Derry man qualifies for second Hawaiian Ironman tournament

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DERRY triathlete Paul O’Doherty is the new Asia-Pacific 70.3 Ironman Age Group Champion.

The former member of the North-West Triathlon Club (pictured below), now residing in Sydney, travelled to Auckland, New Zealand, to compete in the Asia-Pacific Ironman Championships.

And he finished first in his 35-39 agegroup and 25th overall, headed only by 23 professionals and one other age group winner!

RETURNING FROM SERIOUS BIKING ACCIDENT

O’Doherty, from the Culmore area of the city, suffered a serious biking accident during training for the Roth Germany Ironman in July last year and has been rebuilding his fitness and speed levels over the past few months.

“This was always going to be a race to blow away the cobwebs in the run-up to competing in Ironman New Zealand, which was the primary focus of my training,” said Paul this week.

“My goal for 2014 is to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii in October and a good result in March would get me there.

However, there was also one Hawaiian spot for the age group winner in the 70.3 Championships and I knew I had to go for it.

“Looking at the quality of the competition, I was always aware of the fact that a win would be difficult,” he added.

Normally a very strong swimmer, O’Doherty started well.

He was 10th overall around the first buoy but struggled from then on.

The 1.9 kms. swim was completed in a disappointing 26 mins. 35 secs. leaving him in ninth position in his age group.

With lots of ground to make up, the 90 kms. bike section would be crucial.

Most of the age groupers were caught by the 20 kms. mark but attempts to break away from this group proved difficult due to the extremely fast pace.

With 50 kms. remaining, it was time to settle in and conserve energy for the run stage.

The bike section was completed in 2 hours 18 minutes 02 seconds and left Paul in sixth place in his age group.

O’Doherty opted to settle in quickly in a good pace on the run.

“At the 5 kms. turn I could see that I was about a minute behind the leader.

“At 10 kms. I had passed a few people and was up to third and at the last turn at 15 kms. I could see that the leader was just 20 seconds ahead,” he noted.

“I managed to pass him hard so that he could not latch on to me and for the last 15 minutes it was a case of hanging on and ignoring the pain,” declared Paul.

The run was completed in 1 hr. 21 mins. 28 secs. and O’Doherty crossed the line in first place in the 35-39 age group as the new Asia-Pacific 70.3 Ironman champion.

“All I could think about was that I had secured my Hawaiian spot .Now for Ironman New Zealand in six weeks and then on to Kona for the biggest race of them all,” he concluded.

Toughest Ironman Championship

The Hawaii Ironman Triathlon World Championships is the toughest most iconic race on the planet.

Tens of thousands of triathletes try to get one of the coveted Ironman slots every year. Only 1,700 succeed and get the chance to test themselves on one of the biggest challenges that sport has to offer – 2.4 mile swim in tough ocean waves; 112 miles of biking and a 26.2 mile marathon through challenging lava-covered terrain.

In 2006 Paul O’Doherty became the first Derry triathlete to qualify for this race. His time of 9 hours 50 minutes comfortably beat the course record for an Irish triathlete, held for many years by Ger Hartmann. Now that he has qualified for a second time, the previous experience could be instrumental in reducing that time by a considerable margin.