By Greg Phipps
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Having returned to triathlon competition last year after spending six years away from the sport, Newburyport’s Sean McCarthy says he’s entering this week’s Triathlon World Championships in London with renewed motivation and strength.
Seven years ago, McCarthy, a physics teacher at Newburyport High School, was racing at the highest level. He finished fourth in the Florida Ironman Triathlon in 2006.
But the heavy demands of training and satisfying national sponsors took their toll, and McCarthy decided he needed a break.
“I was sponsored by Amino Vital (an energy drink/bar company) for five years and got burnt out from having to get big results every year,” he said. “Training and competing in the Ironman put me over the edge. I really got sick of the pressure and didn’t enjoy it anymore.”
With encouragement and support from his girlfriend, local ultra-marathon racer Maddy Hribar, the joy of competing has been restored for McCarthy.
“Maddy got me into ultra-marathons last year when I met her. I’ve never done just a marathon, but I’ve done four ultra marathons in the past year,” said McCarthy, who lives in Newburyport and grew up in the Bronx, N.Y. “I had never done just a running race before that, and I never thought I’d ever do a marathon. I’ve now done a couple of 50K (31-mile) races, and I paced Maddy for 40 miles in her first 100-miler (the Pine Creek Challenge in Pennsylvania last September), which she won overall and posted the 15th fastest time in the world for women.”
After devoting his six post-triathlon years to cycling, McCarthy made a resounding re-entry to the triathlon stage last year with a first-place finish, followed by two top-3 efforts, and a victory in his first-ever Xterra event, which consists of an off-road swim, mountain bike and trail run.
“I came back super motivated to race, and I tried to have fun with it and not care about results,” McCarthy said. “I think it made me a much better athlete. I’m stronger now than I was when I was younger and sponsored.”
He gives most of the credit for his resurgence to Hribar’s influence.
“It was Maddy who really got me back into competing,” he said. “What she does is inspiring because it’s so unbelievable, and it made me fall in love with competing again.”
An 18th overall finish at the Triathlon National Championships in Burlington, Vt., earned him a spot on this year’s 18-member United States national team headed for London. Over 40 countries will be represented at the world championship event, which begins tomorrow and ends with the closing ceremonies on Sunday.
“I really don’t know what to expect, it’s such a huge race,” said McCarthy of this week’s competition across the Atlantic. “I’ve been to state and national championships but nothing as big as this. I can’t believe I’m going to be there racing with the best in the world. I just want to have fun and not let the pressure get to me. It will be an incredible experience.”
Locally, McCarthy competes with the Post Racing Team, which consists of area cyclists, triathletes, runners, mountain bikers and ultra-marathoners. The team is sponsored by local businesses, and several members of the team have taken part in state and national championships.
A graduate of Fordham University with a master’s in teaching, McCarthy has also earned a mechanical engineering degree from Clarkson University and a physics degree from the State University of New York/Potsdam.
The Triathlete Teacher
Name: Sean McCarthy
Occupation: NHS physics teacher
News: Will compete in the Triathlon World Championships this week in London.
Best finish: Placed fourth in the Florida Ironman Triathlon in 2006.