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“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But 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. That’s how winning is done!”
― Sylvester Stallone, Rocky Balboa
It was 4AM on Sunday November 18, 2018 when the alarm rang from my night stand, followed by my watch, and Fiona’s phone. 3 alarms; this was Race Morning. Fiona and I woke up in the master suite of our 33’ RV and as I turned the lights on in the cabin, our best friend Duncan Rogers, who had made the journey from Alice Springs, Australia to Sahuarita, Arizona less than 2 weeks prior “just to race again with the Coyle’s” emerged from the 2nd queen size bed above the cab. Meanwhile my mother, who secretly flew from New York State to Phoenix surprising me 3 days prior as I emerged from the IRONMAN Store, awoke from the down-foldable couch. And then of course Coach Sydney didn’t move a hair laid on her puff at the base of our bed.
I ate the amazing Einstein Bagel from Costco with cream cheese, half a banana, 2 regular Red Bulls, and a Clif bar. Good for about 800 calories. Chip on, Wattie Ink Tri kit, and at 4:50am we drove from the Apache Farms RV Resort, 5K down the street to Tempe Town Park on the campus of Arizona State University listening to Bon Jovi’s Have a Nice Day.
We said our goodbye’s to our support crew, cheerleader, and photographer, Mom and headed to our bikes in Transition.
Garmin 520 Turned on, 1 bottle of Coke, 1 Bottle of Gatorade, and 3 packages of Clif Shot Bloks good for 600 calories were loaded. (During the race I took on board a Special Needs bag bottle of Coke, 2 bottles of Gatorade, and 1 bottle of water for around 1400 calories in total or around 300 calories per hour. My tires were pumped the day prior to 120 PSI, I put my bike cleats on the bike held in place by a rubber band and took a photo of my bike 2 spots away from the guy I expected to win my M30-34 Age Group and the overall amateur race of Dylan Gleeson (he was 1st amateur off the bike at the IRONMAN World Championship in 2017).
We headed towards Special Needs drop off and found Jesse Vondracek along the way; a Tucson Professional Triathlete that we have become friends with and owner of Top Step Training. It felt pretty amazing to talk to a Professional before His day to shine, something he does for a living. Duncan, Fiona, and I met his Professional athlete Adam Feigh and we had some nice dialogue. It’s these moments that I value and lookup to. During the run, Jesse twice said to me “Looking strong and smooth”. For a Professional to say this to me, meant a lot. And I admire Jesse and Adam even more with their amazing 6th/9th place finishes and times of 8:21, 8:28 times. Congratulations Jesse!!!
Pit stop, bag drop, wetsuit on, and we walked 10minutes north on the River Path in the new formatted point-to-point swim. We gave hugs, love, and lined up. I headed up to just around the 1 hour mark. My 2 Big Day Outs had me cover 3.8km(2.4mile) in 59min and change. I went 1:01:23 last year my 2nd best time after a 55 at IM Australia. The Pro Men and Women went off and 8 minutes later at 6:50am it was our time.
SWIM 2018: 59:18 2nd, 2017: 1:01:23, 12th
(61st fastest overall of 2,238 finishers, 35th fastest amateur of 2,199 finishers)
The water was cold, really bloody cold. It was so cold that even Joe Skipper pulled out of his race after the swim, but then again he is probably on 5% body fat. So my plan that I tried in our practice swim was to wear 2 caps. The first was a thick cap I got from the Germans in Kona 2016. Then, the numbered cap over this, replicating the idea I used in the frigged glacial waters of Challenge New Zealand in Lake Wanaka. I walked briskly down the ramp into the 61F water and started swimming. I sighted for the first buoy and was already passing people (no one knows how to seed themselves, ever). After the next buoy and maybe 200meters in, I realized I wasn’t breathing heavy enough; I wasn’t working hard enough. So I worked on my pull through with high elbows and relied on my endurance I built this season during my signature 3x1k of Fins, Pull, and Pull/Paddle. I also had some 4K swims with the longest being 4.2km. Besides that, I barely did any quality work but focused on consistent 3-5 swims per week and 1K repeats. And, it bloody worked! I continued to pass folks the entire time even till the end, barely getting passed I sighted quite well until I swam hard at one point thinking of a different family member on each stroke. Then, I was 50meters off course so got back on it. This helped me to swim only 3,850 meters. My arms really felt good the whole time and I owe this to finally being consistent on the swim training. With 500 meters to go I thought “You have got to go if you want to break one hour!” So I worked it bit harder. When I emerged seeing 59:18 on my watch, I went nuts. I was screaming without clear words because my face and lips were numb. But it was so good, such a great way to start the day with a 2:05 improvement. And Strava has me 11th fastest of 437. It shows how far I have come looking back to my 1:16 first IM Swim at Cairns and I have Fiona and Rob Johnston to thank for this improvement!
