I know that this is long but I’ll probably write a book someday. So please enjoy reading and comment below with any feedback and please share it!
[Monday. June 13th, 2016 5:45AM at the McPherson Resort 20 minutes North of Cairns, Australia. I haven’t been able to fall back asleep for the last hour and fifteen minutes as all I have been thinking about is my race from yesterday, the 2016 Cairns Airport Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship, and hoping to secure a spot for the 2016 Ironman World Championship in just over 4 hours from now.]
The Season Lead Up
If you’ve been following my blog, or even if you haven’t, you’ll see from all my posts how I have come to become a triathlete and what my goal has been since starting this sport. You’d know about the success of my wife Fiona Coyle and great friend Karen McPherson, the first two people to ever qualify for Kona from Alice Springs, Australia. You’d know that I had given everything I could to this season by focusing on my weaknesses and developing my strengths.
All of a sudden, work became very busy and I was up at 5am Monday thru Thursday which was far from ideal. But, I nailed the race week training sessions going inside to Anytime Fitness, for safety and to insure I arrived to race day in one piece. My 2 week old bike, Sami, had an issue with a very stiff headset but Shane at Smith St Velo helped me out and he wasn’t worried about it. He helped me with advice on taking the bike apart and packing it for the first time which was quite easy for the 2016 Argon E119 Tri +. I also bought a brand new Torque wrench set from him to not “screw” up Sami’s screws.
We started BeetUp, a beet juice Supplement from Australia on Monday and as I finished off the chocolate flavor and started using the beet juice flavor, I was hating it; quite disgusting turning EVERYTHING red. But we used this on Big Day Out 1 & 2 (BDO) and were used to it. Fiona’s friend Rob Johnston who she knew from her triathlon Sydney University days, gave us the tip in his successful KQ “Kona Qualifier” at Ironman Australia where his 9:22 was able to secure the #1 spot in his age group and 20th overall. (Many in Australia seem to know “Robbo”, his swim is typically one of the fastest amateur swims on the day and he seems to make every YouTube Ironman Race Day Highlights video!).
I also saw my chiropractor, massage therapist, and hypnotherapist who helped me work on acknowledging the pain that I was definitely not ignorant about. She helped me acknowledge the pain and to focus on moving forward. I listened to the taped sessions each night. At the awards celebration on Monday, I spoke with Pete Jacobs, the 2012 Ironman World Champion and the man who passed me during Sunday’s race taking 3rd position overall, and looked incredibly strong (my 2nd lap, his 3rd). The topic seemed to spark some intrigue while we conversed about his solo-training in Noosa, mental acclimatization of the Kona heat, and when Fiona and I swam two lanes over from him in Noosa back in April 2015 in route to Ironman Australia. A class-act guy.
Nutrition remained strong and clean during the week. Sticking with our “mostly vegan diet” that excludes meat, fish, eggs, cows’ breast milk, butter, and all dairy except for some occasional milk chocolate and cheese on top of lasagna, enchiladas, and pizza.
Heading to Cairns
We headed to Cairns Thursday night on the 5:55pm flight from Alice Springs with others from the Tri Club that we saw in passing. Fi and I sat together sipping Soy Chai Lattes. Karen and Jock McPherson picked us up from the Cairns Airport with a banner welcoming us to their “resort”. We also were able to meet Stacey and her partner for the first time; Stacey would finish her first ever 70.3 on Sunday.
Back at their awesome house, we had some veggie pasta, garlic bread, and a couple glasses of Pepperjack Shiraz.
We headed down to Cairns for the 9AM Gold All World Athlete VIP event. Fiona and I, both Gold, were able to attend together. (A Gold AWA means that you have earned enough “loyalty” points to be considered the top 1% of all Ironman athletes). We tried local exotic fruits, heard from some of the Ironman team, spent time with “Robbo”, and was hanging out with 3X Ironman Cairns Champion, Liz Blatchford. I had seen her at The Goose, the restaurant on the pier at Busso when we had breaky with our squad in December, but I didn’t interrupt her so it was pretty incredible to be able to ask questions of this Professional Triathlete. Unfortunately, she couldn’t race due to a torn plantar but she gave a few tips on acclimatizing for Kona.
