For some the journey to the Ironman World Championships in Kona is a lifelong quest. For others it happens pretty quickly. For today’s guest on The Kona Edge it all happened in less than 5 years. We head to Canada to discover more about Corey Deveaux and how his athletic journey started with two incredible runs.
BRAD BROWN: Well, we head to Nova Scotia in Canada now for our next guest and I love chatting to age groupers from around the globe and it’s a great pleasure to welcome onto the podcast today Corey Deveaux. Corey, welcome, thanks for joining us today.
COREY DEVEAUX: Thank you Brad, thanks for having me.
BRAD BROWN: Corey, one thing I love about this podcast is I get to chat to age groupers from various backgrounds, some are more, I don’t want to say professional sportsmen than others, but you’re a teacher by profession, you teach math and science to 12 year olds and doing an Ironman is tough, but that’s got to be even tougher. I think you deserve a medal for that mate.
COREY DEVEAUX: Thank you very much, some days are certainly challenging.
BRAD BROWN: I’ve got a 14 year old, so I know all about it. But I think teachers are very under-valued and under-appreciated, you guys do a great job. So well done on that before we get into your achievements in the sport, I think you deserve a pat on the back just for teaching and educating all of our kids, well done.
COREY DEVEAUX: Thank you very much, much appreciated.
BRAD BROWN: Corey, your story is quite interesting, not that you’re getting on, you’re in your early 30’s now, but you only got into triathlon in the last 5 years, started running. As a kid were you pretty active or is this quite a new thing in your life?
COREY DEVEAUX: I was active but I never played any organized sports. Me and my friends would play some road hockey growing up. I played some tennis here and there, but nothing competitive and in high school I started getting interested in lifting weights. I did lift weights for probably about 5-6 years, but again, nothing serious.
BRAD BROWN: From the traditional and conventional sports in Canada, did you play ice hockey at all, did you skate, did you ski or not really?
COREY DEVEAUX: I played a little bit of ice hockey in the winter, like go to the pond, I never played organized hockey growing up. I really wanted to, but it’s a huge time commitment and a lot of money and unfortunately the family couldn’t afford it. Anyway, it was fine, so no, I didn’t play hockey growing up.
How you go from lifting weights to running a half-marathon
BRAD BROWN: From the weights and that, was it just to stay healthy or were you pretty competitive and looking at other guys doing the same and trying to push heavier weights? Or was it just a case of, you know what, we’re just going to gym because it’s cool to go to gym?
COREY DEVEAUX: Basically it’s cool to go to the gym. I like being healthy and I like feeling good, so I enjoyed it in that sense, but I just found over time I was getting bored with just going and doing the same old thing all the time. Lifting weights and it just, in the end it really wasn’t my passion by any means.
BRAD BROWN: I love the fact that late in 2010, second half of 2010 you decided you were going to do a half marathon and tell me the story about how that happened because I’m taking it was on a bit of a whim?
COREY DEVEAUX: It was. It actually it was playing in a softball tournament at the time and I played ball all summer, but the ball all summer, you get together with your friends, you play in a ball tournament, you have a few beers, you play some softball. Anyway, I didn’t really enjoy it because I didn’t feel good, when it was done, just it’s not, it wasn’t as fast paced as what I would have liked.
There was a half marathon about a week away in my home town and I just thought it would be really cool to try and do that because 21km is a lot when you’re not a runner. I signed up and one week later I did a lot better than I was going to.
BRAD BROWN: With playing that softball, had you stayed fairly fit? Were you doing the odd fitness thing around that or was this crazy, like sign up and a week later you go and run a half marathon because we’ll tell folks what your time was in a moment as well, cause that’s pretty impressive.
COREY DEVEAUX: Yeah, thank you, well, like I said, I was lifting weights a lot and at the end of my gym routine I might go on the treadmill for 3-5km, just easy running. More just cardio to try and burn fat if anything, but I never pushed myself on a treadmill before.