T1: 5:00 – I ran pretty well I thought, had wetsuit strippers take off the suit and put a hot shot and M&M Container with salt tablets in my Tri Top. I grabbed my bike, Dylan was already gone.
BIKE 2018: 4:44:01 2nd 246avg power/255NP 75%IF, 265TSS, 1755’ ascend. 2017: 4:50:30, 5th 235avg/power 247NP, 70%IF 240TSS
(39th fastest overall of 2,238 finishers, 13th fastest of 2,200 finishers)
Although Jesse had given me the advice to remain consistent on the bike at 78% IF, my goal was to hold 281 watts (just at 3.5w/kg for my 178pound body) till the turn around of the 3 loop course, recognize the lower power on the decent, with tail wind, head back to 281 for the lap and repeat. My BDO’s were in the 260’s so expected to end up around there but wanted to use the roller-coaster rhythm of the bike to power and then recover.
5minutes into the ride I passed my first Pro Female. I made a right turn and couldn’t even see the next person in front of me; this was new. I usually don’t experience no one around me till mile 40-60. But at mile 3? I was having a blast and felt like what the Pro’s must experience at the start. 1.4miles till the turn around I saw Heather Jackson who would go on to win the day. I cheered her on and was so excited to meet her at the Moxie Multi-Sport event in Scottsdale on Friday night. I had been dying to meet Heather since moving to Sahuarita near her training grounds of Tucson. And, now being a Wattie Ink Hit Squad Member had the door open. She met all of us including my Mom. I tried to explain to my mom that Heather took 3rd in the world just a few years back and is one of the greats in our sport today.
I also was excited to see Meredith Beth Kessler who I’ve raced with multiple times such as IMNZ.
After seeing Mom at the turn around for Lap 2, I knew it was now going to be very busy and dangerous on the road with me attempting to pass 1,000 of the back-of-packers. Just as last year blocking was massive as no-one realized they should stay right. Thankfully, I stayed up-right and had no close-calls but slowed by 24 seconds on the 10mile climb to the top of the “hill”. Power was also fading but I had now started stretching my back, was playing it safer with the volume of athletes, and was starting to fatigue into the stiff head-wind. I slowed 1:30 on the decent, unable to pass others at 30MPH+ and 3 riders across. My bike performed great thanks to my Sponsor at Sahuarita Bikes in Sahuarita, Arizona.
Tom is an amazing mechanic, great guy, and wears a cop badge as his other job. He was able to order and put on a new Dura-Ace 11-28T and my first ever UFO Ceramic Speed Chain within 3 days for me doing a full clean up of my bike. Thanks Tom! My power was pretty consistent with 1hr50 Z3, 2hr11 in Z2, and only 11min in Z4, but the 3 loops went 1:32:15 @ 273NP, 1:35:23 @ 247NP, and 1:36:13 @ 226NP. So my goal of a sub 4:40 didn’t happen because I didn’t hold the 265 watts my BDO expected of me. I tried to remain aero and Git R Done but didn’t have the muscular resilience to overcome the wind. Regardless, a 6min29sec PB over the prior year, and a lifetime PB of now 13 IRONMANS over my 4:45:37 at Ironman Western Australia 2015 by nearly 2 minutes is a great achievement.