We went to the Ironman store and saw our other good friend Duncan Rogers who also went on to finish the 70.3 in a solid time of 5:35 on little training with his stressful self-run business. In August, Fiona and I will be able to train and compete alongside Duncan and Mark Russell in their 6 month lead up to next year’s Ironman New Zealand which I know we’re all looking forward to because it will be their first-ever Ironman.
Then it was onto the food store for the Carbo Loading adventures. (Lollies, Sprite, LCMs, Dark Chocolate, white bread, jam, etc.) in the target of 12g X 82g (984g) of carbohydrates on both Friday & Saturday.
Athlete check-in was great because the added benefit of Priority Access with the Gold AWA class. We were able to bypass the 30 minute line in the heat and humidity, and went straight up.
We headed back north of town, put the bikes together and did a 35 minute easy ride with Karen to make sure our bikes were in working order. My seat was at the wrong height. I hadn’t measured it since on the Scott Plasma Premium III, the seat post was cut which doesn’t require marking. This wasn’t the case on Sami so I had to look at pictures I took to make sure I had roughly the right level. Fiona’s bike chain once again hit the Quarq magnet. We had to take off the crank arm system to superglue the magnet back on the frame so that the power-meter would work. This almost ruined Fiona’s race.
FiFi’s race report will certainly cover this but essentially, I didn’t fully tighten the crank arm back on the bike. It was wobbling on her from Port Douglas to Rex’s lookout. The Shimano guy said he had never seen this before. It could easily have fallen off and caused serious issues and injury. Essentially, she pedaled on the left side with little effort on the right side for 30ish km. Knowing that and the fact that she was still 2nd off the bike is incredible.
Friday night we went back into Cairns for the athlete briefing that now excluded the athlete carbo-loading dinner. There was a very good fire dancer and dignitaries speaking and the typical stats. (The youngest athlete was 18 years old and the eldest athletes was 83 YEARS OLD, both from Japan (and no-shit, he went 13:38… WTF? I don’t even know how that is possible but in Ironman “Anything is Possible”), 328 Japanese Finishers, 3,500 athletes between the half and full, 240 triathlon clubs, 400 first timers, and outstanding pro fields.
We listened to the pro field earlier in the day at the panel discussion. I really like Luke McKenzie who was the winning favorite, but have been receiving Tim Van Berkel’s newsletter and sent him some FB messages from time to time, so I was really pulling for him. He would finally take his 2nd Ironman Win on Sunday. And he looked incredible when he passed me in the port on his 3rd lap, my 2nd. I chatted with him at the awards celebration shortly after he received his trophy. I congratulated him on his success and formally introduced myself since of his many followers he probably would remember someone being from Alice Springs. I mean come on, Alice Springs? J I said his rides in Boulder in the lead-up to race day were amazing and he said he was planning on heading back for the rest of the season.
After the athlete briefing we went with Mom to Fasta Pasta. Ironman athletes received a $35 voucher to a list of participating restaurants so we went there and it was ok. Mom has been a great supporter of all her children. She put all 3 of her daughters into sports from an early age which enabled her youngest, Jacinta Collier to qualify for Kona and compete there in 2009. An amazing swimmer, she was the 3rd (OVERALL) fastest female at the shortened Ironman Melbourne in 2013. The eldest, Jennifer is also a multiple time Ironman finisher who was 1st off the bike at Ironman Malaysia but lost the ranking to 5th in her run where she likes to just “trot along” with the goal of just finishing and having fun. And these fine ladies are single so men, pull yourselves together! Fi’s grandfather was also a professional runner in Victoria. Yea, I married into a bad-ass family!
We headed to Palm Cove, 20km up the road to the site of the race start and Transition 1. Fiona, Karen, Stacey, and I were there in the choppy waters at 7am for a short 20 minute practice swim. I lined us all up from where the rolling wave start would begin and I counted us down. Into the ocean and over the 3’-4’ swells; this certainly wasn’t the Alice Springs pool, well maybe when Aqua Aerobics is going on and the 30+ ladies walk in circles creating double vortexes!
But it is what it is. We live in the desert, 1,500km from the nearest major body of water, smack in the middle of the continent. After the swim, back home, more carbs, and then I helped everyone with their run bag. We brought these to Transition 2 at Fogarty Park, Cairns, checked in, and saw Duncan. I also called Shaye Jordan; another ASTC athlete who would finish her first 70.3 in a strong 6:03 following Brett Suttons 70.3 coaching plans.