After I signed up for the half marathon I thought it would be a good idea to go see if I could run at least 10km. So I did that the next day after I signed up and well, I didn’t run again until the half marathon because I couldn’t walk for a few days after I did the first 10km.
BRAD BROWN: You have to taper, that’s what you have to do!
COREY DEVEAUX: Exactly!
BRAD BROWN: Let’s just put it on the record, you ran a 1:35:26 a week later.
Accomplishing a half-marathon then a marathon within the space of a month
COREY DEVEAUX: Right, yeah. At the time I had no idea if that was good or not, but there was this runner from our community that is very well known and he does really well at races and he sent me a message on Facebook saying how awesome I did and that I should come and get involved in the group. So I’ll never forget that message, I think that was part of the reason that I continued doing it.
BRAD BROWN: Then if you run a half marathon 1:35, you might as well sign up for a marathon.
COREY DEVEAUX: Yeah, I signed up for a marathon and ran a marathon three weeks after that. I remember asking that same guy who sent me the message at how good I did, I remember asking him if he thought it was possible for me to do a marathon and he thought I was talking about the marathon like one year from now and I’m like, I’m talking about the PEI Marathon in three weeks and he’s like, what was your longest run and I said, the half marathon and then he just started laughing. He’s like, well, I don’t think it’s a good idea, but you should probably go out and see if you can run 18 miles, at least. I think a week later I went out and ran 18 miles and that went pretty good, it hurt, but then again, I tapered again because I couldn’t walk for several days, then went and did the marathon.
BRAD BROWN: In 3:32 and some change I might add.
COREY DEVEAUX: Yes, so it was very unorthodox and not typical of how people get into running, but that was how I got into it and I did get an IT band injury during that marathon, so I was out for a couple of months after that.
BRAD BROWN: A couple of lessons in there. I think a lot of people over-think going and doing, particularly an Ironman, cause that’s what we’re going to be chatting about today, but I think the distance really psyches people out and they almost talk themselves out of doing it before they do it and sometimes you just need to jump and the bridge or the net appears and things fall into place. You talk about you didn’t really know how good you were until chatting to this guy who helped you afterwards. Did you realize then that you had some ability and this was actually pretty cool, you could go a bit faster, if that was your first attempt, if you actually trained a bit and were structured, you could actually do some good stuff.
COREY DEVEAUX: Well yeah, exactly.
BRAD BROWN: You mentioned the injury, ITB, from that marathon, what was the plan from there, did you decide that was pretty cool, it hurt and I want to start training, what did you do from there?
Ironman distance – enough to scare off the bravest
COREY DEVEAUX: I got involved in, they’re called the Cape Breton Barbarians, that’s the name of our triathlon group, I met some people from that group, I got involved in the Master swimming program and I bought a bike, a second hand bike and I started spinning with some of the guys in the winter and it just went from there, just basically getting involved in a group that was just really fun to be around and they’re all motivated professionals and it just became something fun to do at first. I never followed anything really structured the first couple of years.
BRAD BROWN: You took, as you say, a couple of years to do your first Ironman, you started those runs in 2010, you did your first Ironman in 2012, there were a lot of shorter triathlons and halves in between there as well and a couple of marathons, you rushed into running a half and a marathon, what was the thinking about taking so long to do your first Ironman?
COREY DEVEAUX: Well, when I got involved in 2011, that following June I signed up for an Ironman and at this point I haven’t done a triathlon yet. The first triathlon I ever did was a week after I signed up for an Ironman, so I would say I jumped in pretty quick, there’s just something about the distance, it’s so crazy when you think about it, that I just really had to try it.
BRAD BROWN: How much did you know about Ironman when you signed up for that race?
COREY DEVEAUX: Not a whole lot, before I got involved in the triathlon group, I didn’t know hardly anything about it. I knew it was on a watch, that’s about all I knew, but I did know I always kind of wanted to try a triathlon, even for the few years before I got involved in all this, just something about a triathlon that I wanted to try, but it just never happened.