It was 90-95% of my training done on the Wahoo Kickr and ZWIFT, race pace interval work, and 2 BDO’s at 265 watts that netted me this result. Cycling is my strength and I’m so happy to power through the course!
T2- 2:24 – I had no socks on having peed on the bike 4 time. I had probably an additional 6 pounds of water retention because of the 2 day 8,000 calorie-carbo-loading regime of Sprite, Twizzlers, Bread, Bagels, Fruit Snacks, Chocolate, Gatorade, my own large pizza, and Pasta.
In a first, I took off the tri top and put on a Wattie Ink Running Singlet with Bib pre-attached, used no race belt and held a pack of Clif Shot Bloks. I put on my brand new Altra Torin 2.5s I grabbed at the expo, no hat or visor, and had the volunteers put sunscreen on me while I put on socks. I slammed 2 more immodium after the 2 I took when I woke up, and 2 I took in T1 in an attempt to finally nip the #2 loo escape as I have for the last 3 years. And it finally worked! I thank top Australia and former Kona Triathlete Chris Rancie for this advice!!!
RUN 2018: 3:44:08 2nd, 2017: 3:47:23 8th
(138st fastest overall of 2,238 finishers, 104th fastest amateur 2,200 finishers)
This season I focused on doing 20mile long runs (5) and the Sandia Crest Marathon (3:17) which was the most painful race of my life. I also ran 90-95% on treadmill using a 1% grade thanks to quality athlete advice from Adam Folts. And, I did improve by more than 3 minutes while also working 10% harder on the bike. I also used a run/walk strategy with the plan to walk 15s every aid station in order to get in enough fluids. I was getting passed constantly and my prayers were answered because every ankle I looked had an age outside of 30-34. My mate Daniel Zamora from Team Every Man Jack (amazing, very talented, top of the age group and podiums around the world type athletes) told me at the 2 mile mark I was 1:27 back from first place and I thought “yea but that guy will run 30minutes faster than me around 3hours” (which he did by 31:16). It wasn’t till lap 2 when Daniel handed me Red Bull at the Mile 14 aid station in which he said I was 27minutes ahead of 3rd that I said “No Fucking Way”. After all, I had researched all 180 athletes in my A/G and there were at least 6 people in the hunt. I thought I could come 3rd-5th but it wasn’t till the next day that I found out 3 of those Gold AWA I had in the running never even started! It was also last year when the top 4 guys including this years 3rd place Kona A/G Finisher all finished sub-9. My research showed me that the competition was not going to show up in the M30-34 A/G except for Dylan but that analysis doesn’t really matter anyway. No Ironman is Easy. Every one is tough. That is why we do this! I constantly asked God for just and ounce of his strength to help me continue to push forward. And it was “Keep moving forward” from Rocky Balboa that I must have repeated 100+ times in my mind because we watched it the night before, and is Fiona’s favorite quote. Well, I kept moving forward even during mile 25 when I was not cramping as bad as in my 9:22 IMWA PB due to lack of salt and Hot Shot. That was my mistake. But when my friend from Moxie Multisport Tommy Corelli yelled to me “You’re in 2nd, you’re going to Kona! With 500 meters to go all I could say was “No Fucking Way!!” I wouldn’t actually believe it until the next day when I paid the $1,000 for my entry and collected my Kona Coin.
Unlike last year, I put on a real smile and ran down the finishing shoot to Mike Riley claiming ‘Kevin Coyle, 13 Ironman Finisher, alright Kevin! Legacy athlete now. I love it, he says he went to Australia and picked up an Aussie wife” I slapped my Mom’s hand just as I entered the shoot, crossed the line, and then did what had entered my mind early in the run, doing the Blazeman Roll.
Maybe I was inspired from the Terminal 4 Stage Cancer athlete expected to die at any point (even on the course), or the Israeli commander who lost his arm and came to IMAZ to race his first, or the Deaf and Blind athletes who set the IM North American Record. I just felt impowered to raise awareness for ALS in honor of Jon Blazeman (look it up). The last time I did this was Challenge Atlantic City and was then embraced by Jon’s parents.
