Iron mind Michael O Connell


Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeks……… last August my good friend Michael O Connell completed

The Copenhagen Ironman

For those of you not familiar with an Ironman,basically its a

2.4mile (3.68km)swim

112 mile(180km)cycle


completed back to back in as fast as time possible…OUCH…that’s Freak status right there!!!

Myself and Michael aka Tucker went to secondary school together and played soccer up through the age groups,and he was/is still one of the best players Ive ever played with.

Athletic(Our buddy Freddy Kelly christened him Lombarado after the ex Sampdoria legend Attilio Lomabardo because of the similarity in the running style),he had an unbelievable strike of a ball,bit dirty when needed to be and an all round baller.


Once Michael hit college years his dedication and discipline for sports took a back seat in favor of college lifestyle.

tucker reader and noel


But when he was challenged to do the Dublin city Marathon whilst enjoying a few sociables in his local O Ceallachains in Carrick-on-suir, the single minded ,determined Michael stepped right out of hibernation and into  journey that would see reach some great milestones ,accumulating in the Copenhagen Ironman ,whilst tragically having to cope with his brothers suicide along the way.

So here’s Michael’s story..from his sporting background to how he got started with marathon running and dealt with a heart breaking family loss…while becoming an Iron man with an Iron mind..take it away Tuck….


I played Field sports soccer and football from 10 until I was about 30 – hated running and couldn’t understand what people see in it.


tucker soccer

{Michael ,Fourth in from the left beside John O Shea ,back in his soccer days with Bohs of Waterford}
Marathons –
Then a bet was placed on New Years Eve night 2009 that I wouldn’t be able to run a marathon in 2010.


tuck NewYearEve


The following October I crossed the line in the Dublin marathon in 3:26, did it again the next year in 3:12 then again the next year in 3 hrs and a heart breaking 16 seconds.


tucker dub city marathon 2012


I then challenged myself to do the local triathlon in Carrick-on-Suir. I always fancied doing one as it’s something that not everyone can do. I wasn’t able to swim front crawl and hadn’t been on a bike since I was a teenager. So I borrowed a wetsuit, goggles and bike and got the bug. I was a slow swimmer with my breast stroke but I made up lots of places on the bike and even more on the run due to my field sports background.

During the family holiday that summer I got swim lessons for front crawl. I was able to do a length of the pool by the end of the week. More practice needed. I also had a huge fear of the open water which needed lots of work.


tucker sub 3 hour club
I finally broke the sub 3 hour mark in Berlin in 2014 with a 2:57 so now needed a new challenge so after some chatting with a fellow club member Kenny Curran we picked Ironman Copenhagen.


tucker dersek & davey
The Ironman was the ultimate mainstream endurance event in my mind. This would be Kenny’s second Ironman and he promised me a nice swim, flat bike route and flat run in Irish temperatures.

Tri smart coaching aka Kenny would be my guidance for the next few months.


tuck and kenny c

{Kenny Curran of Tri smart Coaching pictured centre}
Things officially started in the last week of January 2015 with Kenny and Tri Smart Coaching. My training would be loaded onto Training peaks by Kenny each Sunday night which generally consisted of:
Monday – rest day
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday (Mix of swimming, running and cycling sessions 1 to 2 hours per day)
Saturday – Long Bike with small run afterwards – known as brick runs –cos your legs are like bricks after the long cycles.
Sunday – Long Run
Repeat for 7 months!!!
I did my weekend sessions in the mornings some of which ran until the afternoons – 5 and 6 hour bikes and my midweek sessions were all done after work.


tucker stats
Over the 7 months I covered approximately
950 kilometers running
3,600 kilometers Cycling
80 kilometers Swimming
It might sound like a lot but some people with a lot less commitments do a lot more.

My equipment was built up over the years and consisted of:
Basic triathlon X2U wet suit and aqua sphere goggles
I always run in Nike Zoom elite runners
My bikes used are a Dolan Ares road bike with Sram force groupset and a Vitus Chrono TT bike with Shimano Dura ace and FSA groupset.
My wheels are Sram S60 aero Carbon clincher wheels which I swop between both bikes.
Whats the cost of all this equipment – well its prob well over Eur5K!! – god thats a lot when you look at it in one lump


Nutrition I used to fuel me for the Ironman event all taken on the move was high 5 and some flat coca cola …….. (see picture of my intake consumed in Copenhagen)


tucker nutritiin


Training partners


tucker and derek food stop

{Michael & running partner Derek Walsh}
I had some great training partners for the bike and run however swimming was just something you need to just plug away at on your own. For a sport that I only got into two years ago I now find it very therapeutic just moving up and down the lane surrounded in your own thoughts.
The longest continuous swims I did in the local Sean Kelly pool was about an hour and 5 mins – about 150 lengths – dizzy stuff!!


sean kelly sports centre
{Sean Kelly Sports Centre}


However I still had to master my open water fear especially as the year before I didn’t finish an open water swim in Athlone when I panicked in the water. So some swimming sessions in the r
River Suir in late summer helped get my mind in shape.

