By: Monty Mosher
Ask Tyler Cole about his busy life and he'll tell you the key is having a wife who understands you, and even pushes you now and then.
"I have the world's greatest wife," he said. "She's the most supportive person around. Without her I couldn't do anything. She's like the coach in my corner."
Cole isn't a household name around the AUS. He's a cross-country runner at Memorial. The team captain, he placed 30th in the AUS championship last fall.
But that is just a small piece of his story.
Cole, a native Newfoundlander, will turn 33 in August. He's a married father of a three-year-old son, a lieutenant in the Canadian navy and a student entering his second year of medical school at MUN.
"It's a full plate," he said. "I do juggle a lot, but I think it is the way I like it to be honest with you."
He's back on the cross-country team after an eight-year hiatus. He ran for the team for the team for three years while completing his undergraduate degree and a masters degree in engineering before embarking on his military career.
He plans to use his final season of varsity eligibility this fall.
He loves to run cross-country, but his passion is triathlon. He has a half Ironman distance on his resume.
"I joined the military because I'd been in school for a significant amount of time and I wanted to do something to give back and serve my country," he said.
His trade in the military was combat systems engineering officer. He performed those duties for seven years at locations around the country.
The Canadian Forces offers a program for prospective medical school students. If a candidate can gain entry to a medical school, the military will consider providing financial assistance. In exchange for the financial help, the candidate will provide five years as a doctor to the military upon completion of studies.
Call to medicine deeply personal
Cole prepared for MCAT exam while working a full-time job and tending to a young family. He applied to Memorial and gained a coveted spot. He said the five-year commitment to being a doctor in the military will be no issue for him because the navy is his career. "I'm in for life. I love the military. I would have signed on for 20 years."
The draw of medicine is intensely personal. His father died from pancreatic cancer in 2008, the last year Tyler was in undergraduate engineering. "It was something that affected me dearly and I wanted to pursue medicine back then."
But the timing was all wrong. He was enrolled in graduate school at Memorial.
Move ahead a few years and Cole is in Ottawa when he learns of the military program giving him a hope of a second chance to go to medical school. "Now I had an opportunity to try it again. Then I started studying for it. It takes about a year even to apply to school."
His first year in medical school was everything he hoped it would be. "I told my wife I probably should have done it 10 years ago. It is definitely want I want to do. I love it. I love every minute of it.
'Always training for triathlon'
"It's a ton of work, but going to engineering school is a ton of work and so is being in the military – shift work and high-stress situations and life at sea. It has all prepared me to do this. I was training for it for years and didn't even know it."
Having been a triathlete, where he focuses on the Olympic distance, Cole was squarely on the fence about returning to varsity sport at Memorial upon his return.
"I'm always training for triathlon and when I came back to MUN the team was in a rebuilding year. The coach (Art Meaney) asked me to come out and provide some experience because I am a lot older. At first, I hemmed and hawed because I had med school and a child, it would be a lot to take on. I didn't know if I could do it."
But his wife, Karen, ended up talking to Meaney as well. She encouraged her husband to join the team and they'd find a way to make it all work. "It's mainly because of Karen that I came back to it. She supported me. She said we'd work around it with Zachary and studying and stuff and it worked out great."
If he was going to return to the team, it wasn't going to be a feel-good story of an older guy reliving times nearly a decade in the past. He runs to win, but that's not all of it.
Exercise helps with studies
"I'm a competitive person. We're all competitive when you train like that. But for me, I'm a big supporter of athletics in general. Exercise is medicine. I shadow sports medicine when I can. I'm really interested in that stuff. It keeps the brain clear. Training helps me study. I don't have a lot of time, so everything is focused. The athletics keeps me fresh and helps me sleep better."
Regardless of where he places in his final AUS championship, he'll bring leadership to the team.
"The military has trained me in that. I have the experience and leadership. I think that's why Art made me the captain. We have some younger guys coming up, and this year some new guys starting university, and they have a lot of potential. There is a big difference between high school and varsity. If I can give them support and pass on some of my experience I think that would be good."
Meaney learned the first time around that Cole was a "hard-working athlete and showed early signs of leadership."
He said he was eager to get Cole back on he team because he had two years to participate.
"Because of his maturity and take-charge attitude, I quickly appointed him team captain," he said. "Nick Snow is another returnee from years ago and is also studying medicine. He and Tyler and Chris Galley from Ottawa have trained hard through the past winter with the intention of being the core of a rebuilt Memorial team that can contend for a medal this coming fall.
"Tyler has provided the leadership and inspiration for that core group. All three have had great success on our Newfoundland road race circuit this spring."