Back at the McPherson villa we did a short 15 minute run and organized our bike bags. We then rode our bikes to transition which we only did because it was under 20km and I knew that would take around 30-35minutes. Karen met us up there and we had no issues on the ride. We checked in after riding past the 70.3 Transition (which could be the longest transition in the world at roughly 1km). Since palm cove is one road in a ritzy area the bikes were lined up the full length of the 1-2km street; it was an impressive sight.
As Fi and I were going in I saw Luke McKenzie behind me who I chatted with after Ironman Busselton in December where he went 7:55 putting up the fastest ever time by an Australian on Aussie soil. I shook his hand and wished him the best for Sunday.
Another benefit of the Gold AWA was the priority bike racking. Transition 1 was quite incredible but our bikes were directly across from the Pro’s near the exit. And what was even better is that since Fi and I are both Gold and she took the Coyle name, J , we were able to have our bikes right next to each other bibs 165 & 166. I was really stoked about that!
We headed back to the house, drove down to the beach, and had a few glasses of wine with Jock, Karen, and FiFi, watching the waves crashing and hearing Karen say she wouldn’t swim in the water in front of us as crocodiles were a guarantee from the local mangroves. Some veggie pizza back at the resort and off to bed.
It took me 40mintues to fall asleep. All I could think of was my race.
[It’s 6:22am, Tuesday. Back at the McPherson Resort. Jock is dressed for work with his Territory Rural button down shirt about to be taken to the airport for another flight back to Alice Springs as he finishes working throughout the year on the cusp of official retirement. I’m sitting at the bench, awake with a splitting head-ache from lots of champagne and wine. Please note the literary term FORSHADOWING.]
[It’s now 6:16pm, Tuesday. FiFi, Mom, and I are waiting for Karen to pickup pasta and pizza from down the street. We’ve been going all day long with a drive of Karen’s training routes and through the rain up to Port Douglas and to some of the local waterfalls of the 300 million year old rainforest. We had a very good lunch of seafood with crocodile and kangaroo spring rolls appetizer. We showed mom the streets and did our best to walk off the soreness.]
OFFICIAL RACE REPORT
4:15AM Wake up. 4 slices of white toast with vegan butter and jam. A medium redbull and banana. We had finished off the BeetUp the day before. Vaseline, tri suit, timing chip on, and out the door. Jock drove Karen, Fiona, and myself to Palm Cove. Stacey and Brendan stayed at the cove the night before the race. We arrived at the fairly sized parking lot and the rain started coming down. We walked along the 1-2km road past the 1,204 – 70.3 Bicycles and the rain continued. I really didn’t mind though. I much preferred rain to hot and humid conditions that we felt the day we arrived in Cairns.
Into Transition 1. Garmin turned on, air in tyres, nutrition into the two bento boxes, sunnies on the bike seat, rubber bands on the pedals and shoes clipped in. Pit stop in T1. Gear Drop and then we walked over to the swim start watching the rest of the 70.3 athletes head into the water which started at 6:30am, 1 hour before the Ironman start. The waves were coming in and the ocean looked quite violent. Once the 70.3 swimmers finished passing, I decided to jump in to warm up and get a quick feel for the water. Then we saw mom and Robbo. I had a VEGA Energizer 30minutes before the race time and a package of Clif Shot Bloks with 20minutes to go. We all chatted and headed to the front of the sub 1 hour corral. (Back in 2012 I swam 1:14 in Cairns near the CBD but with FiFi and Coach Sydney (our dog), I’ve improved quite significantly and was expecting around a 57min – 1 hour swim.
Some more pees in the wetsuit, handshakes to all the athletes around me, emotions swelling in my face. Music cranking up. Loads of support from FiFi and Robbo. This was my time. This was for Kona.
SWIM 3.8km: 1:01:06 (16/126 in M30-34, 151/1,415 overall, 13:11 minute improvement)
The wave start time trial let several athletes off every 5 seconds. I headed in to the right did a dolphin swim, and then tried to dive into the crashing waves. Up and down the rolling waves, straight out a 100-200 meters to a right hand turn for the first lap of the 2 lap course. My plan was to not lose any time by swimming longer than 3.8km so I stayed right on the large orange buoys. I actually stayed more to the inside of them since the waves were large and lateral. To my right, athletes were caught near larger waves crashing so I figured the further out I was, the better. I saw some fast packs take off but was just trying to get into a rhythm. Visibility was maybe a foot which was better than the 3 inch visibility from 4 years ago in Cairns Central. I rounded the first turn and back into crashing waves to head out further, another 100-200 meters. Another turn and 800meters down I go. I looked at my Garmin at the 4th Purple buoy and saw 28minutes. I figured it would be at least 30-35minutes more with the 200-400 meter extension into shore so I thought that I really needed to pick it up to reach my goal of 57minutes or 1 hour.