BRAD BROWN: Tell me about that first experience, your first Ironman experience.
First Ironman and Kona slot is in the bag
COREY DEVEAUX: It was incredible, I did in Mont Tremblant, Quebec, it’s a beautiful area there, it’s a beautiful course, beautiful town and it was an incredible experience, but about 100km into the bike ride though I remember cursing to myself, saying I’m never doing another Ironman again, I don’t care if I get a Hawaii spot or not, I’m never doing one of these things ever again, I was in a dark spot and it only took maybe 10-15km later and I felt great again and I was having a good time and then the run went good and overall it was just incredible. I finished 4th in my age group, in the 25-29 and I got very lucky because I ended up getting a Hawaii spot that year too, there was only two spots in the division and I finished 4th, so it ended up rolling down, so I really lucked out my first year there.
BRAD BROWN: Was getting the Kona slot on the cards from the start? You talk about being in that dark place during that race and you were saying you don’t care about it, did you go into that race thinking it would be nice, if it happens you’ll take it or was it a case of, that was the plan, you were going to go and try as hard as you can to qualify and if you don’t, then you look for another race to qualify.
COREY DEVEAUX: No, I didn’t go in thinking I would qualify. It was on my mind that I could, just because there were some people around here that I train with and they have seen what I’m capable of doing in races and they thought it’s very possible that I could get a Hawaii spot and they mentioned that to me, so I guess it was on my mind a little bit, but I didn’t go into that race with the plan of getting a spot and going to Kona. It was just, I’m going to enjoy the race, hopefully it goes well and let the cards fall where they may.
BRAD BROWN: Corey, there’s obviously something about your mindset and the way you think about these sort of races and the way you jumped into the half marathon and the full marathon and the Ironman where you’re not intimidated by the race itself and what’s to come, what do you attribute that to?
COREY DEVEAUX: Probably just hard work, if that makes sense. One of the jobs I had growing up, a few years ago, I think it was about, well it just seems like a few years ago. It was actually probably about 10 years ago, I was a tree planter for three years and one of those years I spent 10 weeks living in a tent up in Northern Ontario and that was the toughest thing I’d ever done, or I’ve ever done. It’s just you’re working 10 hours in the woods hauling trees and planting over 3 000 a day, and then you go home to a tent. You don’t get to shower for a week, that really made me mentally tough.
The Ironman, if I compare it to that moment in my life, it’s really not so bad. I think that I attribute that part of my life to, maybe that’s why I don’t fear the Ironman. I guess I respect it, sure, it’s tough, you can’t just go out, you have to respect it or else you’re going to be walking at some point, right?
BRAD BROWN: Corey, I find that so interesting because you talk about the, just, when you’re in dark places and you think back to working up there in the woods and planting those trees and physically how hard that was. And chatting to age groupers here on the podcast, I’m starting to realize that many of them, it might not be a physical work experience like you’ve had, but many of them dig to those experiences during a race, that they’ve had in training. When times are tough at 160km on the bike and they’re really not loving life, they think back to a tough training session that they had and remember how they overcame that to get them through what they’re going through now. Do you do similar things, if you are going through a bad patch on the bike or on the run, do you think back to those times in the woods and how hard that was?
When the Ironman race is better than the Ironman training
COREY DEVEAUX: Sometimes, sometimes for sure, but I also reflect on hard training rides or hard runs too during hard places in a race. I’m similar to other athletes in that sense as well. I always find that I haven’t experienced a race yet that has been more miserable than some of my training sessions. Because the race, you’re rested for, you’re tapered, you’re mentally prepared. Some training sessions are just brutal, you’re tired and they’re just miserable sometimes.
