Paratriathlete Donnacha McCarthy reflects on the ground covered in the past 12 months as he prepares for the ultimate test in 2020

I always find this time of year a bit funny. It’s technically the off-season in that there are no competitions happening at the moment, but the training programme moves to high volume - low intensity, meaning there’s still a lot of work to be done during the rest period, even though the runs are easier to enjoy! My coach would always say: the two most important aspects of preparation are patience and consistency, and now is the time when both work perfectly in tandem.

It’s definitely a good time for reflection too, which isn’t always the easiest thing to do when you’re in-competition. Of course you sit down after each event and analyse the performance with the team, highlighting the strengths, weaknesses, areas of improvement and then it’s on to the next one. Build the learnings into the training schedule and knuckle down. But this is the first real opportunity to think about the overall ground we’ve covered in the last 12 months and more importantly map out the year ahead.

2019 definitely required an enormous amount of patience. The more I drill into it, the more I realise that you first need the patience in order to find the consistency. It doesn’t really work the other way round. We had some bumps in the road during the year, notably a mechanical issue in Turkey and a DSQ in Portugal, but even despite that, I know the performance was there and our sixth place finish in the Tokyo test event in August gives me the encouragement to learn from every mistake and put the learnings into practice.

While unexpected, it was also a very proud moment to be recognised by my peers from Triathlon Ireland as the Para Athlete of the Year for 2019 a few weeks before Christmas. While every athlete is ultimately focused on his or her performance in training and competitions, it is great to get recognition from other athletes for what you’ve achieved. I think when you believe in yourself and achieving your own goals, then others will believe in you too.

Similarly, in looking back on the year gone by, I would look at the achievements of other sportspeople and take huge inspiration from those who embody the spirit of the underdog, and those who strive to do things that are often written off as being ‘impossible.’

Although my loyalties firmly lie with Cork, the Dublin Footballers’ achievement of winning 5-in-a-row is one of the remarkable stories of the sporting year and the influence of Jim Gavin in empowering the players to rewrite history, is something I have huge admiration for. Likewise, as far as athletics is concerned, Kipchoge’s achievement of running a sub 2 hour marathon time in Vienna a few months ago is mind-blowing. It’s caused a lot of debate but regardless of what side of the fence you sit on in regards to the approach, his determination to push himself to reach new levels, is truly inspiring.

Who knows what achievements we will all be reflecting on at the end of 2020. The long-term future is hard to predict but like anything, whether its triathlons, marathons, Gaelic Games or even business, the small steps, lead to big strides and with the right balance of patience and consistency, we’re all capable of reaching new levels.

HLB Sheehan Quinn is proud to support Irish Paratriathlete Donnacha McCarthy in his quest to represent his country on the global stage in Tokyo next summer. Donnacha, who was recently awarded the 2019 Para Athlete of the Year award by Traithlon Ireland, is visually-impaired and has been competing in PTVI events since 2017. He has previously won back-to-back Paratriathlon National Titles (2018 & 2019) as well as claiming third place in the World Paratriathlon Cup in 2018.