Last week I finally got to take on Ironman Barcelona, and it definitely lived up to my expectations. This was my second time to take on this gruelling challenge, having previously raced Ironman Mallorca in 2015. However, due to other commitments, I had to take a break from the sport for the next three years.
An Ironman Triathlon is is widely considered as one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world. It consists of a 3.9km swim, a 180km cycle and a marathon run (42km), raced in that order.
In January of this year, I decided to reach out to my former coach. I had a bold goal of breaking the 10-hour mark and wanted to devise a training plan to do so.
We arranged to sit down over a coffee and discuss a plan to take on Ironman Barcelona. I recall making a bold statement to my coach saying ‘I believe I can break 10 hours’. Unconvinced and knowing that I had not trained for a long time, my coach advised me to take things slowly!
The first 2 months of training were extremely challenging both physically and mentally. In my mind I was questioning whether I would even be able to complete the race, but things gradually got easier. By August, I was training up to 18 hours per week, often two sessions per day. The training plan involved completing 3 hours of swimming, 8 hours of cycling, 5 hours of running and 2-3 hours of strength and conditioning every week.
Finally, the day of the race arrived! At this point I was extremely focused and confident. It all came down to this day and I knew exactly what I needed to do. Standing on the beach in Calella, Barcelona, with 3,000 other athletes there was a sense of nervousness and anxiousness. However, once the gun went off and I was diving into the warm, clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea, those feelings disappeared.
The first few hundred meters were chaotic. There were people everywhere battling to get in front of each other. After 55 minutes and a few jellyfish stings later, I had completed the 3.9km swim. A quick change into my cycling gear and I was ready to take on the next stage of the race – the 180km cycle!
The bike course in Barcelona is renowned as one of the flattest and fastest courses in the world, a perfect surface for cycling. However, with these perfect conditions, it is easy to forget your race strategy. I knew that if my heartrate exceeded a certain level, I was going to burn energy too quickly and burn out! At the end of the day, I still had a marathon to run too!
One of the most important elements of the cycle and often overlooked is nutrition. Throughout the cycle I consumed over 4,000 calories. This was not only replacing the energy that I had burned, but also refuelling my body for the rest of the race.
After completing the cycle in just over 5 hours, I was ready to take on the final leg of the race. It was around 3 o’clock in the day and it was extremely warm. The volunteers were handing out ice cold sponges every 2km to cool the athletes down. I looked forward to it every time! Seeing my wife supporting me as I began the run also gave me a well needed mental boost.
After more than three and a half hours of running I made the final turn towards the finish line. Glancing up at the clock and seeing my finishing time of 9 hours 48 minutes is a feeling I will never forget. I could not believe it! All of the hours spent in the pool, lake, on the roads and in the gym had led to this moment, and it was very surreal. I remember hearing the race announcer shout over the speaker as I passed the finish line – “David – You are an Ironman!”
“A good goal should scare you a little but excite you a lot!”
I achieved my goal of racing a sub 10-hour Ironman, but I didn’t achieve it alone. Special thanks must go to my friends and family for their support over the past few months, especially my wife Charlene. My coach Philly could not have prepared me any better for the event, and Collins McNicholas Recruitment & HR Services who kindly sponsored me for the event. With the sponsorship I was able to purchase high end triathlon equipment, which greatly enhanced my performance on the day. I can’t thank them all enough!
David Lennon is a Recruitment Consultant at Collins McNicholas Athlone, and sponsorship of his ironman triathlon is part of the organisation’s longstanding commitment to supporting employee health and wellbeing. Well done David from all your colleagues!