Forget the fictional Marvel Comics character, North West Triathlon Club has twice the Ironman.
Carndonagh triathlete and eight time Ironman competitor Patrick McLaughlin is planning the challenge of lifetime by swimming, cycling and running 285 miles in a punishing double Ironman event to raise thousands of pounds for the Children’s Medical and Research Foundation, Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin.
The 36 year-old will take on the gruelling double Ironman challenge in Dungannon on May 31. The task he faces will be truly mind blowing for all but the most dedicated distance athletes as it includes swimming five miles followed immediately by a 225 bike ride and two marathons totalling 52.4 miles - all in under 40 hours.
However, for Patrick the mammoth challenge is obviously not nearly great enough as the Inishowen man is to compete in Ironman Lanzarote just over a week earlier. Later in the year, the super-fit triathlete will compete in France as part of the Irish National squad in the European Triathlon Union Long Distance Championships in Vichy, France before running both the Dublin and New York marathons in the same week.
The majority of well trained athletes would go weak at the knees at the very thought of the feat but with almost 25 hours of training under his belt each week in recent months, the Carndonagh-based injury therapist is hopeful of getting over the finish line well within the allocated time frame.
The Secretary or often tagged ‘spiritual leader’ of North West Triathlon Club, can be found cycling, swimming or running at any time of the day or night in preparations for his many challenges.
And well he might, as Patrick is in no doubt that later this month he will endure the “hardest test” of his life.
“I’ve never done anything like this before in terms of the distances involved and the short space of time between the events so I don’t really know what to expect,” he says.
“Plan A is to complete the double Ironman in well under the 40 hour limit but there are plans B, C, D, E, F, G and so on because you never know how it will go at the time. There is always the potential for a spanner in the works. At this stage I’m confident of getting around the course in the time but after Lanzarote I may feel a bit different. But sure it’ll be a bit of craic in aid of a good cause,” he says.
His toughest challenge to date was last year in Norway’s Norseman - regarded as the toughest Ironman distance triathlon on the planet. “The Norseman is extreme - it took three hours longer than a normal Ironman. A car ferry took us two and half miles off the coast into a Fjord at 4am and we had to jump off and swim ashore before beginning a 112 mile cycle over five mountain passes - nearly 3,500m climbing on the bike. The last six miles of the marathon involved a 2,000m climb to the finish line at the top the highest mountain in Norway ,which is 300m higher than Ben Nevis.”
Patrick expects to burn more than 20,000 calories during in the double Ironman, so eating right will be essential. “It’s an endurance and an eating exercise. I’ll be throwing as much normal food as possible into me, probably Weetabix after the swim and pasta and rice etc during bike and run during breaks of five minutes or so. Gels and other meal substitutes will be pointless without real food - I would just breakdown.”
Initially, 20 athletes were signed up to take part in the extreme feat of endurance in Dungannon on May 31 and June 1 but only five remain.
Finding around 25 hours a week to train can be difficult enough during a working week, let alone the extreme pressure placed on the body. Patrick has had the added “headache” organising the Liam Ball Triathlon in which almost 200 triathletes competed last Sunday. “When I’ve not been working in the clinic in Carndonagh, I’ve been training, eating, sleeping and organising the Liam Ball - so it’s been a tough.” He’s also been busy fundraising. Having competed in endurance events in recent years to raise money for Foyle Hospice, Multiple Sclerosis, iCARE and others, Patrick is this time hoping to raise 5,000 euro for the Children’s Medical and Research Foundation, Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin. But he’s only half way there with a couple of weeks to go and needs support to meet the target. He is encouraging people to give generously online at www.cmrf.org/sponsorshipPage/show/1262. He will also host table quizzes in Carndonagh, and a swimathon and children’s aquathon at Buncrana Leisure Centre.