Leaside’s Ironman couple, Brandon and Fiona Whitby, will once again challenge the World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii in early October. Remarkably, this will be Brandon’s seventh and Fiona’s fifth time participating in the event traditionally held in Hawaii.
The aptly named Ironman is a long-distance triathlon comprising a 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike ride and 42.2 km run for a total of 226 km, which takes the Whitbys between 9.5 and 11 hours to complete. Fiona describes the Hawaii event as “next level, only for the ultra-fit” and says this venue on a volcanic island can provide all the extreme elements of “hot, humid, windy, cloudy, rainy and sunny weather all packed into one day.”
The couple met at a local bike shop, Enduro Sport, in 1999, and started dating the next year. They both grew up doing several endurance sports, so triathlon was a natural fit for them. Brandon started his triathlon career in 1984 and Fiona in 1989, and each spent a few years as pro-triathletes. They started doing Ironman competitions in 1998 and 2001, respectively, and Brandon proposed to Fiona at the finish line of Ironman Lake Placid in 2003.
In total, Brandon has completed 33 full Ironman competitions and Fiona, 22, in addition to numerous other races. They love travelling to take part in races around the world, including the Canary Islands, France and Brazil.
The inspiration for all of their training and competition comes from their “love of the challenge, the pursuit of health and longevity and the desire to be fit, strong and dedicated role models” for their 10-year-old son, Myles, who is involved in a number of sports himself such as swimming, running, karate, basketball and skiing. Fiona says her “passion and strength” is cycling, while Brandon is an all-round athlete in swimming, running and cycling.
In terms of training, Fiona writes their programs for each week including biking, swimming, running, strength training and body maintenance. While they enjoy training together, it can be tough juggling their schedules to do so.
Fortunately, Fiona’s career dovetails perfectly with her sport. She is an associate coach for NRG Performance Training, her brother’s company, where she coaches 15 to 20 athletes for distance triathlon events. She is also a registered kinesiologist and athletic therapist, treating sports injuries and fitting people on their bikes in her home and mobile practice.
Brandon, a financial advisor, sometimes finds it hard to devote time to training. But his clients, many of whom are athletes themselves, are supportive of his athletic endeavours.
Both Fiona and Brandon have had very busy competition schedules so far this summer. Fiona won her age group in competitions in Des Moines and Muskoka, qualifying her for Hawaii. Brandon had good experiences at Mt. Tremblant and Muskoka, but actually qualified for this Ironman with a pre-pandemic win in Wisconsin.
The upcoming trip to Hawaii is a special one for the couple. As Brandon explains, “We are excited about sharing the experience with family members including Myles, as well as a group of our greatest friends, who are also our training partners, some of whom are race veterans and others who are first-timers.”