Friday, 5 July 2013

Who is this guy? Meet the author

When I first started this blog my intent was to let my friends and family get an insight into my training and racing. However, it only took 10 days to reach 1000 views and it occurred to me that I don't think I know 1000 people so strangers MUST be reading it.

My name is Colin Hackett and I am a four-time Ironman finisher and the lightest I've been on race day was 250 lbs.  I live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and I am on a mission to Kona for the Ironman Triathlon World Championship.

Edmonton is best known for hockey and a really big shopping mall. However, it has become a triathlon hotbed in the last decade and, in fact, hosted the Grand Final of the International Triathlon Union in 2014.

I am a proud dad to three children.  My son Kelland is 5, my daughter Calliah is 3 and my other daughter Cambrey just turned 2 and daughter 3 will arrive in October of 2014. Yeah. My wife Kimberley is brave and amazing.
Always time for family at Ironman Canada 2012

Throughout my blog I will share a number of personal stories and this crew will be the main characters. I absolutely could not achieve the things I do without the support of this amazing woman.

I am a high school teacher and for the past 9 years I worked at Ross Sheppard High School, the same school I graduated from in 1998. Now I coordinate an Emergency Response Program at Centre High. Throughout my childhood I was always active playing a number of sports but my body type was best aligned with football. In high school I was a running back and in grade 12 I lead the league in touchdowns. I took a year off between high school and university as I had rotator cuff surgery just a week after graduation and it was a 6 month recovery. Once I got to university I wasn't fast enough to keep playing running back but they had a spot for me at offensive line.  For those that don't know, offensive linemen are the big guys that do the blocking and hitting right on the line of scrimmage. I lifted weights and ate food and got up over 300 lbs and am only 5' 11''. I played two season with the University of Alberta Golden Bears. After my first season I had my other shoulder operated on and by the end of my second season the lustre was off of football for me.

I stopped training, but not eating. My body finally plateaued at 324 lbs and I was a mess but the weight went on so gradually that I never really panicked, I just kept buying slightly bigger clothes. My 2008 New Year's resolution was to get into shape and it actually took. It's been nearly 5 years and I'm only getting better.

In addition to my amazing family I've had a number of other people that have been instrumental in my success:

My parents were always there for me. Despite the fact that we didn't have much extra money growing up they always seemed to find a way to do the little things for us and keep us in sport. This didn't end even after my sister and I were off and married. They were there to cheer me on at both of my Ironman Canada finishes in 2010 and 2012 and it's that kind of support that helps me to keep going. Sadly my dad passed suddenly while on vacation in Mexico just 2 days before his 60th birthday. Two months later I'm still extremely shaken by this but am so glad that I have no regrets when it comes to my dad. I know for certain that the last words we spoke to each other were "I love you" because that was how we ended every conversation. Now, when I'm having a tough training session or struggling during a race I channel his message that "I'm proud of you" and it gives me the boost I need to get through that tough patch. He taught me how to be a man and to do the right thing. He spent 2 and 1/2 years in Afghanistan and I will never forget the things he sacrificed for others.

Dad holding Kelland just after getting home from Afghanistan. My mom is in the back.
Alli Tai (Conroy) was my first tri coach and became so much more than that to Kim and I. Alli is an amazing person. She finished 2nd in her age group at Ironman Canada and is a physical specimen. While on a training ride in September of 2006 she was struck by a truck and nearly killed. She miraculously made an almost full recovery and began doing group training as a coach. At first I was really scared by her but that quickly switched to respect. Alli and her now husband John showed Kim and I that we were capable of so much more than we were doing. In the next year they had us climbing mountains and taking salsa dancing lessons and this empowered us so much and we will forever be grateful to them. Alli has not slowed down, in fact just this last year she set a Guinness World Record for the fastest 10km run while pushing her daughter Ama in a stroller. This took a staggering 43:07. Sickening.

Kim (L) and Alli (R) supporting me at my first triathlon

After Alli abandoned me for beautiful Vancouver, BC I was blessed to work with two amazing coaches. Karl MacPhee took me under his wing and transformed me from a guy that would just "do" triathlons and into someone that could actually attack and "race" triathlons. Karl's mantra was you don't need to run marathons to train for marathons. Karl believed in high intensity low duration workouts and this paid off big time. I shaved 90 minutes off of my Ironman time on the same course and all without having to give up on family time.

