I am currently the AUSTRALIAN All-World-Athlete M30-34 Age Group Champion, two spots ahead of an absolutely incredible athlete and mate of mine, Blake Kappler. He won our A/G at Cairns and took 8th in the World in Kona this year. Blake would destroy me any month of the year, as he has numerous times before, but I’ve raced more. With IM Western Australia in just a few weeks, we’ll see if I can still claim this top spot. So, here is my story and how I got here.
Just under 25 hours ago I crossed the IRONMAN finish line for the twelfth time in five and a half years and the 3rd time over the last 8 months. I ran across the line of IRONMAN Arizona to Mike Reilly saying once again, “Kevin Coyle from Australia, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” Like, IM New Zealand, I am sure he was confused by me running across the line with the USA Flag overhead. The flag was handed off to me by my stepfather Tony, shortly before turning down the chute. As I crossed the line, I saw my mom on the fence in a ball of tears. After a quick massage and chicken broth I went back to the finish line and medaled my wife, embracing her as she crossed the line in her tenth time as an IRONMAN finisher. Together, it was the 7th time I welcomed her across the line. But now we’re 60 miles from the Grand Canyon. I’m on the bed above the cab in our RV drinking champagne, recovering in our NORMATEC recovery boots and hanging out with Fiona, Mom, Tony, and Sydney typing this race report up!
Our journey to IMAZ started more than a year ago on October 27th, 2016 when Fiona and I registered through the AWA Gold Early Registration process. We knew that in July 2017 we would be moving from Alice Springs, Australia back to the USA and Tucson, Arizona was the goal because it is the mecca of Triathlon in the USA.
But after registration and before heading to the USA, we headed to IM New Zealand. On an absolutely brutal day Fiona and I welcomed our mates Duncan Rodgers and Mark Russell across the line in their first ever IRONMAN. I was 14th A/G going 1:05, 5:21, 3:42 for 10:17 total.
Duncan and I both backed up IMNZ with IMCairns only 13 weeks later. I had another poor showing in my A/G with 15th. I went 9:45:14 broken up by 1:02:49 Swim, 4:49:27 Bike, 3:45:00 Run. I had improved over the prior year at Cairns by 1min27sec when I took 9th in my A/G and qualified for the IRONMAN World Championship.
Over the next month and a half, Fiona and I travelled to Sydney for her USA Visa Processing, moved our entire home and dog Sydney to Sahuarita, Arizona and I started a new job. But we also bought a house, an RV, two brand new cars, furniture for the entire house, and a 125gallon fish tank. Our mostly vegan diet wasn’t being followed since Kona 2016 and the training was not what I wanted it to be. Fiona also was pursuing a masters degree having to go to Australia for face-to-face studies the week of the race getting to athlete check-in on Friday afternoon with 3 hours to spare, before racing two days later. For both of us, it was a crazy and stressful year that we had never truly recovered from after Kona.
Fiona used her former triathlon coach, Sean Foster from Fluid Movements in Melbourne, Australia for her run program. (As a former Professional Triathlete and Kona finisher, he knew how to run). For me, I stuck to our Joe Friel training books and FTP training from Hunter Allen’s books.
Only 13 swims of 4K or longer. One 6KM swim and nothing with any quality until the last two weeks. 18% of training was spent swimming covering 62.4hours. Without any motivation to swim with quality I used 1K sets mostly with pull buoy to support my heaving legs and my 184 pound body. In the bike, we climbed Mt Lemmon twice and had 8 rides of 5 hours or longer but 3 of these were between 6 ½ hours and 7 hours. We used quality intervals at FTP and spent most of the last month on the trainers. 175.7hours of cycling or 51% of our training time. On the run, which was 31% of the time and 107.5 hours, we had only one run of longer than 2 ½ hours which was when we ran up the 9,500’ Mt Wrightston in the Santa Rita Mountains just south of our home in Sahuarita. We also only had 8 runs of 2 hours or longer. Most of the season was spent around racing from Sprint, Olympic, and Halfs. I saw a few overall wins and personal bests but what would IMAZ bring me?
RACE DAY: 9:44:58, 9th A/G, 40th Gender, 50th Overall out of 3,268 (incl non-starters).
