7th December 2018
Written by David Fell
The power of determination! We got to have a chat with Ironman, coach and soon to be Revolver. He talks about his career, his big back injury and how he is using the solo 24hr Challenge to ‘ease’ himself back into competing.
How did you get into cycling and then how did you get into Triathlons? I have been doing both since I was about 14yrs old, so a long time! Lol. My dad started me off really. He started to do a few Tri’s down in Wollongong (I grew up in Shellharbour) and the next thing I knew I had forged my age on the entry form so I could race my first triathlon and it all rolled from there. Once I started riding for triathlons you get in with a few of the older guys training and get sucked into the bike racing as well. So not long after my first triathlon I started racing with Wollongong Cycling club on the road and velodrome. When I first started Tri’s my first love was riding the bike, so I spent a lot of time riding rather than running and swimming!
How did you go as a triathlete and how did you get into coaching? As much as I loved cycling it’s a hard sport to race as there are so many variables out there, you have to race with team tactics and somethings they work against you out on the road. As a triathlete I was going ok. I wasn’t the fastest in any of the legs but consistent across all three. I would get out with the lead swim pack, hold my position on the bike or improve it a little and then hang on for dear life on the run. I was able to pull a few victories, raced semi-pro as a young guy (which looking back was more of a life style thing rather than really giving it a red-hot crack). I kind of fell into coaching. Training and programs, for me, has always been one of those things that just came easy and made sense. When I started dating my wife (a few years back now!) I started to train her and then it all just rolled from there. She improved and got some great results (9.45 IM and multiple Kona’s) and then people start to ask for help. Once I stopped chasing the pro dream, but kept racing, I was self-trained and again when you pull a few good results people start to want to know what you have been doing.
What are you most proud of during your time as a triathlete and a coach? As a coach this is a hard one to answer as you can look at performances or placings etc. I get the most out of seeing all my guys and girls put in the hard work with their training and then seeing the sense of accomplishment and see how proud they are of their performance. For me as a coach, that’s the biggest rush for me. As an athlete, it’s tough again as I have been racing for close to 30 years. Two that stand out the most is 2008 when I was getting ready for Roth IM and zipped across to WA for the 70.3 in May. The result was good, I ran into 10th overall and was 1st age grouper, but knowing what my wife and I were doing now just hurts my head. We had twin girls four months before. So, I was working full time, trying to train for Roth and then help with twin girls that we had four months earlier…. Just nuts now that I look back at it and have to chuckle when we convinced ourselves (pre-kids) that it would be fine… lol! The second one would be Melbourne IM 2012. The training that my training partner and I did was just insane (being that I was working full time) and I managed an 8:50 on the day and 1st ager (think 21st overall). That result was very gratifying for the work and sacrifice by everyone helping me.
You’ve had a few injuries. How did they occur and how are you pulling up now? Ha! I’m a walking wreck… I have always had an issue with injuries. My chassis doesn’t hold up to the mind and work load, but the last four years have been insane. Looking back, maybe it was the hernia that set it all off, I will never know, but since that operation I have also had three discs in my back replaced (Xmas 2017) My shoulder (which I have torn again), had my hip fixed, and something called bike riders syndrome. This is where the iliac and femoral artery wall thickens up and shuts down your leg under pressure, so they go in and clean it out and put some plastic in there to keep it open. At the moment it’s about managing all my issues so I can at least ride my bike (even though I do miss the running and swimming now!)
Specifically your back operation. That looks pretty major. What’s the story? Yes, as mentioned I had three discs done. So they put a prosthetic disc in L3/L4 and the took L5 and S1 out and fused them together. No one can say how it happened, but I think a roller-skating injury (fractured my lower back) at a 30th a few years before set the ball rolling… stupidity! Then with recovery I don’t think I let it heal properly and started riding and then with a few hard years of training and my discs started to fall apart, bulge etc and started to hit the nerve and not hold my back together. The Op went well and I’m getting feeling back in my leg and foot without pins and needles now, but the hip is still a little touch and go. But I’m not getting any more scans in case they find any other issues! Haha…
Revolve24 will be your first big event back. Why, and what are your hopes for the event? Yes, I haven’t really raced since 2012. I told one of my daughters the other day I had entered a bike race and it was 24 hours long…. The response was funny and something along the lines of ‘dad… your back and this is no way to fix it!’ Who is the parent now I guess! I can’t really push hard anymore, so I figure I might see how long I can last for! I have no expectations really other than I hope to finish, in a reasonable state. A friend did it last year and went pretty well (finished 2nd) so if I can hang onto his back wheel for as long as I can… haha… and then finish - I will be pretty happy with this.
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