Ironman Western Australia
“Thank you for registering. You are confirmed for 2013 SunSmart IRONMANWesternAustralia”. That was sent to me more than 1 year ago on December 11, 2012, when I and eight of my mates from central Australia signed up for some, their first ever Ironman triathlon. One week later I had organized the accommodation putting myself in the loft of a 3 room apartment with Fiona Collier who was “keen to stay with the ‘Alice squad’”. It is impossible for many to know what will happen over the course of a year but little did I know that one year later I will have been successful in achieving the greatest accomplishment of my life while doing it with my best friend and future life partner.
In January 2013 I had returned to Alice Springs after completing Challenge Wanaka. An iron distance race in New Zealand known as one of the most beautiful courses in the world, the pro’s including 2x Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack said it was one of the hardest races of his career. I took 4th in my age group that day in a time of 10:49:58. The 3.8K Swim took 1:18:02, the 180K Ride took 5:43:01, and the 42K marathon run took 3:39:40. Although I ran the entire marathon without walking one step, it was slower than my first Ironman Cairns of 10:08 and Ironman Mont Tremblant of 10:28.
Back in Alice Springs the day I returned, I was offered an opportunity to head back to the USA for work for 4 weeks. During that time I recovered while eating everything I wanted and doing 3 hours of total exercise. But a relationship started when Fiona accepted my invite to travel to Darwin in May and compete in an Olympic Distance Triathlon.
I returned and we began training together competing in the Alice Springs Triathlon club races winning several of the biggest races including the Tavis Johannsen Ultra and the Alice Springs Triathlon. We traveled to Darwin and also put together strong performances setting personal bests and riding at 39K or 24.4mph for the 38k/23.4mile ride. Unfortunately my foot really flared up and I was unable to reach the starting line of the Great Ocean Road Marathon on the other side of the Country a week later.
Fiona and I returned to Alice Springs at the end of May having now been boyfriend/girlfriend for nearly 3 months and knowing that our future was with one another. I started the Prep Phase following Joe Friel’s book Training for Serious Triathletes. Meanwhile, Fiona went to Cairns with many of the Alice Springs Triathlon club members and completed the 70.3 Half Ironman course in disappointing time of 5:21:57 taking 9th in her age group. We both desired a new level of training that was wrapped around Consistency. We were eager to race in Busselton at the end of the year. We approached our training knowing where the training would take us but focused on the phase we were executing to and living in the moment.
In Fiona’s 3rd attempt at the Iron distance race and my fourth, we both knew what was required and what it would take to both have break-through performances. We motivated each other, pushed each other, and shared amazing moments that would only be shared while training for such a race. Together we completed many of the workouts. Now for some statistics. 29 weeks including the week of the race totaling 400 hours of training or 14hours per week on average. There were 4 weeks of 20 hours or more, 3,924miles/6,343KM ridden, 579miles/931KM ran in 22 weeks, and 182KM swam. There were 16 rides of 4 hours or longer including 3 rides of 6 hours or longer. There were 10 runs of 2 hours and 2 runs of 3 hours or longer which includes the race. This training brought lifetime training totals to 18,662 miles or 30,000KM ridden, 508KM swam, and 7,197miles 11,580KM ran which retired 12 different pairs of shoes. Together the training was the most consistent and most demanding training we had ever done. It led us to both get sick 2 times a piece and fighting to complete workouts in the Build phase with 3 weeks till race time. But, the tests we had done in our training dictated to us what we were capable of and give us a race strategy.
So on Saturday November 30th, Fiona and I packed up the car and headed to Busselton. That in itself was a journey. We traveled 4,100KM or 2,548 miles. The 40 hour drive took us 4.5 days. We camped out the first night at Lake Hart near Woomera which was a Top Secret missile testing range by Australia and the UK. Trains passed by us at least 10 times that night and the flies were awful but the massive salt lake was fully dry and quite impressive. The next night we reached the Nullabor Plain home to thousands of dive caves, blow holes, and a 300KM long, 80 meter high cliff face that we camped at the top of. We were not able to see whales but the sunset was incredible. The 3rd night had us camping in a forest outside of Norseman which is a massive gold town that excavates 100,000 ounces of gold per year since the early 1900’s. The next day brought us through the white sandy beaches of Esperance and to a camping spot along the beach at Western Australia’s most southerly point. It was here we saw a furseal riding in a wave. The next day brought us to Busselton, our destination.
We met up with our friends, explored the city, went to the expo, and practiced swimming along the Southern Hemispheres longest wooden jetty. 2 days before the race we even went for a run with Matty White and several other professional triathletes. Matty would take 5th on race day in 8:25 and ask me about The Outback Half, a half iron distance race we are planning in Alice Springs in April 2014. The carbo load dinner was exciting under a tent large enough to hold 2,000+ people. We had a Skype session with 3x Ironman World Champion Craig Alexander and we also learned that the world record holder over the distance Andreas Realert from Germany would be racing. We enjoyed all the days leading up to our day and focused on our race plan.
But now let’s get to it. Race Morning. 3:15AM and the alarm goes off.
