Damien McConaghy - IMUK Revisited

With just a few weeks to go until the 2018 edition of IRONMAN UK we thought it was perfect time to check in with coached athlete Damien McConaghy. If you are not aware of Damien's story then please read this TRI247 article before reading the Q&A below. In short, Damien missed the cutoff for IRONMAN UK in 2017 by 2 mins and 23 secs. A heartbreaking end to a long day out! 

A couple of months after IMUK 2017 Damien became a Tri Training Harder Coached athlete in an effort to revisit Bolton in 2018 with the single goal of making it down the red carpet in under 17 hours. Damien has been working with Coach Diogo and we asked the two of them a few questions to find out how training had been going ahead of the big day in July!



How do you feel your training is going ahead of your race this year?

Happy so far as I can see improvements in my ability.

Why did you want to do Bolton again and what would it mean to you to complete the race this year?

Last year I finished but in 17 hours 2 min 23 seconds thats after racing all day I was over the time by a small margin - just 0.233% out!!!!!!!

So this year my focus is coming in under the 17 hours. But here lies the challenge - I have osteoarthritis in my hips and will need one replaced in September after the race.  This has little impact in the swim but impacts the bike and very much the run. So I have to balance training to get as strong as possible and not do more damage to the hip. This year I have to improve my swim and bike enough to cover me slowing down on the run. I am going for one last all in effort to find the 0.233% knowing my run isn't as good as last year and after the replacement I will not be able to do Ironman any more. I am a huge believer in the power of positive thinking and that's what I am doing: focusing on what i can improve and managing what I cannot. The doctor asked me if i had a 1% chance of finishing would I try and I said without doubt yes - "never give up".


How have you found the training for a long course triathlon and with your experience what advice would you give to others wanting to give one a go for the first time?

The training is hard, there is no doubt about it. There are no short cuts and its lots of early mornings. My Key tips to a first timer: keep focused on the three pillars Frequency (how often), Volume (how Long) and Intensity ( how hard) - get the balance right. There will be days when you want to to give up!!!!! You're training for one of the toughest one day endurance races out there after all! You will not see an improvement every day. Keep focused on the finish line.

Get a Coach: if I had done that the first time round I am sure I would have come in under 17 hours. A Coach brings structure and direction to your training (i.e. the points above). A coach will also keep you honest.. "What Gets Measured Gets Done" on the days when you're not in the mood or a bit tired knowing someone is watching your sessions online is the kick in the backside you need sometimes!

Surround yourself with other athletes and training partners... I have my training wife! She is in our Tri Club and if I have a long cycle to do she has no problem getting up at 5AM to go with me and help push me and pass the time. It's also good to train with someone slightly better than you who will push you on.

Get your family behind you: Training for a long course triathlon race is a very selfish thing to do and you can spend a lot of time on your own training. It eats up your weekend time. You will need a lot of encouragement and support from home. I'm lucky my wife gives me great encouragement and support and a kick in the ass when needed.  

A good Bike is key: get the best bike you can afford, you don't need to go mad money but a good set of wheels can help a lot over long distances.

Don't leave any decisions to race day: when you're standing in front of your transition bag during T1 or T2 its not the time to decide what you're going to wear or eat. Have everything decided in advance!

Last but not least "Train Hard Race Easy" nothing beats preparation.

How often do you train and how do you fit training around work?

I try to fit in a training session every day and then two session if possible. The alarm goes off at around 4.45am so I can be in the pool in Dublin for 6AM for swim sessions.

Why do you do triathlon?

I enjoy the challenge and the friendship with other club members.

What are your plans for the rest of 2018?

IRONMAN Bolton is my main focus this year

What are you planning for next season? 

Retirement from Ironman distance races and focusing on coaching!


How have you found coaching Damien?

Coaching Damien has been a challenge, a good challenge and a learning experience. Damien isn't an experienced athlete but is very willing to learn. We have been managing an injury issue with Damien's hip and we had to adapt his training routine to be able to put him in the best possible position to finish the race in time.

What has your approach been in coaching Damien?

Because Damien picked up an injury and he won't be able to recover in time for the race, we have been doing some different workouts, for example, the long runs we replaced with long walks. Every week he does a 3h to 3h30 walk and run workout, this is the situation he will find in Bolton and his training has been based around preparing his body for the day.

Where have Damien's improvements come from?

As a result of consistent training, Damien has improved a lot on his swim and bike. He has been keeping a consistent, weekly training routine and the results are coming.

Any other comments?

He is a very positive athlete and despite the injury he is very confident about his race in Bolton, fingers crossed!