Arthur Puckrin – A tribute
Arthur Puckrin, who sadly died recently, was a long time member of Cleveland Wheelers and for many years was a regular feature at the Evening Series.
Cycling was not his chosen sport however. He was primarily a triathlete or more specifically an ultra triathlete. He was attracted to endurance events which took days to complete.
Before we had the club website Arthur used to write up his exploits for inclusion in the club magazine, The Spokesman. This is one such article which appeared in the Winter 2002/03 edition.
I think it gives some indication of the measure of the man.
In the fast lane at Lake Anna
The USA Triple Ironman Championships,6th and 7th September 2002
(8 mile swim, 336 mile cycle and 80 mile run)
After my ninth place in the World Double Ironman Championships in Quebec, I accepted an invitation to compete in the American Triple Ironman Championship to be held in Virginia, about sixty miles south of Washington. After a twelve hour journey from the UK, we were pleased to be met by out hosts, Cris and Carl, who were very interested in our efforts as their son, Carl III, competed in adventure racing in the USA, they would be able to sample something of what he was getting up to. They took us to their magnificent home on the shores of Lake Anna in which the swim part of the event would be held. Cris and Carl were anxious to be involved in the event so I immediately enlisted them in my support crew, where they were able to provide a most valuable service.
I have always found Americans to be a most hospitable people and so it proved. We were looked after very well, our hosts took us all over, we had a boat trip on Lake Anna and a visit to the former home of Thomas Jefferson, third President of the USA. In the meantime I swam each day in the lake, which was easy to do as the shores reached our hosts’ garden.
Lake Anna proved to be a most beautiful place surrounded by mature trees about sixty feet in height and home to eagles and osprey, deer, wild dogs and in the lake, I saw a fresh water bass of such size that had I seen it in the sea, would have thought it was a small whale.
Unfortunately, I had picked up a chest infection whilst on the plane and soon became unwell. On the Wednesday before the race, I has a day in bed and if I had been at home would have cancelled my entry to the race. I felt some improvement on the Thursday and having travelled to the USA felt obliged to at least start the race and see how things went.
We went to the barbecue and race briefing on the Thursday evening and met our fellow competitors, some I knew from Europe, but the Americans were an unknown quantity, I knew they would all be determined to make a good showing and to complete the course.
It was early to bed and up at 4 am ready for a prompt start at 7 am. The lake was calm and it was a long steady swim. Carl, a former American Ranger and Vietnam veteran, performed services above and beyond the call of duty when he waded out waist deep into the stream every thirty minutes to ensure that I received a drink. Apart from the wash of passing speed boats the swim was without incident and I left the water after 5 hours 38 minutes feeling quite good. A quick change, something to eat and drink and I was on the bike and away in pursuit of Beat Knechtle of Switzerland who had over two hours start on me.
The bike course was a circuit of the State Park with two steep climbs and a sharp U-turn in the road at each end. We would have to complete the circuit 45 times. It was going to be a long, hard ride. It was humid and very hot, about 95 degrees, fortunately we had some shade from the tall trees which lined the route. I was dismayed to find I was making no improvement in my position, normally, I would expect to make an immediate improvement on the bike.
My support crew met me at the top of the steep climb at the start of each lap and gave me something to eat or drink when I was travelling at no more than walking pace. Mary, the coach, said “it is very hot, take it easy until dark and then blast it”. This was good advice as I was struggling to keep up. I managed to complete 120 miles before dark. Now things improved, although I was tired, everyone else was feeling it more. I began to lap the field. I knew what I had to do, keep riding until it became daylight. Early in the morning, I became very cold, unusual for me. I stopped to put on a long sleeved shirt and nearly fell off the bike. I was very dizzy. I stopped for five minutes, had a drink, rode another two laps but felt no better. I knew that I was in the lead at this point and was unwilling to stop, but if I kept going I risked a crash. I stopped and had a sleep in the back of Carl’s van for two hours until it became daylight. I was reluctant to leave a warm bed, but once on the bike again, I felt a lot better, speed picked up, only about sixty miles to go. The park was home to many small deer. They were not frightened of the bicycle and several times they ran across my path in the half light and nearly brought me down. Surprisingly, despite my stop, I was still in second place.