Up at 4AM. 2 pieces of white toast with jam, half a jar of applesauce (1st timer), and a RedBull (because Fiona asked for one). We sat around and then left at 4:45 from the Apache Farm RV Park to parking near transition. Our bikes were nearly next to each other as our bibs were 727 and 729. We got our gear together and then went for a 15min run (1st time ever warming up before an IM). Back at Transition, wetsuit on and bags checked in. 15min to go I ate a full pack of Clif Shot Bloks and had 2 imodium (1st timer). We headed to the front of the first coral of sub 1 hour swim and I saw our mate Elliot Kawaoka who I battled it out with at the Barlett Lake Olympic Triathlon. Kisses to the wifey and we filed into the water at 6:50AM during the wave start.
SWIM 1.2Miles. 1:01:23, 12th A/G, 60th Gender, 82 Overall
With the lack of any quality training, I had no expectations. I didn’t know what I would do. I had messaged our swim coach Robbo saying that I would be over the moon with sub 1 hour since I had only done it once when I swam 55:37 at IM Australia in 2015. I expected around 1:03-1:05 since it was a wetsuit swim and I have some base performance. I started out counting 40 strokes (Sean’s recommendation) and focused on my form and just working hard. At times I had clear and wide open water, at other times I was in bunches getting kicked in the face a few times. But, I was passing people. Anyone that would pass me was already in front of me. On the way back of the one loop course I tried to follow PurplePatch Fitness recommendation of a straight shot back cutting to the inside of the buoys but the paddleboards were making me stay right of the buoys. I had to stop after one kick to the face to fix my goggles (1st timer). I emerged from the water pretty happy with a time of 1:01, 11 seconds behind Elliott.
I ran past the wetsuit strippers for the 2nd time this season so that I could compose myself vs going from horizontal, vertical, back, horizontal, and a sprint run. Instead, I ran out focusing on my breathing, eventually undid my Garmin, rolled down my wetsuit and before the tent, slid on my ass asking the volunteers to rip off my suit. Inside, I put helmet on, Clif Bar and salt tablets on back, ran to bike, and headed out.
BIKE 112miles. 4:50:30, 7th A/G, 31st Gender, 34th Overall: 245NP, 70%IF
So my new race strategy, something that has taken me 11 IRONMANs to figure out but had full backing from Sean who kindly took the time to give me a personal call and offer his kind words when I said that I was going to go as hard as I could. I had grand visions of holding 300 watts for 3 hours and then watching it drop down over the next two hours, backing it off at mile 90/100 and averaging 280-290 watts close to 3.5 w/kg. I expected a 4:30-4:40 bike from this effort.
I passed Elliott within a few minutes and gave him a wave and by 8 minutes in I started passing the Pro Women. (all but 3 beat my time) but I only beat 1 pro male.
So the head wind out was strong but as soon as we turned at the hill crest on the 1st of the 3 loop course I was blasted to 38MPH. Each loop the winds got stronger and my return speed increased. I saw at least 4 bad crashes with a 10 bike pile-up. It was a bit sketchy with nearly 2,600 athletes and thin roads. Most of the athletes were blocking creating multiple hazards and the drafting in most of the field behind me was God-awful. I knew early on the legs didn’t have it but would stay positive and give it my all, all day long. My power and HR both dropped all day long and my showing was in-line with my performances from this year: IMNZ 240NP, IMCairns 253NP. It’s far off from 2015/2016 when I went 254, 256, 258 when I was doing IM’s once every 6 months vs one every 3 months like now.
Nutrition wise, salt tablets every 15-25min, drank 1,000 calories of gels held in a bottle with water, 1 clif bar, and 2 packages of clif shot bloks. Very little caffeine from the past when I relied solely on Clif Shot Bloks. I peed on the bike twice.
The Argon 18 E119 Tri+ felt fast with our brand new Grand Prix TT tires, WheelScience Rear disc, and $800 in brand new cassette, chain, and chainrings put on days before the race.
The wind was relentless which many of the pro’s like Lionel and Sara complained about. I didn’t mind but my neck and back were completely busted up. I was happy with the time which was only 1min10sec off of IMCairns.
