Ironman Western Australia (Busselton) Race Report by Fiona Coyle

“It ain’t about how hard ya hit. Its about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward”

About 10 weeks ago my husband was horrified to learn I had not seen a single Rocky film my entire life. So for the next few Sundays when the weather tipped high in the thirties we sat in our little lounge room on the bike trainers for 5-6 hours, working our way through the life of Rocky Balboa. I peddled away for hours going nowhere watching Rocky take on Apollo Creed, battle a mighty Russian, run the cold streets of Philly and form six packs stronger than my carbon fibre bike. As I sat on my bike absorbing the many awesome quoted coming out of Rocko’s mouth, little did I know that one of them would pop into my head on race day and be on repeat for over six hours…..

Fast forward to 5:50am on Sunday the 6th of December and I find myself standing on the beach of Busselton, surrounded by over 1000 people ready to take on the 3.8km swim leg of an ironman. I weave my way up to the front row with my husband Kevin, who is also racing, and immediately feel like a fake knowing these guys I stand with can swim sub fifty minutes (my time two years ago was one hour and two minutes). I wanted to try something different though this ironman time around, and try and stick on some feet and do some legal draftingJ. Thirty seconds to go and I kiss my husband goodbye, say good luck and then………off we all go!! Face gets punched, legs get pushed down, arms get wacked, so many people around me, I can’t swim properly at all…

this isn’t fun…

picture below summarises my frustration, that’s me the Asian man in the middle…


I duck under a few people, pause for a little to find some space and eventually make my way to some clear water next to the jetty. It’s here I will stay, trying to battle some choppy water and the occasional sideways swimmer, as I get through the swim slowly but successfully in 1hour and 4minutes.

Onto dry land and I run into the change tent to one of my favourite things about ironman racing, the transitions! I sit down while the volunteers take off my wetsuit, dry me off, put on my shoes, dress me, sunscreen me, pack my suit full of a delicious lunch of gels and red bull, all while I sit there and rest a little, it’s awesome. I run out of the tent thanking the lovely people, grab Percy the bike and head out onto the 180km bike ride. I immediately notice the wind, initially a tail wind but with so many turns on the bike course its quick to change into head and side winds. The weather is also cool with rain coming and going, not the hot weather I thought we would have but a nice surprise. The bike is a two lap course as flat as a pancake along the coast and then into forestry. My target time was 5hrs 5minutes, translating to an average speed of 35.4km/hr. I know with the wind that this would be very hard but I try and go for it while trying to stay within my target ranges for power and heart rate. I hit the half way mark with an average heart rate at 155, a little too high, but with a time of 2hrs35minutes and spot on power (193 NP) I’m happy (and just tell myself the heart rate monitor must not be working properly!).


Once into the second lap though I find myself feeling a little dizzy and start to wonder why as I had been eating every 20minutes and taking in a lot of fluids. So I turn to my special needs bottle of coke, skull it like an Alice Springs local, and within ten minutes start to feel better! Coke – by far the best sports drink in the worldJ. Sixty kilometres to go and my legs start to tire, it’s around this time that Rocky enters my head, and then never leaves…

“It ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward”

I hang onto my power and try and work to catch a few girls I can see in front of me but it’s hard. The winds get stronger, I feel tired, I find myself wanting to slow down but Rocky keeps telling me to just keep moving forward. This gets me through the bike in a time of 5hours 15minutes, and I’m ready for another holiday into the transition tent.

Into some running shoes, hat and sunnies and I’m off onto the run. Coming into this race I had high hopes for a massive PB, but with the swim and bike legs now completed and not hitting anywhere near the times I was aiming for I knew this PB was out of reach. My mind then switched to the marathon and wanting to hit my goal time for at least this last leg – 3hours 30minutes or 5minutes / km. If I could achieve this, then in my mind the race would be a success. I went out onto the run guided by how I felt, which gave me an average of 4:50min/km up until the 30km mark. It was here where my quads began to scream and the little blisters on my toes were deciding to burst, I knew this was the time to get mentally tough and keep pushing but the physical side of things unfortunately won me over and my time began to slow. Rocky was there though in my mind telling me to keep moving forward, and I was happy to run the entire marathon in a time of 3hours 32 minutes.

Coming down the finishing chute I had no idea of my overall time, I ran passed a guy on the sidelines with 200metres to go and he said if you start sprinting now you will go under 10hours. Without a thought I switched into a sprint / high cadence duck waddle and saw the finish line clock ticking over. I saw my husband waiting, my favourite memory from the race, and he managed to catch me as I crossed the line in 9hours 59minutes 33 seconds. Second female in the 30-34 age group and 9th female overall.


This was my third time back at Busso, and I guess third time lucky! I really wasn’t expecting it but at the kona roll down the next day I was lucky enough to grab the 2nd spot in my age group to compete next year in Hawaii, at the Ironman World Championships. If someone would had told the girl in the first picture below as she finished her first ironman in 2010 that in five years’ time she would get to go to kona, she would have laughed. But just as Ironman tells us, anything is possible. With the right training, people and consistent effort over time anything really is possible!


The last six months have been challenging for sure. I don’t know why I ever thought combining full time work, a masters degree, and training for an ironman would be a good idea, but I was up for the challenge! Throw in some drama with our little triathlon club though and there were times when it all got too much. Never before have I felt my body get so fatigued and my mind become so negative just from stress. What got me through these times though was the support from some of my club members, whether it was a simple phone call, a hug as I was about to burst into tears or a prepacked homemade dinner of chicken noodle soup, these things meant the world to me. I want to personally say a huge thankyou to Lynn and Pete Treis, Jock and Karen McPherson, Debbie Page, Dunc and Chels Rogers, Ben and Brenda Bruce, the Whiteheads, Dee Ward, Sam and Tim, Roxy and Vaughn, Jason Dawson, Kate McIntyre and Helen Kindness. You guys made me proud to wear Alice Springs across my chest and played a big part in getting me that ticket to Kona.

And to my husband! My best friend, my coach (although unqualified as one, he is the main reason for the change in the race times above – from an 11:08 to a 9:59), my inspiration to be the best I can be in all things. You mean the absolute world to me and I couldn’t imagine a more amazing life together.

And thankyou Rocky J


One response to “Ironman Western Australia (Busselton) Race Report by Fiona Coyle

  1. “With the right training, people and consistent effort over time anything really is possible!”
    I’ll take that quote.

    Congratulations on getting a Kona spot, I hope you get a break before you head into your next season.

    I see IM Cairns is already on countdown.


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