BRAD BROWN: Let’s talk about your first Ironman and the experience of doing your first Ironman. You signed up, you’ve done the work, you arrive on race day and you finish this thing. As you said, you finished 4th, you probably didn’t know at the time that you would get the roll down slot, but that’s a pretty good performance. I think you did 9:49 that day, the experience of doing your first Ironman, for someone listening to this who maybe is training for their first one or thinking about doing their first one, it’s an incredible, it’s difficult to describe that feeling of running down that finish chute and becoming an Ironman.
COREY DEVEAUX: Yeah, it’s really hard to describe, it’s a surreal feeling and in Mont Tremblant, the finish line is right in this beautiful resort and there’s hundreds of spectators and they’re yelling and screaming and the finish at Mont Tremblant is absolutely amazing and if you can do that race, you have to try it at least once.
BRAD BROWN: Is it a tough, I don’t know much about it, from a course perspective, I’m guessing it’s a lake swim, the bike, I’m presuming it must be a pretty tough bike, what’s the run like?
COREY DEVEAUX: The run is, it has some flat sections along the rail road bed, so a lot of the run course is quite beautiful and flat. There are some hilly sections, but overall the run course is not too bad at all. The bike course is really hilly, it’s probably comparable to Ironman Lake Placid in total elevation. I still think Lake Placid’s more challenging, but it would be comparable.
BRAD BROWN: I think any Ironman with the word ‘Mont’ in it, that says something!
COREY DEVEAUX: Right!
BRAD BROWN: Absolutely.
COREY DEVEAUX: And I’m not saying that correctly, it’s Mont Tremblant, my French is not the greatest.
BRAD BROWN: No worries and for those of you who don’t know Mont is mountain, so that pretty much explains everything. Let’s talk about the training and you mentioned you’ve had some miserable training sessions. We were chatting before we started recording about how tough it is, from a climate perspective, Canada is not all sunshine and roses, you guys have a pretty brutal winter and you do a lot of your training indoors?
COREY DEVEAUX: That’s right, I would say 99% of my bike training is spent indoors. I try and get a long run outside in the winter, but a lot of my runs are indoors as well, just with so much snow and ice on the ground. Sometimes it’s just so cold and windy that I don’t want to run outside, so I do a lot of indoor training.
BRAD BROWN: From a mental perspective, I was saying to you, I would say that 99% of my training is done outdoors and I just have a gut feeling that the guys and girls who train for these sort of races, doing most of their training indoors, I think have a bit of a mental edge over the guys like myself who don’t, just because it’s got to be mentally taxing to sit on a trainer, as you say, you’ve got a pretty long indoor ride tomorrow, 5 hours plus and knowing you can get off the bike at any stage, but you still sit on it because you know you have to.
COREY DEVEAUX: Yeah, I enjoy the trainer, I’m one of those sick people that actually like the indoor trainer. I like the fact that I can just have all my nutrition right there, I don’t have to worry about stopping at a store to refill water bottles, it’s just all right there and I can put something on the television or I can put some music in my ear and it’s just very controlled and I don’t have to worry about cars or people telling me to get off the road. I like the indoor training.
BRAD BROWN: From a timing perspective too, you work, you’re a teacher and from a time perspective, it is convenient training indoors, you don’t have to schlep to out of town to get in a bike or a run. It’s a case of you can really fit it into your schedule.
COREY DEVEAUX: Yes exactly and a lot of times I’ll do a two, two and a half hour bike ride before work and for many months of the year in Canada, it’s dark that early in the morning, so I really have no other choice but to do it indoors,
BRAD BROWN: Let’s talk about your first Kona experience, you qualified at Mont Tremblant and then that year you went on to race on the Big Island, did you know much about Kona in the buildup to that, had you researched it and dug into the history of the race and I mean did you know much about it or was it a case of hey, this is a race I can qualify for, I’m going to go do it.
COREY DEVEAUX: No, I knew a lot about it, ever since I’d gotten involved in the triathlon group there’s been always people talking about Hawaii and we have an athlete here in Sydney, her name is Julie Kerwin, she was a professional at one point in her career, but she’s been to Hawaii, she’s an incredible athlete, so she has been there before I ever went, so it was, I knew quite a bit about it just from her and her experience.
