WHY do you live in Girona? In hindsight, the question was the wrong way round. Why would you NOT live in Girona if you could?

David McNamee asked himself that six years ago and couldn’t come up with a decent answer.

The Ironman triathlete had been escaping the Scottish winter every year in search of more amenable training conditions, often landing in the far north-east corner of Spain with its more temperate weather, beautiful countryside, and accessibility to the Mediterranean Sea. It was perfect for running, cycling and swimming.

Throw in having Barcelona Airport on your doorstep for travelling to international competitions and it made perfect sense.

“I’ve lived here for almost six years now,” reveals the Irvine-born competitor. “I first came over in 2010 for a training camp and really enjoyed it so decided five years later to move over full-time for training.

“Before that I used to spend most Scottish winters trying to escape the weather by travelling to Spain. It just got to the point I was fed up living out of a suitcase.

“So I thought if I was going to do this I may as well do it properly. And in Spain you’re pretty much guaranteed nice weather.

“A lot of professional cyclists live here as the opportunities for training are incredible. The running is good too and we can swim in the sea maybe nine months of the year.

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“We also have a lake we use in a place called Banyoles which is where the British rowing team trained ahead of the 1992 Olympics I believe. And being near Barcelona airport is really helpful too.

“Since I’ve been here I met my partner Mireia. We’ve been together for three years now and all her family is here so this is pretty much home now.”

On the day we speak, McNamee has returned from a typical day’s training which involved a five-hour cycle followed by a 20km run.

But he isn’t grumbling. Not when this time last year Spain’s strict lockdown rules meant all his training had to take place on the balcony of his apartment.

“You couldn’t exercise outside for months and I really struggled to deal with that,” he admits. “It just gradually crept up on me and I became quite demotivated and frustrated.

“There was nothing to do apart from food shopping which was the only time you were allowed to leave the apartment.

“So I put my training bike on the balcony and carried on with that. But that seven-week period drained me mentally. Even when we came out of it I felt I had nothing to give for the rest of the year.”

McNamee remains one of the leading competitors in the Ironman field, a draining and demanding feat of endurance comprising a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile cycle and then a full marathon to finish. For the elite, eight hours represents a very good time.

The pinnacle is the world championships, held in Hawaii every year. McNamee finished third in 2017 and again in 2018 when he recorded the third-fastest time ever.

The accountancy graduate, therefore, approached the 2019 even confident of an even better finish but got ill in the build-up and couldn’t finish.

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With the 2020 event cancelled, that sense of frustration still lingers within the 32 year-old. It remains to be seen whether this year’s race – traditionally held in October – goes ahead but McNamee is a man on a mission if it does.

“In 2017 and 2018 I finished third both times,” he added. “And in 2018 I could have won it had I not made a few tactical errors.

“So I went there in 2019 in even better shape and really confident that that was going to be my year. But then I got sick right before the race which made it really difficult.

“So 2020 was going to be the year of redemption and I would go back and get back onto the podium. And then it didn’t happen.

“I wanted to get that 2019 race out of my system last year but didn’t get the chance unfortunately.
“But my aim remains to win it. I want to finish my career and say that I was world champion at some point.

“I’ve been third twice and got a silver at the under-23 world championships 10 years ago. So it’s great standing on the podium but it’s never been the top step. That’s what still drives me.”

McNamee finished seventh in the 2014 Commonwealth Games on home soil and hasn’t ruled out competing in Birmingham next year – but only if he thought he could win.

“I’ve spent the last six year training for one event so to try to jump back into a much shorter, more aggressive competition might be hard,” he explained.

“I think I could show I’m the best Scottish athlete for that discipline but I wouldn’t want to go unless I felt for sure I could win a medal. Otherwise you’re just an old guy who’s getting in the way of younger athletes’ progress.”