Every now and again someone will walk into your life and completely inspire you. They will take you by surprise with their passion, their attitude, and their actions. They aren’t focused on impressing anyone, and that’s what makes them truly inspiring: they have their eye on the goal ahead and they will stop at nothing to achieve it.
Clodagh Glynn is one of those people.
Clodagh is a triathlete who has just completed the Kona Ironman World Championships. Let me explain to you what exactly that means: a 3.8km swim in the ocean, followed by a 180km bike ride through lava fields with 1800m of elevation, ending with a 42.2km run. Yep, a triathlete has become known as someone who doesn’t understand that one sport is hard enough
When I asked of any embarrassing training moments, Clodagh fired back “have you seen me swim?”. Having grown up in Ireland, she did not get the technique training that Australian kids take for granted. Clodagh also declared that she is not a runner, and she’s aware of every step the run takes. And so, maybe she does understand that one sport is hard enough. It hasn’t stopped her though. “Did I actually do that? I can’t believe it now”, Clodagh laughed.
Image credit: Dennis Tan
Clodagh got into triathlons in December 2013, when she witnessed a paraplegic athlete finishing the Busselton Ironman. It was there that she thought to herself “if he can do it, so can I.” She registered for the 2014 Busselton Ironman then and there. Clodagh had some personal set-backs during this year, however, it fueled the long training hours and gave her a different focus.
In November 2014 Clodagh ran her first half Ironman. She did so well that an elite training squad invited her to join their team. From that moment her life was centered around her love for triathlons.
“I didn’t sacrifice anything to be a triathlete. I made a choice,” Clodagh told me as she sipped a topped up long macchiato. “I decided that alcohol had to go, that my rest was equally as important as training, and that those who stuck around to support me, despite my lifestyle changes, were my real friends. I chose to eat healthy cuts of meat and the freshest fruit and vegetables. I swapped hair appointments and new dresses for bike equipment, nutrition and physio appointments. But it was never a sacrifice. It was my choice”.
In 2016, Clodagh trained with everything she had to compete in the Cairns Ironman to qualify for the Kona Ironman World Championships. She came home a qualifier, and ready to ramp up her training program.
Then she was diagnosed with Whooping Cough.
“Some people had so much doubt in me, then,” Clodagh recalls, “but I wanted to prove them wrong. I knew I could do it. I love doing what my body is telling me I can’t. I love the mental challenge and overcoming it.”
Clodagh receiving her official invitation to Kona
The mental fight is what the race was really all about to Clodagh, and it is a fight that she won all by herself. “You have to learn to love spending time by yourself as a triathlete and deal with the thoughts that go through your mind.”
In the lead up to the race Clodagh was training every day before and after work – here’s a peek at her rigorous schedule:
Monday night: 1 hour swim
Tuesday morning: 90 min bike ride; Tues night: 60 min run intervals
Wednesday morning: 1 hour gym session; Wed evening: 1 hour swim
Thursday morning: 1 hour bike intervals; Thursday evening: 2-3 hour run (22 – 34 km)
Friday morning Gym; Friday evening: swim.
Saturday: 3 hour bike and 50 min run, 4km open water swim.
Sunday 180km bike ride with 45 minute – 1 hour run.
Finally, Clodagh made it to Kona, Hawaii. She was still fighting Whooping Cough, as well as having to adjust to very hot weather, as opposed to Perth’s winter. Her family from all over the world came to support her, as well as her partner.
Clodagh began the race on a high, having beaten her personal best non-wet suit swim by 4 minutes. “I fought so hard to stay behind a lady with a strong kick, but it was worth it!” Despite her strongest leg being the bike ride, this time it was a fight through crowds and wind, which prevented her from getting into the flow zone. Throughout the run, never once did Clodagh consider giving up. “I would have crawled to the end, if I had to!” she declared.
Her highest moment in the race was when her dad was waiting for her at the beginning of the ending shoot, where he handed her the Irish flag. “He was very emotional,” she recalled, “I had a thousand emotions going through me. And then I saw my sisters all waving and cheering for me”.
After a mighty feat of 11 hours and 38 minutes of competing, Clodagh had achieved her goal. The reality of what she had achieved and how far she had pushed her body only began to sink in when the recovery nurse began to take her shoes off. There she saw layers of her feet peel off with her socks, due to running under hoses to keep cool, causing friction between her wet shoes and the hot roads. A lesson learned.
To those who are reading this and wishing they could make a change for the better in terms of their health and fitness, Clodagh has 3 pieces of golden advice:
- Try lots of different sports until you find the sport that’s right for you. You need to love the sport!
- Think about what you’re eating: it’s not a diet, it’s a nutrition plan. Make it achievable. “I can’t go a week without chocolate, and so it’s planned into my nutrition plan. I try to follow this advice a friend once gave me: If it didn’t fly in the sky, swim in the sea, run on the road or grow in the ground, don’t eat it.”
- Make the choice, and put the time and effort into making it work in your life. Remember, it’s not about making sacrifices, it’s about making choices.
Clodagh Glynn is truly an inspiration. She used adversity as performance-fuel to conquer the world. But more importantly, she has learned to really love herself. Her message to everyone is simple: find what you love, and go for it.
Photo credits (unless noted): Pete O'Connell