THE AUTUMN long distance triathlon season has attracted several of the leading Stratford Triathlon Club athletes into successful action.
Leading the way was Emma Bexson who competed in Ironman Tenby over the full distance of 2.4 miles swim, 112 miles bike and a full marathon of 26.2 miles.
The race started with a beautiful morning and an inviting sea and amazing atmosphere. Bexson had a solid first lap on the swim and felt strong, while the second lap was a little choppier although she still felt good.
The long climb up off the beach took its toll, but she was soon out on her bike, feeling right at home on the undulating and technical course, until at 50 miles in she had a problem.
Her Di2 – the computer which changes the gears on the bike – limited her to the small chain ring on the front and reduced the number of gears she had.
She kept cool and resourceful until the final 12 miles when she had to cope with no gear changing and two big climbs to go. She focused hard to dig deep to bring the bike home and was soon out on to the brutal and energy-sapping run course.
The vocal crowds were out in force and, with regular feedback from club-mate Emily Adams and the rest of support crew, Bexson finished in 11 hours, 31 minutes and 59 seconds to win her age group by a full 15 minutes and qualify for the 2020 World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
“I’m thrilled to achieve my goal – a first place and a place in Kona, which has been my target all year,” said Bexson. “This truly amazing race should be on every triathlete’s bucket list.”
ONE week prior, Cadie Hibberd raced in her first half Ironman in Woburn on a pleasant undulating course. She enjoyed swimming in the clear water and cycling through the Duke’s deer park, but the run was her favourite part.
Hibberd surprised herself by finishing tenth woman and second in her category. Her combined time was six hours, five minutes and 16 seconds – which included a half marathon clocking of 1:38:25 – just marginally outside her personal best.
IRONMAN 70.3 Weymouth is also over the half distance but, due to the warm but windy weather conditions, the sea swim was reduced to 950m. Five triathletes from STC were in the field and, while three were experienced at the distance, one was debuting at the distance and another, Karl Harris, was contesting his first triathlon.
Despite his inexperience, Harris was first of the Stratford contingent in a total time of 6:26:05.
“My first Ironman 70.3 had tough conditions with the weather but I found it weirdly enjoyable. There was lots of encouragement from friends and family on the route to help me dig deep when I needed to. It’s amazing what you can achieve on a diet of chips. Here’s to the next one.”
For Brian Weetman, it was a return to the race after last year’s freezing wet and windy foray. As swimming is his strongest discipline, he was disappointed to see the shortened swim which he dispatched pretty quickly and without incident.
The undulating cycle course went well until a puncture but he still showed a 25-minute improvement on last year. The run was hard from the first kilometre to the last with a strong wind leading to a comparatively slow time finishing in a total time of 6:50:47.
“The event was marvellous with such a great spirit among the other Stratford athletes and supporters,” he said. “It was a complete joy and I’ll remember it for the great companionship.”
Rebecca Pridham was racing this distance for the first time and had significant nerves going into her first Ironman event but, once the bike was racked and the race briefing attended, her nerves settled.
The swim was a tough one for her but once the panic of the cold had calmed down and her rhythm was in place, she finished the swim in 25 minutes. The bike, albeit with rain and wind, was an absolute joy for her though and she finished in 3:48 which was faster than she had expected. She completed the half marathon run in 2:33 for an overall combined time of 7:05:14.
“It’s an achievement I am very proud of,” she said. “My aim for the weekend was to complete an Ironman 70.3 and I was delighted to have finished and well within the cut-offs too.
“My support crew of Emily Adams and my youngest daughter Kate were loud and highly visible with their union flag gilets on. Having them and so many other Stratford triathletes there made for a superb experience.
Next for Stratford was Rebecca Loftus in a time of 7:23:53. After a difficult build-up to the race, she was delighted to finish, especially as she too suffered with punctures on the bike leg.
The final STC athlete to complete the race was Paul Nash in 8:24:01. This was quite a remarkable performance as Nash had four punctures, the worst of which was the third, which saw him running a couple of kilometres back to the feed station to plead for a spare tube. Then, with just 5km to go, came puncture number four.
After running up hills with the bike, pumping up a punctured tyre to roll down the hills, he got into transition with sore feet and legs. The run was understandably going to be a challenge, but seeing the Stratford supporters and other Stratford triathletes kept him going, despite the wind, rain and cramp.
He reached the last kilometres where he was greeted by club-mate Emily Adams, shouting encouragement and running with him to the finishing mat.
“It was a challenging day,” said Nash, “but I loved the support and camaraderie of the Stratford AC club-mates.”