Welcome to TucsonAthlete.com. Just over one month ago my wife Fiona Coyle and myself, Kevin Coyle moved from Alice Springs, Australia to Tucson, Arizona. It’s been an incredibly stressful, experience filled with many happy times and new experiences that I’d like to share with you today. This blog entry is long over due and I hope if you are one of my 20,000 prior visitors you continue to enjoy in sharing in our journey. And, if you are new, I welcome you as well. In short, my wife and I are IRONMAN athletes competing in endurance events around the world. We are self-coached and will be once again pursing a qualification for the IRONMAN World Championship.
Where to begin? How do I condense my typical 2,000 word essay to half that?… shorter sentences. Here we go.
After 6.5years for me in Australia and a lifetime for my Australian wife, Fiona, we left family, friends, and amazing memories to return to my homeland but still 3,000 miles away from my family. Originally from NJ and educated in Boston, we sought out Tucson for being a Triathlon and Outdoor Mecca.
We started the first week low at less than 9 hours of training during Base 2 week 3. We trained at many of the Anytime Fitness’s throughout Tucson as our membership from Alice Springs gave us access; we have now discontinued our membership since our HOA fees include a 5,000’ gym only 2 minutes from our house; along with a 25meter pool open literally 24/7. We competed in the Breeze in the Trees 5KM in Sahuarita, Arizona which is our new hometown and minutes from our house. Fiona and I both took 2nd in our respective age groups. Out of 175 runners, I took 8th overall in a time of 21:15. Fiona was 3 spots back in 11th with 22:19 (3rd female overall). 17:42 was the winner. My time was pretty awful but even running underneath the Pecan orchards which surround our town, it was hot, humid, and we were fatigued from the travel and living out of a hotel.
The next week went to 10 hours of training during recovery week. I didn’t swim at all as we hadn’t yet moved to Sahuarita. We did ride nearly 4 hours into Madera Canyon which is a 2700’ to 5500’ ascend 30minutes from home. This was in the afternoon after returning our RV. So yes, of the many things we bought within 10 days, a 2017 Forest River Forester that sleeps 6 was our 2nd home on wheels we bought, after our first home, our 4bdrm, 3bath, 3,300’ house. We also bought a brand new Prius Limited, a brand new Rav 4 Hybrid Limited, a 75’ TV, a 55’ Smart LG TV, and tons of stuff for the house including a Princess Bed from Princess Cruises, another bed, and furniture… Biggest spending spree we may ever have! And this is open to you as our readership base for triathlon training camps in Tucson! Seriously!
Next week, Base 3, week 1. Up to 14.3 hours of training: 35miles run, 144miles bike, 3.5miles swim over a whopping 3 times. Our trainers arrived from our Australian Air-Shipment so we got in some quality work but that weekend, only 3 weeks after arriving in the USA we took our 2nd home (Priscilla i.e. the RV) up to altitude at Flagstaff’s 7,000’ of climb. This is where the American Olympic Marathoners train and we were coming here to compete in our first half-iron distance race since Geelong 70.3 in 2015.
We had no idea what to expect competing in a 1.2mile swim, 56mile bike ride, and 13.1 half marathon run at altitude, but we’d give it our best.
Now, along with spending a small fortune over the last 3 weeks, starting a new job, buying 2 homes, and moving to the otherside of the world, doing a half-ironman would be an event. And it was. We had issues with our generator so we stayed at an RV park the night before the race with our bikes fully together, and our dog Sydney who also travelled from Australia. New experiences and the new way of IRONMAN RVing. The wetsuit swim was in the lake near flagstaff and it was beautiful. The fog was heavy before the early 6:30AM start and as the RD counted down to go, I said my prayers and then took off. For one second I thought “this is easy”. Then I started gasping like I had in my first triathlons. My arms were completely dead having swam only 3 times over the last 3 weeks. I had no power whatsoever so had to result to maintaining good form. My swim of 33:34 was absolute shit but, because Americans are awful swimmers and my bike was even worse, the swim which was my weakness in Australia is now my strength. I was 14th overall and 4th in my A/G after the swim which was at least 6 minutes slower than 2 ½ years ago. The pictures out of the swim show bags under my eyes of my shear exhaustion; it’s no wonder my day was so shitty.
