Originally Published on 26 July 2019
What I love the most about competing in Ironman is being so fit – it really helps me in business, as I am on top of my game all the time. The camaraderie during races between athletes is fantastic; it’s one of the only races where the professionals race with amateurs on the same course at the same time. You also make some great friends in the lead up to and during races.
My name is Marc O’Dwyer, and I am the owner and CEO of Big Red Book and Big Red Cloud, which specialise in online cloud accounting, bookkeeping, and payroll software. These companies now support 75,000 businesses. I chose this job because I knew that there had to be an easier way of doing business accounts. I wanted it to be easy and something that everyone could understand and use. So now, I just love helping business owners run a more successful and profitable business by running our Big Red Cloud accounts software.
I was born and reared in Dublin Ireland – I went to school and college here and met my wife in my late teens. We bought our first house not too far from where we both grew up and got married in our early 20s. We have 4 beautiful daughters, all still living with us. We now live only 6 minutes from the office (beauty of being the boss!).
Outside of my job, I have a passion for Ironman races. I have always been big into all sports and have graduated to now doing Ironman races. My Triathlon career started way back in 2000 when I was beaten into second place in an Olympic distance relay by an Irish Olympian, Eamonn Coughlan. This whetted my appetite for Triathlon, and I went on to win a place on the Age Group team for Ireland at two European Championships and two World Championships. I wanted to test myself even more, so I upped the distance in 2012 and took part in my first full-distance Ironman.
Ironman consists of three events: swimming, cycling, and marathon running. My favourite event used to be running, but as 60% of the Ironman distance is covered on the bike, cycling has now trumped running. I love the feeling of exertion you get when travelling at high speeds on technical courses, pushing yourself to your limit.
My first Ironman race was Austria 2012 – I completed the distance, despite the fact that the weather that day was so hot, it was classed as a non-wetsuit swim. I am not a swimmer and I need the wetsuit to give me buoyancy, so before the race even started, I found myself having serious doubts about starting at all! But I ploughed on and happily completed it. The first time completing it was so emotional and it lived up to every aspect!
Training for the three Ironman disciplines is difficult; you have to be very organised. I swim at least three times a week, between 2.5K and 3K each session. As I am not a swimmer, it is mentally difficult when both training and participating – in fact, I have had two panic attacks in the Ironman races during the swim, where I have had to dig really deep and just get on with it. I cycle 4 times a week and run 5 times a week. I also have to fit in strength and core work. All told, training can take up to 20 hours a week, with two sessions happening most days.
Keeping focused during Ironman is a case of living in the moment, which I find hard to do. So during the swim, you can’t think about the bike – you need to just swim from buoy to buoy. Transition is all about getting in and out as quick as possible, so there’s no time to think. With a 180KM bike to get through, that’s when you have time to think. However, with things like nutrition, heart rate, watts, and concentrating on the road, your mind is pretty occupied. The run is a different story. An Ironman Marathon is really hard –having swum 3.8km and cycled 180km, you just have to take each kilometre as it comes.
I have completed six Ironman Races: Austria(x2), Frankfurt (Germany), Nice (France), Mallorca (Spain), and Copenhagen (Denmark). My best time was the European Championships in 2014, at 11hrs 38 minutes. I crossed the finish line with my brother, which is no mean feat when you have two very competitive individuals and 226 km to cover. The way it panned out on the day was that we kept passing each other out and eventually agreed to stop killing ourselves and crossed the line together – what a great memory.
I have a few memorable experiences from Ironman – the first was kissing my wife just before crossing the finish line at my first Ironman in Austria; the second was crossing the finish line with my brother in Frankfurt; and the third was having my wife and my four daughters at the finish line to present me with my medal in Copenhagen in 2017.
Regarding future goals, I am going to give 70.3 races a go next season – these are half-Ironman distance races. There are lots of these around Europe to do and discover new towns and cities along the way. Someday, it would be great to get to race at the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
Doing Ironman Races has definitely been a benefit to my technological career. I come up with some of my best ideas while out on my bike or running – without this head-space, I truly believe my business would not be as successful as it is. There have been many challenges along the way in my business career, and Ironman trains you to be strong, resilient, and make the best of what you have got.
My advice to anyone looking to compete in Ironman is to start off with a sprint triathlon and work your way up the distances – this is to get the body used to the endurance aspect of Ironman. Allow yourself enough time to get prepared up to 8 months prior to the race. Try to be consistent with training for all three disciplines. If possible, get a trainer and all the gadgets and technology that really help with training for an Ironman.
To read more about Ironman, be sure to check their official website: