Photos by Mark Teo
He may be a seasoned Ironman triathlete with a preference for the shorter Ironman 70.3 events, but when Timothy Cosulich registered for his first ever Ironman event in Zurich, Switzerland, in 2010, it was a means to raise money for the hospital that treated his younger sister’s illness.
“I had just heard that the Ironman thing was very tough and I thought it would get people interested if I told them. I had also never cycled in my life, though I was good with swimming,” said the former professional water polo player.
Doing things a little differently, Timothy had asked friends and colleague to commit to donating a certain amount of money depending on how he performed during the race, and had compiled a spreadsheet with the figures.
“This filled me with a sense of responsibility because an ironman, in general, is a very selfish sport, where you do it for your own ambition, or as a personal challenge. In this case, I was doing it for a greater cause. I really felt the responsibility to train, because if didn’t I wouldn’t be able to raise enough money for the hospital,” he shared.
And despite making all the possible mistakes a rookie could make, such as focusing on all the wrong things, such as swimming because it was satisfying instead of biking which he was weakest at, Timothy had managed to raise $150,000 for the hospital after finishing the event’s 3.86km swim, 180.25km bike and 42.20km run within 10.5 hours.
Building on that experience, Timothy had gone to participate in more of the endurance events, even qualifying for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii in 2015. Taking time out of a hectic work and training schedule, we learn more about how he manages the demands of training, family and taking care of a global business with a staff of 1,000.
Davison: Ironman and Ironman 70.3 races are some of the most grueling races on the planet. What do you love most about them?
Timothy Cosulich: I’m competitive by nature, and the way triathlons work satisfies my thirst for competition. It is also a sport that allows me to interact with different people because it transcends jobs, industries, nationalities and you can find a bit of everything in it. If you’re careful in managing your work-life balance well, it is a sport that allows you to continue doing it for a relatively long time, and enjoy a variety of three sports.
Tells us more about your preference for the shorter Ironman 70.3 category (1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run).
Ironman racing is more about endurance whereas in the half Ironman distance, or Ironman 70.3, you have to push and get some speed as well. I’m currently focused on these half Ironman distances because I enjoy it more and it is more compatible with the rest of my life – family and work.
What’s your secret to managing family, work and committing to training?
My number one challenge is making sure that the people I work with don’t think that triathlons are my priority. Triathlons are a passion, it is a hobby, but my priority is work.
To cope, I do 90 per cent of my training very early in the morning. I’ll wake up at 5am, or earlier, and I’ll be done with training by 8am. This leaves me time to play with my son before going into the office.
How important is discipline?
It is super important because discipline applies to everything. I have my work schedules, family schedule, and my training schedule. I make an effort to combine everything and to plan beforehand.
I have a coach whom I have been working with for five years. He knows me and my work schedule very well, and knows when I have time and when I don’t. We share a calendar so he will tell me what to do and when. My coach gives me that structure with his expertise.
How do you maximise your time?
Here in Singapore, the logistics is very easy. I have a pool here in my condominium where I can swim and I have a gym where I can run, or go for one in or around Gardens By The Bay. For cycling, I have an indoor trainer which I can use at home, or I could go out and ride. The only other things I may do is either swim during lunch time, or take a quick run, so there is little impact to work or family life.
I’m sure there are compromises.
It is probably my social life because if I’m up at 5am, I’ll have to be in bed by 10am. But this goes back to the importance of having a balance. Sometimes when I’m out on a date with my wife, I don’t want to be obsessed about what I need to do for the sport.
On the racing front, how do you psyche yourself up?
I’ll have my routine in the morning, where I’ll get the bike ready, do a bit of warming up.
I’m quite lucky that I don’t feel too nervous before a race and I think this helps because I’m a decent swimmer. With my background in water polo, having people try to drown you is just normal. I think that it is my luck that I don’t feel intimidated and am actually looking forward to the start of the race.
And once the adrenaline kicks in, I will go with the flow. My typical race is trying to come out from the water amongst the first, get overtaken by a few guys during the bike leg and then try to catch them up during the run.
What’s the most satisfying part of racing?
Whether or not you’re happy about your race, that last 100m lets you feel a sense of accomplishment because you’ve finished a hard race. I always try to make sure I do my best because I’ll be happy about it regardless of the result.
Most of the time my family is spectating, my wife and my son. I will visualize making them proud, hopefully by crossing the line first. I also have this little tradition now where I will go onto the podium with my son, who is one year old now. I feels very nice, I feel proud and its nice memories I want to build for us, the time we spend together.
What are some of your most memorable races?
I think it would be the Ironman Malaysia race in Langkawi where I qualified for Kona. That marked the end of the journey to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii in 2015. It was something I really cared about and I worked hard towards achieving it, and it was very special.
The other one wasn’t a triathlon, but the New York Marathon in 2013. That was a special race because besides my ambitious personal target, I was also racing with my family. It was nice being there sharing the experience with my father, sister and cousin, and having other family watching too.
I would also add the Island House Triathlon in November 2017. It was a very small race in the Bahamas with Cervelo as one of the main sponsors. There was only 40 participants: 15 male professionals, 15 female professionals and 10 CEOs. The race was also spread over three days of intense racing. It was nice to be on the tiny island with the best professionals in the world, interacting with them and getting to know them.
You had the opportunity to try Cervelo’s top-of-the-range P5X ahead of the Island House. How was that experience?
As event sponsor, Cervelo had sent a P5X for us to try. It is something that never happens, to be able to try a particular bike of this level before buying it. Most times it’s a bit of a blind choice where you buy it and then hope it fits you.
I was very curious to know how it feels because it was rather new as a concept with a unique shape and aerodynamics. I was very happy riding it for a couple of months, feeling very comfortable and being able to go very fast. It is a very adjustable bike, which is important for the kinds of races that I do because you would want to find a comfortable position when you ride. It also comes with a lot of storage for long distances because you can put your nutrition, spares and everything, which is very helpful. I had went to meet with Paul from Bikes n Bites to see how we can collaborate, and I bought it.
How do you like the bike so far?
So far, I’ve used it for one race and I did very well, achieving my personal best so I am very happy with it. The biggest thing I noticed was that while the bike was fast, I was also able to run a lot faster after the bike leg. The bike really set me up for a good run. I get to go fast while remaining comfortable.
What is most important about a bike for you?
I always make sure that I have a proper bike fit. It is very important that you feel comfortable and to ensure that your power output is at its optimum. I think it’s a combination of being as aerodynamic as possible while maintaining comfort.
My Cervelo P5X already comes with top of the range components. This includes ceramic speed components, and a Rotor power meter which has been very accurate for me. I also have ENVE wheels and disc brakes that really let me feel in control. Everything else is stock from Cervelo.