Cheltenham Triathlon Club sent a small party of six athletes down to the south coast this weekend to take part in the annual Swanage Triathlon. The race has become one of the classics on the triathlon calendar due to its spectacular setting and the warm and professional organisation of Concept Sport.
The race starts on the sandy beach of Swanage Bay with a 1500m swim. After swimming out 50m you then swim 700m parallel with the beach across to the old stone quay. Here you normally exit the water, climb a number of ancient stone steps, cross the quay and then re-enter the water, but due to a considerable swell and quite rough seas, it was deemed too dangerous, so a buoy was designated the turn point before swimming back the 750m to the beach.
Quite a long transition then starts with a run along the sea front and up a dozen or so steps to the grassy transition area laid out in a park with spectacular views across the bay. After a transition which would involve the removal of wetsuits and the attachment of bike helmets it was onto the bike for a 40km circuit taking in the countryside around Corfe Castle before heading off towards Wareham and then back to Swanage.
The bike course is generally flat but there are two quite steep and technical descents. Once back in transition it was on with the run shoes and off for the 10km run. Not quite at Mo Farah's pace but hey, he hadn't swum 1500m and cycled 40km!
A short flat run out of town in the heat of by now a hot and sunny Sunday morning was then followed by a quite horrific ascent of Ballard Down. This involved many dozens of large steps, hued into the chalk, climbing steeply up to over 500 feet. Once onto the beautiful downland of the Purbeck Hills you then run past a stone Obelisk, built in 1883 appropriately enough, due to the considerable thirst that most of the triathletes were feeling at this point, to commemorate the provision of new drinking water supplies for Swanage.
After a mile or two of running with spectacular views across Swanage and Studland Bays it was a steep descent down sheep tracks back into Swanage.
Of the three ladies from Cheltenham Tri Club who took part Emma Godson came in first with a time of 2hrs and 36min. She was placed 6th female finisher overall with a spectacular swim time of 23 mins in the rough and difficult conditions and came 2nd in the 30-34 age group category. Finishing shortly after her in a time of 2hrs and 37min was Petra Vymetalova who did brilliantly to finish first in her 25-29 age group with a brilliant run time of 42 mins for the hilly 10km.
Sue Bathgate, the founding member of the club and successful international triathlete, kept up the high standards and picked up the prize for 1st place in her 60-64 age group with a time of 2hrs 43mins and placing only 12th woman finisher overall.
It was now up to the male club members to try and keep up the high standards set by the women and new club member Mark Roberts made a good start getting round his first sea swim triathlon in a time of 2hrs 33mins finishing 74th overall. His time was improved on by Doug Waymark, coming in 35th overall in a time of 2hrs 24mins and finishing 8th in the 35-39 age group. His 1hr 5min for the 40km hilly bike, the 6th fastest of the day, was particularly impressive.
Picking up another prize for the club was Jez Preston-Jones who finished 23rd overall in a time of 2hrs 22mins and placed 2nd in his age group 45-49. He had a particularly good swim followed by his normally strong bike leg.
The Ladies proved too strong and took all the plaudits on the day, with their two 1st place and one 2nd place finishers and walked away with the 'Victor Ludorum trophy' three bottles of good Claret, for the best female team members results.
A hugely successful club outing and although there was now a long drive home all who took part felt that the trip had been well worthwhile and a return visit next year with reinforcements to seriously plunder the prize giving ceremony would be a great idea.