Overcoming Fear of Open Water Swimming- One Man’s Journey To Becoming an Ironman


Brian has always been a driven person from a young age.  Brian began working as a Technical Support Representative with our local Internet Service Provider when he was only 14 years old.  He continued to work for them until he graduated from High School.  While Brian was always active and athletic, his deep passion for fitness and health came later in life as a way to connect with others, himself and overcome negative thinking.  Brian also over came an intense fear of open water swimming, which he wasn’t aware he had until he decided to participate in Triathlons.

Brian’s Journey, and how it began

Brian moved to London in 2006, because his wife Christine was offered, and accepted a job in London. While Brian was living in London he began running with his friend Martin during their lunch breaks.  Brian’s dad had a traumatic knee injury, which Brian witnessed while they were on a remote canoeing trip in Canada. Brian started running with his friend Martin during their lunch break, and it was then Brian learned Martin enjoyed participating in Triathlons.  Martin told Brian about one Triathlon in particular, Alcatraz!  Brian never considered doing Triathlons until his friend Martin spoke of this event.  The very day Brian learned of this particular Triathlon, also called Alca Tri, Escape From The Rock he signed up for the race. Alca Tri: XXVIII was only 16 months away. It dawned on Brian that running for one, was a great way of connecting and overcoming  the trauma of his dad’s traumatic knee injury. You can read more about Brian’s journey on  Brian’s personal blog

Brian realized he had a lot of practice to prepare for the swim. Brian found a coach, joined a team, along with doing Triathlons in London to prepare for Escape From The Rock. When Brian began learning and practicing to swim in open water he learned he also had a fear of it.  The fear of jumping into the cold, dark water in the San Francisco Bay swimming back from Alcatraz was a real fear.  Brian overcame his fear by practicing for Alca Tri over a period of 16 months. 

Alca Tri: XXVIII

Brian’s training and participating in Triathlons in London began in 2007.  Alca Tri: XXVIII was coming up in 2008.  Brian completed 5-6 Triathlons in London leading up to Ala Tri: XXVIII which also helped to reduce his open water panic prior to Alca Tri. Brian also did the London Triathlon in 2008, and still had open water swimmer’s anxiety, but it had lessened  after competing in in a few Olympic distance Triathlons.  Brian also kept the swim map for the Alca Tri competition next to his bed and he would see it every morning which helped him to stay focused on his end goal- the swim from Alcatraz. 

Triathletes take a ferry out to Alcatraz and swim the murky bay -infested with sharks and sea lions back to shore. This was a major feat for Brian, which gave him the ambition and self confidence to continue to participate in more competitions.

There are many ways to overcome your fears as Brian did. An article written for Triathletes mention 7 steps in overcoming that fear; the first step is to acknowledge your fear!

It’s also very beneficial to have a great support system-  in Brian’s case it was his wife, Christine who stood behind him, and beside him throughout all of his endeavors.  It’s also wise to join a team, and find a great coach;  all which help to strengthen your abilities, and give you the assurance you are not alone- along with the fact that if you are determined, you can do this!

Ready to jump on the ferry and swim back from Alcatraz


When Brian moved back to the States with his wife, he began to ponder if he would be capable of doing an Ironman competition. He became active with with local Triathlon clubs in Virginia, and realized that it was more than just the sport that inspired him; he enjoyed mentoring others, and being part of the community itself. When you find your passion, it becomes addictive and without knowing it, you can also inspire others to find their passion.

Brian now lives in Colorado with his wife and began doing Half Ironman competitions which was helping him to build endurance for the full Ironman Competition. Brian’s ambitions became a reality when he was accepted by the Ironman Foundation- Newton Running Ambassador Triathlon Team in Boulder Colorado, which bring together triathlete’s who are passionate about both Ironman events. Newton Running and “Service Through Sport,” enabled Brian to fulfill his desire to give back to communities they race in.  The Ironman Newton Running Team, also named TriTeamforGood was instrumental in Brian’s continued training. He had a great coach, and awesome teammates who kept each other inspired, along with accountable. Sharing your passion with team mates helps to curb anxieties, and everyone has their own knowledge base to share with others which helps to ensure an awesome experience and team!

The day finally arrived, Ironman Boulder 2014; Excitement and Inspiration


Brian’s wife, parents and children were in Boulder, Colorado last August 2014 to watch, and cheer Brian on during the 140.6 mile Ironman Race.  Newton Running is an official sponsor of the Ironman Competition, and they play a vital role not only by means of their running products, but they also are there every step of the way to encourage the Triathletes.  

The positive energy felt within the crowd was contagious ; being a spectator during the race was beyond words. It was hard to imagine anyone doing a race of this magnitude.  There are many different reasons men and women participate in Ironman Competitions. For many who participate in the competition, it becomes personal as it was for Brian. One man was given a poster that read “I may be an Ironman, but my wife beat cancer.”  Brian’s journey leading up to Ironman Boulder made him aware that even if fears are involved; you can overcome them, and triumph.  

The emotions Brian’s family, and Brian himself felt was indescribable when the announcer yelled over a mic- as he does to every man and woman who crosses the finish line, “Brian Gallagher, “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”  Brian began with his sight set on smaller goals mixed with a major fear of open water, and ended up becoming an Ironman! Brian crossed the finish line in just under thirteen and one half hours. 

 Ironman Strength quote

If you are determined to become a Triathlete make sure to have support from those who love you, believe in yourself, join a Triathlon club and/or use an app which can empower you, along with train you.  

Brian is one example of many who decided to face his fears,  only to find out he was capable of accomplishing more than he dreamed he could.

“You can quit if you want, and no one will care. But you will know the rest of your life.” – John Collins (Founder of The Ironman).

One thought on “Overcoming Fear of Open Water Swimming- One Man’s Journey To Becoming an Ironman

  1. Pingback: Overcoming Fear of Open Water Swimming- One Man’s Journey To Becoming an Ironman | onevisionary

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