Posted by Editor on 04/14/08
Nat Faulkner Qualifies for Hawaii Ironman
by Matt Hansen
Photos courtesy Barrie Shepley.
Nearly twenty years ago, Nat Faulkner and his brother were two of the first young triathletes in Canada. Caledon's Barrie Shepley had just started the famous Kids of Steel Triathlon Series and the two Faulkner boys were ripping up the under-10 year old age categories. Barrie and Noreen Faulkner, Nat's parents even hosted one of the first major Kids of Steel Championship races way back in the late 1992s. "I remember Nat as a very young guy and he always had an incredible spirit and drive" said Sydney Olympic Triathlon Coach Barrie Shepley.
"Those early days of Kids of Steel were amazing, see all the first generation of kids getting started in the new dynamic sport" said Shepley. "If my memory serves me, I think Nat beat Olympic Gold Medalist Simon Whitfield when the two were in their first year or two of racing" said Shepley. Faulkner turned away from triathlon through his teens and bike raced all over North America for the next fourteen years. "There aren't too many Cities in North America I haven't raced or trained in" said Nat Faulkner.
Late last fall, Faulkner got an emotional tug to go back to his first sport of triathlon and see if he could transfer his incredible biking skills, fitness and determination into some wins. "I have watched the Hawaii Ironman since I was a real little kid and always thought that one day I would love to go to Hawaii and see how well I could do on the BIG Island" said Faulkner. Faulkner and coach Shepley have stayed in contact over the years, and after a half hour telephone call decided to rekindle their old friendship into a coach/athlete relationship.
"Nat is one of the true tough-asses in sport" said Shepley. "He is used to living on a dime, sleeping out of his car, and finding a way to make things work" said the man who was in Sydney coaching the Olympic team when Simon Whitfield won that incredible race in Sept 2000. Shepley and Faulkner drew up a plan that would see him get to Hawaii in October of 2008, and see if he could put a big dent into some of the athletes who have trained for Ironman for over a decade. "Nat's many years of biking, plus his early connection to swimming when he was in Kids of Steel was a big asset" said Shepley. Faulkner joined Shepley's C3 Canadian Cross Training Club Team and has spent six weeks in Tucson, Arizona and nearly two months in Clermont, Florida preparing for the 2008 race season.
Faulkner's first triathlon race in nearly 14 years occurred four weeks ago in Florida. The Great Florida Escape attracted a very solid pro field with athletes who have been racing on the International World Cup Triathlon Circuit. "Nat looked a little nervous and pale about 20 minutes before the swim started" said Shepley. Faulkner's daily training partner, Sean Bechtel was a good calming influence. While Bechtel won the race in a new course record, the biggest smile and sprint of the day belonged to Faulkner who finished a surprising third overall and received his first paycheck in his very new triathlon career. "Nat was out of the water faster then I anticipated he would be, then he rocketed the day's fastest bike split and dug in deep for a great run to get on the podium" said Shepley. Three week's later, Faulkner was in Oceanside California in a qualifying race for the famous Hawaii Ironman Triathlon.
"The Oceanside Half Ironman (1.2 mile swim - 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run) is a major undertaking so early in Nat's career" said his coach. Over 2000 athletes from 20 countries were in California trying to get one of the sacred spots to the 2008 Hawaii Ironman. "Nat and I knew before the race he had to be the first across the finishing line in the men's 25-29 age category to get his spot for Hawaii" said Shepley. Faulkner has worked very hard on his swim over the winter, and got out of the water less then three minutes behind the competition. Once on the bike, his natural instinct took over and Faulkner exited the bike with a three minute cushion heading out onto the 13.1 mile final run leg. "By the final 3 miles of the run, I knew short of an absolute disaster I was going to get my Hawaii Spot" said Faulkner. Faulkner was the first Canadian across the finishing line and punched his ticket to the famous Hawaii Ironman race for October.
"Now that Nat has his spot for Hawaii, we have the luxury to work backwards from the big event and make sure we do everything just right" said Shepley. Shepley's goal is to get Faulkner on the podium at the World Ironman Championships in Hawaii. "I don't know if anyone else could have made such a huge improvement in such a short period of time" said Shepley.
Faulkner is known as a perfectionist and he works tirelessly to improve every aspect of his race performance. Together with his team-mate Sean Bechtel, his coach Barrie Shepley and his C3 Canadian Cross Training Club Team-Mates, the boy who got his start in the local Kids of Steel Triathlon right here in Bracebridge might just win the sport's biggest race before the year is over.
"The only thing that Nat needs now is some additional financial help" said coach Shepley. "Any high level sport is expensive and I am trying to fundraise to help pay for Nat's hotel and travel expenses to the Hawaii Ironman" said Shepley. "My experience over my 25 years of coaching, is that smaller communities like Bracebridge really love getting behind their true athletic heroes and I am sure some of the local businesses and individuals will come through and help me, help get Nat to Hawaii" said Shepley. Anyone who is interested in helping make a donation, purchase an airline ticket, or donate frequent flier points should contact email@example.com to discuss.
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