Local ironman Greg O'Donnell qualifies for London triathlon
Three weeks ago, not only did Greg O'Donnell take part in the ITU World Triathlon in San Diego, but he managed to finish first in the 60- to 64-year-old age group. In just two hours and 18 minutes, he completed the 31-mile course, comprised of a 1,500-meter swim in the Pacific chop, a 24-mile bike ride and a 10k run. (PHOTO COURTESY OF GREG O'DONNELL / May 12, 2013)
Three weeks ago, not only did he take part in the ITU World Triathlon in San Diego, but he managed to finish first in the 60- to 64-year-old age group. In just two hours and 18 minutes, he completed the 31-mile course, comprised of a 1,500-meter swim in the Pacific chop, a 24-mile bike ride and a 10k run.
Incidentally, he is ranked fifth in the world and, by merit of his accomplishments, has been selected to represent the United States in the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in London, which will take place on Sept. 16 in Hyde Park, one of the largest parks in England’s capital city.
“I previously lived a more sedentary lifestyle,” said O’Donnell, who did run in junior high but only picked up cycling and competitive swimming much later in life, at the spontaneous behest of close friend — now trainer — Jim Mount.
“It was back in 2009, when Jim asked me to participate in a triathlon in La Quinta. I entered it and although I finished in the lower half, it was a wonderful experience,” explains O’Donnell. “I looked at it as a challenge and I’ve since surrounded myself with talented people who care, who are much better than I could ever be, and who constantly push me. I had no idea that I could ever improve on times that I set in college, but I have.”
Between 2009 and 2013, O’Donnell estimates that he has entered some 50 races, winning his fair share, but his ultimate goal is to compete in the world championships in Hawaii. Should he finish in either first or second place at the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon in Kona, set for June 1, that dream will have become a reality.
It should go without saying that the road to what O’Donnell calls one’s “genetic best” is grueling and wrought with obstacles. What better place, then, to break down and rebuild both body and mind than the Imperial Valley?
By allying himself and training with those aforementioned “talented people,” O’Donnell finds his week jam-packed with activity, from swimming out at Naval Air Facility El Centro, to Saturday morning cycling with the Mexicali Cyclists, to running out in the Superstition Mountain range.
He has cut out saturated fats, dairy products and high-fructose corn syrups from his diet and replaced them with poly- and mono-saturated fats, which are vital in cleansing harmful cholesterol from the body.
“It’s a good feeling,” he says, “to wake up in the morning, to not feel sluggish. I love the energy.”
O’Donnell has also found that such a lifestyle has the capacity to bring therapeutic healing on a spiritual plane.
“Everyone one of us has the potential to reach our genetic best,” he claims, “but we tend to get distracted by life issues that hold us back from achieving our dreams. It can be hard to let go at times, but we have to go back to the chalkboard to erase those things and put positive things in their place.
“(The change) pointed out to me that life is dynamic. We need to be open and available to changes and absorb them like a sponge.”
Additionally, he cites his faith as a bedrock upon which he has rested when the proverbial going gets tough. A favorite verse of his is Philippians 4:13, which says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
“If you believe in the Bible and believe that the Word is true,” O’Donnell claims, “it’ll work for you.”
Although he is in the best possible condition for his age, O’Donnell is aware that all are living on borrowed time. He was reminded of this in the aftermath of the recent death of the young son of a family with which he is friendly. When he goes, as he puts it, he would like to leave behind a simple, but meaningful, legacy.
“I’d like to inspire people to better their lives, to overcome mental handicaps,” he said. “If I can do it, anybody can do it. Life is a cinch by the inch, hard by the yard, but you’re gonna get there.”