Dialing it in
Since running and cycling came easy, Kyle needed to work on his swimming.
“It took a while. It wasn’t overnight, but I really started improving.”
All the tireless hours at the gym, in the pool, running in the early morning rain was all with the Beijing Olympics in mind. He wanted a seat on that bus.
It was selection time. Triathlon Canada had three spots available for Beijing. Naturally, Simon Whitfield was a shoe in. Paul Tichelaar (Tish) from Edmonton worked hard for the second seat and Colin Jenkins was chosen as a domestique for Simon, in a supporting role.
“I felt I deserved to be selected,” Kyle recalls. “I put the hard work in and had strong performances in the months and days that led up to the announcement.”
“But in fairness Colin trained for the role of domestique, putting in the same hours but with a different goal in mind.”
Probably any average person might have just become frustrated, and all the efforts would have gone sideways – at least for a short time. Not Kyle.
“I set my mind on the London Olympics. I never thought about stopping. If anything, this setback fueled me even more. I left no stone unturned. I was going to be on that start line in London.”
As it was, Kyle was selected as the alternate to go to Beijing. He sat in the stands watching his teammates compete. It was everything he could do to contain himself.
“It gave me an idea of what to expect in London. I really have to thank Triathlon Canada for that.”
Coming back home, Kyle was deliberate with his meals and training regiments. Fast food was off the table for a decade, only fresh foods that would spoil if left out longer than three days. A car conserved his energy.
Sponsors and the Canadian government were now offering contracts with extra bonuses if he placed. Cervelo, Power Bar and Asics were the constant equipment suppliers, providing a small salary which grew over time. Maytag endorsed Kyle for the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
Now it came down to the small differences that could result in a podium finish: a catnap in the afternoon, a specific meal the night before, a massage or extra physio. It really was about knowing how one’s body performs under extreme pressure and giving it everything it needs to make it happen, he says. Kyle attributes a long-time relationship with world leading coach Joel Filliol, whom he worked with on and off from 2006-2009 and again from 2011-2016, to prepare him for competition.
Compartmentalizing the Race
A week before a race, Kyle tapers off. He still works out daily, but the length of the workouts is shorter and more intense with greater recovery time.
“It’s a two-hour race and each is broken into their respective disciplines, so it is pretty easy to stay engaged. From the moment you dive off the pontoon into the water, to the first turn buoy of the swim, the intense physical and technical demands of the bike and the always grueling 10 km run to the finish, there’s always something to focus on.”
He would look for those times to increase the pace late in a race, when everyone was hurting including him but just found a way to dig a little deeper, put up with the hurt a little more.
Once he picked a moment to increase the pace there was no looking back.
“It could be 400 meters or two kilometers from the finish line, once you start to fatigue and you see others doing the same, that’s when you make your move, and you go. You have to stay fully committed and be in control.”
It is a mental game as much as a physical one, he smiles.
Kyle did go to the London Olympics. He placed 25th.