On the bike, I had no power. My avg power of 195 was easily 70 watts lower than what I’m capable of. But, my legs were so tired and fatigued, with a lack of quality training that made it a giant suffer-fest. How much was the depletion of oxygen in my blood cells at 7000’ of altitude? I honestly can’t say. But my performance was abysmal. The ride was also beautiful with strong winds and I was happy to see my wife. The Americans were on their game and I had no idea where I was at. I consumed my fluids but just felt awful. My 2:42:12 led me to 17th overall and 4th in my A/G by the end of the bike. Again, easily 20minutes slower than planned. I did have my new WheelScience rear disc which was great but I didn’t do it justice!
T2 was slow and as I crossed the highway to begin the half marathon I was walking within 2 minutes. I said out loud “Holy S**T”. Oh boy, this is going to be a rough day. I think that was when I realized the altitude. I decided then that I would set a goal of run/walk 4:30/30s. I did that for the next 1:57 to my worst half marathon ever. I fell back to 28th overall and 6th fastest run in my A/G. The very long and steep climb 1 mile into the run was shattering.
In the end I finished at 5:17, 17th out of 81 and 4th in my A/G. Fiona though had a better day coming 3rd female overall and won her A/G only 12 minutes behind me… She’s going to do well here. American’s have nothing on the Australian competition.
Week 2 and we were finally over 20 hours of training including Fionas first ascend of Mt Lemmon. Professional Triathlete Heather Jackson (3rd in Kona) was on the mountain that day but I didn’t recognize her in the hundred + athletes I saw descending Lemmon’s 6,000’ of climb. The 6hour ride started with our 3rd Priscilla RV experience in Tucson and I met some legends at the top of the Mtn. Fiona struggled breathing at the 8000’ of elevation while trying to climb her TT to the top. As we descended from the 65F degrees at the top to the 100F at the bottom; we realized we weren’t in Alice anymore.
Week 3 and now we’re up to 23 hours of training and finally finding our groove! Quality bike intervals on Tuesday, a climb of 3,000’ to Madera Canyon on Friday, and Tempo rides in the 100F heat on Wednesday and Friday. Swimming was still poor at only 3X for the week. Saturday night I saw IRONMAN Professional Triathlon Ben Hoffman do an epic 150mile+ ride in Tucson. I was inspired. So the next day, Fiona and I trained in the day-old tracks of a Professional; someone trying to be the best IRONMAN athlete in the world; someone who wants to be a REAL CHAMPION,.. you know when you actually WIN something?! I had no idea how long it would take but expected it to be around 6 hours.
We headed west from Sahuarita to the Copper Mines and found the first of many dead snakes along the way. We descended into Green Valley and took the service rd along Rt 19 towards Mexico. We stopped at a Mercado (market) for our first fill of cokes. We turned back north around 50miles South and only 20miles from the Border of Mexico. We ascended into Patagonia where we’ll compete in Arizona’s hardest Olympic Triathlon soon. The whole time I kept thinking about how we were training under the same conditions as Ben Hoffman. We also realized having competed in Kona in 2016 that this course very-well replicated the Kona course. We climbed to 5000’ into Wine country circumnavigating Mt Wrighston which Fiona and I ran up the prior day: it was a 3hour run for me, 3hr30min for Fiona. We started at 5,500’ and ran up 4000’ to the peak at 9’500 with amazing views of Southern Arizona. After another stop in Patagonia we regrouped in Sonoita. The decend of 2500’ was fun at 30+mph and when we hit Sahuarita Rd, crusing the decent for 40minutes at 30mph was a relief; I was shot.
In summary, Tucson is everything I wanted and more. We are missing our loved ones back in Australia and are finally feeling our groove in our leadup into IRONMAN Arizona. Out diet is far from vegetarian at the moment while I hit up some of my old American favorites but our inspiration is coming around. And I’m back to being called “Coach” not just by Fiona but by someone else who has reached out to me to compete in her first ever 5k. I also helped inspire this person to a vegan lifestyle. It’s a good feeling when you know you have directly helped and inspired someone. That is the purpose of this blog; to share and inspire.
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Really glad to hear the move has gone well Kevin – exciting times. Don’t worry too much about the 70.3 result; with everything going on around you at the time I think it would’ve been a minor miracle if you’d performed well. Plenty of time to put in a ton of work before Arizona.
All the best – Joe