Ten years ago Cheyne Murphy weighed 105kgs and admits he was “sick of looking in the mirror and being overweight”.
He bought a bike and joined Redcliffe Triathlon Club, at that stage, unable to swim 50m and with no intention of doing triathlon.
“I just wanted to ride and lose weight,” says Murphy, who grew up in Caboolture and moved to Narangba 16 years ago.
Fast forward to May 10 and Murphy, now 42 years old and weighing 77kgs, finished runner-up in the Ultraman Australia – a three-day, 515.4km test of endurance said to “drag out the crazies!”
Based at Noosa, it was Murphy’s first Ultraman – a 10km swim, 421.1km bike ride and 84.3km run. As the only such event in Australia, it was effectively for the national title.
“There was so much stress in the lead-up,” he says, “the run scared me. I’d never run more than 42kms. I was thinking just see what happens on the way home.
“But my support crew was so diligent with nutrition – Smoothies, I had to eat every hour and then they’d put a bowl of pasta in front on me!”
Finishing on the soft sand of Noosa beach, Murphy clocked 23 hours seven minutes 33 seconds – well ahead of the third-place finisher.
“The last 5kms was awesome,” he says, “once I’d got over that last hill, I knew it was just back to Noosa. Nothing mattered. Even the soft sand at the finish.
“I’m glad I was with it at that point. Noosa beach had people everywhere. Everyone was clapping, my crew and my kids ran with me.
“It took a bit of punch to get up the beach, but it didn’t matter. I felt like I was running on bitumen.
“That was my first Ultraman and probably my last! It was totally different to anything else I have done. Ironman … everything is done faster and harder.
“This was three days in a row. Even at the end I was muscle sore, but totally with it. It went really fast. I’ve felt much worse at the end of a short race.”
Murphy was training 25 hours a week in the lead-up to the Ultraman - swimming 20kms, riding four or five times, often to Coolum or Noosa and two or three long runs in Narangba.
Yet, in some ways, this was 10 years in the making. Murphy had always played sport, mainly rugby and baseball representing Australia at the age of 18 in the latter.
“I’ve always been a competitive sportsman,” said Murphy, who played baseball for Caboolture, Pine Rivers and Redcliffe Padres.
“I came from team sport, but in triathlon the only person you let down is yourself. I used to do 5kms and think I was getting fit for footy or baseball.
“This was a big life shift to a sport which sucks you in, but is very rewarding. You need a good crew behind you and there are great people at Redcliffe (Triathlon Club) who helped.”
Murphy’s first triathlon was at Bribie Island doing a 300m swim, 20km bike ride and 5km run. “It was a tide-assisted swim, so I don’t think I even did 300m!” he said.
Since then Murphy has completed half Ironman and 10 full Ironman (3.8km swim, 180km bike, marathon 42kms) events.
He qualified for the 2018 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, finishing in just under 10 hours.
“It was a pretty special day, but I ended up in a pretty bad way after the race,” he said.
“Now, I don’t think I am an elite sportsman. I just put 100 per into anything I do.
“In this (Ultraman) race it was more upstairs than what’s downstairs that got you to the finish lines each day. You never say never, but right now never (again).
“Someone already sending me a snippet of a race overseas with a 1000km bike ride in the middle.
“Right now I think I’ll just settle the beast and get back to a bit of family time.”
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