It’s been another highly successful season for the triathlon team with a number of outstanding individual performances and others in the club hitting new personal heights of achievement.  The overall highlight within the club might be that we have three athletes going to the world Ironman championships in Kona – that’s covered in a separate article above so this article covers the achievements of the other members of the club.  Once again there has been a definite focus on long distance racing.

Van is the man

In the first quarter of this year Vanrisch McLean was regularly coaching at our Caterham swim training sessions.  At the time he was new to the club and not everyone knew him well.  Within a month of the season starting however, we all knew something about him; he is a very fast triathlete, especially at half ironman distance!

In April, Van the man went to Cannes, in the south of France, and came 15th out of 982 at the iconic triathlon this weekend there, completing a 2km swim, 107km hilly bike and 16km run in 4:54.  In doing so he beating a number of professionals.  To put this time in context, the race winner, one Javier Gomez Noya, finished in 4:27.

Three weeks later he finished Challenge Lisbon in 3:54 to finish as the second age grouper overall.  I did that course in 6:26 one year and am totally proud of that time, so Van’s time blows my mind a bit.

Then Van went on to finish 14th age grouper overall at the Challenge Championship in Samorin.  This is the flagship event of the Challenge Family, one that requires qualification so only the best are there.  Despite the outstanding finish Van expressed mild disappointment at his race.  High standards indeed.

By this stage he had been invited to compete in the elite British duathlon championship, finishing 20th.  But results alone do not tell the whole story of this summer in his household.

Van’s fiancée is fellow SLH triathlete Sara Thomas and in June they had a baby daughter, Lucy.  Many congratulations to them.  We’ve missed having her around racing with us this summer and look forward to her return next year.

We challenged Roth

Long-distance triathlon expertise within the club isn’t restricted to our three Kona qualifiers.  Indeed there are some other, hugely-prestigious long-distance triathlons that don’t offer Kona qualification because they’re run by different organisations.  Challenge Roth in Bavaria is a particularly notable one.  Like Kona, it’s very difficult to get into… but for totally different reasons.  It’s open to everyone but sells out online within a couple of minutes like it’s Glastonbury or something.  So it almost feels like I should be giving kudos to Jamie, Mark and Clint just for getting onto the start line.  A 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42km run after that is the easy bit, right?

Well, of course not, even if one of the reasons for the popularity of Roth is the speed of the course, not many hills to have to ride up.  Jamie, Mark and Clint all produced mighty performances, finishing in 10:45, 12:15 and 12:43 respectively in heat Mark described as “brutal”.  Jamie described the race as “swim was like the start of Saving Private Ryan, bike utterly spellbindingly brilliant and on the run I just set the plodometer to ‘plod’ and kept on going”.  Clint himself has recently become a dad so many congratulations to him too.  It must have been hard to find time for training.

Jamie’s Swiss challenge

That was not all for Jamie this summer, as for the second year in a row he completed the iconic but hugely difficult Powerman long distance duathlon in the Swiss Alps.  The eight hour race featured an epic length (9.2km run, 150km bike, 30km run) and lots of ascents and descents.

Maisie’s perfect 10 – Juniors roundup

For the first time ever this year, SLH was represented at all ten races in the London Junior Series, which of itself was great to see.  Quite simply, this is thanks to Maisie Gibbins, in her first season with SLH, who completed all the Tristar 3 race at all ten rounds of the series, at venues as far-flung as Hillingdon, Hackney, Richmond and Greenwich – all four corners of Greater London.  In addition she did an extra race at Eton Dorney in the SuperTri which was draft legal on the bike, a new skill to learn.  Huge commitment on the part of Maisie, who has also been a regular at Monday night swimming, and her parents.  Her dad, Matt, has been keeping us up to date on her performances on the WhatsApp group and we’ve been really impressed.

Maisie’s performances are set out in full in the Results section and she finished second in the league in her age group.  She was selected to represent London at the National Under 20s Triathlon Festival at Mallory Park racing circuit in September along with some tremendously talented young athletes.  She finished 25th in the Tristar 3 race, and her best discipline on the day was the bike where she recorded the 10th fastest split time.

Elsewhere, in her final year competing in the junior series, Tansie McNamara produced her best overall finish, third overall in the Junior category for the oldest of the young athletes.  Like Patrick Bew and Owen Cawood, she progressed to competing in senior races during the season.

We were well represented again in the London Junior Series – well done to Edward Favell, Noah Findell, George Ogden, Harry Ogden, Lilia Jackson, Lina Opel, Oliver Taplin, Madeleine Tomkins and Ben Whyatt who also completed at least one race in the series.  Edward, Lina and Oliver were competing for us for the first time.  Hope you enjoyed it.

Ben had a great season, with a particular highlight outside the Junior Series being a first place finish in the TriStar 2 Boys race at the Sussex Aquathlon on 3 June.  Madeleine was second girl in the TriStar 3 race at the same event.  Ben’s sister Jess competed for us for the first time this year too.

Arthur Vincent finished first in the TriStar 1 Boys race at the Windrush Aquathlon on 24 June, another non-Junior Series race.  He was the fastest swimmer and the fastest runner in the race.

Successes everywhere

We really do seem to have had a successful summer from lots of people.  Not only has it been filled with super quick performances but it's also featured some major personal bests and numerous athletes in the club winning races.

