Running close to 100km and cycling over 200km per week certainly builds an appetite, and the way triathlete Troy Argent is eyeing off his burger, it may as well be his next finish line.
I meet Troy at Grill’d and it’s easy to spot the athlete in the restaurant – he is tough, lean and strong. Clearly he has earned this monstrous burger. “As a kid I always wanted to make an Australian team,” he tells me, grinning.
“It was one of those things, it was a pipe dream.
“Every kid that does sport goes, ‘Man, I’d love to represent Australia one day.’”
It is hard to believe that only two years ago Troy was facing a major challenge – one that was certainly preventing him from representing his country on the global stage. Like one in four young people in Australia, when Troy looked in the mirror he stared directly into the face of obesity.
But Troy made the decision not to accept that, continue to sit around and let life go by. Determined to regain his fitness, he took up long distance running to help him shed the extra weight. Twenty-four kilograms later, he now has one marathon, four triathlons and two Half Ironmans under his belt.
Troy recently returned from Canada where he realised his childhood dream to represent Australia, competing in the notoriously tough Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Mont Tremblant. Despite injuring his Achilles tendon a few weeks prior to the event he still managed to run a personal best, crossing the finish line three minutes faster than he did in the qualifier in Cairns.
Troy’s journey to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships has been years in the making. Born in Brisbane, Troy moved to Mackay at the age of 12 with his family. A keen sportsman from a young age, he took up swimming where he met his childhood sweetheart Lauren Cairns.
“I was playing in bands, so I was drinking a lot. Essentially what that means is you’re just going to put on a lot of weight. And I did”
When he left high school at age 17 Troy headed north to Townsville while Lauren moved to the Gold Coast to pursue their respective degrees. Troy would eventually follow Lauren south and back again, so she could achieve her own goal of becoming a physiotherapist. But little did either of them know that it was these geographical shifts that would shape major changes in Troy’s life.
While he was away from the girl he adored he threw himself wholeheartedly into music, his second love. As a student by day and musician by night, Troy was having the time of his life. But those fun times soon started to expand his waistband. “I was eating terribly for a really long time,” he admits. “Around about 17 when I left home, I stopped swimming, and my metabolism started to slow. I was playing in bands, so I was drinking a lot. Essentially what that means is you’re just going to put on a lot of weight. And I did.”
Looking at him now, it’s hard to believe that he was 92kg at his heaviest.
After a few years in Townsville, Troy decided to follow his sweetheart to the Gold Coast. But just before he did, he saw something that completely changed the way that he viewed the world.
He saw a photograph of himself.
“It was a slap to the face,” he says, remembering the moment.
“I was in a band; trying to wear skinny jeans and stuff. Then I saw this photo and I was like, ‘What are you doing? You’re humungous!’” he says, grinning his classic Troy grin. “Then a few weeks later I moved to the Gold Coast… and I was like, ‘Maybe I should start running’.”
So he did.
Knowing very few people on the Coast, Troy found himself running to pass the time. Thanks to his high school swimming career, his cardiovascular fitness came back quickly, meaning he could run and run until his knees gave out.
Not long after shifting south, his new housemate Nick suggested they tried their hand at a half marathon.
“Being the healthy guys that we are, we bet a case of beer on it,” Troy says, laughing.
With the date of the half marathon looming, Troy decided to see how he would fare in a timed race.
International event parkrun – a timed 5km weekly run – was held nearby. So early one Saturday morning, Troy tried his hand at the race, and crossed the finish line first.
“I had my old band manager get in touch. He was like, ‘How much do you need? Will two grand help?’…That was the donation that meant we could go”
The people he met at that day would soon become his closest friends. And their passion for running was contagious: Troy soon found himself getting up at 5.30 in the morning to go running with his new friends.
Unhealthy Troy was fading into the past, and Fit Troy was just warming up.
Troy soon returned to Townsville a changed man, and he had the muscles to prove it. “I’ve wanted to do an Ironman ever since I moved here,” he admits.
“My friends went to Yeppoon and did the Half Ironman, which you can’t do anymore as it’s been shut down. I ran the Gold Coast Marathon, and I had a lot of good things happen that year; I still remember being insanely jealous that they got to do that race.”
Not one to waste time, Troy set his next goal at the Townsville Triathlon Festival after party. The topic of competing in an Ironman race resurfaced, and Troy found himself asking his friend and previous Ironman competitor, Simon ‘Simmo’ James, to coach him for the upcoming 70.3 event in Cairns.
The pairing was certainly a good one. Troy completed the gruelling race in four hours and thirty-three minutes, smashing his expected finish time by half an hour. He placed third for his age group, qualifying him for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Canada.