I realized I wasn’t working hard enough as the waves were distracting me from really being able to push myself and my last wetsuit training swim was 8 weeks ago; I wasn’t able to get my town pool to open up the closed outdoor 50m pool.
I was now working much harder (at least it felt like it) and I was passing heaps of Ironman athletes who started after me, and were on their first lap. I almost swam straight over someone doing breaststroke. Other than that, my sighting was good and I headed out to the beach thinking about what I was going to do next in Transition 1.
TRANSITION 1: Thru the showers, glass of water, to the bag and I noticed Fi’s bag was still there. Helmet on and I had a volunteer dry my arms to put my new USA Compression ArmSleeves on. This was a new addition to my kit with the goal of protecting my arms from the sun and to be more aerodynamic with my Scody Sleeved Tri Suit. I decided in my practice swim that I wouldn’t wear them during the swim. I followed my path that I came up with during the Transition tour the day before and put the sunnies on at the bike so that they wouldn’t fog up. I came to the mount line and started both Garmins for the next leg. During this I thought about my swim. I realized I didn’t reach my goal and I would have liked to break 1 hour. But, I improved 2:48 over Busselton in even tougher conditions. So I was happy and was in good spirits. I knew my training was paying off.
CYCLE 180km: 4:59:36 (7/125 in M30-34, 32/1,376 overall, 11:12 minute improvement). Beat 4 Pro Males and 8 Pro Females except for the winner Jodie Swallow. 13th fastest time by an Amateur of 1,345 (top 0.97%).
The road out of transition was mostly flat so I made some spins and then slipped my feat in my cleats. A few turns and South along the Captain Cook Highway for a hundred meters before a hairpin turn to start the ride all the way into Port Douglas. The roads were wet and there was plenty of overcast. It wasn’t very warm at 78.9F/26.0C.
I had just completed Jim Vance’s new book Triathlon 2.0. I had also done an FTP test 10 days before the race of 334NP. I used a goal of 290 TSS which is the maximum of the top elite and in the middle of the professionals for a measure of the total accumulated stress. With a goal of 4:50 on the bike, an FTP of 334, and a 290 TSS, I was able to measure a goal output power of approximately 257NP – 262NP. These numbers may seem quite high even compared with some pros but since I weight 81.5kg, they still only put me near 3.2w/kg. My prior strategy was to hold 80% IF (intensity factor), since that is what the pro’s do, but until I read this book, I couldn’t appreciate that if 80% was held and my time was greater than the pro’s, the cumulative effect would be far too great. So using my Quarq powermeter I established this range as my goal.
One of my weaknesses during Ironman Australia, Ironman Busselton, and the BDO’s of those seasons was losing power after 3 hours going from Zone 3 to low Zone 2. This was a key weakness on the bike so I worked on this by strength training, working more at race pace, and holding myself completely accountable by not going out hard for the first hour like I had in the past. Rex’s lookout was near the 20km mark, we had a tail wind, and I knew if I did not pace this hour correctly I would fail. I wanted to run 3:15 off the bike so used that as motivation to stick to this race plan. Once in the hills, I worked harder aiming for 270’s above race pace. On the flats into Port Douglas I then brought it back down to the high 250’s and looked at the overall NP at the Port Douglas turn of around 258.
In-route to Port Douglas and for the first hour and 15minutes I passed many athletes who came out of T1 before me. I didn’t see any cheaters and encouraged nearly everyone I passed saying “Great Ride” and “Keep it up mate”. Through the hills I balanced one arm on the brake and one arm on the handlebars holding back. I was quite conservative with the quick turns to insure I stayed upright and in control. Later down the road one guy was clearly cheating and I told him “Too Close”. He smiled at me like he didn’t understand what the hell I was saying.
