Sean Boyle posted a time of 9:44:27 at Ironman Hawaii on 10/18/03 becoming the undisputed Ironman World Champion of the Triathlon Club of San Diego. Amidst other interviews, sponsorship deals, photo shoots and time with his fan club, I talked Ironman with Sean. Please take a moment and enjoy getting to know our very own World Champion.
CZ: So Sean, you qualified at Coeur d’Alene with a time of 10:03:56 in your first Ironman. How does a guy shave over 17 minutes off that time at an even tougher venue?
SB I think I have a couple of reasons why my time was faster in Kona. First of all, I think we have all experienced or read about the dream race experience, you know...where everything comes together on race day and one really doesn’t feel like they are racing at all. This is what happened to me at Kona. I had no pressure on me; what did I have to lose? To tell you the truth, I was just happy to be there and be in the presence of such great athletes.
Another reason is that I learned so much at my first Ironman (Ironman CDA). I had no idea what to expect racing for 10 hours in one race. I tried to draw from that experience, from every aspect, from training, tapering, nutrition, race day...everything...every detail...physical, and most important mental.
When it comes to the course, I do have to say that the swim was very relaxing, no punching, kicking, biting or ankle grabbing...not like CDA. I got out of the water feeling great, I liked not having a wetsuit, swimming freely in the water. The bike course seemed great to me, I wouldn’t say it was any easier or harder. The run was fine, the big difference on the run was my body was not shocked like it was at CDA at the start of the run. I felt good, and had no idea I was running seven something miles. The biggest difference was at the end of CDA, my body was really hurting, leg cramps, soreness, tired, but at Kona I felt great. After Kona I was walking around with no major problems, just looking for pizza and enjoying the moment.
CZ: Tell me about your race in Kona.
SB: On race day, one of the most incredible things I remember is the ten minutes prior to the start of the race. I was treading water up at the front and looking back at the shore, the amount of people lined up along the shore and pier was amazing. I would hear the announcer giving instructions. OK age groupers hold the line...pros come back a little. Swimmers started to surround me, but still a majority trying to get in the water and move to the front. All of this happening around me and at the same time, this Hawaiian chanting and drums getting louder and faster every couple of beats. I have to say that these ten minutes will never be forgotten.
The cannon went off and I was still spitting in my goggles. Whatever happened to a 3-2-1-go! Even KOZ has a countdown. So I threw my goggles on and swam on. As many of you know, I am one blind &^%$. So I just drafted the entire way. I saw this huge colorful thing far away and hoped that was the sailboat, I saw it on TV every year and it looked much bigger watching it from my couch. After the turnaround, I felt good and again drafted off people because I couldn’t see the King K Hotel unless I was running through the lobby. (FYI, I do wear contacts, but I have a lazy eye that is pretty lazy.) Got out of the water in over 1 hour. I was happy. I love transitions and get a great rush running past everyone. I always like to see transition bags filled to capacity before race day. Most of these people will out swim me, but while they are putting on bike jerseys, gloves, tube socks and sunscreen between their toes, I am out on the bike. See ya later alligator!
I jumped on the bike and started the ride, it usually takes me an hour to warm up nowadays, so feeling jerky was no surprise to me. I made the first turnaround and felt like a jet was strapped on my back going out the Queen K. Tailwinds big time! Life was good, passing many people, and spinning the entire way, I really didn’t even feel like I was racing. Aid stations were awesome and my fellow competitors great. I was unable to grab a water bottle at one of the aid stations and this German guy next to me handed me his and said drink, drink...you need drink? That was so cool. What great sportsmanship. Something like that really pumps me up and made me go even faster. Sorry Mr. German guy. The last 10-15 miles on the bike was a little deflating...the winds hit and this hill seemed to never end. I did read that this was normal. I got off the bike, looked at my time and felt good. I heard my wife, Shannon, yell my name. I think she was surprised to see me...very nice!!!
I had another fast transition, and was wondering why my legs didn’t feel bad, like CDA. What was going on? I feel good. I said to myself, “this day is going great, in three and one half hours I will cross the finish line and get kooky.” I went up Palani hill and started out on Queen K highway and that’s when I felt a little poorly. The hill never ended. I should have had a bar or fig newton or something….shoulda, coulda, woulda. Too late now. I saw lots of people, some passing me like I was standing still and others puking.
