I was interviewed by Endurance Corner’s Nick Mathers this month. Below is a copy of the profile (reprinted with Nick’s permission). My favorite part was the picture (above) where Nick juxtaposed the “fat Coady” holding a beer with the “fit Coady” holding my 3rd place CDA trophy. Interestingly, fat Coady seems just as proud of his beverage as fit Coady is of his trophy. For the original article or for a treasure trove of triathlon resources, visit www.endurancecorner.com.
September is “Elite Lifestyle” month on Endurance Corner and we’ll be profiling a number of our top athletes and coaches. We’re kicking things off by speaking with Kevin Coady from Pleasanton, California. Kevin recently qualified for Kona at Ironman Coeur d’Alene where he finished third in his age group after running a 3:10 — the 12th fastest run of the day.
Endurance Corner: Let’s start by talking about your great race at Ironman Coeur d’Alene. You went 9:31 and finished 22nd overall after a stellar run.
Kevin Coady: Honestly, I kind of surprised myself. I knew I was fit, but I didn’t expect to place that high. I was especially surprised about how high I ranked in the swim and bike. I always run a strong marathon, but this is the first time I’ve been in such close striking distance coming out of T2.
EC: Being at the front end of the field, you’re really racing your competitors, rather than just racing the clock. In order to qualify, did you know you needed to beat “X number” of people or did you just want to go as fast as you could?
KC: I had an idea of what I needed to do. I figured I’d need to be in the low 9:40s in order to qualify, but I’ve learned in the past that you can’t focus on that during the race. I try not to have a plan of “I need to be in this place coming out of the swim or getting off the bike.” For the swim and the bike, your correct pace is your correct pace. There’s not much you can do there to actually race faster. Thinking about how fast youwant to go isn’t the best strategy.
To secure a slot I knew where I would need to be top 9 in the age group overall, so I was focused on that during the run. I was in 13th place in my age group coming off the bike, which was way ahead of where I expected to be. That threw me for a little while because I’m used to being further back. This time it would take me a long time to reel people in because I was closer to the front of the field. And by the end of the first loop most of the competitors were on the course, so it became really hard to figure out who was finishing up or only half way.
Coming into the end I thought I was in seventh place, so I started to really lean on it and hurt in the last 10k because I didn’t want anyone to pass me and knock me out of qualifying. I pushed harder than I’ve ever pushed before. It turned out I was in third with a three minute lead on fourth, so it was unnecessary. But there was no way I was going to let myself miss a Kona slot by a tiny margin.
EC: You achieved the pinnacle for so many triathletes, how did it all get started for you?
KC: I grew up running track through high school. Once I got to college and the real world outside of school, I kept running but I kind of lost the motivation to stay in top shape. I’d get really fat and out of shape, then get back into shape, then back out of shape.
We had moved to California from Philadelphia and I ended up joining the gym at the University of California. I saw a flyer for the Cal triathlon team which was open to community members. I started training with them to get myself back into some semblance of fitness. I was this old, out of shape dude trying to train with these young college kids. Through that I just got hooked on the sport.
EC: When you first started, did you have any competitive ambitions in triathlon?
KC: Not really. I just wanted to become an athlete again. Some of the best times in my life were from track — the friends, the big training, the races. I was looking to recapture some of those sensations, like the excitement and buildup for races. But the main goal was to get back into shape since I was really overweight.
EC: Did you have the traditional race build to ironman with shorter to longer races over time?
KC: For the most part, yes. My first year was really only training. My first race was Wildflower Olympic, which was a great first time out. My wife has some pictures of me from that race in transition– taking my time, changing all my clothes, drinking this huge cup of water — beginner stuff.
The next year was sprint and olympic distance races. Then the following few years were half ironmans. In some of those races I went through the typical learning curve — going too hard too early, bonking, that sort of thing.
I raced the Liberty to Liberty tri in the northeast and one of the short-lived Tri 101 events and I found that the longer distances really suited me. From there I spent some time getting myself ready for IM.
My first IM was Arizona in 2008 where I went 9:42.
EC: That’s a huge first race.
KC: Not as huge as it could have been. I got ninth in my age group, but there were only seven Kona slots with no rolldown at all. Going into that race I certainly wasn’t shooting for a slot though; I was just aiming for a sub-10 finish, which I knew I was capable of based on my previous results and training efforts.