As I round the turnaround in the center of Port Douglas, I had a big smile as I saw myself on the large screen for the crowds. The announcer called my name and said I was from the USA. I screamed out that I lived in Alice Springs and to look out for my wife. On the second time he called me out again and said he’d love to talk to me to see how I train there! Fi told me later on that he had called her out as well.
Shortly before this point I heard some clicking on my bike. I thought it was the valve extension cover on my rear disc with the tape coming off and flapping from the rain. I then saw it on my front wheel and found out after the race it was a piece of Duct Tape. It finally wore down but it was a really big pain in the ass and I didn’t stop to take it off to save time.
On the way to Transition 2 at Fogarty Park in Cairns, I was approaching Robbo. I tried to sneak up on him and then surprise him but he looked back and saw me. He had the biggest smile when I saw him and he was so excited for me. He told me he swam 52 and I figured I was doing good since I had made 9 minutes up on him on the bike in less than 4 hours. He said some encouraging words. I looked back after a minute and he was no longer there.
Shortly thereafter I came up along another cyclist. I looked for the sticker and it was black; I was passing a Pro Male. Ok, I AM doing good! Another 20km down the road and I ticked off ANOTHER Pro Male!
I maintained my power all the way back into the Cairns and the soft headwind. Turn past the airport, down the esplanade and with 4:55 on the clock, I was hoping to make it under 5hours.
I jumped off the bike, gave the bike to the catchers, and ran to my bike bag.
At 2% decoupling, a VI of 1%, and NP of 258, HR of 133, cadence of 89, and a TSS of 286.7, I knew I absolutely nailed my bike ride. I stuck to my race plan and executed it. Looking back however, I spent too much time in Z4, Z5, Z6 spending 21% of my time there. And in the hills while making a pass on one athlete sitting up I hit 801 watts for 5 seconds and 375 watts for 1 minute. Besides training better for the variations of effort, I’ll also need to go back to the basics as my new power-meter recorded be on a 52%L/48%R distribution which clearly shows muscular imbalances! With my Power Effort exactly where it needed to be, my TSS was slightly off because the distance calculated was 2.3km short. Only 1 person passed me.
My nutrition was spot on with 3 shot bloks every 20minutes, a salt tablet every 30 minutes, and using only water. I had an ARO 200mg Caffeine Energy bottle at 3hr30min from my bike with no special needs. I peed twice ON the bike so I knew I was well hydrated.
RUN 42.2km: 3:38:37 (17/118 in M30-34, 102/1,307 overall, 1:11minute slower).
In transition I tried to arch my back on the chair. It was really in pain. This is always the case but most likely a result of harder efforts in the aero position and brutal on this day. I dried my feet and put my newer USA socks on, USA Visor on, and headed out onto the esplanade.
The quads felt stiff as they always do. My goal was to go out at 7:05/mile or 4:24/km. I never got there. The legs were heavy not allowing me to truly push in the way I had during the many 2-3hr training sessions. The first hour was strong as I consumed salt tablets every 30minutes and Coke every 20minutes. HR was on target at 135 and my speed for the mile splits leveled off: 7:32, 7:39, 7:54, 7:53, 8:01, 7:59, 8:00. But now I was overcompensating with my right leg vs the bike and using an effort split of 49.3%L/50.7%R. This needs work! I was enjoying the crowds, seeing the pro’s, and the volunteers were great. I saw Lani from Alice Springs who finished her first 70.3, Dean Nankivell who is a legend in Alice Springs and was a welcoming surprise, I also saw Shaye, Jock & Karen, and Mom. I even saw Jason McFaul who called me out as Kevin Patrick Coyle. I had found Jason’s blog who is an amazing Ironman athlete and writer. (www.jasonmcfaul.com) During the opening stages I ripped off the compression sleeves. They were not comfortable while running. My back was warming up but my upper body, arms, traps, and deltoids felt like shit; probably from the difficult swim.
I continued on and was pushing myself but started walking the aid stations. This was very disappointing and I haven’t yet figured out why. I was drinking loads of water and putting a ton of ice down my front and back but the legs would not loosen up. My hypnosis therapy may have blocked the pain out but it didn’t help loosen them. At 3 separate points I felt cramps coming on but immediately had a salt tablet. I never cramped and finally nailed a nutrition plan after the last 3 Ironmans!
