33 athletes took part in our second Middle Distance Race, which was 8 up on last year. Race conditions were almost perfect with the threatened early heavy rain not arriving. We had the usual melee of getting transition erected, preparing to race etc. in little more than an hour. But life is never straightforward and our specially prepared racking did not fit properly. Luckily Del came to the rescue, whipping out his tool in no time for a quick bodge!
The second problem was a distinct lack of timekeepers, after the 2 volunteers had to pull out. David Ricketts had put himself down to swim and do timing - all on Monday. Unfortunately the race was on Sunday! It was his son's special 18th birthday lunch on the same day. Brad came and started the timing but had a late offer to go to Old Trafford for the football which I am sure made Rachel's husband Paul very jealous. At the last second Tim Cresswell stepped in and took it over, doing an excellent job in spite of being given a watch that could only time up to one hour!!
Eventually we had the race briefing. Pippa had to chuckle whenever she heard the word 'mount' so I am not sure what sort of race she had in mind, and Ant Grey was already prophetically planning an exit strategy! Then 25 athletes jumped into the lake. It was our first opportunity test out the new bouys. What a difference! Sighting was a doddle. That was money very well spent.
At Brad's signal the race started. Mat Record stormed off as expected. The swim course is probably longer than 1900m, the consensus was nearer 2100m in the end. Mat swam it in 34m15s, almost 4 minutes clear! He even had time to stop at the pontoon to ask 'Where is everybody?'
The chasing pack was led home by Mark Jordan and Dave Lashbrook, but also included Colin Chambers and Steve Alden, who were as surprised to be there as Mark and Dave were seeing them. Vaughan was not far behind. He was in the pack but went wide at the far end and the other four cut in with a better line and he then couldn't get back on their feet.
Pipaa was out first for the women in 40m49s with Hazel about 22 seconds down with Rachel only 22 seconds minutes behind her. Nikki was 2 minutes behind Rachel and guest Bethan 90 seconds further back.
Through T1 and out onto the bike. Dave Lashbrook has clearly been listening to Steve always talking about transition times as he blitzed through ahead of the others. As expected though, the fastest bike split went to James. His 2h22m04s (including transitions) was more than 14 minutes faster than anyone except for Rob Hoodless who was only doing the bike leg. It shows how tough this bike course is that only Rob and James broke 2h30m, and only 4 others even broke 2h40m.
There was plenty going on out on the course though. Vaughan didn't fancy the direction he was going so he turned round and was seen riding in the opposite direction.
Mark and Steve were having a good battle when Mark got stung by a wasp after Balcombe on the first lap. Knowing he has potential anaphylaxis problems he stopped to take some antihistamines, then quite rightly stayed with Steve for the remainder of the ride, before pulling out of the race in T2, when he didn't feel at all well. His actual ride time of about 2h36m was astonishing in the circumstances, and he was 24 minutes faster by T2 compared to last year.
Ant Grey was trying some new techniques on the bike circuit. As it was hilly he decided to shed some unnecessary components. He started by losing his saddle, then his front wheel, and finally one pedal. The weight saving strategy did not help, so he had to limp the bike home via a shortened route. Paul Wills was also struggling after coming out of the swim a bit disorientated. He gamely carried on although he did need some advice on what to wear on the bike. Like Ant and Mark though, he pulled out at T2.
The women were far more sensible. Rachel quickly overtook Hazel on her way to a bike split that was 20 minutes faster than any of the others. Bethan, Hazel and Nikki all completed the bike within seven minutes of each other and Hazel headed out on the run with a 10 minute advantage over Bethan and Nikki. Jade decided to do a single lap of both the bike and run, but it is only a few weeks since her very impressive Ironman performance.
Although it is essentially flat on the run, it is not an easy course. There are 5 dead turns, 14 gates to negotiate, a very uneven surface, some short but marked inclines and lots of walkers, dogs and mud.
James started the run with a 9 minute lead over Dave and 12 minutes over Steve, who managed to bring the deficit down to 5m39s by the end, and was delighted with a finish time under 5 hours, more than 13 minutes faster than last year. Dave eventually finished 4th as his legs were in trouble, but only finished 2 minutes down on last year and he was overtaken by Vaughan who was running strongly. Pete tried to get a pace man to help him. His son did a fine job and will probably be a good runner like his dad in the future. Colin Chambers was clearly struggling on the run, with leg problems. Stoically he put on a brave face and pushed on, and gave everyone a good laugh at the finish when he stopped, laid down and rolled over the finish line.
Del Hastings put in another splendid performance to improve his last year's time by more than 15 minutes.
Rachel was able to cruise round the run with such a healthy lead, but it was Bethan who was making the effort, and managed to overturn the 10 minute deficit on Hazel into a 6 minute advantage, to finish just outside 6 hours. That was a great run. Fastest woman however was Fiona in the relay with a 1h43m04s time.
11 people took part in the relay, with David and Rob's team not having a runner, which was a shame as they were comfortably in the lead at that point. In the end the honours went to Mat, Phil and Richard with a time of 5h24m, with the all ladies team of Pippa, Sharon and Kay just 7 minutes behind. There were some superb individual performances in the relay with Mat being the fastest swimmer, Rob - second quickest cyclist and Fiona second quickest runner overall.
The performance of the day has to go to Trevor though. He was going nicely until mid way through the run when his knees started to give out. He could only walk and jog. He had the option to pull out after 2 laps of the run, but carried on in a lot of trouble. He easily got the biggest ovation of the day when he finished, and the emotion of it was clearly on his face. But it was an amazing effort.
And when everyone had finished there was the picnic going on. It was fabulous that people like Phil Couch and Rupert Robinson who were desperate to race themselves, but could not because of injury, still turned up to be there and cheer everyone on. Lots of people brought their families and there may well have been more than a hundred people present altogether.
It was nice to have some guests racing, who I am certain will be future members of the club. Good Luck to Charlie and Bethan in their big race - Ironman Wales in a fortnight.
In the end it was a great day for everyone! Well Done
Author: Steve Alden