–By Brian Reynolds
“Every champion was once a contender who refused to give up.”
- Sylvester Sallone
On September 12th, 2016 I was anxiously waiting in the Ironman World Championships slot allocation room at Ironman Wisconsin to find out how many slots would be given to my age group. When they posted the slot allocation sheet I saw that only two slots were given to my age group. My heart sunk to the ground. This meant that only two athletes would go to the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. I finished 4th place in my age group. The only way I could go to Kona is if the first and second place athletes did not accept their slot. Unfortunately when they announced the 1st and 2nd place athletes both of them accepted their Kona slot.
I was very disappointed that I missed out on qualifying for Kona. I remember feeling very confident that I would place in the top 2 of my age group considering how I felt going into the race. Note that this was my first Ironman race so I was a little naive. However during the race I ended up fading badly on the second half of the 112 mile bike ride. In addition, I did not run a sub 3 hour marathon time like I hoped because of stomach issues which prevented me from taking in all the necessary calories to maintain my energy levels. After my entire experience at Ironman Wisconsin it made me more determined and dedicated to qualify for Kona. I also became more humble of the opportunity of qualifying. I knew in order to qualify I would have to improve my Ironman fitness and I would have to choose a Ironman race that would give me the best shot of qualifying.
To get into the best Ironman shape of my life I needed to find a mentor and coach that has been and/or coached athletes to Kona. I needed someone who lived and breathed Ironman but had the experience and success to back it up. After researching several coaches I eventually found Scott Iott at Superfly Coaching. Scott is a Ironman veteran and a great athlete in his own right by qualifying to Kona several times as an age group athlete and notched sub-9 hour Ironmans. In addition, Scott had an impressive coaching resume considering he’s had several athletes qualify to Kona and was mentored by some of the great triathlon coaches in the sport like Jim Vance. Scott was the right person and fit to get me to Kona.
Now that I had my coach picked out the next step was to choose my next Ironman race. I really wanted to qualify for the 2017 Ironman World Championships so I wanted to pick a race in the Spring. Unfortunately there is only one Ironman in North America during the Spring and that was Ironman Texas in mid April. However, I thought Texas was not ideal considering I would not be acclimated to the extreme Texas heat while training in the cool Michigan temperatures. This meant I had to look international. The international races I considered was Ironman Australia, South Africa, and Brazil. After weighing the pros and cons of each race it seemed that everything pointed towards Ironman Brazil.
Ironman Brazil would give me the absolute best shot to qualify for Kona in 2017 for many reasons. The first reason is they’ve historically offered more qualifying slots for my age group (30-34) than any other race. In 2016 they handed out 11 slots! The second reason was the temperatures during late May were between the high 60s and low 70s. These temperatures were very ideal for me to race and perform well in considering it would require little heat acclimation from training in Michigan. The third reason was the time zone difference. The race would take place in Florianopolis, Brazil which is only one hour ahead of US eastern time. Finally, the fourth reason was that the course suited me well given my strengths and weaknesses. For example, the swim was in the ocean and not in a river which meant there were no water currents to assist us. Thus the swim would favor a stronger swimmer like myself.
There were a few risks and concerns that I had of being in a foreign country. For one I was not familiar with the area and the food. I knew I had to be cautious about what I ate and drank (don’t drink the water!). My worst case scenario was getting a stomach flu or something before the big race. To mitigate my concerns I decided to use Endurance Sports Travel agency to take care of the lodging, transportation, language translation, and food.
Now that I had my coach and Ironman race picked out it was time to get training!