My Triathlon: Eoin O'Connell

MyTriathlon - Eoin OConnell

Triathlete Eoin O’Connell takes on a unique challenge this week – the 2019 Asiago ITU Winter Triathlon Age Group World Championships. Racing in the 45 – 49 age category Eoin will complete a 4km run, 7km mountain bike and a 7km cross-country ski.

So, how did the former multiple-time Irish National Triathlon Champion get into Winter Triathlon? We caught up with Eoin to hear about his journey in the sport.

Now based in the UK, O’Connell has been involved in the sport since its early days in Ireland.

“I did my first triathlon in Ireland in 1987 and then did the Sligo Triathlon in Rosses Point in 1988, then Irish Junior and European Junior Championships for about 3 years and then went on to senior championships.”

Eoin also held the National Long Distance Triathlon Record for ten years, he set the record of 9 hours 30 minutes at Roth in 1998.

Eoin OConnell - Bike

winter triathlon - a new challenge

Taking part in a Winter Triathlon has been on the bucket list for O’Connell for quite some time. Eoin first began cross-country skiing a number of years ago while on family ski trips and he has always enjoyed it.

“I’ve always watched the Olympics, seeing Cross-country Skiing and how amazing and fit these guys are. It’s one of the toughest sports, like rowing, you’re using all the muscle groups together and combining it with a technical aspect. There’s no point being absolutely phenomenally fit person but if you don’t have the technique right you’re working against yourself. Technique is so important.”

This week’s race in Italy will take place at an altitude of 1800m and in sub-zero temperatures, very different to usual triathlon conditions. Eoin is very conscious of the technical skills required to ski well when fatigued from the run and mountain bike sections of the race. The 7km cross-country ski course will take in 200m of climbing. In preparing for a Winter Triathlon when living in a relatively mild climate, Eoin has had to employ some unique training measures. Each weekend he rents roller skis in Hyde Park and trains with a group there and has also begun roller blading two to three times per week.

Eoin OC_ITU Winter Triathlon

“It’s not an easy thing there’s so much technique to it. You can’t use brute force you’ve just got to get everything, your arms, your legs, your hands all working in unison. Then you’ve other factors like people passing you out or with downhills coming up. You need to save your energy on the downhills, you don’t want to wipeout.”

Eoin is looking forward to completing the race and representing Ireland at international age group level.

“It’s like doing a triathlon for the first time. It’s like going back to pure basics where you have no expectations of yourself, you just want to finish and enjoy it. I’m still trying to be relatively competitive but I’m being realistic as well. We don’t have too much snow in the UK or Ireland!”

Balancing it all

The busy father of three is still enjoying the sport three decades in to his triathlon journey and combining home and work life with training is an important balance. Last year Eoin combined the family holiday to South Africa with racing at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships. 

“I’m enjoying it, I still want to be relatively competitive but it’s not all absorbing where it might have been years ago. Now it’s about combining with family life and with work life."

In a way I’m lucky – from all the years of training I’ve got a bit in the bank, endurance in my legs although the body doesn’t recover as quickly as it used to. You’re always staying in touch with it and then topping it up for the bigger races. Or train more specifically and intelligently where you’re focussing on speed and endurance."

Unlike many triathletes, Eoin doesn’t use technology like power metres and heart rate monitors to track his performance. Instead he prefers to take an intuitive approach to training and racing, adjusting pace and training volume depending on how he is feeling.

Eoin OConnell - Run

“I don’t get too much into technology. Technology is part of my life, I work in IT but sport is my release to get away from technology. I don’t need technology to motivate me, I just enjoy getting away from it all and getting out in the fresh air.”

The very best of luck to Eoin this weekend as he takes on this new challenge.

To keep updated with the ITU Winter Triathlon World Championships, visit triathlon.org, the race will be streaming live for free on triathlonlive.tv.