The Elite Ironman Who Survived a Mid-Race Heart Attack: Tim O'Donnell on Mental Fitness, His Brush with Death & Finding Joy In Training
Not all heart attacks are fatal. But when your heart’s left anterior descending artery becomes 100% blocked, the result is a massive heart attack known as The Widowmaker. Few survive its fatal clutch. But today’s guest Timothy O’Donnell beat the odds.
A professional long-course triathlete with over 50 podium finishes, including more than 25 wins at major events throughout the world, Tim is the 2009 ITU Long Distance World Champion, placed 2nd at the 2019 Ironman World Championships in Kona, and became the first American to finish that race in under 8 hours. Tim’s impressive 20-year athletic journey (and, more importantly, his life) nearly came to a tragic end in 2021 when he suffered a widowmaker heart attack in the middle of a half-ironman race. Somehow, Timothy was able to finish the race, placing 11th and making it to the hospital in time to make a full recovery.
Tim’s journey is nothing short of astonishing. Today he opens up about the strange dichotomy between his elite fitness and near-death experience, his decision to return to racing, and the critical importance of lifestyle choices for endurance athletes of all levels. We also talk about his experience at the Naval Academy and tenure as a Naval officer, triathlon professional athlete representation in the media today, his thoughts on the Norwegian Train, the future of triathlon, advice for amateur athletes, and more.
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