It was becoming agonising now, “who had this bright idea to compete in a Triple Ironman” I asked myself, particularly as I rode up the hill at the start of each new lap. Surely, I could not have much more to do. Everyone was struggling at this stage and I tried to close on the leader, Chris Bergland, USA, last year’s winner. Then he was off the bike and running, I was not far behind. Now as usual in triathlon, it was all down to the run.
The bike course had been tricky as well as severe, several times I had been off the track in daylight until I got used to the sharpness of the corners. At night it had been far worse. There were no lights at all apart from a few candles on poles which the organisers had placed along the route. These served only to reduce our night vision and created smoke. On the darkest part of the route I was very fortunate to escape an encounter with the trees as I left the road, over corrected and hit the verge on the opposite side. I had a light on each side of the bike which did help, but in any event I escaped serious mishap. Now after 24 hours 55 minutes, I was off the bike, saddle sore, very tired but with only the run to do, nearly finished now!
The run was 30 laps, one mile uphill and the other down. It was in the heat of the day when I started, I resolved to walk uphill and run down. It was so hot and humid I found it very difficult to even run down. I did one lap, stop, sit down, drink, sponge down then off again. After ten miles in the heat of the day I felt my heel start to blister. I changed into walking boots, again walk uphill, eat, drink, run down and tried to run a bit more each lap. Then Beat came off his bike, I had six laps start, probably not enough the way I was feeling. I kept going, ticking off each lap, I knew I would finish now, I did not feel too bad, just very weary.
Then more people joined us on the running track, suddenly I realised I was running much better. I had done forty miles, halfway, the end is in sight. I was very tired now and wanted the end to come. It was totally dark, I could just see the white line in the middle of the road. I kept to it, I was running through a small dark tunnel, I could see people ahead of me, I caught them up it was only a candle in the middle of the road to light the way. I saw another person, I was catching him up, only another light, on and on, tick off another lap, drink, sponge down, continue.
It slowly became light, Cris who had had a night off after sterling duty on the first night returned refreshed, she ran with me for four laps, running downhill, walking uphill. With four laps to go Carl took over pace making duties. Beat told me I was looking tired and that I should take a rest. I told him I would have a good rest after I had finished. He said “you are two laps in front of me, if you rest I can catch you up”. I laughed and continued. I increased my lead over him to three laps and then four, I was safe in second place. I had almost come to a stop and at the end of the next lap had a sit down, a good feed and a cup of coffee. This revived me somewhat and Carl and I marched on to the finish. It was now afternoon, the temperature was extremely high, but I managed to obtain a bag of ice from the cool box which I rubbed over my body and head as I walked towards the finish. It did work and provided welcome relief.
Eventually, the last lap, round once more and then finish, except there was a sting in the tail. Don Mann, timekeeper and organiser, told me as I crossed the line that the lap counters had made a mistake and I had cycled one lap short, could I complete it now. I had a rest, a cup of tea and a sit down. My cycle shoes would not fit as my feet had swollen, so, with the walking boots on I cycled round with Don one last time. Although I had done it 45 times, I could not remember where it was. I had to rely on Don to show me the way. I cycled one last lap of honour. The run time was 26 hours 19 minutes.
My thanks to my support crew of Mary, Cris and Carl without whom I could not have conrpleted the race and to organisers, Don and Dawn, and all at Odyssey Adventure Racing for a great event and a very challenging course. Although the race was obviously very hard, I must say that I had one of the most enjoyable weeks of my entire life.
The results were as follows :-
|4||Marc Wilkes||USA (Colorado)||59:50|
|5||Eileen Steil||USA (Georgia)||59:50|
|6||Walter Rowle||USA (Virginia)|
Congratulations once again to Arthur on a memorable achievement. Just as Spokesman was going to press I found out that Arthur had been up to his tricks again. This time by WINNING the world deca-biathlon championship held in Mexico. Yes, that’s ten times the normal Ironman distances for cycling and running. Phew!
Arthur Puckrin 1938 – 2018
For a broader account of Arthur’s sporting life see his obituary in the Yorkshire Post.