Three local triathletes have qualified for a place at the sport’s ultimate race after impressing at the English Ironman at the weekend.
North Luffenham’s Ironman Roger Canham is the British age group champion in the 50-54 year old category after coming 22nd overall in the Bolton Ironman triathlon on Sunday.
After months of hard training, Rutland Running and Triathlon Club coach Zoe Smith also produced a stunning performance in Bolton to finish fourth in her age group.
Paul Cowling, 29, from Stamford, also competed with impressive results. He finished in 46th position in a time of 10:21:00, to come fourth in his age group.
All three athletes have qualified for the 2014 Ironman World Championships in Kaiua-Kona, Hawaii, on October 11.
Canham completed the 140.6-mile course in 10:02:37 on Sunday and Smith finished in 11:24:18, fourth in her 30-34 age group.
Earlier this year, Canham won a slot to the Half-Ironman 70.3 Championships in Canada in September and he has now made it a year for doing the Ironman World Championship Double - the Half Ironman in Canada in September and Full Ironman in Hawaii in October
The two athletes will now join an elite select few, 2,000 of the fittest, fastest endurance athletes from around the world, to take on the famous course where they will swim in the Pacific Ocean and cycle and run through the barren lava fields of Kona on the Big Island of Hawai’i.
Along the Kona Coast, black lava rock dominates the panorama, and athletes battle the “ho’omumuku” crosswinds of 45mph, 95 degree temperatures and a scorching sun.
On Sunday, the pair were among a field of more than 1,500 triathletes competing over the Ironman Triathlon distance that includes a 2.4-mile open water swim, 112-mile cycle ride and a 26.2-mile marathon run.
In very hot and humid conditions, Smith finished 13th woman home (9th if professional triathletes excluded) out of 180 women who completed and 169th overall.
The course included a beautiful 2.4-mile lake swim in Pennington Flash which Smith completed in 1 hour 5mins at which point she was running in 18th position in the women’s race, third in her age group.
After a quick transition, it was onto a very hilly bike stage from Pennington Flash and onto breathtaking Lancashire countryside which included the infamous climb up Sheep House Lane where spectators can get up close and personal with the triathletes in ‘Tour de France’ style. Smith completed the 112-mile bike stage in 6hrs 23mins and had moved up to 14th position.
After another fast transition, the 26.2-mile run stage involved three loops of a circuit in Bolton town centre before finishing in Victoria Square.
The Rutland coach completed the run in an amazing 3 hrs 49mins and moved up another place to eventually finish 13th woman home.
“That was one tough race” said Zoe afterwards. “I couldn’t have given any more on the day. Kona here I come – yahoo.”
Canham said: “There were lots of friends and family on the course, really helping to keep me on task, in the lead and heading for the tape. I crossed the line chuffed to have bagged the win, booked my ticket to Kona and finished 22nd overall.
“It was a great result and my year at the ripe age of 50 would be marked with the Ironman World Championship double, it’s not all bad getting old”.
Talking about the race Canham said: “It’s a two lap swim and I beat my expectations with a sub 63 minute swim.
“I set about hunting down the guys in my age group, managing to bag my first scalp before we hit the two 45-mile loops on the bike course.
“I hit T2 behind plan and uncertain how much I had left myself to do. As I exited,a friend shouted out third place, two minutes off second, 10 minutes off the lead. This put me in a really good place mentally, I could relax, find my running legs and if I simply held a reasonable Ironman pace I would be good for third and a Kona slot, but of course I was there to compete and not settle for third.
“I nailed second within five miles and then reeled in first by 11 miles, legs feeling great I just pushed on but being careful not to overreach. Not a time for heroics, just tap out the pace and make it to the finish line.”