Somerset's Tyler LeRoy is Louisville Ironman Triathlon champion
Little did Tyler LeRoy know, that when a neck injury forced him to give up wrestling, his competitive fire would burn on so brightly that he would become champion of the 2016 Louisville Ironman Triathlon.
LeRoy won the triathlon by completing the grueling three-part course on Oct. 9 in 9 hours, 1 minute.
LeRoy is a 2006 graduate of Somerset High School. He was an aspiring wrestler for the Spartans until a neck injury ended his wrestling career.
The news that he could no longer wrestle hit LeRoy like a freight train.
“I lost my passion to compete,” he said.
LeRoy went to Michigan Tech, earning his undergraduate and graduate degrees. He got back into competing while in grad school in 2011.
“My first time, I had no clue what I was doing. I broke my bike chain and I put my wetsuit on backward,” LeRoy recalled.
It wasn’t until 2013 that he began competing more seriously in triathlons. Last year, LeRoy took the plunge, trying an Ironman triathlon for the first time. He tried Ironman Wisconsin, where he finished 70th.
“I felt I had a great race, but I still had no clue,” LeRoy said.
At that point, LeRoy was hooked. He set the goal of qualifying for the Ironman World Championships. To do that, he hired a coach. To qualify, he needed to finish in the top five in his division at an Ironman event.
“I wanted to see how far I could push myself. I needed to see massive improvements in all three phases,” Leroy said.
Using his times from the Wisconsin Ironman as his comparison, he achieved those improvements. He cut his swim time from 1:05 to 58 minutes. He took nearly an hour off his time in the 112-mile bike course, from 5:45 to 4:50. He improved his run time from 3:27 to 3:04. He said the improvements were the result of a year of non-stop work.
“It was baby steps all through the year. We were seeing improvements almost on a weekly basis,” LeRoy said.
LeRoy and his coach mapped out a plan for every detail of the course. He had family members posted all along the course to give him a steady flow of updates to see how he was doing against the competition. His goal was to win his division. As he went through the event, his goal grew. He saw winning the entire event was possible. LeRoy said the idea of winning struck him during the biking portion of the event.
“Right when I hit Mile 80 my legs started feeling very good. I passed a lot of the leaders. I was averaging 25 miles per hour the last 30 miles,” he said.
That left the run. On the flat course in Louisville, LeRoy was able to make great time. His family let him know at Mile 13 that he was leading his age group by eight minutes. At Mile 16, they let him know the overall leader was just two and one-half minutes ahead of him.
“Over the last eight miles I cranked it. It was very surreal crossing that finish line.”
This was LeRoy’s second Ironman and he said that inexperience helped. He said it caused him to use caution in the opening stages of the race, so he had plenty of strength left for the end. He said it also helped because other racers weren’t looking at him as a threat.
“I’ve been able to fly under the radar,” he said.
Now that he’s reached this level, LeRoy said he plans to continue to add bigger challenges. He has three major events planned for next season. The first is the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. The second is the Lake Placid Ironman event. And the third is the Boston Marathon. He said the scheduling of those works ideally because there is three months between each of them for his body to recover and resume training.
A full account of LeRoy’s experience can be found on his website: https://triathlete365.com/2016/10/15/ironman-louisville/