At one point I peed while running, since every second counts, and towards the later stages I held off having to go #2 as I knew that would totally lose it for me with my goal of Kona. I started seeing Jacob Riley who I am friends with on FB and Strava. He was in my analysis of my competition and considered one of the 7 athletes that would be in contention of the top 7 spots that I expected to get a Kona spot. I had beaten him 6 months earlier at Ironman Busselton by 7:34 but he wasn’t that far behind me on this day. I didn’t know if he was going to take a Kona spot, I kept my mouth shut on that one. He gave me a look like he was doing it tough but he was clearly working hard.
I had no idea where I was in my a/g but I was doing the best I could, not giving up, and staying as tough as I could. I saw the “little person” who was featured in the 2015 Ironman footage at Cairns, and was passed by Luke McKenzie on Lap 2 to him saying “On the left dude”. I passed Luke a short while later but he then retook me. He recalled his comment to me later at the awards ceremony when I gave him a cheers to our glasses and I tried to get some insight from one of the greatest Australian Ironman athletes there is. Again, one of the most down-to-earth guys you’ll meet. A rock-star of a person. But I was also really excited to see Tim Van Berkel now move into the lead and looking so strong. Then there was Pete Jacobs with a run that looked incredibly fresh.
As I was coming to the conclusion of my 3rd and final lap, it was these types of things that kept my mind busy while working my best to turn the legs over. I finally decided to pick it up and finish strong running for the last km at a pace on par with the pace of the 4th km. I grabbed my American Flag from Jock before the turn and headed in. Arms stretched out looking up with a large smile, knowing I did the best I could, and just hoping it was enough to qualify for Kona. Pete Murray extended his arm out to me at the finish welcoming me home, seeming quite ecstatic for Alice Springs.
OVERALL: 9:46:41 (9/118 in M30-34, 48/1,307 overall, 28/1,279 amateur, 2/28 Americans, 21:23 minute improvement.
Into the massage tent, Jacob was soon there. We chatted about the race as I looked up the results. I was 9th. I believed there would be 5-7 spots. I didn’t believe Barry was going since he turned his spot down in Busselton, I EXPECTED the Japanese guy Shinji to receive one of the 30 Japanese spots, and Jacob told me then and there that he was not taking it. Then I knew I had a shot but still needed some luck. I was looking at 6th position of 5-7 available spots.
I went back to the finish and waited for Fiona as I always do. She came in 11:03 and 6th in her a/g. While waiting, Mom yelled out to me asking if Karen should take her 70.3 Ironman World Championship slot, I screamed “Hell Friggen yeah!” but she turned it down to focus on Kona and this sport costs a lot of money! I feel incredibly special to not only know this woman but at 61 years qualifying for both the 70.3 World Champs and the Ironman World Champs within 6 months is incredible. And especially so when she says that there is no way she could have done it without my coaching and support.
After my first real meat burger in 5 months and some Peroni’s, we headed back to the Resort. I eventually got to bed with prayers to Jesus. But I knew that if it was meant to be it would. I did my best but believed it was in his hands.
Kona Roll Down
I exited the elevator and was greeted by Mom, Jock, and Karen. We headed into the ballroom of the Shangri-La and grabbed seats. Pete Murry went through the rolldown procedure for the 75 available spots. I looked over at Karen when the 60-64 a/g came up with a time more than an hour slower than her time at Busselton. I looked at her and told her she would have qualified in this race as well.
FiFi didn’t have the race she wanted due to taking 2 masters classes, working full time, and trying to fit in 20 hours of training. Her 6th position missed the 4th slot allocated to the F30-34 but she too had already qualified at Busselton.
I nervous and anxiously waited as the age groups went down from the eldest woman to the youngest man. I also looked up to the lamps praying to the Lord. I noticed the Japanese were going up for slots which caused more drama; they were given 30 additional spots yet they were taking up many of the 75 available. I was not anticipating this and then realized I needed a miracle. Shinji Yamamoto had gone to Kona 2X already and I knew he would take the spot which left me in 7th spot after Barry and Jacob who wouldn’t be taking one.
“In the male 30-34 category there are six spots.” My head was down, I started to get emotional. I held out hope and Fifi tried comforting me by saying that she’s seen this category roll down far in Melbourne and the Aussies would probably go to the 70.3 World Championships in Australia. But this still left me one spot short. I needed another person to turn the spot down.