My first year doing Hawaii was, it was a lot of mixed emotions, I certainly wasn’t prepared for that race. I was so excited just to get a qualifying spot that I kind of probably drank a little bit too much and ate a little bit too much and I went into that race as just enjoy it and I wasn’t stressing over my placement or anything like that. The island certainly kicked the crap out of me that year, so to speak. I paid for every one of those beers and cookies I ate, I tell you.
BRAD BROWN: They say better overweight and under trained than the other way around.
COREY DEVEAUX: That’s right, yeah.
BRAD BROWN: Let’s talk about that first experience, it must have been hard, you say you paid for it, how did you go on race day, did you really suffer, did it not go according to plan?
No warning could prepare me for what was to come in Kona
COREY DEVEAUX: Well, my plan was just to finish in a respectable time and enjoy it, but the swim, I was warned about the swim and how brutal it was going to be, but being warned can’t prepare you for actually how brutal that swim is, especially that year. I think in Mont Tremblant I swam 1:01 maybe, in my first year, if I recall correctly. In my first year in Hawaii I think I swam 1:13 and the full 1:13 was me getting bumped into and crawled on and it was miserable.
It’s Kona, you look down and you see all kinds of fish and the water is incredible, but the swim was not enjoyable, at all! Then the bike ride, it was awesome, just to look around and see the lava fields and the ocean and you start the climb to Hawi and you just think back on all the history of the race and it was incredible.
Then I wanted to basically just stop and quit, probably the last 40km, there was that strong of a headwind, I was getting blown around and it was, I just paid the price for not being fully prepared for that race and the last 40km on the bike were really challenging. I think I biked around 5:40 that year or something, much slower than what I was capable of doing, but it was a tough year and the run –
BRAD BROWN: The run must have been fun after that.
COREY DEVEAUX: The run started off pretty good actually, but it is so hot in Kona compared to Nova Scotia, I knew it was obviously hotter in Hawaii but you cannot prepare for that, not when you fly in Thursday morning and the race is on Saturday, that was the other stupid mistake I made. I was like I’m only going to go a couple of days before the race, I’m only going to enjoy the experience, but two days doesn’t give you enough time to prepare for that heat and so I made a lot of mistakes my first year there. The run, I remember running up Pualani and I was that hot that I said if I don’t drop and take a stroke here and now, I will never drop in a race in my life because that’s how hot my body temperature felt, I could not cool down. I survived, it was running down Alii Drive at the end was absolutely amazing and so it was a great time.
BRAD BROWN: You mentioned in that first one of yours you thought to yourself, you know what, to hell with this, I don’t want to do this again and a Kona slot can go and jump, how soon after that first Kona experience did you decide you wanted to go back?
COREY DEVEAUX: I would say within a couple of months afterwards, about a couple of months. A couple of months after the race there was this party that we had here where we live where a bunch of people that are involved in our triathlon group, they were all there and I just, I signed up for Mont Tremblant the day before and that part was, it was like the Ironman party because by the end of the night we had about ten people signed up for the race, it’s like we were just passing the computer around. That really got me fired up because my first Ironman I did it my myself, I was the only one from my community that went, so now we had a big group of ten going, so it was, I was instantly motivated again and I wanted to get back to Hawaii the following year, but I wanted to really qualify on my own this time because of the roll down I got a couple of spots.
BRAD BROWN: Tell me about the next year, did that go according to plan?
COREY DEVEAUX: Yes, I went to Mont Tremblant, had a very good race, I finished 4th in my age group again and I went back to Hawaii and I did a lot better this time, I think my time was 9:46 maybe, if I recall correctly. It was just a better experience, I was more prepared for it, I took it more seriously, so it was just overall a much more enjoyable experience during the race.
