Limerick’s Ironmen go the distance in Hawaii

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

IT will be a week Mike O’Brien will never forget.

IT will be a week Mike O’Brien will never forget.

Within days of marrying his fiancee, the Newcastle West man was jetting off to Hawaii for a honeymoon - of sorts. But before he got to lie back and soak in his surroundings, he first he had to complete the world Ironman championships.

After months of preparation he completed the 3.8km swim in a time of one hour, 11 minutes, the 180km bike ride in 5:14, and then a full marathon in 3:13.

A triathlon that requires legs of steel, he finished the mammoth challenge in a time of 9:47 – achieving his aim to finish the course in under 10 hours. The fastest man in his age division finished in 9:09. “The race went great, thank God. It was a tough day out there, with 35 degrees temperature, high humidity and winds of up to 35 miles per hour,” he said.

Mike is a member of the Limerick Triathlon Club, which counts some 250 members including many notable ‘Tri-men’, such as acclaimed physiotherapist Ger Hartmann who have taken part in famous triathlons. Another Limerickman, Ivan O’Gorman, now based in Boulder, Colorado, completed it in a time of 9:39. He completed the swim in a time of 1:19, the bike in 5:07 and the run in 3:06.

Mike, 31, who works with a pharmaceutical company in Cork, wed his fiancee Ciara Fitzgerald, from Kerry, in Killarney, just two days before they flew to Hawaii. “I really couldn’t have done all this without her,” he said. “She has been so understanding throughout all of this. If it wasn’t for her I would have pulled out of the competition.”

In between his full working week, Mike crammed in up to 18 hours of training sessions, in addition to running full marathons most weekends to prepare for the “challenge of a lifetime.” Earlier this year he became the first Irishman to finish the Ironman triathlon challenge in Klagenfurt, Austria, qualifying him to compete in Hawaii. He increased his weight since Austria, as he felt he could have “benefitted from a small bit more fat in my system just to be stronger.” In Austria he finished in a time of 9:37:51, ranking him 53rd overall in the competition out of 2,500 athletes. Nearly 1,800 athletes embarked on the 140.6-mile journey in Hawaii, with participants up to the ages of 80 qualifying to enter. Ireland’s only female representative, Sharon O’Hara, completed the course in 14:04:43, which saw her finish in 22nd place in the 18-24 category. A Limerick grandmother, aged 56, had also qualified to compete.