Thank you to Sylvia Yates for providing us with this race report from Ironman 70.3 in Staffordshire on the 18th June. Congratulations on a fantastic race and an age group win!
Ok, truth time. I did it because I wanted to lay the ghost of Vichy 70.3 2016 when I was timed out on the bike. The temperatures in France were punishing and I really struggled. So Staffordshire (Staffs) seemed a cooler option with a good lead in time to prepare.
Ha! What a joke. True, I did prepare better this year but the heat was the same as Southern France on 18 June this year and the bike course, to me, was much tougher than Vichy. Whoever described Staffs as fast and flat is a sadist. It is fast on the descents, true, but there is often a headwind on the flat and the rest is – well, hills.
Do I recommend it? Yes – but see last paragraph. As a testing 70.3 experience ahead of a European race it is good to get the Ironman regime nailed. And Staffs is tricky logistically since it is not circular. T2 is 13 miles from T1 and the set up arrangements are complicated, putting it politely. But there were practice rides to be had with Staffs Tri Club and Chasewater was open for swims on designated days too so that all helped with really good tips for race day from the locals.
The swim: 19 deg C and lovely. The water is beautifully clean and there are rules about wetsuit cleanliness in order to protect the organisms in it. Apart from the waves from a motorboat all was smooth. My thoughts were with the poor soul who needed the motorboat rescue!
The bike: see above. On the day it was strictly marshalled and there are a couple of nasty bits, eg a horrible route over the dam wall at Chasewater aka ‘bottle cage alley’ and a steep descent with a left bend that collects bodies. I saw two, there were intact but in a heap. The killer is the hill into Cannock Chase at about mile 52, a seemingly never ending slog.
The run: I am sure the route around the Shugborough estate is beautiful but 13 miles in 34 + deg C was not conducive to appreciating it much. However the local folk in the two villages we went through were wonderful. They had rigged up hosepipes and were outside their homes with ice cubes, jugs of water and lots of noise to urge us on. The food and water stations were fantastic too with volunteers who really understood the effect the heat was having. One word – brutal.
My special thanks go to STC and family supporters on the day. All that way to fry as well! But the sad news is that that will be the last Staffs Ironman 70.3, well with the same course. The National Trust own Shugborough now and do not want the land turned into a weekend car park in future. I think there is a plan to continue with the event somewhere in Staffordshire but the venue/venues may be different. Let’s hope so, it a lovely county.
That was my last middle distance race so a fitting way to retire – the words ‘never again’ were uttered with more feeling than before. I am sticking to standard and sprints from now on!