Imagine being barely able to swim and never running more than a short distance in your life and within two years you had the satisfaction of tackling a gruelling Ironman event.
Well Patrick Loughnane will have that sense of fulfilment within a couple of months.
In just a couple of years, the giant Irishman has literally gone from a triathlon virgin to becoming super-fit and mentally strong enough to take on an Ironman which consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and full marathon run of 26.2 miles. Loughnane is no stranger to taking his body to its limits in sport though. He spent 12 years as a downhill mountain bike racer in Ireland.
A serious shoulder injury forced him out of the sport but previous to that he was told he would never walk without a limp after suffering a double compound fracture to his left leg, and that he would never straighten his arm after shattering his left elbow in two separate crashes.
He defied all medical predictions and made full recoveries.
When Loughnane first moved to Cayman, a keen cyclist, he had only just returned to road racing as he could not risk major injury again in the mountains. He did pretty well in the 2013 May Classics.
“With my biking prowess I was soon tempted to try my hand at multi-disciplined sports by Shane Delaney and my co-worker Marius Deysel,” Loughnane said.
His first adventure in a swimming pool was pretty dismal as he could not make 25 meters without having to hang onto the side of the pool.
With a lot of pain and effort he persisted and finished his first 800m sea swim in a decent time of just over 18 minutes.
From there Loughnane set his sights on the Cayman Islands Triathlon as he was sure running was not as difficult as everyone said, but at 250 pounds that idea was soon severely put to the test.
“I managed my first triathlon in a respectable time of 2 hours, 35 minutes but I was very frustrated that all my training buddies were miles ahead of me.”
He went on to complete his first ever half marathon in a decent time of 2:05, which was not bad considering that as of six months before, Loughnane had never run more than a mile.
Delaney piled on the pressure and convinced Loughnane to enter the 2014 Mercuryman which was the toughest challenge he has competed in to date. He was overjoyed to complete the 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile half marathon run in just over six hours.
At that point he was introduced to Dale Avery and Jeffrey Jakubiak and his leisurely training days were over.
“I kept my road racing interests open and was ecstatic to finish fourth in the 2014 May Classics and 11th in the Duathlon that year.” Loughnane said.
With the help of Marius Acker, Deysel, Avery, Jakubiak, Delaney and Derek Larner’s brutal Thursday morning 800m interval runs, Loughnane increased his speed in all areas of his training and shocked himself by finishing fifth in the 2014 Cayman Island Triathlon.
He has been busy on the sporting scene ever since but the 34-year-old IT applications analyst has decided to return to Dublin with his wife Suzanne this week.
“We both loved our time here and we are very sad to be leaving,” he said. “Cayman is definitely somewhere we would like to return to visit and see our friends and see what has changed in a couple of years.”
He thanked the Cayman Islands Triathlon and Cayman Cycling Association for holding so many great events during his time here.
“It’s fantastic to see such commitment from the volunteers in all the races I have taken part in.”
Another of his greatest sporting accomplishments to date came last year when Loughnane completed the Pirates Week 5k sea swim as a final farewell event for Deysel who returned to his South Africa homeland.
The 2015 Mercuryman did not go quite to plan as Loughnane got married to Suzanne on Jan. 2 and returned to Cayman six days before the race. With so little time to prepare properly, he was forced to pull out after the bike leg because of serious leg cramps.
Nevertheless, the whole sporting experience has been an enjoyable one for Loughnane.
“When I first moved to Cayman the thought of completing a triathlon was probably the farthest thing from my mind and an Ironman was inconceivable but I truly got the bug and after lots of discussions with my wife on training and life plans I joined my friend Jeff (Jakubiak) and signed up for Ironman Louisville on Oct. 11 this year.
It’s certainly done him good. “Since coming to Cayman I’ve lost about 50 pounds and have never felt fitter than I am right now.”
Unfortunately, things in life do not always go to plan and the Loughnanes made the choice in June to move back to Ireland, which meant that last week’s final Stroke & Stride of the three-part series was his last competition here.
“It was great racing with all the guys one last time and a merry chase after Avery and a sprint finish to the line on race 3 with DJ Evans was the icing on the cake.”
Loughnane has become such an integral member of the local triathlon scene that Avery organized with runner Bill Edwards to have a farewell Beer Mile party at Edwards’s house on Saturday. All entrants had to run a mile and make four stops along the way to drink a can or bottle of beer. The world mile record was under no threat there. No wonder Loughnane added that it’s been “fantastic training and racing” with all the athletes in his time here “and with a bit of luck I’ll be able to race with them again in the future.”
He said, “I never would have considered swimming or running in competitions let alone preparing for my first Ironman before coming here and it’s been a real life-changing experience.”