Categorized | Multi-sport, Sports

Ironman XC athlete of the year: David Mullaney

(Kevin Mackinnon catches up with the winner of this year’s Ironman XC competition in Kona)

What happens when you put a bunch of competitive corporate leaders on an Ironman course? This year’s Ironman Executive Challenge (Ironman XC) offered the answer to that question.

You get a race that features a bunch of very competitive type A personalities battling along the Queen Kaahumanu highway with lead changes and excitement to match the pro race. In the end it was David Mullaney, Edgen Murray’s Vice President of Offshore Construction, who took the title as the Ironman XC Series Champion.

David Mullaney (Photo courtesy of Ironman)

David Mullaney (Photo courtesy of Ironman)

“It was fun because I got to pass two other guys during the marathon,” Mullaney, 43, from Haverford, PA, recounted of the competitive race that saw him beat Ted Herget by just over 4 minutes. This was Mullaney’s third trip to Kona for the Ironman World Championship and by far the most successful.

“The first two times were disastrous,” Mullaney said. “The last time was in 2006 – it was such a horrible experience that I didn’t do another Ironman for another year. I bonked on the bike. I thought I was prepared, but I didn’t eat or drink enough. It was just a bad day that spiralled out of control from there. It was not good.”

This year’s experience as part of the Ironman XC program certainly helped erase that bad memory. In addition to his great race, Mullaney says the XC program made things much easier, too.

“Troy Ford (the Ironman XC Director) did an phenomenal job,” Mullaney said. “He engaged all of the participants. He went out of his way to make sure everyone felt like he was working 100 percent for them. He made sure everyone’s family was taken care of. He thought of everything and also managed to keep things low key.”

Despite all that, there were still times during this year’s race when Mullaney, who had qualified for Kona through the Ironman XC program in Louisville, wasn’t convinced the day would go as well as it did.

“The bike was unbelievably hard,” he said. “Once you get off the bike, though, then you know you’re going to finish.”

Mullaney credited better training and being more “regimented with his nutrition and salt tablets” for his improved performance in Kona this year.

So how does a busy corporate executive fit in the training required to compete at the Ironman World Championship?

“Going to bed at 9 at night before my 8-year-old son and getting up at 4:30 or 5 a.m. for my workouts,” Mullaney said with a laugh. (He has two children, Jackson and Darby.) “That, and having an understanding wife (Kathryn) on Saturdays when I do my longer training days.”

While he’s traveling, Mullaney has to settle with run workouts, as swim and bike workouts are hard to fit in. When he’s at home, though, he gets in 12- to 15 hours of training each week.

All that training is now part of Mullaney’s lifestyle, but it hasn’t always been. It was at a party in 2001 when Mullaney first got introduced to triathlon – one of his friends was doing a sprint the next day and offered to lend him a bike so he could tag along.

He hadn’t swam “more than five yards in 20 years,” but somehow managed to complete the race, although he was so tired by the run that he could barely move.

Determined to improve, Mullaney started training and quickly moved up the triathlon distance ladder – he did a 70.3 distance race, then “got convinced” to do his first full-distance Ironman in Lake Placid. Now training is an integral part of his life.

“This is my vice,” he said. “A lot of my friends do Ironman as well.”

Even though the folks at work think his “vice” is crazy, his participation is making a difference – now there are enough co-workers who do triathlon that he’s working on putting a triathlon team together within Edgen Murray, a leading global distributor of specialty steel products primarily to energy infrastructure markets.

With a leader who holds the title as Ironman XC athlete of the year, how can they go wrong?

Look for the soon-to-be-finalized 2010 Ironman XC calendar at

(Reach Mackinnon at

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