For Ironman Los Cabos 2013, Coeur d'Alene 2013, Arizona 2013, Texas 2014 and Switzerland 2014 Jeremy Potter took me on. Jeremy was a practicum student working at our school and runs the triathlon team at a local college. He got to use me as a bit of an experiment as the people he usually trains are, let's say, petite. I think he learned a thing or two about training big folk. He would give me certain paces to run and I would laugh and laugh. "How about I just run faster than when I'm comfortable and call that hard." 

The last group I need to thank big time are my Cops for Cancer tri team. This is not a traditional tri team. As founder and all around nice guy Kerry Nisbet told me when he took me on, "we are a fundraising team that does triathlon and not the other way around." This amazing group has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer groups in the Edmonton area.  Because of our climate we have to do the bulk of our cycling indoors in a school cafeteria and this gives us a great chance to talk while we're training so you get to know people much better than you would riding in traffic. You guys are amazing and I really appreciate you taking me on!

The key to being able to reach my goals comes down to three things I believe:

1) Support from friends and family but especially my wife and kids. Without them I could never do half of the things I do.

2) Time Management. As a parent of 3 young children, a full-time high school teacher and a hockey referee all winter, finding time to train for an Ironman requires you to be incredibly efficient with your time.

3) Desire. Adam Carolla (former host of The Man Show and current podcast tycoon) sounds like an interesting person to take a philosophy from but he bluntly says that "if you want to do to something you will. If you want to be a pilot but don't have a ton of cash you will do it if that is what you truly desire." I 100% agree with him. If Ironman wasn't a true passion this kind of schedule would be way too much to handle. But because it has become a part of me I make it work.

For those that don't know, Kona is the host of the Ironman World Championship and the goal of anyone serious about Ironman. At a typical event of about 2300 competitors there will be 50 spots up for grabs. The people that get these spots are absolutely amazing people. They have committed so completely to their training that they can complete a 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and a 42.2km run in a time that would make your head spin. In my age group, for example, at Ironman Canada 2012 I finished in 14:21:16 but the person in my age group that got the spot got finished in 9:28:28. That means I only have to shave around 5 hours off of my time. HA! Clearly this is not going to happen. It's no one's fault but I'm just too big to compete at that level. But Ironman has a heart and created a program for people that are committed to the sport and to Ironman.

The creation of the Legacy Lottery by World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), the owners of Ironman, sparked me. In the past the only way that a schmuck like me would get the chance to toe the line in Kona would be to enter a general lottery with the hope of getting 1 of the 100 spots available out of thousands of entries. A second lottery was created but the criteria to enter was for people who were hard core about Ironman:

- You can NEVER have started in Kona. If you've EVER been to Kona, you're out.
- You have to have at least 12 finishes in Ironman brand full distance races.
- You have to have completed a full distance race in each of the two previous years when you enter.

For this group of people there are an additional 100 spots.

THIS IS MY MISSION. To date I have completed seven Ironman races and am registered for Ironman Arizona 2014 and Coeur d'Alene 2015.

I hope you will follow me on my journey. I think it'll be a hell of a ride!


  1. OMG! This one made me tear up and I have to say that I think you and your wife are both quite amazing! Losing a parent is very shattering and the healing process can take years. o.O The weight loss is... astounding and I applaud your effort in this challenge and wish you nothing but the best and will keep my fingers crossed that you win the lottery! :) How lucky your kids and students are to have you in their lives as the sort of role model we all want to be!

    1. Thanks Shelia! It means a lot to know that people are actually reading this thing :)

  2. You guys are amazing. I love the support you have obviously shown each other through challenging times and how hard you work to reach your goals, it's amazing!

    My husband is a "big guy" and your blog is so encouraging - he's getting more and more into exercise and "training" after dropping about 30 lbs - he's now about 265 lbs @ 6'2'' and still dropping weight. I'm excited to show your blog to him, I know he'll enjoy it and get a lot out of it.

    I agree with Shelia, your family and students are blessed to have such a role model!