GTC athlete of the month: Lochlan O’Sullivan

Although Lochlan has been with GTC for four years, he did not attend many training sessions until the start of 2018. Since then, there has been no looking back for the veteran age category athlete.

Lochlan has thrown himself into training and racing and he is an enthusiastic coach.

He says: “It took me a while to build enough courage to regularly come along to the club sessions. However, when I did I really saw the benefits.

“At last year’s winter training camp, I also recognised I wasn’t good at swimming and that performing well at cycling and running required a bit more investment than just turning up on the day and giving it a bash.”

Sporting background

Growing up, Lochlan played a variety of sports, including squash and tennis, and he ran cross country. He attended a rugby school and played to a high level until a nasty head injury ended his contact sport career.

Lochlan says: “At the time, I believed rugby, especially in my school and city, defined me socially and I felt very lost afterwards. Apart from occasional challenges, I drifted in terms of sport for 20 years before my first triathlon.”

It was the “joined-up nature of three very different sports in triathlon” that appealed to Lochlan. He says: “I also had a preconception that triathlon is a difficult sport. Like any sport, it’s only as difficult or challenging as you want to make it.

“I like the balance between pushing hard to maximise performance in your strongest discipline, while also trying to minimise losses in your weaker one.”

Lochlan now enjoys triathlon for several different reasons. He says: “Bizarrely, I enjoy the immediate demand on your body to adapt to differing physical requirements of each discipline.

“I really like transitions as well; the necessity of organisation, clarity of mind and speed.

“And while triathlon is principally an individual sport, there is great camaraderie, especially in GTC.

“I’m pretty sure I got a repetitive strain injury from all the high fives at the triathlons at Mid Argyll and Lochore Meadows. And being cheered on by the GTC juniors at Craggy 2017 when I really just wanted to quit after the bike was amazing.”

Cycling, running, swimming

By a process of elimination, Lochlan reveals that cycling is his favourite sport of the three, followed by running and then swimming.

He says: “While not much of a descender, or climber for that matter, I love the speed on the bike on the flat.”

Running has felt like a chore to Lochlan, although he has seen improvements. He says: “Running to me has often been laborious and more like a trudge than a flow. I have never understood – and still don’t – how some people can run with Zen.

“Yet my running has become much better thanks to regular training.”

It is in swimming that Lochlan has seen the most gains. In the beginning of his triathlon career, he describes his swimming as  “more akin to wrestling and I always lost”.

Thanks to GTC swim coaching he has seen some great improvements. He says: “Technical skills and fitness have made me a faster swimmer, yet while expending far less effort. However, I still have plenty to work on. In my head I swim like Michael Phelps, but video evidence sadly says otherwise!”

Going forwards, Lochlan is determined to train more. He says: “I want to mentally embrace training more and not to view it just as a ‘necessary evil’. Racing then becomes more of an opportunity to demonstrate the results of quality and regular training.”

A podium for Lochlan as part of a relay team.

Race highlights

Lochlan’s first two triathlon races were standards in 2012 and 2015, followed by a middle distance in 2016. It was only in 2017 that he really got into the competitions.

He says: “My average of three races every five years jumped after taking part in four sprint races in 2017 – and I haven’t looked back since.”

He reveals some of his proudest moments. He says: “It was 35C at the Budapest Half Ironman 2016. So, I was very pleased to finish in 5:28 and, in particular, I liked my bike split time.

“However, 2018 was my best and most consistent year. I made considerable improvements from all my 2017 race times and enjoyed a couple of podiums, although one was as part of a relay.”

Lochlan is undecided about his favourite race distance. He says: “I have done various distances but I think the sprint is the most fun. You can hammer the bike and the run isn’t too long, so that’s probably my favourite.

“Also, a sprint relay is flat out and the team nature makes it definitely worth trying.

“Later this year, I will do Ironman Wales. I’m extremely confident it will not become my preferred distance.”

Lochlan will race for Ireland at the World Champs.

Lochlan has a few goals for this season. He says: “There is room to improve again on all my times from last year.

“My goals are to continue to improve my swim times and technique; to be stronger and have better endurance on the bike; and to improve my 5km run from 19 minutes to closer to 18 minutes. All of the above will be fantastic if I achieve them.

“I’d also like a few more podiums this year and to perform well at the World Age Group Championships in the sprint distance and also at Ironman Wales.

“However, both are hilly courses so they are not best suited to my cycling and running.”

The rewards of coaching

Lochlan is a level two triathlon coach. He has found the process of coaching to be “immensely rewarding”. He adds: Coaching has also been very helpful to my own well-being. As well as the technical aspects, helping members with their confidence and self-belief is very satisfying.

“Coaching the juniors, a very different dynamic, and witnessing their growing aptitude and enjoyment for the sport is also fantastic.

“I would strongly recommend coaching to other people. For me, it has probably been the single best aspect to participation in triathlon.

“It has been a privilege and I want to continue to coach, both adults and juniors. “

Triathlon should be fun!

Lochlan’s top tips for triathlon

Nothing beats attending the club’s sessions.  All three elements are technical in their own way and you will improve exponentially by going to regular sessions. Always train with focus and, importantly, fun.

When it gets tough, in training and races, break what’s ahead down into smaller chunks. For example, swim to the next buoy or lap, cycle or run to the next tree or lamp-post. The brain is a resilient beast and successfully pushing through will definitely add fortitude to your athletic arsenal.

Embrace your race nerves – they show you care. What percentage of the population get to the start line of any triathlon? Race nerves are a privilege, earned from all your training, belief, desire and perseverance.

Never think one element of your life defines you (be that your career, pastime or sport). We are all a lot more than just triathletes, though this sport does make us all an interesting, quirky bunch.

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