We welcomed a number of new GB age groupers during the year.  Nick McNamara completed the world aquabike championship (3km swim and 120km bike) in Denmark in July, Shelley Baker completed the European standard distance triathlon in Scotland in August and Carmen Poel the world sprint triathlon championship (for Spain) at Gold Coast in Australia in September.  Harvey qualified for the same reason but decided not to take it up.  Simon Arnold makes his GB debut in Ibiza at the end of October at middle distance triathlon.

Jo Whiting won the ladies’ Mid-Sussex Aquabike outright.

Gary Laybourne, in amongst his Ironman training and races, represented the club in several early season London League races and was in terrific form.  After winning the Kingfisher Aquathlon at the start of the season he then followed it up by winning the Crystal Palace triathlon, the second time he's won the event.

Mark, Ross and Stuart completed the Swashbuckler at picturesque Bucklers Hard in the New Forest.  Special mention to Ross as it was his first half ironman.  After a couple of years where injury has prevented him from stepping up to the distance, it was fantastic to see him complete his first, in 5:05.

Alix Ramsier completed his first triathlon for the club at Thorpe Park where he was 9th in his age groups at the national sprint championship and finished it off with a 5km run in 17:11 - some of the run speed we've come to enjoy in the running races!  Gary won his age group national championship at the same race (2nd overall) and Harvey won national bronze in his age group.

Leena Lindvall has been a regular in the endurance events this season with a large number of good finishes.  Particular kudos for completing the Hever Gauntlet in 7:28.  After a lot of us completed that race last year we knew how hard the course was, but Leena wasn’t deterred and it was an Irrepressible performance.

Her fellow Finn Sari Leppälä returned after the birth of her daughter Isla with a bang – she was all over the second half of the season completing long swims, long rides, a swimrun and long triathlons.

Arthur's mum Gillian finished 5th in the supersprint tri at Ardingly.

Dan Quinn had a terrific season including an age group win at the Bewl Water triathlon in Wadhurst.

Clint Sauls charged around the half ironman at Sieraków in Poland, a true Irrepressible completing the course despite technical problems on the bike, and unfortunately losing his helmet in T1.  Whilst in Poland, he also completed the 5150 non-drafting Olympic distance race in Warsaw.

Lucy Ashdown-Parkes swam the 3.8km River Arun swim in 50 minutes.

Simon Arnold, aka ‘Le Hair' (or ‘Le No Hair’ as he has started calling himself after he had a haircut early in the season!) completed the Lakesman half ironman on the most brutal course I can imagine, finishing 5th overall to boot.  Good GB practice there.

Team spirit

You don't have to be as fast as Van or Gary to join SLH and do triathlon.  On the contrary, we welcome all abilities.

We’ve been delighted to welcome a number of new faces to the club.  Some are experienced triathletes, some not, but it has been great to meet you at training or races.  It’s been great to welcome Ian, Dan, Reggie, Jonathan and Simon among others to training during the course of the year and to support everyone in your races.  As usual we’ve been sharing our experience using the Tri Irrepressibility WhatsApp group which has been full of updates from our experiences during the summer.  This article and the photos around it are intended to represent a summary of our experiences during the year.

We enjoyed a number of events outside races over the summer including an early season cold water swim at Diver’s Cove, and the ever popular MADTri social event in September.  Held this year on a very wet Saturday, the MADTri did not contain a huge amount of cycling…by mid afternoon they were reporting that they had only cycled 2km.  Still the pub was nice and the company excellent.

In June we staged a cycle maintenance workshop.  Around 20 of us came to Purley fire station for the event, which Andy Collins arranged, and many thanks indeed to Rob and Liam from bike maintenance website VONCRANK for coming and putting on a really useful practical and interactive session.

There’s not room to pick out many non-racing moments to mention but special mention to Katie Wills and her husband Ali on the birth of their daughter Daisy in June.  Katie’s back in swim training already and it’s great to have her back.

Autumn events

We have two social events coming up soon.

Firstly, as mentioned in the Ironman article, our Kona night is coming up on Saturday 13 October.  We’re still sorting it as I write this so we’ll put details up on the tri website at southlondonharriers.org/triathlon.

Then, on Saturday 10 November, it’s our annual end of season awards night!  (OK, we didn’t do this as a proper event last year… Nick, we haven’t forgotten you won the Points Cup in 2017, you will be recognised for it!).  This will take place at the Imperial restaurant on the Purley Way, choice of Chinese or Indian for buffet dinner and we’re going to have a lot of fun.  The cost will be £27.50.  We will have limited spaces though and they’re going fast!  More details on the website if you’d like to come.

Also, don’t forget we’re going to Swanage over the weekend of 2-4 November.  There will definitely be running, I will definitely be swimming in the sea and if you want to bring a bike you’ll be in good company, I’m sure.  Details for this one are on the running website southlondonharriers.org.

End of an era

And finally, back to Captain Marvel.  Gary has decided that, after ten years in which he has conquered the world of triathlon, racing over ever lengthening distances and at an ever faster pace, injuries notwithstanding, he is going to take a step back from triathlon for a while.  It takes so much training to do what he does, especially at Ironman distance, that he has to give more time to work and family.  He’ll still be around training, doing bucket list type stuff and running regularly for SLH though.

He’s been our captain since the end of 2012 and, and has said it has been a privilege to hold that role.  He’s giving it up now as he believes we should have a club captain that is racing on the triathlon circuit.  A very hard act to follow though, in my view he’s been a fantastic and hugely popular skipper.

Just one more race to go then.  The Ironman World Championship.  Go get ‘em Gaz.