Adam Quinn competes in the biking portion of the 2013...

Adam Quinn competes in the biking portion of the 2013 Ironman World Championship in Kona, HI. Credit: FinisherPix

Note: This is the second of a five-day 2014 GoPro Ironman World Championship series. Follow from Oct. 8-Oct. 12 for up-to-date coverage, including a live feed on Oct. 11 from the race in Hawaii.

Last year, Adam Quinn of Port Jefferson Station completed his first Ironman World Championship, in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, finishing in 10:31:58, 951 overall and 31/48 in the male 18-24 age group. What makes the feat even more impressive is that it was Quinn’s first year competing in triathlons.

The former cross country and track athlete at Binghamton University qualified for the world championship after placing first in his age group — 99th overall — at Ironman Lake Placid in July 2013.

Leading up to this Saturday’s world championship, which consists of a 2.4-mile swim, followed by 112-mile bike and concluded with a 26.2-mile run, Quinn discussed his physical and mental experiences, and what it takes to become an Ironman.

What was your reaction after being a first-time qualifier and competitor in the 2013 Ironman World Championship?

“To make it to the world championship was a dream come true; it was such an awesome experience and definitely a highlight of my life. At the same time, it was also extremely humbling to race against the best athletes in the world and be surrounded by such fit people. Although being humbled only served to ignite my desire to get back there again and perform at an even higher level.”

Please describe your training leading up to the event:

“[For] my swim, I stuck to doing three workouts a week. For my run, I continued with my base volume but increased my long runs by about 15 minutes to help with my strength. The big change was to my biking routine. I continued training the same number of times a week but substantially increased my volume for base training rides and long rides.”

What was it like juggling your normal everyday life, combined with training for the world championship?

“This was the most challenging part of my training, as I’m sure it is with most triathletes. While I trained for the world championship, I was also working through my second year of medical school at Stony Brook University. Trying to juggle this with at least four hours of training a day was extremely difficult. When we didn’t have an exam coming up, I would often listen to lectures as I ran and watched videos/lectures on the trainer. I made it work as so many amateur athletes do in their lives.”

What sections of the course were the most difficult and in what sections did you excel?

“The mass start at Kona, where everyone is a strong athlete, was intimidating and difficult. On the bike, the rolling hills on the course were manageable and biking out with the wind at your back really built up my confidence ... coming back, however, the wind really picked up, the hills seemed larger and my legs were getting drained, all with a 26.2-mile run awaiting me upon my return. Being surrounded by nothing but black lava, as you run on a highway with no relief from the sun, was extremely difficult. At the energy lab, the out-and-back section at the halfway point had to be the worst part of the run. The heat, the hills, the sun and the fact that you have another 13.1 miles to go all combine to put a physical and mental drain on your body. Once you get back into town the cheering of the crowd and the thoughts of the finish line numb all the pain and make it all worth it.”

Are there any specific techniques that you used, either during the swim, bike or run, that helped keep your body in check and running smoothly?

“On the bike, I tried to assess my fluids and nutrition intake every few miles and just tried to keep giving my body what it needed. On the run, I tried to take either water or Gatorade every stop, and grabbed a gel or some fruit when I felt I needed it.”

Explain your recovery process post-race. Also, how long did it take for you to fully recover?

“I think in addition to giving your body a break by not working out, it’s also important to give your mind a rest. Becoming relaxed with the diet, not stressing over training and just taking a break from the sport for a week really helps. After the week off, I slowly worked back into training, being careful to listen to my body and not pushing it, and risking an injury. It probably took me at least two weeks to fully recover.”

All physical aspects of the race aside, please describe how you kept yourself in the race, mentally.

“This is a major issue for those competing in Ironman races — it’s a long race and mentality can wax and wane all day. Once you get to a bad place, mentally, your day can go downhill fast. Whenever I felt like things weren’t going well and I was losing my drive, I just focused on all the hard work and preparation I had to do to get to this point. Also, just saying things like, ‘You did it, you’re racing in Kona at the world championship — something that many try their whole life to do and you’re here; enjoy the experience and take it all in.’”

Did you suffer any ailments during the competition? If so, what did you do to overcome them?

“My only aliment during the race was a slight stomach issue after the swim, whether it was swallowing too much salt water or just the heat. My nutritional plan went out the window [on the bike] and instead of taking in a gel every 45-60 minutes, I simply stuck to Gatorade and salt tablets. Every once in a while, I would be able to choke down a gel or PowerBar. I focused on starting slower and being sure I properly rehydrated during every stop on the run. In a race as long as the Ironman, the most perfect plans can go out the window at any point — just be ready to improvise.”

Why do you believe the Ironman World Championship is referred to as the world's most difficult single-day sporting event?

“This is undoubtedly true. To be competing with the fittest people in the world, in such harsh conditions, really makes it the most difficult sporting event in the world. The crowded mass start in the ocean with several-foot swells, lava fields that you can’t quite seem to escape from, legendary winds heading back to Kona, glaring sun and extreme temperature conditions all coalesce to give the Ironman World Championship the reputation it deserves.”

Is there any advice you would like to offer this year's Long Island competitors?

“Enjoy the experience, walk around town, visit the vendors, partake in the ‘parade of nations’ and attend the pre-race dinner. I was able to meet athletes from all over the world, trade training ideas and talk about their journey to get to Kona. Not only is it a great experience, but these things will help keep your mind from ruining your race before you even start. During the race, all the hard work that it took to get to this point has paid off and the race is your reward, so enjoy it.”

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