I put on my brand new red Compressport calf sleeves and my Alice Springs Tri Suit, timing chip, and put my race number tattoo on my arm. Then came the track suit to keep me warm. I grabbed my wet suit, special needs bags, and ate 2 pieces of toast, banana, and red bull. We left 10 minutes before transition opened, drove down, and reached our bikes. We pumped up the tires to 120PSI, put nutrition on the bike, put the cleats on the bike with baby powder inside, and turned on the Garmin 500. We dropped off special needs bags and waited in line for 20minutes for the bathroom. The entire Alice Springs team met up took a photo with our wetsuits on and 30 minutes before race time started walking to the north side of the Jetty. Fiona and I watched the pro men and then the pro women take off and then we headed onto the beach. I had brand new goggles, cap, and my xterra wetsuit that I had plugged holes in thanks to Alicia’s patch kit. Per our race plan, Fiona and I started to the right hand side, lined up with the 500 meter buoy and started at the front of the pack, knee deep in the water. I said my prayers, focused on the objective to have my best ever triathlon, and was so happy to have trained for 6 months and now get to this point, race day, the starting line, waiting for the gun.
BOOM, 5:45AM GO! In my training we did 2, 1-hour tests that both indicated a 1:03 swim. I wanted 1:05. Now it was execution time. I swam next to Fiona and on her feet for 11 minutes. I lost her at that point and tried to maintain the intensity and effort. I sighted to see the end of the jetty which was very easy as the water was very calm and weather conditions perfect. Unlike Mont-Tremblant, I did not feel like I was going to drown for the first 5 minutes. There was plenty of room and I didn’t get kicked, punched, or swam over. I was able to quickly get in a rhythm and knew that I was working hard enough because I could only breathe to my right side. I didn’t see fish like Fiona had because I was only focused on getting the job done. At the white buoy at the end of the Jetty I saw 28:30 but was disappointed when I saw the other 4 buoy’s I had to turn around at. At the half way I read 32:30 which was right on goal pace. I kept looking for Fiona, wondering where she might be but then stayed 10 meters off the jetty and drafted off one bloke most of the way back in. I saw 58minutes with 250 meters to go and knew I wasn’t going to break 1 hour but was very excited to know that I was going to set a massive PB. I stood up in the water once my fingers touched the sand, ran through the arch to the announcer calling out my name and was ecstatic to see 1:02:47. This was a 7minute PB over Mont Tremblant and a 16 minute improvement over the race 11 months earlier in the freezing glacial waters of Wanaka. I rehearsed my next steps running through the shower and grabbing my bag.
I took wetsuit off with aid of volunteer put on my helmet, glasses, and put gloves down my top. I ran to the rack only to see Fiona running down her isle as well. I screamed for her as we reached our bikes simultaneously. I slowed down for her to catch up and we emerged from T1 together, side by side, letting her edge me out just slightly. J. I ran to the side cleared out of the way and struggled for a minute to get my feet in my shoes and Velcro them down. But, having fallen in my first ever triathlon while running with my shoes on and then getting clunks of grass stuck in them at Ironman New Zealand, I opted to keep shoes on the bike. Once I started going I saw many of the support crew we had for Alice Springs, passed Fiona and wished her best of luck.
Out on the bike, I quickly got in the groove. The 3 loop, 60KM course was flat, smoothly paved (a rarity in the NT), and very exciting. I was passing many competitors till it finally started to clear out 1hr 15minutes later. At 1:35 I made my first loop on track for a 4:45 finish. I headed back out and grabbed my red bull as I felt I needed it. I drank my 2 bottles of Ironman Perform, ate my Cliff Blocks every 30minutes, ate 3 bananas, and had plenty of coke. I continued to push, maintaining race intensity but the back started to get sore even with my new ISM Adamo time trial seat. 4:44 into the race I started passing Pro’s. I was amazed when that happened and wished them all luck when I passed them. One of the greatest moments was passing a male pro however. I knew I was doing something special. Several athletes tried making pushes on me but I denied them coming back and then laying in the hurt on them. Another highlight was at the end of lap one when the helicopter off my left hand side, maybe 5 meters off the ground nearly blew me off the bike from its’ vortex. In my training I had gone 4:53 for 180KM. I knew that I could break that on this course. I wanted 4:50 and was on target on lap 1 & 2 but lap 3’s head wind coming into town was too much. Regardless, after the bike I ranked 7th in my age group, 56 overall, and 54 in males (out of 1,402 finishers). I had the 38th fastest bike split which beat 7 of the 8 women pro’s and 2 of the pro males including last year’s winner. My power output of 228w/avg and 233w NP showed a variability index of 2%, decoupling (power vs HR) of 2%, but W/KG of only 2.6w/kg. It was the strongest I had ever gone and was the 2nd fastest time in my age-group. It was incredible seeing Team Alice out there on the rides and they inspired me to keep up the effort. Heart Rate was spot on at 135/avg even while passing at least 242 people. Having done so many consistent long rides the ride was not very hard. It went quite fast as I don’t fully remember lap 2.
