Wednesday 27 March 2019

Meet the tough triathlon queen who is out to take gruelling Ironman throne

CATCHING THE FITNESS BUG: Keen athlete Heidi Sheehy who will be taking part in the Ironman later this month. Photo: Fergal Phillips
CATCHING THE FITNESS BUG: Keen athlete Heidi Sheehy who will be taking part in the Ironman later this month. Photo: Fergal Phillips

Marie Crowe

The tagline for this summer's Ironman is pretty inviting. "Swim in the Irish Sea, cycle through the Wicklow Mountains National Park and sprint to the finish in historic Dun Laoghaire."

For local athlete Heidi Sheehy, it will be pretty special to race in her own backyard. She took up triathlon eight years ago and hasn't looked back since.

"I had my two children and I wasn't feeling fit or healthy and I was overweight," explained Sheehy. "I was never a runner, I had been a bit of a swimmer and I had never been on a bike, apart from when I was a kid.

"Triathlon came into my head and the Dublin City Triathlon was on, so I decided to do that and I used it as my target.

"I did it, it was tough. Looking back, it's OK to get through it but it can be daunting when you are not fit. I got the bug for it from there and I joined a Triathlon club.

"I lost a lot of weight and then I realised I was OK on the bike and I was an OK swimmer."

Slowly, but surely, Sheehy started to progress in her sport and she encouraged her family to take it up, too.

"I started locally with small races, then I started racing around the country. I got my husband into it, because he was sick of being dragged around to races and he was bored waiting around for me.

"He wanted to join in, but he doesn't swim, so we decided to do relays. I could do the swim and he could do the bike, or the run, so he got involved and we won lots of prizes as a team.

"Then I got my children involved and they do triathlons, my daughter is the national champion at her age group, she is 12.

"We bought a camper van and we travel around Ireland competing, it's great. We are all doing the same sport, so we can give each other advice."

The Ironman features a 1.2-mile swim from Sandycove to Dublin Bay, then a challenging 56-mile bike course and finally a 13.1-mile run. Sheehy has done two Ironman races in Dublin and trains regularly.

"It's one of those things, when Ironman comes to Ireland, you have to do it. Because it was so close, a load of us from the Wicklow Triathlon Club decided to do it. We did a recce of the course, had a WhatsApp group and trained together.

"We have a dedicated cycle on Saturday mornings at the club that's about 60-80km at this stage, I do a masters swim, that's an hour and a half and I do my own swimming around that.

"I'm also part of the local sea swimming club, so I would do my sea swimming with them a couple of times a week.

"I'm with a running club, too, but I mostly do my own runs. In total I would do two cycles a week, three swims, and a couple of runs a week."

The Ironman takes place on August 19.

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