I saw Peter Reed and the gang of pros coming towards me on Queen K. Earlier I had also seen them on Alii coming straight at me. What a sight seeing these guys. It was very cool. I finally hit the left turn to Energy Lab and the slight downhill. I knew it was only 3 miles out and back, so why not push it a little. I felt good at energy lab turnaround, no major problems, nutrition good and drinking plenty. I saw the Degree of Difficulty and didn’t seem like it was too bad. I knew if I could get back on Queen K, it was mostly downhill. I drafted with a pack of 4-5 runners for about 4 miles on Queen K. I think we were from 4 different countries. I stayed in the middle and just focused on the pace. Throughout the run, I would try to figure what I had to do to break 10 hours. Every couple of miles I would say OK, I can now run a 8:30 mile and still break 10 hours, that went to 9:00 mile then 10:00 mile, and coming into town I knew I could log roll in and still make my goal. I turned right one street too early, and had to backtrack about 20 yards. I did the same thing while driving the course 2 days earlier. Shannon thought the turn was there when we drove it. I laughed as I turned around screaming “Which way? Which way?” What a goof I am! Some guy even jogged in place and waited for me. I turned down Alii Dr. and it is exactly what people said it would be, unforgettable!
CZ: I think you have been a pretty good short course guy since I’ve known you these past few years. What was the key to your success this year with making the leap to long course?
SB: I can answer this with two words, GO LONG! It’s just a matter of taking that same discipline of short distance training and applying that to long distance...give or take 4-6 hour longer days and 4-5 thousand calories taken in. I was a student of the Mike Drury School of Ironman Training in the beginning stages of this year. More is better!!! Over-training? That’s just kooky talk.
Biggy brick days...BIG. I don’t believe it is a bad thing to run over 1 hour after riding 100 miles. For Ironman do that at least two or three times. Just take it easy. It’s ALL ABOUT TIME. NOT MILES.
I think the number of hours trained a week is the most important stat in my training log. It works for me, others may not agree. Being able to train alone works for me. I really like to train with others, but only sometimes on the bike and not very often. I really hate schedules and sometimes don’t know what my day will entail until I wake up. Training with others takes planning and plans/schedules are not cool. Sometimes a 50-mile ride turns into 100 at the drop of a hat. I like that freedom. I prefer to be by myself to reflect. With only one exception, I do enjoy training with Shannon in all three events.
CZ: Your wife, Shannon, does triathlons, too. In fact, she posted a 12:38:47 at her first Ironman in Coeur d’Alene with you. Is it helpful to you that she is also a triathlete?
SB: Shannon is awesome. She is one of the driving forces behind my racing success. It is very helpful that she races with me. This sport is so selfish that I don’t know if I could race without her. She understands 5-7 hour days, because she does them and knows it’s important to do. We train a lot together throughout the season, although she was back in PA up until Ironman CDA. She really surprised me with her dedication, especially since it rained every other day in PA and she had to train 5 hours on a bike trainer..very cool. Her time in CDA was awesome. She has great ability and very focused, mental toughness and plans to race in Kona along side of me. Very nice and very attainable.
Words can not explain what it meant to have her in Kona with me. She was totally dedicated to me the entire week…from massages to driving and mapping out the entire course...hills, turns, lava tubes, you name it. She put up with my Sean attacks, kind of like a freak out as many would call it. This is business as usual for Shannon. She has always supported me in whatever I did, especially this triathlon gig. Racing is great in all, but having someone to enjoy it with is much more rewarding.
CZ: What was your sports background before triathlon and how did you get started racing?
SB: Sports background...this is easy NONE. I had asthma when I was a kid, parents not big into sports, unless you want to count smoking a carton of cigs, downing a twelve pack, and working 60 hour weeks, a new triathlon. In high school I played a lot of Frisbee and hacky sack. Remember, this is back in 1985, so no wise cracks about the hacky sack, I was one cool mama jamma. I do have to say that every year I watched the Ironman, and for some reason, at a very young age I was drawn to this event. I would hide my tears from my family when I saw this event and people crossing the line. I thought I was some type of nut case and never imagined doing a tri or making it to this race. In college I did lots of frisbee...and lots of liquid carbo loading. It was 1987 in the Army when I started to run a little and liked the competition of PT (physical training) test (2mile run, sit up and push ups). In 1988, I was stationed at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, GA and I saw this flyer for the Steve Lynn Triathlon Half Ironman. I had 18 friends/drinking buddies that bet me a case of beer each that I would never even finish the damn thing. There was no way I would buy that many cases and would have to finish even in a stretcher. I finished in 6 ½ hours, but I won the bet!
CZ: Ah, I see what motivates you. Congrats again on a great season. Thanks for sharing with the Tri Club. Good luck next year defending your Tri Club World Title.