EC: Did you change your goals for your next race? Was Kona legitimately on your radar?
KC: The goal was there for my next race at IM Switzerland in ‘09, but going into the next race I didn’t feel I was at the fitness level I would need to be, so I just focused on putting together a solid day. And that race was super competitive. I surprised myself and finished with a 9:21, but was only 23rd in my age group.
EC: Did you pick your next race, Coeur d’Alene, specifically to qualify or was it simply that you wanted to race on that course?
KC: Having been close, I knew the goal for my next race was to qualify, but I didn’t pick Coeur d’Alene because it had ideal terrain or any other course factor. The previous year I had been working on my teaching credentials and so I hoped I’d have a teaching job by 2010, which would mean a summer race would be ideal. There wasn’t anything special about selecting the race, it was just the timing. If anything I would have picked St. George because of the tough run course which would have given me an advantage, but the timing wasn’t right.
EC: You mention your teaching certification. Can you share how you came to the decision to teach?
KC: Teaching was my third career. I went to law school at Georgetown and was a lawyer for a year in Silicon Valley right at the time of the dot-com bust. Meanwhile, my best friend was doing very well trading stocks so I invested virtually all my money into a trading account and took the opportunity to go work with him and to learn that business. That’s really what gave me the time to get into triathlon. I’d trade in the morning, and then have afternoons to myself.
I did that for about six years, but the industry was changing — it was becoming riskier and tougher to make money. I began thinking about a career change. I didn’t really want to go back to being a lawyer. I had learned the hard way after borrowing $130,000 for law school that I didn’t want to spend all day sitting at a desk. I had been involved with coaching and working with kids in the past and that really appealed to me, so I decided to follow that passion and become a teacher. In California that meant I needed to stop working, enter a year-long credential program and devote my time to earning my elementary teaching certification. This past year I earned my high school history teaching credential, which I enjoy even more.
With the economy still a mess, California’s educational system got really impacted, so the number of teaching positions was reduced dramatically. I also have my USAT coaching certification and I started my own coaching business (coachcoady.com). With the teaching job situation looking bleak, I’ve decided to seriously ramp up my coaching business, which would be my ultimate dream career since it combines three things I love: teaching, coaching and triathlon.
EC: Did working on your certification allow you more time to train?
KC: I’ve never been a huge volume trainer. I always train right to the edge of what I’m capable of doing consistently, which is only nine to 12 hours regularly; 15 hours on a big week. I don’t do much at an “easy” effort after I’m warmed up. I do a lot of my riding indoors and I try to keep everything up in my steady zone across all three sports. So the big difference didn’t come from training more, it came from being able to sleep more.
When I was working it was usually about seven hours a night during the week and then trying to catch up on the weekend, which would never leave me feeling quite right. This past year I was able to get in almost nine hours a night, which was perfect for me.
EC: Does your different schedule mean you do most of your training solo?
KC: Yes, but I prefer it that way. I’ve found that it’s almost impossible for me to do a workout “right” when I’m riding or running with other people. Swimming is a little different, but you’re really on your own in those instances anyway, unless someone is your exact speed. And most of the local Masters teams are pure swimming focused with lots of sprints and stroke training.
That’s where Endurance Corner has helped me. I knew how to execute a good ironman,
but I needed the accountability that Gordo and the program brings, especially during the winter when it’s tough to stay motivated while training solo. Also, I’d never quite dialed in the best training protocol in the winter between when I’d already established my base and before I started my big specific prep training. Gordo’s focus on run frequency, moderately hard reps in the big ring on the bike, and saving the big rehearsal style workouts for the spring made a big difference in having me ready to hit it big in the specific prep period.
EC: What’s the plan for Kona?
KC: I want to go and have a good race, but after putting myself in the hole in CdA, I’m not going to have the time to train myself way up again. I usually only have one big race a year, so this is going to be a new experience for me — cramming for an ironman. For me, it takes me a few months to get 95% ironman ready, then the last six months are spent trying to add on that last 5%. If I can just get to that 95% area, I’ll be happy.
I feel I have a perfect record, 3-3, for executing a smart ironman. Regardless of fitness, I want to keep that record solid. I always have fun at ironman — race week is a great time, the swim, bike and run are all a blast. The only thing that’s not fun is the last 10k. But when you have a great race, you kind of forget about that end pain.
For more details about my race at Couer D’Alene, visit my IMCdA race report.