Limerick Ironman set for world championships in Hawaii

Anne Sheridan


Anne Sheridan

JUGGLING the organisation of a wedding and honeymoon would be deemed stressful enough for some grooms.

JUGGLING the organisation of a wedding and honeymoon would be deemed stressful enough for some grooms.

But Newcastle West man Mike O’Brien, 31, will be competing in the World Ironman championships in Hawaii during his honeymoon.

The endurance athlete, who works with a pharmaceutical company in Cork, will wed his fiancee Ciara Fitzgerald, from Kerry, in Killarney this Saturday, October 6.

And on Monday, the couple will fly out on the first leg of their honeymoon to Kona, via Cork, London, and Los Angeles.

“I really couldn’t have done all this without her,” Mike said of his soon-to-be-wife.

“She has been so understanding throughout all of this. I haven’t really missed any of my training sessions, because she has done the majority of the work for the wedding. If it wasn’t for her I would have pulled out of the competition.”

In between his full working week, Mike has been slotting in up to 18 hours of training sessions during the week, in addition to running full marathons most weekends to prepare for the “challenge of a lifetime.”

“It’s the weekends that are the real killer. I do about three swims, three sessions on the bike, and four runs during the week, about two to three hours a night, and then about six hours at the weekend, running 20 to 24 miles at the weekend. You’d be pretty tired after that,” he told the Limerick Leader.

However, Mike is now winding down, as he prepares for his wedding his Saturday, and with most of the real training now behind him.

“The hours of training aren’t that bad, it’s just the intensity of them. But this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so I’m going to give it my all,” he explained.

The world championships in Kona on Saturday, October 13, will include a 3.8km swim, 180km on the bike and then a full marathon, all back to back.

He hopes to finish the gruelling triathlon in a time of around 10 hours, but insists he’s not setting himself any major target.

Along the Kona coast, athletes will battle the crosswinds of 45 mph, 95 degree temperatures and a scorching sun, with nearly 1,800 athletes embarking on the 140.6-mile journey.

“There’s a lot of things that could go wrong on the day that you can’t prepare for. I think I’ve given myself the best chance of doing well because I couldn’t do more than I have at the moment.”

Earlier this year he became the first Irishman to finish the Ironman triathlon challenge in Klagenfurt, Austria, qualifying him to compete in Hawaii.

He has marginally 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.”

He will be among seven Irish people taking part in the world championships. In Austria he finished in a time of 9:37:51, ranking him 53rd overall in the competition out of 2,500 athletes.

The date of the Hawaii championships posed an initial worry to the couple due to the date of their wedding vows, however Hawaii has now become their surprise honeymoon destination for two weeks.

Thirty-eight Limerick people, including six women, competed in the Austria event, which began with a 4km swim, followed by a 180km cycle and then a 26 mile run.

Mike is a member of the Limerick Triathlon Club, which counts some 250 members.