This year, on the big Hawaiian Island, Fiona and Brandon Whitby will be making their third consecutive Kona appearance together. The couple is impressive to say the least. “It’s a pretty cool couple accomplishment,” says Fiona.
For Fiona, this year will be her fifth planned Kona start. Last year, both Fiona and Brandon were looking forward to big races, but only one of them made it to the start line. “While in Kona preparing for the race, I was blown off my bike a week before race day. I broke my collarbone and suffered an extensive road rash,” says Fiona. Since the crash, Fiona has been aiming to get back to Kona and redeem her misfortune. “I officially started training for 2018 on November 26, 2017, about seven weeks after the crash. In December, I decided to register for Texas in April. It gave me a goal to work towards. Fortunately for me, I was able to get back enough fitness for April and qualified at Texas.”
Heading into his sixth appearance at Kona, Brandon has lots of race experience. “My first full Ironman was Ironman Canada in 1998. At that time, it was all about trying to be as quick as possible, but I never felt like I was ready to chase a Kona spot.” After a few Ironmans under his belt, Brandon came close to qualifying for the world championships at Ironman Brazil. The race was the spark that got him to start thinking about Kona. “Finally, at Coeur d’Alene in 2010, I received my first Kona qualifying spot. It was my 12th Ironman.”
Over the years Fiona and Brandon have developed a great self-awareness when it comes to training. “Learning how to recognize what needs work, and how my body reacts to training loads is very important for building the fitness over weeks and months of training,” says Brandon. Setting a plan and understanding that quality trumps quantity, especially when balancing work and family life with training, is a key to success. “From my first Ironman to my 22nd, training now falls into quality sessions – focusing on what ‘needs’ to be done to race well and be competitive. There just isn’t much room for ‘extra’ training or workouts without a purpose,” says Fiona.
So, how does the couple make the dream work? Is there a balance? Both respond with a joke of their own, “Balance? What balance?” Brandon says, “Fiona and I are a pretty rare couple.” At the end of the day, both respond by emphasizing their desire to support each other. “We have an appreciation and understanding of each other’s needs and goals, so this makes it easier to create our schedule,” says Fiona. With the birth of their son in September 2012, the two took time away from competitive triathlons to prioritize family time. Now, that their son is six years old, the couple is back training and setting an example to their son on how to stay active and chase your dreams.