BRAD BROWN: What did you do differently, from a preparation point of view, in the build up to that second Kona, as opposed to the first, besides partying less?
COREY DEVEAUX: Just, well partying less for sure, but focusing more on just eating well and getting sleep and hitting my workouts, making sure that I was mentally into my workouts and I did also go to the race a full week before it started. Ideally it would be nice to go two or three weeks before the race, but as a teacher it’s hard to get time off at that point of the year, so one week would have to do as far as getting my body prepared for the weather.
BRAD BROWN: If I say the word ‘Kona” what do you think?
COREY DEVEAUX: The first thing that comes to my mind is my cat, I named my cat Kona, but other than that, just happiness, I guess would be the word. I love that place so much and I really want to go back and the next time I go back I want to be in the best shape of my life. If all goes to plan of course and I would love to be able to compete there.
Working with a coach will richly reward you in your Ironman training
My first year I wasn’t even in contention in my age group, I was just there to enjoy it, my second year I was a middle of the pack in my age group, guy, in Hawaii, but if I go back again, I would like to have a chance to compete in the top ten or so of my age division which is a very tough goal to reach, but I’m working really hard and my training is very specific and very focused and hopefully all will go well and we’ll see what happens.
BRAD BROWN: Are you self-coached or are you working with someone?
COREY DEVEAUX: I was self-coached for my first three years, I just found a couple of plans online, a pre-made plan and I tried to follow it the best I could. At that point I didn’t have a Power meter for the first year or so, so I didn’t have an idea what a lot of the workouts meant as far as zones and stuff. I would just go out and ride, but since I got a Power meter, in the last August I got a coach, so I’ve been with a coach now almost two years and that has probably been the biggest thing I’ve done to help me improve.
BRAD BROWN: Do you regret not finding a coach sooner?
COREY DEVEAUX: No, not at all, I certainly won’t regret the first few years of just trying to figure things out on my own, I had a lot of fun, sometimes when you have to follow structured plans, it can be mentally tiring sometimes. Every day, wake up and you check your phone and you’ve got this email from Training Peak saying what you’re doing today, it’s just like shut up, sometimes you don’t want to see it right?
BRAD BROWN: There’s no snooze button on those emails.
COREY DEVEAUX: No!
BRAD BROWN: Corey, what’s still left for you to achieve, you’ve raced at the World Champs, I get that you say that you want to go and compete there next time and possibly challenge for a top ten spot, but outside of Ironman and Kona, what do you still want to achieve in the sport of triathlon?
COREY DEVEAUX: That’s a good question. I don’t think there’s anything, other than that in Hawaii, there’s nothing, there’s no one specific thing I want to achieve. I just want to, I love racing, I love meeting new athletes, so I just want to continue doing it because it makes me feel good and I love meeting new people, I love travelling, so as long as I’m healthy and able to do it, I’ll continue doing it, but as far as achieving a specific thing, there’s nothing left other than maybe doing well in Hawaii, but that’s it really.
BRAD BROWN: As far as races go, there’s some incredible races around the globe, Bucket List races, what’s on your list?
COREY DEVEAUX: Challenge Roth, that’s definitely a Bucket List race I want to do, but right now the focus is trying to get back to Kona, so if I do Challenge Roth, doing well there is not going to get me to Kona and I can only do so many big races in a year or in a couple of years because it’s a lot of money to sign up for an Ironman and travel and so I think I’ll do Challenge Roth maybe down the road when I, maybe when I’m not as competitive, just go and do it for an experience.
BRAD BROWN: It looks phenomenal, I’ve actually got a mate doing it this year, 2016, so fantastic race by all accounts.
Corey, thanks for your time here on The Kona Edge, I look forward to catching up with you on a few upcoming episodes, just about what you’ve done in the individual disciplines, but we’ll save that for another time.
Thanks for the chat here on The Kona Edge today.
COREY DEVEAUX: Okay, thanks very much.