C3'S NAT FAULKNER MAKES 20 YEAR DREAM COME TRUE ON KONA LAVA FIELDS
Nearly twenty years ago, Ontario's Nat Faulkner did his first Kids of Steel youth triathlon and raced against the likes of 2x Olympic medalist Simon Whitfield. Faulkner showed a propensity for biking fast, and in his mid-teens, moved exclusively to bike racing. Over the next fifteen years, the Bracebridge athlete raced his bike all over the world. When Faulkner wasn't bike racing, he was leading 3-20 day bike tours around North America.
Twelve months ago, Faulkner contacted his old friend Olympic triathlon Coach Barrie Shepley to see if he would help him achieve a life-long goal of racing at the famous Hawaii Ironman Triathlon. "I remember reading Triathlete Magazine about Mike Pigg, Mark Allen, Dave Scott and Paula-Newby Fraser" said Faulkner. "Long before triathletes had a chance to dream about the Olympics, the world's greatest endurance athletes dreamed about heading to Kona" said Faulkner.
Shepley and the C3 Canadian Cross Training Club, agreed to support Faulkner's dream and the partnership began late in Nov 2007. "Nat had the endurance miles in his legs, and the competitive spirit in his heart" said Shepley. Shepley and Olympic swim coach Andrew Cole, started to create a swim program to speed up Faulkner's learning curve in the pool. "Nat is one of the most dedicated athletes I have ever seen, and while he is not a natural born-swimmer, he has made some remarkable improvements in less than 12 months" said Andrew Cole.
Faulkner and C3 professional triathlete, Sean Bechtel headed to Tucson Arizona in Jan 08, and started their big volume training block. Faulkner responded amazingly well to the training stimulus and won his first triathlon in fourteen years at the 70.3 California Half-Ironman Triathlon.
Faulkner's win, not only elevated his confidence, it gave him a direct entry into the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon in October. Bechtel and Faulkner continued to push each other in daily training with both athletes winning a number of big events over the summer.
In preparation for the Ironman, Shepley entered Faulkner in the Sept Ironman Wisconsin Triathlon as a training day. Faulkner's orders were to race the 2.4mile swim and bike the 112 miles as if it were race day, BUT to only run 13.1 miles of the marathon. Faulkner gained some national recognition, when he had the days fastest bike, and led all the professional triathletes out onto the run course. "It was pretty exciting to be leading such a prestigious Ironman" said Faulkner.
Faulkner did his final Ironman training in Las Vegas to prepare himself for the hot windy conditions in Kona. Due to Faulkner's small number of running miles in his career, his coach's biggest concern going into Kona was the 26.2 mile run. "Anyone who has trained for just a marathon, knows how tough the mileage is on their legs" said Shepley. To minimize running injuries, Faulkner and Shepley put together a six week program where much of the running was done on stepping machines, water running in pools and on treadmills. "We were on the verge of what my legs would handle and I had more then a few tired nights where sleeping was a bit of a chore" said Faulkner.
Shepley travelled to Kona to support Faulkner and a number of Faulkner's other C3 age group team-mates. "Nat is such a technical thinker, so it was very interesting to watch his final 48 hours of preparation in Kona" said Shepley. Faulkner had an opportunity to see his many triathlon heroes during the race week with Scott Tinley paddling by him just minutes before the 2.4 mile swim in the ocean began. "The men were pretty aggressive at the starting line in the last 4-5 minutes before the swim began and I got a bit beat-up" said Faulkner.
The no-wetsuit swim made Faulkner's swim a bit more difficult, but the thousands of meters over the winter and tutelage from Olympic coach Andrew Cole helped Faulkner exit the water in 57 minutes. "I lost the feet of my pack at the turn-around of the swim and then pretty-much had to swim on my own the last mile back to shore" said Faulkner. "Coming out of the water and hopping onto my new Specialized Transition bike in front of a huge enthusiastic crowd" was awesome said Faulkner. Once onto the bike, Faulkner started passing riders like they were standing still. The ride out to the turnaround in Havi was incredible, particularly when I started to catch some of the pros" said Faulkner.
On the way home, the hilly last 56 miles were predominantly into a strong headwind that knocked many people off their bikes. Faulkner passed the 2007 Hawaii Ironman Champion Chris McCormack on the side of the road.
"On the way back to Kona, I knew I had to keep eating and drinking as I had a full marathon still ahead of me" said Faulkner. Faulkner knew he had a huge following of supporters around the country watching his race on-line.
Faulkner pulled into the 2nd transition zone to start the marathon run with the day's 3rd fastest bike split averaging just under 40km/hour with a 4hr47 minute split. "To be honest, I was hoping for a sub 4hr 40minute bike ride, but the wind was tougher then I had anticipated" said Faulkner.
The first 9 miles of the marathon are run along the famous Ali Drive where the crowds are thick and boisterous. "Canadian Ironman silver medalist Sam McGlone warned me about going out too hard in the first 9 miles with all the excitement and crowd noise" said Faulkner. "Coming up the toughest hill on the run course leaving town I could see how much stress was on Nat's face" said Shepley. Having been to Kona many times, Shepley knew that Faulkner would be visiting some intense pain on the lava fields outside of town. "I was hitting my pace times all the way up to 18 miles" said Faulkner. "Then the wheels started falling off and my modest running miles started to show up" said Faulkner. "It was over 108 degrees f. on the lava fields and my feet felt like they were burning through my shoes" said the first time Ironman competitor.
"I really wanted to get on the podium here in Kona in my first race but my run legs didn't have anything left in them" said Faulkner. "Nat has only ever run one other marathon in his whole life, and that was over ten years ago when he took up a bet at the Victoria B.C. Marathon" said Shepley.
"While I was hoping for about 25 minutes faster on my run split, I still beat my marathon time from a decade ago and emptied the tank today" said Faulkner.
"Coming down the last 800m of the run course on Ali Drive, past the thousands of screaming fans was a life-long dream come true" said Faulkner.
Faulkner crossed the finishing line as the 1st Canadian amateur overall, 6th in his age-category and motivated to use all the experienced he has gained to become the World Champion next year. "When you realize that legends like Mark Allen and Chris McCormack blew up here five or six times before they ever won the race, makes me realize that patience is critical" said Faulkner. Faulkner also benefitted significantly from the wisdom of ironman champion Lisa Bentley's advice.
Faulkner was not racing alone on the Kona course, a number of his C3 Canadian Cross Training Club team-mates were also out on the course having great days. Sixty-five year old Louise McGonigal won the women's Ironman
Championship along with top 20 finishes for Mark Herbst, Kim Nelson and Linnea Humphrey. "What is incredible and unique is that 65 year old Louise McGonigal covered every meter of the Ironman course that I did" said Faulkner.
"It was an emotional day watching Nat, Kim, Mark, Linnea, Denis and Louise all crossing the line under tough, hot, humid, windy conditions" said coach Shepley. Faulkner and the entire C3 team will be celebrating on Nov 22nd at the year end supper where Faulkner will be the keynote speaker.
Nat and coach Shepley want to thank the many C3 sponsors of equipment (Sable Swim Goggles, Specialized Bikes and Helmets, 2XU Clothing, K-Swiss Shoes) and race resources (Restaurantica; Kinetico; Subaru Triathlon Series, Royal Containers; Personal Best; Riverdale Fitness Mill and generous Friends of C3 Donors) along with support from the C3 BOARD, C3 HP TEAM-MEMBERS and Coaches.