Cleveland Wheelers at the Stockton Triathlon

A couple of months ago at the Evening Series Dave Kirton and myself were throwing around the idea of entering a Cleveland Wheelers team at the relay event at the Stockton Triathlon. Problem was finding a swimmer as Dave opted for the cycle leg and fearing drowning I volunteered for the 10k run. Step forward Neil Mentier and so he became the final piece of The Iron Kirtons – that’s the name you end up with if you put Dave in charge of the entry! However I have to say it’s a name that we’ve all become fond of.

Fast forward to the day of the event itself and I am looking on quite concerned as Dave tries to extract his keys from his car seat. We haven’t set off yet and he’s somehow managed to get them jammed down the back of the seat and I’m worried that he’s going to start dismantling it. If it was anyone else I would be unconcerned but I’m reminded of an incident in the Spring where he locked our bikes to a metal fence while we went for a tea stop in a cafe. After half an hour of trying to find the right combination to free the lock he had to resort to a trip around the retailers of Stokesley in a search for some cable cutters. No such problems today though as he wrestles the keys free and soon we’re on our way.

The event has a great feel to it, decent crowds, a DJ/commentator and tension. Yes tension, I think we’re all a bit anxious that if we ‘muck up’ it won’t be only our own race ruined. We’ve also got our wives there and a collection of friends and family to cheer us on, and a great job they did too, but it all adds to the pressure. The day before Dave had been sending me and Neil a series of texts with short messages such as ‘tomorrow it’s judgement day!’ which seem to have affected him more than us. He was a man on the edge, living on his adrenalin, fearful of a puncture, a transition violation of some sort, of not being able to warm up, all sorts of things in fact. The reality was I had the easiest job. Neil would be up against all the other athletes while they were full of energy, nervous and physical, Dave would have to weave his way through a very twisting, technical bike route and had potential mechanical issues to think about. For Dave it was also his first multi discipline event whereas Neil had done Triathlons before and I had done an awful lot of Duathlon (run/bike/run) events until about three years ago. So all I had to do was run, I didn’t even have to get out of my cycling shoes into my running shoes to do it and I would be up against other athletes who, in the main, had already done a 1,500 metre swim and a 40k bike.

Also there on the day were Cleveland Wheelers John Kettle, Joe Foley, Sandra Main, Tony Main doing a solid job marshalling, while Kay Stokes was winning her age category in the full event, and Kath Blakey was doing likewise in the sprint event. Good performances were also being put in by club members Stefan and Kevin McLoughlin in the sprint, with son narrowly edging out father, while other CW members John McGuigan and Rebecca Kirton were cheering us all on. A great turnout for the club!

Neil was up first up for the team and as he lowered himself into the cold waters of the Tees I didn’t envy the task ahead of him. The tension steadily built and then the hooter went off signalling the start of the race. We cheered him on but to be honest it’s difficult picking out a swimmer when all you can see is their head, which has the same colour cap on as nearly all the other swimmers. The distance that he had to swim seemed huge and made me realise that I will probably never be able to complete a full distance triathlon, especially with an open water swim. He came out of the water bang on the 25 minutes he’d estimated, the Iron Kirtons were on track, but for what? Normally in transition an athlete has many things to contend with, fatigue, falling over, forgetting to put your helmet on, struggling to get your footwear off and on etc. All we had to do was simply exchange the timing band from one athlete’s ankle to the other. Soon Dave was off and carving through the field, as we watched it was clear that he was going quickly but as there were also competitors from the sprint event and lapped athletes intertwined with Dave’s progress and knowing where we were placed wouldn’t become apparent until the second transition.

I was waiting in transition talking to the other runners from the relay teams when Dave came in, inside the top 20 overall and possibly, I thought at the time, second out of the teams. As Dave wheeled his bike up towards our spot for racking the bike where I was waiting something seemed to have happened to him. Out on the circuit somewhere someone had replaced his legs with solid wooden stumps, he was moving about, but didn’t seem to be getting any nearer. ‘Come on!’ I urged, when he got there he groaned that there was no way he could do a run as he’d cramped up ‘you don’t have to I’m doing it’, I said as we hurriedly got the strap onto my ankle. Dave had done a ride of around 63 minutes, a great time on a very twisty track in windy conditions.

The standard of running in triathlons is sometimes scarily quick so I figured that if I maintained our position I would be happy with it and after around 10 minutes of running I’d passed someone but had also been passed by another athlete who seemed to be running around 35-36 minute pace, too quick for me, so I decided not to follow. The athletes on the run were quite spaced out and the route was very intricate so you couldn’t always see the athlete just in front and now it was my turn to get nervous. I took a wrong turn at one point, probably costing us only 5 seconds or so, but I started to worry that I might also cost us a good overall result. It was a relief to complete the first of the two 5K laps and the time was around 19.20 which was also a relief as there were no kilometre markers so pacing was quite tricky (my only criticism of the event at all!). At this point other athletes were entering the circuit for their first laps so I had no idea who was on the same lap as us and who I was lapping. So for the rest of the lap I just concentrated on catching whoever was in front of me and ran as quickly as I thought I could sustain. At one point on the far side of the river from the finish I thought I could hear people shouting ‘Paul!’ and it was only after I’d finished that I found out it was the cheers from my wife Shelly and the rest of our entourage, I couldn’t believe I could hear it that far away. The support at the finish dragged a sprint out of me and I managed a time just inside 38 minutes, a PB over 10K for me.

Our team time was 2.10.58 which was what we thought we could do if we all performed to our maximum so it was really pleasing and when we were told that we had won the Relay event it put the icing on the cake, almost. We knew that we had won when the organiser announced ‘winners of the relay event in 2.10…’ 2.10 we thought, it has to be us. We waited for him to say the team name which we had all grown to know and love – The Iron Kirtons! – instead he rather disappointingly said ‘the team entered by Dave Kirton’. Still we got our photos taken with the Mayor and it had been a great day.

Results from Cleveland Wheelers Taking Part (apologies if I’ve missed anyone)

Sprint Event
12th Stefan McLoughlin – 1.14.46
13th Kevin McLoughlin – 1.14.56
25th Kath Blakey – 1.20.25 (1st female V40)
Standard Event
14th The Iron Kirtons – 2.10.58 (1st in relay cat)
95th Kay Stokes – 2.41.55 (1st female V50)

Paul Christon – August 2011