Into T2 I took my USA Scody Tri suit off and used my brand new Wattie Ink Blue Camo split suit to be prepared for potential bathroom breaks as I’ve had for the last 4-5 IMs. I had 2 more Imodium (1st timer) and slammed a HotShot which now in multiple IM’s, I stand by as I have again had no cramps. I thought I put my salt tablets on me but realized later I forgot them, or did I? It’s a mystery. Socks on, Shoes on, No Hat (1st timer) I realize I’m too big and put off too much heat so no hat or even visor!!!
RUN 26.2Miles 16th A/G, 98th Gender, 126 Overall
“If you have the legs, go with it.” – Sean Foster. See, most of the literature out there in books and magazines are not catered to the pointy end. And, because I’m not going to spend $3500/year on a coach, it has taken me all these IM’s to figure this out. I can recall IMCairns seeing 7:00/mile coming out of T2 and saying “WHOA, SLOW DOWN, YOU’RE GOING TO FAST”. New Strategy: Go as hard as you can! You will slow down. Negative splitting and even splitting are not quite possible (except for the most talented athletes).
So I went out running 7:34, 7:42, 7:48, 7:49, 7:48, 8:00, 8:14, 8:16, 10:22….. (I spent 2 minutes on the toilet and happy with my Wattie Ink investment but the damn toilet paper roll was all bundled up). Next time, more Imodium!!! 8:21 (Climbing the one hill), 8:02 (ran alongside Lionel Sanders for 2 seconds when I gave him a high 5 and told him that he was amazing in his way to the three-peat), 8:15, 9:01, 8:27, 9:03 (mile 15 and the wheels started to come off HERE). BUT I DIDN’T GET NEGATIVE. I remembered what I did at the MountainMan Half Ironman in Flagstaff, AZ when I had a slugfest and ran 4min30sec, walked 30sec. So, I quickly brought in that strategy (since running aid station to aid station would have been too much of a toll on me). This, was sustainable. 9:33, 9:14, 9:20, 9:21, 9:12, 9:24, 9:22, 8:58 (mile 24 down the hill and maybe with some tailwind), 8:54, and even with a half mile to go I still used 30s off walk since at this point time was of no concern. I knew that I would go sub10 and was excited to show Mom and Tony a sub10 performance. I grabbed my flag (thank you Tony) and ran down the cute flexing arms up holding my flag.
I am not disappointed. YOU CANNOT FAKE AN IRONMAN. NO IRONMAN is EASY. Your Performance is a REFLECTION of your EFFORT. My 6th sub10 performance while no where near my potential is a reflection of the last years stress culmination. So where do I go from here? Well, after this Fiona and I will be registering for next years IMArizona welcoming potentially Duncan, Jennifer, Rob, and maybe others. (It will be a party and you are welcome!!!) After recovering the next 6 weeks, January will once again start our vegetarian/vegan lifestyle since the first time I used it I qualified for the Boston Marathon in a 3:08 and then the next time was when I qualified for Kona. We’ll focus on shorter stuff going to Oceanside 70.3, St George Utah 70.3, and a half ironman in Arizona. One 5KM, a half-marathon in Las Vegas, and then a PROPER 5-6month training plan.
What is the path to sub9? A few minutes in the swim, maybe a 58, 15min on the bike to a 4:35, and a 3:20 marathon. I know that this is possible for me and the way to get there is holding rides to 5 hours but doing the much more intensely, more mountain climbs, and runs of 2:30-3hours but with quality. Back to treadmill runs and more quality. I’ll also go vegan and this will help me wake up early to train in the AM so I can get back up to 25hour training weeks vs the 16.5/week I averaged this season. Quality is the theme. Motivation is the key.
YTD Totals: 431KM Swim, 7,657 Miles Biked, 1,577 Miles Run, 804 hours Training.
Thank you to my wife for being the love of my life and making me so happy. Thank you to Mom and Tony for being a wonderful support crew. Thank you to our many other family and friends from around the world who have sent many wonderful messages of love and support. We all have our own journeys. I hope you have enjoyed following ours!