My bike training for the first 5 months was done with the Saturday morning

Carrick wheelers group on my road bike. I always did an extra hour or two after the spin to build up my mileage and try and maintain the 30kph average. I had a few long spins with the Solas 500 gang. I’ll not forget the epic 225km spin we had one Saturday taking in 6 counties – Tipperary Waterford Kilkenny, Carlow ,Kildare and Laois – and of course followed up with a brick run – over 7 hours training !!


carrick wheelers
{Carrick Wheelers}

For the last two months I spent most of my time on the TT bike for my long spins. These were tough.
Bike training in 2015 was windy always windy!!
My run training was mainly completed on my own but that didn’t bother me as I was used to lone running. After a stash of bottles of water under a tree out in the countryside my running loops were set up for the spring and summer.

I was very lucky not to pick up any injuries over the full training program – I put that down to my previous marathon base and also the mix of training that I was doing.
However I did have some other setbacks along the way


tuck and emmy{Michael and his brother Emmy on Michael’s wedding day}
I lost my brother through suicide at Christmas which was a huge shock to the family. While I wasn’t in the middle of my full training at the time I had the event booked since the previous September so I needed to make some decisions on what to do.
My attitude after the funeral was not to stop everything.
Training helped me think about Emmy it gave me time on my own. Our lives are so busy with kids family friends work it’s hard to get time to just think especially a death. Maybe stopping and dwelling on things would not have been a good idea.
Moving especially running released some tension in me and I was helped me to try and understand about Emmy death. I never will understand it but when I ran I wished Emmy had got into heavy exercise cos it is good for the mind.
Not just exercise but exercising on your own is good for mental health in my opinion – team sports don’t give you that. I remember at Christmas the day before the funeral I rang my good friend Derek to go for run.
It was much better than going for a few pints. The chat was good and it’s an easy way for us fellow to talk.

My next major setback came in in March when during the Inquest into Emmy death his autopsy showed that he had a large blockage in his main artery in his heart. As a sibling I was then advised to get tested for heart disease. After a series of scans and an angiogram in June it turned out I too had a blockage but being 20% it meant I didn’t need a stent.
The doctor didn’t know what advice to give me as he hadn’t come across a case like min before but in my head I felt that if I didn’t need a stent then I was going to race. I had 5 hard training not to mention flights and entry fee paid so I continued my training albeit feeling a lot more fragile, paying particular attention to my heart rate monitor and taking my aspirin tablets.
The event itself:



tuck iron man sign


The day before were spent registering, racking the bike up in transition and a swim in the course to get the feel for the water.
I also carb’ed up having a large pizza for lunch and another for dinner.



tucker pizza

So to the day itself:

My swim went really well and I was very relaxed in the water. Even when a stray leg kicked my goggles off I was able to relax and thread water and fit them back on and continue on. When I exited the water I looked at my watch and was delighted with a 1hr 20 min swim.


tuck swim


Once on dry land I knew then that I was going to get through the day and the hardest part for me was over. Banana down the hatch and on to the bike.
On the bike and the temperatures started to rise – peaking at 26 degrees and the wind picked up a lot which was not ideal and much hotter than I had hoped.

But hey I was out of the water. So 180Km later and after consuming 4 sports bars a couple of gels and a few electrolyte tablets I dismounted the bike with an average of 31.5KM/hr- bike leg completed in 5hr 37 mins with average hr of 145 max 165.


tucker on bike


I couldn’t wait to start running after being on the bike for so long. So the run started and went really well and to plan for the first 13 miles clocking it in 1hr 45 mins. Then the pain started – miles 13 to 20 were really tough and my pace dropped – even downing cups of flat coke and energy gels my legs were still aching.
It was now mind over matter like nothing before.

When I go to mile 20 I knew I might just duck under 11 hours if I pushed – Marathon finished in 3hr 50 min with average hr of 148 max 160. So on I went to hear the magic words as I ran up the finishing chute – Michael O’Connell you are an Ironman.

All done in 10hr 55 mins 44 seconds.


tuck at finish line

I won’t forget at about 100km on the bike loop Emmy came into my head.. I was on my own out in the Danish countryside hurtling along and my eyes welled up with tears as I thought about him. I never did the ironman for Emmy that was never my plan I signed up before he died and I did it for myself personally but I’m sure it helped me focus on something and fill the voids where I could have got really down.


tuck running wiping face

Finally a great support network of family and friends is needed. So huge thanks go to my supporting family, parents sister and close friends and especially my wife Aoife who put up with my obsession over the months of training.


tucker thanks-you

Finally thanks to Rich for letting me share this story and if there is one thing I can get from this is that mental health is so important.

If you are reading this and affected by depression or know of someone affected by depression then go get help or try help them. Hats off to people like Bressie who bring this to the mainstream attention and programmes like Iron mind recently aired on TV will hopefully help someone who feels down this Christmas.

tucker bressie

{Bressie’s Ironmind Program}


tucker iron man medal

On behalf of myself and all the Freaks that read this piece I’d like to thank Michael for sharing his journey to becoming an Ironman.


Chief F.


Again for anyone struggling with life ,feeling very low or alone or having suicidal thoughts and need some one to talk to in the strictest confidence contact 1800247247 116 123