SIGNING up to an Ironman without being able to swim is a ballsy move by most people’s standards, but for PE teacher Ronan McMahon, it was another challenge.
Last August, the 37-year-old Corkman signed up to the upcoming Youghal race equipped with just doggie paddle to complete the 3.8km swim, but seven weeks out from the big day, things seem to be going well.
Over the past 10/11 months, Ronan has learned to swim and cycle with cleats in a fairly fast track training programme that probably wouldn’t be included in any triathlon racing guide book.
After committing to Ironman Youghal last August, Ronan began the process of learning to swim in September with his good friend and experienced triathlete Tomás Kenefick.
Firmly taking Ronan under his wing, Tomās has managed to turn the complete triathlon newbie into a racing machine.
From having never completed a triathlon to coming second in his age category in the recent Battle of Ballinspittle Duathlon and outright winning The 25km Great Railway Run two weeks ago, Ronan is fighting fit and hellbent on getting around the arduous 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42.2km run in Youghal on June 23.
The son of a champion boxer, Sean McMahon, who won a Munster title in 1972 and was All-Army Champion in 1974 and 1976, Ronan said this is his opportunity to reach his full athletic potential.
“I was always good at sport but never had the focus to really get the best out of myself so this is it,” Ronan said.
A somewhat experienced marathon runner, with the Dublin and Cork marathon under his belt over the years, and a proficient cyclist, Ronan said the swim is his biggest fear on the day.
“I am most afraid of getting fished out of the water,” Ronan said, “Swimming is my weakest discipline.
“In fairness, I came from not being able to swim to learning how and now I can swim, albeit slowly. When it comes to a technique based sport my mental fortitude gets tested as I want to make progress too fast and I end up frustrating myself.”
Discussing mental toughness, Ronan said when it comes to race day being steely with your resolve is the only thing that counts.
“Mental toughness is going to be paramount on race day, but I guess it is in life.”
The Bandon Grammar School PE teacher said that in attempting Ironman Youghal he wants to show people that pretty much anyone can do anything they want to achieve with good old fashioned hard work.
“I always say you get what you deserve when it comes to training. Don't show up and you'll go nowhere.
“I tell the kids I teach that you have to have a goal or a target in life and in order to get there it takes hard work, which can sometimes get you down or not go your way, but nothing can stop you if you are hungry enough.”
Supported by his family and friends, Ronan said they are a key part of his training and will be at the finish line waiting for him in Youghal.
“My family, girlfriend Orlaith and a few close friends will be supporting me in Youghal. They have been so helpful and understanding about how hard I have been training for this.
“I think about my brother Barry, who has Down Syndrome and suffers from kidney difficulties when it's time to dig deep. The trials he has faced have made me feel so lucky to be healthy and he really drives us as a family.”
Branding Ironman Youghal as a one-off attempt at Iron distance racing, it is clear Ronan is leaving nothing to chance on the day and pulling out all the stops to give it everything he has got on June 23.
“This is a once off venture. I might keep doing Sprint triathlons and duathlons, but no more Ironman for me! My plan for the rest of the summer is to go on holidays and enjoy the weather!”