Five-time Ironman Alan O’Connor loves a challenge and claiming a sixth Iron distance medal at Youghal in June is the current aim for the 47-year-old this summer.
Alan, who works in management, has been a member of the Cork Triathlon Club (CTC) since 2014. When he first joined the club, Alan said he couldn’t even swim 200m, never mind attempt an Ironman.
Five years on, in peak physical condition, the family man is looking forward to racing in Youghal with his wife Gail and his two children, Katie and Niall, cheering him on.
“Ironman Youghal is a great opportunity to race another Iron distance race and it’s fantastic to have it on our doorstep. The support should be fantastic, which will prove invaluable as the fatigue starts to develop over the course of the race.” Alan said the importance of good family support, when attempting an Ironman, cannot be underestimated.
“I have a very understanding and supportive partner. It simply could not be done if that support and encouragement was not there.” With his family behind him, it would appear there is no feat the triathlete can’t surpass, from running up mountains to giving up the fags, the former smoker sticks firmly to his guns when he decides on a goal.
Discussing the importance of mental toughness and determination in training for an Ironman, Alan said it was the number one thing you need to get through the race.
“Whether you are a nine hour or sixteen-hour potential finisher, everyone will suffer. What your mind is telling you during the tough times is what determines whether you complete or not.” To get his mind and body in good shape for Ironman Youghal, Alan has been following an intense 20-week program with up to 18-20 hours training a week.
“During the week there are typically double day sessions. I swim early three days a week and either run or bike in the evening. Then I have a few double bike sessions and two strength and conditioning sessions.” On the weekends, the veteran Ironman spends his Saturdays doing a four to five-hour cycle, followed by an hour run off the bike and on Sunday he runs for roughly two and a half hours.
Alan said if he has to miss a session, for whatever reason, he doesn’t dwell on the lost effort.
“If I have to skip a session then it’s erased and forgotten about. I never try and catch up and cram. In general, I find worry to be a very negative thing when it comes to sport. There is very little to be gained from it.” Looking ahead to the finish line and beyond, Alan plans to celebrate his sixth Ironman victory with pizza and a beer, before returning to the finish line to cheer on the other athletes.
Once the celebrations for Youghal eventually subside, Alan said he would be then turning his attention to a 200km ultra-marathon mountain race in Kerry.
“After Youghal, I’ll take a couple of weeks off and then get back into the hills. I’ve signed up for the Kerry Way Ultra (200km) in September, which is another significant challenge. ” Offering a nugget of advice to prospective Ironman athletes, the avid trail runner said for anyone thinking about taking on the arduous swim, bike, run challenge, hill running is the way to go.
“For anyone who has yet to tackle trail running, you are missing out. Mentally it is very rewarding and builds a lot of strength and endurance, which helps a lot with Ironman training.”