His unexpected qualification meant Troy had to make an on-the-spot decision to enter into the coveted race. But after a little reassurance from Lauren, Troy paid the entry fee and was in.
There was only one problem: he couldn’t afford to fly across the globe in only a few months time.
After a month of several failed sponsorship attempts, a friend offered to set up a crowd-funding webpage to help raise the money needed. Troy consented, but was sceptical about the idea.
Within hours of the site going live, it raised over $1,000 towards his trip.
Overcome with a cascade of emotions, he remembers sitting down on the ground and weeping when he heard the news:
“There were people from my high school making donations. People I haven’t seen in years.”
“I had my old band manager get in touch. He was like, ‘How much do you need? Will two grand help?’…That was the donation that meant we could go.”
When asked how he keeps motivated for a big race, Troy admits it is the same reason he began running in the first place.
“Everyone always goes, ‘How do you get up in the morning and do it?’ On the really hard mornings, I’ll think of that photo, and then I get up and do it.”
“I have that photo. I keep it as a token reminder,” he admits.
Toned and muscular, Troy holds his burger in two hands; juices dripping down his wrists.
“The best thing about doing a long course triathlon is that I can eat whatever I want,” he says, grinning widely.
Troy has recently competed in the Bowen Triathlon, placing third overall. He will now rest his Achilles tendon before tackling his next major goal – Ironman 70.3 in Cairns next year, with the aim to improve on his time:
“I would love to compete at World Championship level again as well: I feel that with a bit more experience I can improve my world age ranking. I just need to use the off-season to get it right so, come next year, I’m firing on all cylinders.”
Five minute breather with Troy…
How did you discover triathlon? I used to watch triathlons with my Dad when I was a kid and used to love watching Brad Bevan and Greg Welch light it up. When I was in Year 12 my school had an enticer triathlon and this was my first opportunity to try one out. At the time I played a lot of sport and was a strong swimmer so thought I would give it a go. I had a lot of fun, but didn’t end up doing another one until the Townsville Sprint Triathlon in 2012. Since then I’ve been hooked.
What’s your favourite thing to do on a weekend in Townsville? From an exercise perspective, it would be to go running at the Town Common or riding the Giru Loop. However the thing I most enjoy is going out for breakfast with my girlfriend.
Most motivating tune? Nic the Poet by British India: It’s fast and just makes you wanna go faster!
How do you pep yourself up when you’re craving the couch? By thinking that, while I’m sitting here, there’s someone out there getting their session done. That works 99% of the time. Also, I watch a lot of triathletes’ YouTube channels with training sessions for inspiration.
Solo or buddy? Definitely buddy. I‘m lucky to have a great group of friends in Townsville who keep me motivated to train. When it comes to swimming, I’m part of the Peak Performance Swim squad at North Shore. For cycling, I train with the boys from Off ‘N’ On Bikes and hit up the local bunch rides for some good hit outs. For running, I love the Town Common as well as doing the local parkruns and Townsville Road Runners club runs when I have a chance.
What activity have you always wanted to try (and what’s holding you back)? Skydiving: It’s something that I think would be absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, I’m a little scared of heights.
What’s something we don’t know about you? I have a very strong fear of magpies!
Most embarrassing moment on the go? Hmmm… let’s just say that I always take some emergency TP on my long runs now!
Who would you most like to train with? Tim Don (UK triathlete). He always an impressive performer at major events, but always looks like he is enjoying himself. He never seems super serious in interviews and I guess I want to maintain that attitude myself. I think he would be full of useful training and race day tips but – more importantly – would be a lot of fun to train with.
The training advice I wish I’d listened to was… My coach Simon James keeps telling me, “You don’t always have to go fast, to go fast”. I still struggle with that one and have to really focus on planning my recovery sessions.
Most treasured piece of fitness gear? It would be a tie between my Nike Lunar racers and my Felt DA time trial bike. My Felt is so comfortable and has contributed to my improvement in the bike leg for Ironman. It has also taken me along some pretty spectacular roads both here and abroad. I have raced in the Nike Lunar racers since I started running and they are light, fast and comfortable.
My best local fitness tip is… get involved in the local sporting clubs: They are always looking for new members and, in my experience, are extremely friendly and helpful; plus it’s a great way to stay motivated. There are plenty of great clubs around Townsville to get involved in. If you’re curious about trying a new sport you should get in touch.
Tell us a joke (why not?) The computer said I needed a password with eight characters. So I picked Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Last words? This year I’ve had help from a lot of people who have allowed me to achieve some goals I never thought possible. To everyone who has helped, even if it was as little as a kind word: Thank you!