October 21st, 2017. 7PM Race Eve of 70.3 Arizona. I was here 10 years ago, in Tempe and reunited with my uncle today who met my wife Fiona, for the first time. Uncle Kenny played football at ASU from 1967-1970, was a phys ed teacher for 36 years and then retired with a family and my cousins living around Tempe. I had no idea 10 years ago that I would be back in the future, ready to race my 6th half ironman, alongside my wife.
But here we are. We’re currently in our 33’ RV hanging with the Snowbirds just past the turn around of the IRONMAN Arizona bike course that we’ll partake in, in just 4 weeks with my Mom and Stepfather coming out from NY to support.
I’ve done twice as many Ironmans since being stuck in Alice Springs, Australia for nearly 7 years meant that if we were to spend $1500 to escape, we’d do a full vs a half. My history is: 4:48 in the half Vermont Journey getting 2nd in my A/G on a road bike back in 2010. 3 weeks later I went 5:00 in the Syracuse 70.3 because I had a flat but would have qualified for the 70.3 World Championship if I stayed for roll-down. 2012 was IRONMAN New Zealand which was cut to a 70.3 and netted a 4:53, 2015 saw Geelong 70.3 in 4:33. And 10 weeks ago on the back of moving half way around the world and all the stress that entailed netted my worst ever performance of a 5:20 at the Mountainman half iron-distance race in Flagstaff, AZ at 7,000’ altitude.
Tomorrow will be my 6th half-iron distance race. My swim has still been lack luster with nothing at effort, but just 1KM repeats of drills, pull buoy, and paddles with some kick. My plan is to swim as hard as possible. A goal is a PB of sub 27:33, B goal is sub 30. There is no C goal. The bike has been going well but 2 back-to-back weeks of 350TSS led to difficult weekly rides. However, this week I hit 3x15min on 300, 306, 307 watts on the trainer. My goal for this race and only real focus is to bury myself on the bike. My goal is 90% IF or 300 of my 330FTP. I will go out about 310-320 watts just below FTP and then maintain near the 300. I’ll try bringing it down into T2 to average just over 300 watts. This could net me anywhere between a 2:10-2:20 bike ride. The run will be a mystery. I’m going to not hold back and go as hard as I can for as long as I can and see what happens. A top 3 would be amazing but my competition are consistently running 1:20 for the half against my 1:37, (Good reason why the eventual winner is going Pro next year), so the swim and bike need to be top notch. Fiona could qualify for the 70.3 World Champs but we won’t take it since it’s in South Africa and our real goal is Kona.
This week has been OK. Several swims, Tues/Thurs 10 mile runs, Wed a 2hr race pace set, Friday completely off and Saturday only a 20min run. We’ve carbo-loaded today with a bunch of junk food and dinner is Champagne, pasta with sauce, rice pudding for desert.
RACE DAY 70.3 ARIZONA
We woke up at 4AM. Banana, 2 pieces raisin toast, and some Sprite. RV Slides pulled in, leveling jacks up, unhook power, and by 4:30AM we were off to Tempe. We took the very IRONMAN Arizona bike course we’ll ride in just 4 weeks past the landfill and into the city lights. Trying to get to parking was stressful with many roads closed but we finally found a spot that would be perfect for the RV, free, and 5minutes from transition. With 40min till race time I was a bit stressed and hurrying to transition.
Powerade in Torpedo, 2 RedBulls in down tube, 1 pack of clif shot bloks in bento box, 2 salt tablets (Fi forgot hers). Air to 120PSI, Garmin on, towel, running shoes, socks set with HotShot prepped. 2 Gels in fuelbelt and bib on. Helped Fiona with her tires, hit the bathroom, and had water from a stranger to swallow 3 imodiums. Then I had a full pack of Clif ShotBloks. Wetsuit on and Fi brought gear to bag check. I lined up for the swim, kissed Fi goodbye, then saw her again before heading in since she’d start 1hr20min later. The 3rd wave started at 6:36, 16min back from Wave 1. Down into the water and sculled for about 7 minutes before our wave took off; it reminded me of the wait in Kona.
SWIM: 1.2mile 30:57, 4th out of the water (1,925 meters swim vs 1,900 race)
I started right behind two guys who said they were swimmers and the only thing they were good at. At the canon, I took off. I lost those feet very quickly. It was a bit rough at first as usual but soon I was moving. I felt like I had a good speed and arms felt only slightly tired but I knew I felt way better than MountainMan 10 weeks ago where I went 33:34. The sun hadn’t yet raised and I felt like I had good speed and was right on the buoys. I was drafting off of one person in front of me and by the turn around he dropped off. I had wide open water and thought I must be going well but tried not to think of my time. I started passing people from the first wave and just kept moving with a bit of motivation here. I emerged out of the water thinking I was around 28-29 so was disappointed with 30+. I’ll try and get more consistent in the next 4 weeks. Fiona saw me and cheered me on and got some pics. The wetsuit strippers put 2 nice holes in the armpit of my $900 wetsuit, shit. Americans can’t swim. Aussies dominate. I used to be 10-20th in my A/G down under.
