We’re proud to introduce one of our newest ambassadors, Timothy O’Donnell, aka TO. O’Donnell is a professional long-course triathlete with many podium finishes and major event wins, including the 2009 ITU Long Distance World Champion title, on his resume. He recently finished in second place at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. O’Donnell, a former naval officer, currently lives in Boulder, Colorado, with his wife, three-time Ironman World Champion Mirinda Carfrae, and their daughter, Izzy. Welcome to the AfterShokz family, Tim!
AfterShokz: Tell us about yourself, TO.
Tim: Well, these days I think I’m best known as Izzy’s dad! I’ve been a lifelong athlete, a competitive swimmer since the age of five, and a triathlete since my college days at the US Naval Academy. I fell in love with the personal challenges triathlon presents and have been trying to solve the puzzle of the perfect race ever since. Along the way I met my wife, I won a few races, and now we travel the world together with our daughter, Izzy, still racing fast and having fun, too!
AfterShokz: Not only did you nail a podium finish in Kona, but you also finished in a personal course-best time of 7:59:40. At what point in the race did you realize that you might be able to break eight hours on the infamous Ironman Kona course?
Tim: Breaking eight hours in Kona has always been a dream of mine. I thought I missed my chance last year (I went 8:03) when we had absolute perfect conditions. This year, the swim was rough and the bike was windy; I honestly didn’t think this would be a sub-eight year. When I hit the run course I saw the clock said 5:09:50 and thought, “You can break eight but you are gonna have to run sub 2:50!” I hadn’t run that fast in Kona before but I just went to work and started running. I actually didn’t even think about it again until the last 1200 meters when someone told me I could do it if I kept up my pace. I tried to soak up the crowd and grab the American flag all while not slowing down…. I hit the finish carpet, saw the clock, and knew I was going to make this dream a reality!
AfterShokz: You’ve had some pretty major obstacles thrown at you this year. Tell us about those and how you overcame them to get to the start line in Kona.
Tim: This year has definitely been a tough one! I was in a pretty bad bike crash in March and broke a bunch of ribs. That set me back quite a bit in the early season and I missed four or five races. Then, seven weeks before Kona, I rolled my ankle on a run and broke my foot. On top of that, my wife broke her elbow two weeks later. We were what you might call a hot mess! I took a few weeks off of running—I was in a boot—and started aqua jogging… a lot. I was OK to swim and ride, and after another couple weeks was able to get on the zero gravity treadmill, which was a huge help. I actually only ran on the pavement four or five times before the race. While getting the body healthy was a big task, keeping my mind in the right headspace was a big challenge, too. There were days when I didn’t want to train because I was sure I wouldn’t make it to the start line, days when I thought, “What’s the point?” But I always tried to focus on having a positive attitude and having the best preparation possible given the hand I was dealt.
AfterShokz: We know you were a swimmer as a kid and into your college years. What made you make the switch to triathlon?
Tim: It was actually my older brother, Thomas, who got me into triathlon. He was a senior my freshman year at Navy and sort of forced me to try out for the team. It wasn’t until the end of my sophomore year at the Collegiate National Championships that I really became interested in the sport. I ended up the first finisher on our team and thought, “There might be something here. If I train properly, I might be pretty good at this triathlon stuff!” Everything came full circle for me this year in Kona, 20 years after Thomas got me into triathlon, and he was there to greet me at the finish!
AfterShokz: Walk us through a typical day of training for a long-course race. Do you train in all three triathlon disciplines (swim, bike, run) every day? Do you cross-train with other exercises, too?
Tim: Every day of the week is really different. I don’t always do every discipline every day, but with strength training in the gym three times a week and some double run days, I probably average three sessions a day. My longest rides will get up to 255 kilometres or 7+ hours; my longest training runs about 37 to 39 kilometres. My favourite days are “Terrible Tuesdays,” which consist of a solid 16-kilometres tempo run, a hard 6K swim, and a strength session in the gym followed by a two-hour ride with hill repeats or threshold efforts.
AfterShokz: You’ve raced at triathlon courses all over the world. Can you pick a favourite?
Tim: I absolutely love St. Croix! It was the first I won as a professional and it is where I met my wife, Mirinda.
AfterShokz: How has your training changed now that you are a father?
Tim: As a dad, I have definitely started training indoors more frequently; it just gives you more bang for your buck and frees up more time in the day for Izzy. I also have learned to focus on my key sessions and not about adding extra kilometres with junk workouts. Recovery is a little harder, too. Spare time is no longer Netflix on the couch; it’s tea parties and piggyback rides!
AfterShokz: Your wife Mirinda (Rinny) Carfrae is also a world-class Ironman triathlete. Do you two ever compete against each other when you’re training?
Tim: I don’t think my ego could handle having to compete against Rinny in training! We actually have different coaches and our training is pretty specific, so we don’t do too many sessions together.
AfterShokz: How does your background as a naval officer influence your triathlon training?
Tim: For me, there is no surprise that triathlon was created by a Navy man. There is something in the personality of a triathlete that resonates with those in the armed forces. There is a dedication and a focus that plays an important role in both. Most importantly, there is a desire to never give up when trying to achieve your goal! When I was at the Naval Academy, there was a flag, flown in a famous naval battle, that read “Don’t Give Up the Ship”... I’ve got a replica of that flag in our training room!
AfterShokz: You and Rinny have your own YouTube channel, the Tim and Rinny Show. What’s your goal with the channel, and how does it feel sharing so much of your personal and professional lives with your fans?
Tim: Sharing our story with our fans has been awesome! The sport has been a big part of our journey together. From our engagement, to marriage, and then of course having Izzy, we have always been open to sharing the memories with the triathlon world. Having that authenticity and accessibility has been a really big reason why our fans have been so supportive. When we had the chance to start a YouTube channel, we thought it would be an awesome way to give everyone an even deeper look inside our lives, the highs and the lows.
AfterShokz: We know that your daughter, Izzy, has completed a few IronKid races already. Any signs that she’s caught the triathlon bug?
Tim: I think Izzy has actually done more races than me this year! She is really starting to enjoy running, too; she constantly tells me “she does Ironmans” and that she “trains 32 kilometres on the run and 2 hours on the bike” every day!
AfterShokz: What do you and your family do when you’re not training for or travelling to races?
Tim: We love anything that is low-key! Playing with Izzy, driving up into the mountains for a picnic, and of course Izzy’s favourite: watching the movie Frozen! When Izzy is off to bed, Rinny and I are happy to just kick back with a bottle of red wine and Netflix!
AfterShokz: Any thoughts about your 2020 race calendar yet? Will this be the year for Challenge Roth?
Tim: So far 2020 is wide open. I will, of course, focus on Kona, but my finish this year gives me some flexibility to do some other fun races. There will be a new event called the Collins Cup (think golf’s Ryder Cup for triathlon) that I am really excited about, and then Challenge Roth is a big bucket-list race as well. Roth actually allows music on the run, so it could be my first chance to race with AfterShokz to keep me motivated!