Barry called with his 8:55 and 10th Overall position. Pete encouraged him while I quietly thought “Shut up Pete, he doesn’t want to go!”. Ok, 8 ppl including me and 6 spots still available. Luke Browne takes the first spot in 2nd, so much for FiFi’s words. Shinji in 3rd takes it, so much for the 30 spots allocated to the Japanese! Nikolai Jenkins is called up, the only American to have beaten me of the 24 present. He’s walking up… He grabs the microphone from Pete. “I can’t believe that I would ever give up a spot to Kona but we’re having a baby and she’s due on October 8th, the day of the race.” I start sobbing. I can’t hold back my tears. No, not because they are having a baby but because if Jacob keeps his word on not taking a Kona spot, then that means, I’ll secure the final spot. Hands to my face, waiting for it. Andy from Venezuela is called, his crew goes crazy. So much for thinking that Venzuela might turn the spot down which means Fabio, 2 spots later would also take it since he was probably from the crew since he too was from Venezuela. Then it was Beau Waters from Australia, he accepts. It was all up to Jacob.
I saw him when he arrived and we shook hands. He was sitting solo a couple rows to my right. Pete Murray calls out his name, Jacob Riley. He’s not moving, not even flinching. 2nd go Jacob Riley, no movement. 3rd and final Jacob Riley. I look over at Jock and his smile extended from ear to ear with emotion in his eyes looking at me as if I were his son. I look at Karen and say, “You’re coming up”, I look at mom and Fi and say “You’re coming up”. Then I hear it. Kevin Coyle. I stand up and scream at the top of my lungs. Go over to Jacob and give my new best friend a sincere thanks and handshake. I go up to the stage and get Lei’d, receive my sheet of paper, and get some pictures with Pete as well as Fiona who came up. I told Pete all 3 of us from Alice Springs had qualified! Within 6 months, 3 people from Alice Springs had qualified for the Ironman World Championship. Something that was never done during the 32 years of triathlon in the red center and may never be repeated again. Karen, Fiona, and myself had just put Alice on the map, producing as my KQ’s as Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Sydney, Brisbane, Freshwater NSW (Sydney), and North Adelaide, but Alice Springs’s population is 25,186. These other 7 locations population is 12,313,000!!! Additionally, Fiona and I being a married couple match only 1% or 20 athletes of the 2015 Kona field. So the odds of what we did are millions and millions to one. Maybe, we should play the lottery now.
I called my Dad back home in New Jersey as well as my mom, I didn’t care what time it was there; probably around 2AM. I share this accomplishment as much with them as with anyone of my supporters. After all, my parents never held me back from encouraging me to go for my dreams. They always supported me in whatever I chose to do.
You would think that I would be done. That after 8 years of being an endurance athlete, 6 years of being a triathlete, 4 years of competing in Ironman, and 2 ½ years of training with a power-meter that I would move on to something else having finally reached my goal of qualifying for Kona. But you would be quite wrong. The fact is, I did not do what my wife Fiona did by truly earning her spot in grabbing #2 of the 2 spots available for her at Busselton or grabbing the #1 spot and becoming an age-group champion like Karen McPherson did. No, I have an asterick to my name because I had to have the luck of one athlete pursing his own goals, one athlete having a baby, and one athlete focusing on the 70.3 Worlds.
Triathlon is a life sport and as of today, I have zero intention of changing the thing I am most passionate. So what’s next? A kona finish. After all, I can’t show all my cards.
I am a self-coached, non-sponsored athlete. But, this doesn’t mean I don’t have a team behind me like my bike mechanic at Smith St Velo, Intersport Alice Springs, chiropractor, massage therapist, and hypnotherapist all at the Alice Springs Therapeutic Health Centre, some of my vegan food from Afghan Traders, and Premium Pete Veggie stand on Larapinta.
Last but not least my wife, thank you for bringing out the best in me, Sydney for licking my face, Dad and Donna, Mom and Tony, Mom and Dad inlaws, and Kelly, Nick, and Dennis and the rest of my family. And then to all my supporters, this is for you!: the entire McPherson family, Deb Page, the Whitehead family, Lynn and Pete Treis, Deanne & Curtis, the entire Bruce family, Tammi, Nat, all of the Harris’s, all of the Collier’s, PGW, WOW, ASCC, ASRWC, and Miles Stewart. There are many other friends that have supported me over the last year and to you I say thank you. Every time I crossed a timing mat I thought of all of you. Thanks again for being a brick in my base.