By Luke Voogt
Torquay’s Nathan Taylor has battled through heartache to qualify for the Ironman Triathlon World Championships in Hawaii next Saturday.
The surf instructor and father-of-two was euphoric to qualify during his first-ever Ironman-length triathlon in Port Macquarie, placing fifth in the 40-44 age group.
“To go to Hawaii wasn’t even on the radar,” the 43-year-old said.
“Many athletes try their very best to get to Kona, but miss out in qualifying. I was one of the lucky ones.”
Taylor was thrilled just to finish the race after recovering from a leg fracture which saw him miss the Melbourne Ironman Triathlon in March 2015.
“I want to continue to enjoy this incredible journey and enjoy it as much as I have over the past few years,” he said.
“This opportunity is not one that everyone gets.”
Taylor sustained his injury through over-training. When he first felt pain in his hip he tried to run through it.
“I trained for almost 12 months for that event, and I was under the mindset that you can never do enough,” he said.
Soon, he couldn’t walk and he later discovered he had a stress fracture in top of his femur (thigh bone).
“That was pretty much game over,” he said.
Taylor would spend six month on crutches, before learning to run again.
And if that wasn’t heartbreaking enough, he missed the event again this year, after organisers cancelled it to make way for the Melbourne Grand Prix.
But pain turned to joy when he transferred his ticket to the Port Macquarie event.
“I was pretty proud to see my family at the finish line,” he said. “I rode that high for a few weeks afterwards.”
Taylor finished the gruelling event, only his third triathlon, in nine hours and 43 minutes.
He had built up to it by competing in an Olympic-length triathlon in November 2015 and the Geelong Half Ironman Triathlon this February.
An Ironman Triathlon involves a 3.8km swim, a 180km ride and a 42km run – the last leg alone is the length of a marathon.
Taylor also has to contend with lava fields and tropical heat in next Saturday’s event.
Over the year he has increased his training to 12km swimming, 60km running and 300km riding a week.
“I’m the fittest and lightest I’ve been in my life,” he said.
“I think I’m a really good role model for my kids. I feel proud showing them how to live a healthy life.”
Taylor’s coach Adam Beckworth said he was “exceptionally proud to have been part Nathan’s journey, and watch him grow as an athlete and person”.