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The Bastion Full Distance 140.6

We are pleased to be able to share Andy Vincent’s recent triumph as he became the latest club member to join the ranks of the full 140.6 Iron distance Triathlon, up at Hever Castle. Congratulations from us all Andy; he certainly didn’t take the easy option in race selection as you will read from his inspirational, positive approach. Thanks to Dave Priest who unbeknown to Andy managed to sneak the following finish chute shots.



What do you do to celebrate becoming 50? Book on to an Iron Man – that’s what. And when you can’t get onto the flat and fast Lakesman event? Book on to one of the toughest events in the country of course.

The Bastion is based at Hever Castle in Kent. Childhood home of Anne Boleyn it lies at the north edge of the Ashdown Forest in beautiful (and hilly!) countryside. The race transition area is in front of the castle, the swim is in the lake and river at the back of the Italian Gardens, the bike course heads south across the top of the Forest and the run takes in fields and woodland and the grounds of the neighbouring castle at Chiddingstone.

Sunday morning was the usual up at 4am to fuel and hydrate ready for the off at 6. A subdued hush in transition area was suddenly broken by the news that Dick,the race referee,  had decided the water was too warm for wetsuits! After the disbelief had given way to shock and resignation the wetsuit was off again, goggles picked up and the walk to the swim briefing done.

The swim was two laps of a course that takes in the lake and connected river and contains two bridges per lap that give supporters a unique perspective on the race. The lake also contains water lilies (don’t try and swim through those) and some shallow channels (don’t try and swim through those). The only real drama of the swim, apart from no wetsuit, was being overtaken by three swimmers who were doing the 10k swim race. Madness!

Out of the swim in 1:24 and through transition it didn’t take long to be reminded of what I hadn’t done in the swim. No wetsuit meant that I hadn’t remembered to pee! Luckily halfway round the first of the three bike laps there was a toilet at the feedstation where I could do the necessary and discover half a ton of mud inside the tri suit from the swim!

The three laps of the bike course take in a total of 2590 metres of climbing in the 112 miles. Consequently it felt like I was either doing 4mph or 40mph. The first lap went very much to plan and having done two laps in training I was confident that I could stick to the plan. However as the sun got higher my energy levels went lower and no number of  gels and drinks could bring it back.

The other things that happened on the bike course included a rock choir outside Penshurst Place, two village fetes, numerous people enjoying their meals outside attractive country pubs and quite a few tractors with hay bales on massive trailers. Usual Sunday ride stuff but it adds to the sense of jeopardy when you are bombing through a village at 40 mph!

At some point on the third lap I recognised that I was no longer in competing mode and needed to switch to completing mode. So as I entered T2 and handed my bike over to the marshall I was considering my tactics to survive the heat and the distance. Cheered on by my wife and kids I left T2 still with a smile on my face determined that I’d got this sorted even if I wasn’t sure quite how. Half a mile into the run I left the front of the castle, turned into the gardens and almost stopped in my tracks as I tried to run up a gravel path. Halfway up I started walking and on the next three laps I never bettered that achievement.

Each lap of the run course took us on a route that included paths, farm tracks, quiet roads, sunken drovers roads, cross country horse jumps (optional), another castle and a moonscape of a wheat field that radiated heat at you. On a normal day it would be a great run course. With 150 metres of climbing per lap the overall climbing was two thirds the total climbing on the Three Forts Marathon! Nightmare! Walking the ups and running the downs was my survival plan. Laps 3 and 4 I started to feel a bit better and ran more of the flats and downs. But I never made it up the hills.

In other circumstances I might have felt disillusioned. On the day I felt grateful to be there and surviving. In fact I smiled nearly the whole day and Dick asked me to share my positivity with some of the other competitors.

I had targeted 14 hours as my goal and so 15 hours and 25 minutes was a big miss. However, 25% of those who started didn’t finish. I had survived (some people had been concerned that I might die!). I finished 5th in the old fellas race and 47th overall. Not bad for a first attempt and I’m sure my course PB will stay for a long time. Would I do it again? Yes. Would I do it at Hever Castle again? Yes, but I want to try other, flatter, events first. Will my wife and kids support me to do it again? No. But I’m hoping the pain is forgotten soon enough and I can hatch another mad plan.