Geoff Meyer

Managing Director of IRONMAN Asia Pacific

Built to Last - Into the mind and making of an IRONMAN!
by Sunayana Nair
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It was 1982. A teenaged boy in Australia, as among millions across the world, watched with awe, a news footage unlike any other in the history of a sporting event – a severely dehydrated woman, kept falling over from exhaustion, pulling herself up to achingly crawl through the finishing line of a triathlon. The iron will of the lady, Julie Moss, catapulted the then budding triathlon event, IRONMAN (a 140.6-mile arduous race comprising 2.4-mile swimming in the ocean, 112-mile bicycling and 26.2-mile running successively and continuously that can take up to 17 hours to finish) to be reckoned, almost instantaneously, the ultimate gruelling endurance sporting event worldwide. The teenager, transfixed by the power of that visual was Geoff Meyer who incidentally is Managing Director of IRONMAN Asia Pacific. Geoff’s journey with IRONMAN commenced much prior to his decade-old professional association and even before he began participating in IRONMAN events as a youngster or the preparatory triathlons, which he began merely four years after the ‘Moss’ effect. It was the instant he resolved to compete in IRONMAN – Moss’ struggle ignited as well as deeply resonated with an inherent subconscious hunger to challenge limitations, continually.

“You don’t know what an IRONMAN is until you see it. Most people train three years to get there and the reasons to do so are myriad and much beyond crossing the finishing line. Some are doing it for a loved one, or some may have beaten cancer and coming back to it… It is a journey. The amount and range of emotions you see across the finish line is extraordinary.”

Sports has always been an integral part of Geoff’s life. He ‘grew up with sports’ alongside the lovely beaches in Australia, that set the tone for his love for swimming, surfing and well, the ocean. His parents, a Dutch father and a Kiwi mother regularly took him off to team sports and so Geoff was always playing – either the soccer or rugby in high school or cross country running, swimming in college. In fact, Geoff’s biggest turnaround after leaving school was his taking to endurance-based sports which he had an edge over even in school. Once college was over, and with it as the profundity of choosing ‘the lifepath’ suddenly dawned upon the youngster, as it does often, sports was the only constant Geoff was absolutely clear about. And he took to it with a vengeance. So, what began as getting a bicycle and riding through lanes, soon transformed into racing and then a part of his lifestyle with Geoff always looking forward to ‘what’s next’ to beat. The world of triathlons opened up rather organically when he figured that all he had to master was running – a sport that self-admittedly, he hasn’t been very keen about.

“Most kids in Australia will grow up playing some kind of sport. With IRONMAN being at the top of the food chain, the more grassroot-level (sporting) events helped to keep on getting better. I was always looking for something to better... looking for the next step.”

He participated in his first triathlon in 1986 and thereon in scores of Olympic distance level triathlons, racing sometimes every other weekend, until his first half IRONMAN in 1996 and consequently his first FULL IRONMAN in 2000 at IRONMAN Australia. Participating in the races provided the release that Geoff was looking forward to, perhaps also compensating for the void Geoff felt professionally. For, even as the ‘what’s next’ came intuitively to him with regards to his equation with sports, the answer eluded him professionally for a fair amount of time, even when he was well into his third career change. It wouldn’t be until his return to Australia in 1999, with Geoff having dabbled in teaching, hospitality, investment banking in the UK while also having travelled a fair bit of Europe with his wife (then girlfriend) Rachel, that an opportunity in sports marketing with a company USM (United Sports Marketing) Events, finally gifted him his vocation in Events.

“Work might not have been fulfilling me as much but my outside life was fulfilling me in that regard. It wasn’t until I did many IRONMAN (races) that I got into events and subsequently I stopped racing. But the events got more fulfilling. In many ways, training for IRONMAN and training for months on end for an event you are planning, making sure it is of fantastic quality are quite similar.”