My mom had her surprise investment paid off and was in a ball of tears over my 2nd place finish; I still couldn’t believe it. I came back to the finish and waited for my wife and best mate. While there I noticed a face I saw at the opening of the YouTube 2013 IMAZ Race Day Video I only noticed this week. Having just voted for Kristen Sinema, I knew the name, and the face. She is a 2X IM Finisher, volunteers every year at IMAZ and was there at the finish. I had a quick chat and wished her best in Congress and future IM’s since I of course voted for her in the 2018 Election!
Fiona soon came in and I medaled her as I do in every Ironman. I waited for Duncan and waited for him again in our 3rd Ironman together, my brother.
OVERALL 2018: 9:34:51 2nd A/G, 53/3,275 2017: 9:44:58 8th A/G, 50/3,269
In 2016 when I qualified for Kona for the first time, there was a self-implied asterisk next to my name. I had qualified but I didn’t truly earn my spot. There were 6 spots and 3 people deffered to not wanting to go, having a baby, and focusing on 70.3 worlds. I got the last single spot in a stacked field which enabled me to compete alongside my wife and teammate Karen McPherson. This time around, I had my best ever placement by 3 spots and truly earned my spot by taking one of only 2 spots available to the 143 finishers in my division. (there were only 40 spots available for the 2,496 finishers). I in fact was in the top 1.6% of the field on this day. And that is the key. Racing IRONMAN and shooting for a Kona Qualifier (since a podium wouldn’t have cut it today) requires, your best ever triathlon and the luck of who shows up on Race Day. It’s for this reason this Self-Coached athlete continues to use Joe Friel’s book “Your Best Triathlon”. My researched gave me an indication that I had a shot. It had no impact on my race (because an Ironman is so damn tough that I am always doing the best I possibly can) but to know that I had a chance helped shine a light. This effort last year would only put me up from 8th to 7th. If I was racing 35-39 like I will next year, I would also only have finished 9th. But on This day, in This event, the Kona God’s shed some rays of sunshine on me.
I am extremely proud to have improved in all 3 disciples, set my 2nd fastest ever Ironman, Swam my 2nd fastest ever swim finally breaking 1 hour again after 3 years, getting on the podium for my 1st time ever in an IM, and still facing adversity like those cramps in which I said Fuck You!
Thanks goes out to the love of my life who turned this fur-seal into a front of the pack swimmer. The Pressure is ON YOU NOW and I love you. My best mate who I call brother, Duncan for making me feel so good about myself and being the amazing person you are, I love you. You’ve been there for 2 of my 2 KQ’s, Please come to every IM going forward! My mom, you had quite the return on your surprise investment of flying out from Keuka, NY to Tucson. I’m so happy to have shown you a performance that I am truly proud of, I love you and thank you for coming. And to all the “Facebook Likes”, Messages of support, and those that enjoy sharing in this amazing, healthy, and rewarding addiction I have for Triathlon, I share this with you!
I couldn’t end this novel without someone who is very special to Team Royle. (Rogers + Coyle = Royle); Chelsea Rogers. You know sister, there is a reason for everything even shitty and terrible experiences, there is a reason. Experiences like this KQ for me are not my chance, they are destined. We are already canceling and withdrawing from IRONMAN Australia and IRONMAN Ireland so that we can compete and race alongside YOU at IRONMAN Cairns. I know that you will inspire Fiona to be the best she can be in her homeland along side “the machine”, Karen McPherson.
Lets go Fiona, Lets go McPherson. Let’s repeat 2016. Let’s retell our story with greater success. Lets do this shit. IT’S TIME!!!!
Whats next: Tucson Marathon (3 weeks, BQ Attempt), Oracle 50K Ultra, Sonoita 50miler, IRONMAN Cairns, IRONMAN Hawaii
Congratulations!! While I won’t be racing, hopefully I will be in Kona cheering!!