We've enjoyed hearing from athletes who've adapted their training during lockdown and one of our PH ambassadors managed to adapt his 'racing' too as he completed an IRONMAN in his garden.

Brad caught up with Stephen after the Irishman helped to raise funds for the Mayo General Hospital COVID-19 and Meals and Wheels Ballina through his 'Lockdown IRONMAN Challenge'...

Morning Stephen, congratulations on completing an IRONMAN from the relative 'comfort' of your own home. How were the DOMS the day after the event?

Hey Brad, cheers, it was a great day out! The body is stiff and tired but, all things considered, it held up pretty well.

Your season has obviously taken a different direction to what you'd have been planning for at the start of 2020. Tell us about your original race goals for the year and how your training has been affected in recent months?

So, my original goal was to race Challenge Gran Canaria at the end of April in prep for IM Lanzorote, which was meant to be at the end of May.

After a little break, the plan was then The Norseman at the beginning of August and possibly a late season IRONMAN. 

I usually train mostly indoors so there wasn't a big change compared to other athletes. My normal weekly hours are around 16-18 a week and I try to focus on quality with most of my sessions.

The only difference since the lockdown is I started adding a little more intensity on the bike by doing some Zwift races, which I think has been a great way of keeping me motivated during this weird time .

Image Credit: Stephen Donnelly ©

And what’s been the biggest thing you’ve learned about your own training in lockdown?

For me, because we cant ride outdoors at the moment and use those spins as easy recovery rides, it's very easy to load the body with too much hard training.

I think we need to be careful, use your extra time to recover and get extra sleep where possible, instead of upping your volume.

I'd rather be slightly unfit than overtrained at this moment in time.

Sound advice, Stephen. So, when it comes to motivation for training, I imagine having the goal of a ‘Garden IRONMAN’ to aim for helped keep you sharp in training?

I actually only decided to do this IM at home three weeks beforehand. I'd kept up my usual training routine - my longest training run of 2020 was 20 miles about two weeks before my garden challenge and I rode 100 miles on Zwift the week before just to top up my endurance and test out the route.

Good stuff, so you kept on top of the running and cycling, but how have you approached your swim training during lockdown? And I believe you did the swim leg of your IRONMAN at home in a skip??  

Over the last couple of weeks I've been working on dry land drills. I'm always mixing it up as I get bored pretty fast with things like that, so I always try and change the session each day.

When I came up with the Garden IM idea, the hard part was obviously the swim and finding something to swim in. I watched many YouTube clips of triathletes swimming in inflatable pools but it didn't really do it for me, so I decided a builders' skip would do the job and we got in touch with a recycling company in my town who thankfully got it sorted.  

The swim was really tough mentally because I swam for 60 minutes in one spot and never really warmed up! 

How did your fuelling and hydration pan out? Did you find you needed to tweak what you were eating and drinking during the course of the challenge?

I've really started to dial in my nutrition this year and starting with PH has been massive for me.

Image Credit: Stephen Donnelly ©

One thing about racing an IRONMAN at home is that you can eat a little bit more solid food, so that really helped my gut, and I used PH 1000 as part of my hydration strategy because it was so hot on the bike and run legs.

I've noticed a big difference using PH with the indoor training as I find I can recover a lot faster as I'm not as dehydrated after sessions.

Excellent, that's great to hear. And it seems like the race itself went extremely well as you netted a finish time of ~8:32 (Swim = 60mins; Bike = 4:36, Run = 2:56). Does that bode well for when racing resumes? And how do you feel about the performance as a whole?

I'm delighted because I've never committed to one distance over the years, whereas this year I trained solely for IRONMAN.

I know I'm in great shape and all I need is a race to prove that - if that's at the end of this season or 2021, it doesn't matter, I will continue to work hard.

One of my goals over the next two seasons was to go sub-8:30 in an IRONMAN race. I'm confident that will happen now.

Fantastic, and what's the big thing you've learned from this experience?

I suppose that anything is possible. You don't need to travel around the world to do an IRONMAN. 

Image Credit: Stephen Donnelly ©

If we bring this back full circle, what inspired you to take on the IM race in your garden?

I really wanted to do something to help out the frontline people in my area and I also wanted it to be an event that people could watch, support and hopefully feel like it was worth donating towards.

They certainly seem to have done that as you've smashed your fundraising target of €5,000 - what do you put the success of your fundraising down to?

I think people are great at donating for these worthy causes. I suppose I think the reason my fundraiser was so successful is because people have seen me suffering and working hard on the day.

I had planned to do the IRONMAN easy but when I saw the amount of publicity and donations, I had to make it count!

Congratulations Stephen, great effort! Best of luck with training in the coming months and fingers crossed for that sub-8:30 IRONMAN.

If you would like to help Stephen's fundraising efforts, you can donate through his Lockdown IRONMAN Challenge GoFundMe page.