DAVIS, Calif. — If Anna Pettis-Scott qualifies for the U.S. Olympic swim team, she and her husband, Dave Scott, will spend September in Seoul, South Korea. If she doesn't, they will spend that time in Nice, France, where he will compete in a triathlon.
Two good options. But, this time around, the hope and emphasis is on her success.
As Anna arrived at his office one cold and rainy day last week, bundled in her U.S. team parka and lugging her bag of workout gear, the two clients Dave was counseling wished her luck.
Through clenched teeth Dave said: "She's going to make the Olympic team, or I'm going to beat her. We have rules at our house."
Anna didn't flinch. The rest of the world may know Dave as a man possessed, a fitness fanatic, an "agonist" who works out at least eight hours a day for the joy of the pain, but Anna knows him better.
In fact, since she has been working out in preparation for the U.S. swim team's competition in East and West Germany this week, and he's been spending so much time in the office, she has taken to calling him a couch potato.
She holds her own with the guy, even if she hasn't dominated her sport the way he has dominated his.
As he teasingly explained: "Anna is getting old. This is probably her one shot at the Olympics. I've had my Olympics, and I've won the gold six times."
That's stretching it, but not too much.
The premier triathlon event is the Ironman held in Hawaii every year. It's a 2.4-mile ocean swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride around the island, followed by a full 26-mile 385-yard marathon through the hot and windy lava fields of the Kona Coast.
The first time he competed in Hawaii, he won by more than an hour. Since then, he has won five more times.
Scott first heard about the Ironman race in September of 1978 when he was in Hawaii for a nine-mile ocean swim, Lanai to Maui. He liked to call it a suntan day. He was sitting in a hotel lobby when he was handed a flier about this triathlon that was held for the first time the previous January and would be held again in a couple of months.
"I read the distances and I thought about it and I said, 'God Almighty, that's a long three days.' Then they told me it was all together, in one day, and I was fascinated," Scott said.
"I had always been a big workout nut. I would work out three or four hours a day just because it felt good. But I had never done any cycling. I mean, except for riding a bike to school and back. So I went home and bought a new bike and started riding."
Scott wasn't really a runner. He was a swimmer.
At the time, he was coaching the Davis Aquatic Masters Swim Club. He was a competitive swimmer, but, by his own judgment, he was never a great swimmer. He was a distance swimmer at UC Davis, a Division II school, where he was also an All-American in water polo. He ran as a part of his daily workout, but he had never run a marathon until he got the idea he wanted to compete in a triathlon. He ran his first marathon in Sacramento in September of 1979 and finished 23rd in a field of 1,850 in 2 hours 45 minutes.
By January of 1980, he was ready for the Ironman.
"Most people go into their first triathlon thinking of it as a survival test and just hoping to finish," Scott said. "You hear people talking about a triathlon like it's this crazy thing for crazy people who are sadistic or masochistic or whatever. I wasn't thinking like that. I went into it thinking of it as a race."
Because his daily routine had expanded to seven- or eight-hour stints, the question was not whether he could finish, but how fast he could finish. He even thought he could beat the record of 11 hours 15 minutes on his first try.
Dave Scott started building his legend when he finished his first Ironman Triathlon in 9 hours 24 minutes--not just an hour ahead of the field but also almost two hours better than the record.
But that was before he started perfecting his art.
He missed the '81 Ironman because of injuries incurred when he skipped an aid station toward the end of a 137-mile bike race, became hypoglycemic and dehydrated and went off the road at 20 miles an hour, ending up with 60 stitches in his head. He was still learning.
In the first of two Ironman contests in '82, he finished second to Scott Tinley of San Diego. It was in '82 that the race was moved from January to October, and that year it was held twice. In October of '82 he won again, lowering the record to 9:08.00. And in '83 he won it again, with Tinley pushing him. He finished in 9:05.52, with Tinley just 36 seconds behind him.
He kept the streak alive in '84, again lowering the record to 8:54. After that race, he announced that he was retiring from competition.
It was time to rest on his laurels. He published his book, which was also produced in the form of a videotape. He was working as a consultant, getting paid to design workout programs for people wanting to participate in triathlons. He endorsed everything from shoes to sunglasses, vitamins to bicycles.