At the end of the ride I handed off my bike, saw the port-a-jon and thought that maybe I should go. After all, I didn’t pee all over Shelly like I had in prior races and wanted to have a good race. I ran in, sat down, went #2 and watched my legs shake uncontrollably. Then I got up opened the door and saw a volunteer 10 meters away look at me and drop her mouth open. Then I looked down and said “Oh Shit”. Yea, I forgot to pull up my tri suit. My parts were open for all to see. I ran over and told her I just wanted to give her a free show. When I got to the seat in the tent, I next found out that I had a 3meter long piece of toilet paper coming out my ass… So yea, that was embarrassing as well considering I had a female volunteer sitting right in front of me putting sunscreen all over my body. But whatever, this is an Ironman. Shit happens. Literally hahah. I put on socks, shoes, hat, and race number. I smiled looking down at my red bull and walked through T2 to the clock pounding my red bull. I saw the clock tick up to 6:00:00. I jumped up to the clock and said to myself out loud, “this is it, go get your 9:30”. I headed out to the thousands of spectators many calling out my name and supporting Team Alice.
The race plan was to walk each aid station as in practice and take in nutrition along the way. I started doing so putting ice down the front and back of my tri suit. Although it wasn’t very hot, it was still very refreshing. I wasn’t cramping and did a 7:28 first mile or 4:38KM which is a 3:15 marathon pace. That would have been nice to maintain! But I was very consistent on the run with the slowest mile only 8:34 or 5:19/KM. The next story was 16 minutes into the run totally wiping out over a speed bump. I fell as I hadn’t lifted my leg high enough and fell to my hands and then rolled along the ground. The guys behind me said “I guess they don’t have speed bumps in Alice Springs!”. For a moment I thought my race was over. But I walked it off for a minute, regained my composure and then started back. Later on the same lap I would see Sean Loader. I gave him a high ten but his hand hit my glasses as he tried to gain an edge over me. J my $300 prescription lens popped out but I kept running. Once at the same spot on the next loop a guy in a pink speedo ran up to me and gave me the lens. I was relieved.
At no point did I feel very hot but I did have my 4th red bull on the day during lap 3. I kept looking for my age group and passed 3 in the last 5KM all while seeing my amazing fiancée power through on each lap. I kept telling her how much I loved her every time I saw her; it was amazing. I was on pace to go sub 9:40 walked half of the 2nd to last aid station and knew that if I wanted to finish strong I had to run through the last aid station with 2KM to go. I did so, running across the line to the words Kevin Coyle You Are an IRONMAN. In a 3:34:31 marathon I finished my 4th Ironman setting a PB by 34Minutes to a 9:34:33. Any other year I may have been in the top 3 but so much talent showed up on race day and I took 11th in the age group, not even close at going to the World Championships. But I shed massive PB’s on each leg, and learned so much.
IRONMAN is inspirational. I saw what looked to be a 300 pound guy called Lunchbox doing his first every Ironman and finishing. I saw a 79 year old compete and win over an age group Ironman World Champion by 33 seconds. I also saw the first ever C6 quadriplegic complete and finish a 10 year long goal. He had only 15% of muscle strength, no use of forearms, wrists, fingers, or anything below his nipples and he was the first one to ever attempt this. Ironman is for family including the Duffy’s that had both a brother/sister earn spots to Kona. It’s for lovers such as Fiona and I. It’s for newly engaged such as the 2 wedding proposals. It’s for the young and old. Ironman gives everyone, EVERYONE, the ability to set a goal and a platform to achieve it. Too many people these days give excuses. Many these days fail to realize that in order to be role models for their family and their community they need to be role models to themselves. Ironman gives the opportunity to realize how strong we all truly are. It is the world’s greatest single day endurance event and teaches competitor and supporter, family and friend, that anything is truly possible. And yes, after seeing a quadriplegic complete an Ironman, I do believe triathlon is the world’s greatest sport.
I have accomplished so much in my life by the good graces of Jesus Christ. He has given me an ability to be educated to a Masters level, buy a home at 24 years old, travel the world to 50 countries, complete 18 marathons and 4 Ironman’s, live independently, explore so much, and find the love of my life. Passion and Love of life. That’s what I have; it’s what I possess. I thank my parents for keeping me outside when so many played video games and their work ethics, I thank my friends including World Champions and Olympians from the Northeastern Crew team for showing me the greatest in their sport and my coach John Pojednic and Dan Garbutt for cultivating and understanding of what it means to truly push yourself. Forever I will thank Trevor for talking to me about running and triathlon. You started all of this for me. I thank the high-roller at Mohegan Sun that gave me $5,000 allowing me to buy such an incredible bike, I thank the athletes of the Alice Springs Triathlon club including Sean Loader for making me work so hard. I thank Joe Friel for putting out the book Training for Serious Triathletes. And the most recent influence in my life. One who inspires me, pushes me, and makes me so incredibly happy, Fiona, I thank you. You took 4th in your age group setting a PB by an HOUR and crossing the line, the 23rd female.
What’s next? Challenge Atlantic City June 29th 2014. On the 8th day of our marriage and our honeymoon. Just like Busselton, I will be waiting for you right at the finish line. I love you.
Thank you for reading.