A chat with Ironman Age Group World Champion Emily Loughnan

A chat with Ironman Age Group World Champion Emily Loughnan

Aussie Physiotherapist Emily Loughnan participated in her first 70.3 triathlon just four years ago in Busselton, WA.  In 2017 she was the fastest age group female competitor at the Ironman World Championships, Hawaii. Emily cherishes the profoundly life affirming nature of sport. For Emily, sport has never been about the glory, the adulation, the medals or the trophies. For her it is just about a burning desire to be the best person and athlete she can possibly be. In doing so she hopes to inspire many others along the way. 


What brought you to triathlon? Do you think that a sporting background as a child is important in order to be competitive in age group racing?

I feel like triathlon came to me at I time in my life when I felt very unfulfilled knowing I had not explored my true potential in competitive sport.  At this time, I met my coach Julian who has taken me on what has become the most rewarding and enjoyable journey. 

With a background in competitive middle to long distance running, I have always loved keeping fit and sport has played a significant part of my life.  I don’t think this is at all important in order to be competitive in age group racing. I feel very fortunate that I had opportunities as a child to undertake various sporting endeavours.  No doubt through my junior years of sport I have learnt a lot about racing and it has instilled in me from a young age a commitment and work ethic that I may not have developed otherwise. Yet I remain firm in my belief that in life anything is possible if we set our minds to it, and believe. 

Where do you live now and what benefits and/or limitations does your area have for training?

I am living in Perth, West Australia, which is where I grew up and have spent the majority of my life. Perth is home. Here I have my family and biggest support network, which has to be one of the greatest benefits.  Perth would have to be one of the sunniest capitals of Australia, with mild winters and hot dry summers.  Combine the warm weather with the beautiful white sandy beaches and it is easy to see why so many people here enjoy triathlon and the outdoor lifestyle of Western Australia.

How many hours do you train per week and how do you manage to balance everything in your life together?

When training for a big race like Kona I look to build up to an average training week of 18-20 hours.  Coupled with 40-45 hours work as a full time physiotherapist, life gets pretty busy! It is a balancing act for sure but it is about effective time management, it’s about being organised, planning and prioritising.  

Do you feel that triathlon eats into your social life and how do you feel about that?

I have always maintained that I want this sport to be a very positive self- interest in my life. It is never about sacrifices, it is about compromises. With a relentless desire to do it all, to work, train, socialise…it is about making more conscious decisions on a daily basis. I must also emphasise the positive addition triathlon has been to my social life. I have met some of the most wonderful people and greatest friends through my involvement in sport, which has been one of its true pleasures.

Was there ever a time when you were close to quitting? What keeps you going through the tough times? 

2016 was a really tough year for me and I had two championship races to get up for. I remember someone saying to me after winning the World 70.3 Championships that winners never quit and quitters never win. 2016 tested me emotionally on so many levels but I think my sport saved me and created a platform of hope that despite hardship, life goes on and so must we.  It was about acknowledging the shift in my intrinsic motivation.  I feel very blessed to be able to do what I do and I know that through those challenges of 2016 I have become a better athlete and indeed a better person.

Do you have a visualization/race specific meditation routine? 

In the week leading up to a big race I spend a lot of time getting to know the course like the back of my hand and then visualizing myself on that course.  I visualize how I will be feeling at this part and that and mentally prepare myself for different scenarios.  It is funny, in the days leading up to a race I often think about how I will feel if it doesn’t go to plan and I don’t achieve my goal… but these thoughts are quite quickly overcome by visions of myself running down the finishing chute completely elated knowing despite anything that may have gone wrong that day, I had overcome it.

Do you remember a shift in your mentality when winning the world championship went from being a dream/hope to a genuine belief? It would be great if you could give us some insight in changes in mentality which you feel contributed in achieving those incredible outcomes

If I was to be completely honest with you, I never dreamt of winning a world championship. I dream of knowing I have achieved my greatest potential in life and that I have lived my life to the full.  But I always have belief. A very strong belief that if I am prepared to work hard and continue to love the sport, that I can achieve great things. This belief, coupled with a strong, positive mentality is our greatest weapon as an athlete. Find it, nurture it and don’t give up on it.

The shift comes now in my belief of what I am capable of. I have great hopes for my journey in this sport.

How do you spend your off-season? Are there sports that you enjoy doing that you feel compliment triathlon

I spend most of my off-season wondering how I juggled 20 hours of training a week with the rest of life!

My greatest enjoyment in the off-season is letting go of that strict daily routine, not accounting for every minute of everyday. I enjoy getting out on my bike or heading to the pool as I feel, going for a run along the coast with friends chatting all the way. I enjoy having a few too many champagnes with the girls and lying in front of the TV eating a block of chocolate.

What is your favourite race and why?

I would have to say Kona! It is the pinnacle of our sport, an event like non other. Kona toughens the soul and crossing that finish line truly is one of the greatest feelings on earth. It is a mixed feeling of complete elation, relief and an overwhelming sense of pride. 

Share with us any unexpected/funny events that happened during racing or training?

A most unexpected but perhaps the most special moment of my sporting career was crossing the line in Kona this year and seeing my coach who had been welcomed into the finishing area. I recall running down Ali’i Drive trying to spot Julian but to have him there as I crossed the line, to share in that moment, our moment, was a great surprise and a most fitting ending.  The win was ours.

What are your next goals?

My goal is to simply keep enjoying the sport of triathlon. If I can continue to derive such happiness from my athletic pursuits then I am achieving what I have ultimately set out to achieve.


Major race achievements in the past – 25-29 AG Female Winner World 70.3 2016

Join the conversation!