Geoff began working at the ‘grassroot level’ at USM and gradually went on to become a race director where he had to pull off an event with 100 staffers and 1000 volunteers. It was an important milestone that allowed him to experience the similar adrenalin rush that preparing for a race gave him. He gradually went on to ‘run the place’ at USM. But the golden moment was when IRONMAN acquired USM Events nine years ago and they went on from a small office in Australia, to 3 in Australia, New Zealand, a 90-staffer office including Malaysia and Singapore, gradually evolving with a strong Asian focus and planning some of the largest sporting events in the continent. Geoff shifted to Singapore two years ago to focus on the Asian market. He is credited with growing it into 35 events from 3 events apart from entering 9 new markets. Considering the extremely diverse cultural makeup of Asia, it is indeed commendable. India is among the countries where IRONMAN got launched officially (as we publish this piece) following which the first event is scheduled to take place in Goa on October 20th 2019.

“If you haven’t got passion for it, events should be the last place you want to be. It is gruelling and if you don’t get it right, you’ve got to have real thick skin for the kind of feedback you will get.”

Geoff Meyer with his team

Geoff Meyer with team at conclusion of an event.

Geoff Meyer running that extra mile

Geoff Meyer running that extra mile

“Running an event is very much a team focus and we can’t do without a good team when the cut off time for an event is 17 hours. The team is working very long days to pull it out. You are running as strong as your weakest link. All are in it together, towards this common goal.”

The move to Singapore also enabled Geoff to save on time that he usually spent traveling to and fro his home in Australia. And while he misses the beaches and the fresh food (as opposed to the ‘fresh food flown in’ in Singapore) and moments with his extended family and friends, especially evenings where he barbecues and puts up roasts for his loved ones (yes, he loves to cook!), Geoff believes moving into Singapore has done a world of good in terms of striking a decent work-life balance. Balance being the keyword since Geoff is the happiest when he achieves it across all aspects – almost seeking it always. In fact, he believes it to be the key when preparing for the IRONMAN and also abides by the same when it comes to working out personally or following (or not) any particular diet regimen.

“Balance is key. It is all achievable and you’ve got to have that balance and tailor it into your lifestyle. Many athletes get up early and arrange their workout. Training with other like-minded people is another critical part. It is really hard getting up early and training (for IRONMAN) by yourself day after day. If you can, do it with others; it helps in getting up in the morning and feeding off from each other’s enthusiasm.”

Geoff Meyer with family

Geoff Meyer with family; wife – Rachel & sons – Zain & Wil

Geoff Meyer at event

Geoff Meyer at an event launch

“If majority of life is spent doing good things, it’s all good, similarly, if majority of the time you are eating good things, it’s good. You don’t have to be crazy about it. The minute it boils down to wondering if one can put salad dressing on a salad... it takes away all the fun!”

Although Geoff stopped racing at IRONMAN events due to the inability to commit time for the rigorous training coupled with a leg injury last year, fitness remains a non-negotiable cornerstone of his life. Geoff regularly works out every day and has taken to competitive paddling with much zeal. He is the member of a prominent water sports club at Sentosa Islands in Singapore where he trains every weekend with a bunch of other paddlers. At the time of the interview, Geoff was working towards participating in the spectacular World Surfski event, Dragon Run, that was scheduled to take place on November 10 at Hong Kong incidentally, just weeks before the India IRONMAN launch event, IRONMAN Malaysia and the Singapore marathon! Geoff’s excitement to participate in the 24-km paddling challenge from Clearwater Bay Beach to Stanley, was palpable and akin to when he participated in his first triathlon. The thrill of learning something new at 50 years of age is something that clearly keeps him hooked as paddling requires him to unlearn and let go certain instinctual rules of swimming – his first love.

(Post-podcast note on the Dragon Run experience – Geoff shared he had to navigate through ‘extremely tough conditions – the strongest in the past 12-year-history with 40 – 60km winds, 2 -3 meter swells.’ He shares “I was out of my depth, spending a lot of time in the water than on it but I made it to the finish line”. Geoff is nevertheless motivated to improve his skills and looks forward to race better the next time.)

