic life years ago.
A competitive runner during his high school and university days, Piscopo was pushed out of that sport by frustration caused by his chronic injuries. One of his classmates suggested he try multi-sport events and convinced him to compete in a triathlon.
“And it stuck,” Piscopo remembers.
He was successful enough to become a member of the national age group team for more than half a decade, travelling around the world with the group to Olympic-distance races before being coaxed into the deeper waters of Ironman.
“It was a huge amount of fun,” said Piscopo.
He is now married to Dr. Linda Hadley, an anesthetist, and has three children 28-year-old Erin, 27-year-old Annemarie and 26-year-old Thomas.
“I feel that to some extent, being involved in these sports is a lifestyle,” Piscopo said. “I enjoy it, and I enjoy my work, so I try to keep a balance between work and play. I feel that for the amount of time I put into it, I’m quite successful. But I don’t think I’d want to put any more time into it.
“I want to keep in mind what’s important to me family, friends, career and I believe it’s important not to overdo it with any of those.”
With that in mind, Piscopo is planning a break from competition. There will probably be some cross-country skiing this winter, and likely bicycle races locally or in Michigan next summer, maybe even a triathlon or two. But for now he’s going to enjoy some more time doing what’s important to him.
“It’s hard staying at a peak level of fitness all the time,” he said.
“And I think it’s time to take a little breather, to regroup and focus on work and family.”