I walked briefly to put the Garmin back on the wrist, ran with wetsuit over shoulder to bike and was doing pretty well. I looked over my shoulder as I thought I heard Fi but she was too my left taking a photo.
Bike: 56miles (55.4miles) 2:19:52, 275NP, 85%IF, 88RPM, 168TSS, Max Speed 36.8MPH, avg 23.8MPH (1st off the bike in A/G)
My power was far off from the 300 watts I wanted to hold. 85%IF is OK, I did work really hard, as hard as I could but the legs felt a little zapped. I reckon this is from Wednesdays workout and the last 2 training weekends. Cadence also varied but was a bit too high when moving. The 3 loop course was interesting. It was fun and felt like a Criterium but the road surface was not as nice I expected and the 15 hairpin turns sucked. The waves alleviated some congestion but many people were blocking not realizing I was going to fly past them at 24MPH-30+MPH. At one point I yelled out left, a guy didn’t get over, and it was a bit of a cuss fight. I apologized internally and tried to get back to my race. There were many many slow people on $10,000 bikes. Just goes to show you it’s not all about the bike. Damn it, just made a Lance Armstrong reference. F**K that guy. I regress.
I had my blocks and took on water that I dowsed myself with as usual but don’t believe I took on any other nutrition. I did pee on the bike before entering T2.
So I’m very happy with setting a PB by nearly 3 minutes on a course I thought was going to be a hell of a lot faster, but I hit my A goal here of sub 2:20. I still have more work to do here over the next 4 weeks. I had the 4th or 5th fastest bike ride out of the entire field of 1,269 athletes.
On the butt to put socks on, shoes in, and down the HotShot. Out the door.
Run: 13.1miles (13.2miles) 1:34:16, HR? Damn.
I had no expectations. I just wanted to run as hard as I could and not lose focus. At the first aid station the guy said I was 7th overall. Lucky #7. I was amazed. The next guy was 20seconds ahead but I just stuck to my own race. I thought about quick fast feet, forward lean. Legs felt good but I also didn’t really think about them. Just maintain focus and push. I tried not to work out times, or what-ifs. Just friggen run!
I was consistent and quite close to where my recent sprints and Olympics and 5Ks have been. I knew I was going to have a good race. I really stayed focused thanks to the redbulls and did actually eat my gels. Cramping started by mile 9-10 and I knew this because I usually have salt tablets every 15min on the bike, today was about learning. 1 person passed me who was the eventual winner of my A/G and I gave him a high 5 as he passed me and wished him good luck, I overtook 2, I kept running. He was the only person to pass me on the run; another person did but they were on Lap 2. I stayed positive and believed in myself. I was thinking of Fiona hoping she was having a good day. My pace started to slow slightly by mile 11 to 7:20s w/ the bridge climbs but looking at my watch thought sub 4:30 was possible. I had a big smile the final mile and soaked it in. The turn to the finish line was longer than planned so I really had to stay strong all the way to the finish. I crossed the line with a PB by more than 3 minutes and super happy.
Pizza, redbull, and RV for Sydney. Back to the course, found Fiona. Cheered her on, she was in 3rd w/ 4th place moving. She was having an off day but I tried to motivate her keep pushing. In the end, I truly earned a spot to the 70.3 World Championship in South Africa; there were 2 spots and I got the 2nd. Fiona could have chosen it too but we both turned down our spots and the $10,000 trip to Port Elizabeth. There will be many other chances for USA 70.3 Championship races. But it’s the 70.3… It’s not Kona. In the M40-44 A/G there were 140 starters and the largest field. Only 2 people wanted to go, the other spot rolled to the next A/G….
I’m not in Australia anymore… that means that it’s much easier for me to place higher in my A/G than I had in Australia. The quality of the Aussie athletes are just unreal. Americans may have more represented in Kona, but that’s just a numbers game. The competition that I faced in Australia.. well, they were incredible. Cameron Wurf was my competition…. Who was first off the bike at Kona this year in his Professional debut? Cameron Wurf. Trying to Qualify for Kona or even podiuming in Aus, well Good Luck. That’s the only thing that got me there. So it’s just interesting to see the two cultures and their influence on endurance sport. If this race was in Australia, there is no way I would have come 2nd.
In the end, I had fun today and I finally put out a performance that I’m proud of. It’s been a tough season but we’re doing our best and today, in this country, it was enough.
4 weeks to go. Stay tuned!!! follow me on instagram at viper30ma, strava Kevin Coyle, or look me up!