“Listening is critical when learning something new. You think you know everything but you don’t. It is like being a kid again and being taught again step by step. I love that.”

“With the Dragon Run, it is exciting for me because like the (first) Half IRONMAN it’s going into the unknown, wondering - can I do it? Can I handle it?”

We did get to catch Geoff live in action on a weekend at Sentosa, thanks to the rain gods keeping at bay! The childlike enthusiasm and amazement as Geoff paddled and interacted with his group couldn’t be missed. He was well in the sea for over 2 hours and while he patiently obliged us throughout the shoot, he already had his next event to attend to – football practice with his two lovely sons – Zane and Wil. Family time is sacred to Geoff and the doting father makes it a point to indulge his sons by watching the Harry Potter or Marvel series, cooking with his elder son or playing football or surfing with his boys and occasionally feasting on chocolates. The family ritually takes an annual ski trip to snow-cladded peaks in Japan or on a sport-centric holiday.

“I am the happiest when everything is balanced and I am training and I am with my family and also working. I need to be training to take the edge off else it gets stressful... Balancing time is challenging; balancing travel is hard. You are away from home a lot and that is the hardest part to get right.”

Geoff’s definition of success boils down to a simple thing – being happy at the end of the day. His basic tenet of ‘Just getting on and doing it’ is a circumstantial inheritance, bequeathed to him when he prematurely graduated to becoming the ‘man of the house’ at merely seven years, when his parents divorced. It however founded his work ethics and life philosophy. It amazes Geoff to observe what it has allowed him to accomplish by simply allowing opportunities to find him as he went on just doing his bit. From being a young unassuming Australian lad to leading and launching some of the largest sporting events in the largest and most culturally diverse continent in the world is quite a feat. Additionally, of being an enabler of creating life-altering experiences – millions of them, each possessing a distinct journey, each a story of a battle that is deeply personal – poetically transcends the notion of endurance which is often confined to physical dimensions.

“At seven years old, I was the man of the house even though I saw my dad a lot. I don’t know if it was about being responsible but to me it was just life and part and parcel of it. To get on and do it and this stuck the whole way through... It laid a good foundation.”

Ironmen and Ironwomen are moulded through years of persistence and dedication. There’s much romance symbolically in crossing that finishing line, but a lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into the making of that one romantic story. Which is why it gets as real as it can, when a TV visual sparks in a young teen the resolve to find and break that next barrier. To have nerves of steel rather than muscles of steel alone. For it is the spirit that endures when the body begins to fail. It is in the eyes. Geoff’s pair, tinted greyish green, aren’t steely but dreamy and much like the ocean in all its vastness – calm but ready to take it on, at a moment’s notice.

One would assume that ruthless aggression would have paved the way to head arguably, the toughest and most prestigious endurance event chain worldwide. But Geoff is no shark. Geoff is an intriguing balance himself of steely determination and malleability, of fun and responsibility, of persistence and letting go, of bubbling optimism and smouldering reserve, of being patient while being eager to check ‘what’s next,’ around the corner! What does it take to endure? To thrive? To build to last? To be built to last? But, for perfect balance…

Play Video

Geoff Meyer, MD-IRONMAN Asia Pacific On Tips For Participating In IRONMAN, His Journey So Far, Work Life Balance And.. Watch Him Paddle!

CXOFUNFACTS with

Favourite colour

Orange

Zodiac Sign

Scorpio

Comfort food

Chocolate

A wild animal that represents you

Dolphin

Preferred Cuisine

Japanese, Thai, Fresh Food

Priceless experience

10-week overland safari in Africa

Personalities you admire

Richard Branson. Obama. High-performance athletes.

Happiest when

Balanced in terms of family, sports, work.

Favourite Destination

Japan, Maldives – where one can ski or surf!

Interesting incident

Bought an ambulance from a couple of backpackers and drove around it for 6 months across Europe with now-wife Ruby

Favourite movie

Watching Marvel, Harry potter series with his boys

If you were to design a fantasy endurance sport event

Mix of Skiing, Surfing and Paddling at exotic locations

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