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 finished off with a full marathon of 26.2 miles.
Bexson had a solid first lap on the swim and felt strong, while the second lap was a little choppier though 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 with the computer that changes the gears on the bike, which 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.
Bexson 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.
Hibberd surprised herself by finishing 10th 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 PB.
The Ironman 70.3 Weymouth was also over the half distance, but due to the warm but windy weather conditions, the sea swim was reduced to 950m.
Five triathletes from Stratford TC were in the field and while three were experienced at the distance, one was debuting at the distance and another, Karl Harris, was contesting their 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,” he said.
“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 Brian 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 as much as the race.”
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 Stratford TC 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, but I loved the support and camaraderie of the Stratford AC club mates,” he said.