My Triathlon: Amy O'Keeffe

Triathletes are extraordinary people with inspiring stories to tell. Triathlon Ireland feature a story from someone in our triathlon community, told in their own words as part our "My Triathlon" series. 


"I grew up doing sport so I was always kind of involved in a little bit of running and a little bit of swimming but I was never that good at it really. When I was 14 or 15 my Dad did his first triathlon so I was introduced to it from the parents. His first triathlon was DCT. Back then it was a cross country run, it wasn’t on the road. That was a ‘big deal’ to me though because he did the swim in the River Liffey and everything else, I remember watching being like 'that’s insane!' ".

Moby Dick Amy O Keeffe Run 

getting started

O’Keeffe started running in the lead up to her Leaving Cert and then kept the sport up as a stress reliever while studying Engineering in College.

“Running was kind of always my thing and I’d get in for a swim maybe once a week but cycling was totally in the back of my mind, didn’t even think about it.”

Having done a number of triathlons, Amy was looking for some more structure to her training and found Piranha Triathlon Club in Dublin. 

“The club was fantastic. I did a lot of swimming with them and I was introduced to Maria McCambridge who did the track sessions and that was the first time I ever kind of floated the idea of doing it slightly competitively.”

Amy OKeeffe_Lost Sheep Bike2018

Originally from Co. Meath, after college in 2017 Amy moved to Cork for work and became a member of Cork Triathlon Club. 

“I was an ok swimmer, I was an ok runner, I was shocking on the bike! Biking was never my thing. I could get myself around the course and hold my own but I was never good at it. Then I joined CTC (Cork Triathlon Club), two years ago, accidentally came third in the National Series because that is not something I planned on doing! Then last year I focussed a little bit more on the longer distance…my main thing last year was the fourth in The Lost Sheep, that was a big deal for me. The year before I’d gotten around, I was delighted, I was eighth I think.” 

“Cork Tri Club has had a huge part to play in me training a lot more and making it more enjoyable.”

Amy OKeeffe_Swim

Having progressed very quickly over the last few years to being one of the country's strongest domestic triathletes; O’Keeffe has altered her training to suit the complex nature of our sport;

“Triathlon then I considered it a three discipline sport, it’s one whole sport and now it’s training for triathlon as a whole. You can’t just train for running, just train for cycling and just train for swimming. You’re going to end up totally exhausting yourself and that was one thing I learned the first year. You have to train for one whole sport because you can’t do the same level…I tried to keep up the same level of running and I kept getting injured.”

balancing it all

Triathlon can be a time consuming sport, balancing her career as a chemical engineer, social life and training requires a lot of planning.

“It’s all about planning. The main thing for me, even when I was in college and trying to manage the study load with training and stuff, it is all about knowing 'OK I’ve to cook on Sunday’s'. Then you’re cooking your meals for the week and you can just grab stuff, having the time saving that kind of way. Then knowing on Monday that I’m swimming at a coached session with CTC that I can get out at lunchtime – sometimes I can, sometimes I can’t depending on work. If I can then that’s great, otherwise I get up early and go for a run. Or I get up early and get to the pool, and sometimes you’re just wrecked and you can’t do that either. It’s trying to make a plan and trying to stick to it is the only way you can keep training and get to the level that you want. When I was training for the half, you’re doing a lot of hours, you’re doing 15 plus hours a week. So it’s the long loads and mainly trying to load up the weekends when you can and taking the time out to do that.”

Amy OKeeffe_Finish

women in triathlon

Cork Triathlon Club have been very supportive of the 20x20 campaign and for the month of September are inviting guests to join their training sessions and give triathlon a go. Supporting women in sport is something Amy feels passionately about;

“CTC have a huge Women in Sport Initiative and trying to get more women involved... I feel really passionate about that as well as women in Engineering and STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects, it’s a big thing for me because there’s just not enough representation there. If there’s not representation for women we’re not going to be heard and we’re not going to be seen and the whole initiative of 20x20 is “If she can’t see it, she can’t be it”. I kind of want to bring that towards a bit more visibility for both the STEM and triathlon as well. Now, as I’ve said before, I’m very competitive! So, with Cork Tri Club I do love racing the boys as well and I love to have a go myself. That’s such a big thing for both STEM and triathlon, not being afraid to have a go! Just because you’re a girl doesn’t mean you can’t go off with the fastest guys. You’re not holding them up…have a go and see if you can get there!”

Cork Tri Club_Group Pic

So, what is it that Amy loves about the sport of triathlon? 

“The fact that you have the three disciplines. For me when I first joined it, I loved the sea and I loved swimming. I loved running and it was kind of combining all of these into one area of general passion. You didn’t have to be good at all three of them. And I know some people are scared of the bike and some people are scared of the swim or the run. It’s always having a different goal, you’re never bored. You’re going to want to better your run, you’re going to want to better your bike, or your swim, even trying to better your strength training and stuff like that.”  

One bit of advice for someone starting out?

“Just give it a go. It’s not as scary as it looks… I still go into transition and I see people with the tear drop helmets, the disc wheels and everything and I’m still so intimidated by it. Even though I’m fully aware of my own ability to hold my own, it’s still scary! When you’re starting out, even everyone else who’s done this for years are still intimidated by all this. You’re not on your own, there’s so many people there to help you and there’s so many people there to talk you through the triathlon and how it works and you don’t have to be competitive at it. That’s really what got me into it at the start was not needing to be competitive and just enjoying it.”

"This is my tri club"

Amy's club, Cork Triathlon Club, recently featured in our "This is My Tri Club" series, watch the video below to find out more about the club and meet just some of their inspiring members.