We catch up with Irish pro triathlete Eimear Mullan who, after battling with injuries for years, stormed her recent comeback with a win at IRONMAN 70.3 Xiamen and second place at IRONMAN 70.3 Thailand.
Hi Eimear, great to chat to you – what a comeback race! How did it feel to take the win?
It was amazing to take the win. I was quite shocked. Honestly I was just to happy to be racing that I wasn’t even thinking about winning.
You’ve been plagued with injuries over the past year or so – how did you cope with the setbacks physically and mentally?
It’s been over 2.5 years since the injury started and it’s been a very tough time physically but almost as much mentally. There were times when I thought I was getting better only for everything to fall apart and those times were probably the worst for me, and also the times where I felt completely stuck and wasn’t making any progress at all.
I felt bad saying I was an athlete when I could barely train at all, I felt bad for feeling bad when I know many people have worse problems than a sporting injury but I think resetting my body and mind after a complete break last November helped me to reassess and keep going. Appreciating the little bits of progress along the way helped give me motivation; I remember little things like celebrating tying a shoelace without pain, or sitting in a chair for more than five minutes without pain. It’s been a long and slow process and honestly if I’d been told how long it would take before I’d be racing again I don’t know if I could have kept going. I’m not completely 100% yet but I’m improving and I’m so happy that I have persevered. I hope I can give some inspiration to other athletes struggling with injury.
What advice would you give to triathletes trying to avoid or overcome injury?
If you think or know something isn’t right then stop and get it checked out. I wish I had done that at the very beginning.
So tell us, what’s the plan for next year now you’re back in action!?
I’m really not able to make big plans just yet its early days and I’m still taking it one step at a time. I’d love to go to Kona but I know I’m not anywhere near ready to race an Ironman just yet so I’ll focus on getting healthy and fit for now.
How challenging is it for professional triathletes to make a successful career out of triathlon, especially when the going gets tough with injuries etc?
It’s extremely difficult. In the past my only income was prize money, I raced a lot and chose courses that suited my strengths so I managed to get by, but when you are injured the income is gone. More recently I have been very lucky to have the support of my team Alameda Triathlon Team, they have stood by me through my injury and without them I wouldn’t be able to keep doing this.
Who’s coaching you at the moment and what makes their approach work for you?
Rob Cheetham is coaching me. It’s very different from what I was used to in the past and it’s been a huge change from being self coached. I’m not one for structure and numbers so it’s taking some getting used to, and he keeps me in line, especially when it comes to preparing for races.
How do you cope with racing in the heat and humidity – any tips or tricks for acclimatising?
I think you need to take it easy and stay hydrated when you arrive to the hotter climate as it’s a huge shock to the body. Try to do some runs in the heat of the day so you are prepared for how it will feel on race day.
I’ve just raced Phuket 70.3 and it was very very hot, it definitely pays to acclimatise beforehand!
Do you plan to spend more time out in Asia?
Yes I love training here at Thanyapura, the facilities are awesome and there’s always great people to train with. I’d love to spend more time here during the cold months at home in early 2018.
What’s the most important thing you have learned throughout your career?
Don’t listen to negative people who make you feel like you aren’t good enough.
Do Listen to your body.
What’s your favourite session? And worst?
I pretty much love all of my training!
Favourite is a long ride with good company or hill repeats of any kind.
Worst is maybe a long turbo session.
Do you ever treat yourself after a race or hard session?
Well I don’t deprive myself of much so don’t feel the need for treats after session, however I have been known to enjoy a good after party at some of the races!
Thanks Eimear, and best of luck with your 2018 races.