Race Reports

1st place at Seaford Olympic

After a positive showing at Worthing in the sprint triathlon the weekend before where I finished 4th, I was mostly looking forward to my first Olympic distance event of the year down in Seaford. My friend had kindly lent me his TT bike after I had somehow managed to crack the top tube on my own bike a couple of weeks before - a super slick machine with a Zipp disc wheel at the back. Only problem was I am 6 ft tall and my friend is about 5'6" so every time I rode the bike my knees would bang into my elbows.

On Saturday the weather was gorgeous: no wind, no waves, sunny and warm. At the best of times my swimming resembles a drowning man and this race was not much different although I guess I managed to drown with at least "some" style coming out of the water in 11th place and sprinting up the steep shingle into T1. Aaaargh, Idiot! Having mounted my tri shoes on the bike I had forgotten to open up the straps on the shoes so I wobbled my way down the first 50m of the bike course getting my feet in. Right, time to monster. Seaford is a pan flat bike along the prom so it was relatively uneventful. The biggest challenge is counting 12 laps and avoid being taken out on the 22 180 degree turns you have to make but I survived intact and could see that I had made some gains on the cycle leg. A quick T2 and out onto the run. Where is everyone and who is the guy on the bike in front of me? It took me a good 30 seconds to realise I'd run out first. This was a unique experience for me and I spent the next 9.75km torturing myself with the thought that someone was going to run past me. My paranoia definitely helped me step on the gas and I managed to hang on to cross the line in 1st place, very proudly wearing my MSTC tri suit, of course! The last time I did this race in 2005 took me nearly 3 hours so pretty happy with that improvement!

Swim 30:18

Bike 1:03:26

Run 40:49

Total 2:14:33


Graeme Jeffery

Enduroman Ultra Triathlon Festival



This was a massive challenge for Helen, who is a keen runner but relatively new to triathlon (previous experience limited to a couple of sprint triathlons). Pippa, Steve and Jim are
seasoned long distance triathletes.

Helen's preparation was severely limited, initially by other commitments and then by a cycling accident. Practically all Helen's swimming and cycling training was to be done in the
fortnight before the race, but the first cycle training session on Preston Park Cycle Track ended in severe cuts and bruises when a dog ran into her front wheel at 20mph. The broken skin and limb pains had just 10 days to recover before the race.


The venue and course

Very good value for money. About a third the cost of official ironman. Free camping next to swim start and/or cheap rooms provided on-site.


The Avon Tyrell Estate hosts the annual Enduroman Ultra Triathlon Festival, with half, single and double iron-distance races plus a 100-mile ultramarathon occurring simultaneously on the same course. Great atmosphere in a picturesque setting. The previous couple of years have seen very wet and windy weather. This year, the conditions were perfect with sunshine and dry roads/paths.


Everything is on one site, so you can walk to the race briefing and transition etc. Nice lake swim with repeated laps of just a few hundred metres each.


Great cycle through the New Forest with all left turns and not much traffic. Repeated 1.1 mile run laps through the grounds of the estate, on dirt tracks and paths.


The race

A relatively small field of competitors with a friendly atmosphere.



The women's swim start was 90 mins before the men's. Steve and Jim cheered on Pippa and Helen as they completed their swim. Pippa was one of the first out of the water as expected. Helen had a massive smile as she finished the swim far quicker than she believed possible. Steve's swim was close to the fastest of the day and Jim was middle of the pack as usual. 


An enjoyable safe ride on decent surfaces with only left turns and hardly any traffic. A mixture of flat, hilly, straight and technical sections (but nothing very challenging). Not a fast course, as it is longer than the usual middle distance cycle plus there are several slow passes of the Avon Tyrell courtyard fuelling station. Jim had raced this course previously
and this helped him secure the fastest cycle time. All four from MSTC completed the cycle without incident (major result for Helen).



Challenging run up and down dirt paths within the Estate. Passed the courtyard fuelling station every 1.1 miles to get drinks, gels and cheers from supporters.

Speeding past tired athletes, who were doing longer distance events on the same course, helped to keep our spirits up.

Enduroman tradition dictates that one completes the final run lap in reverse direction, in order to high-five everyone still out on the course. Jim was pleasantly surprised to find he finished his penultimate run lap without seeing anybody running in the opposite direction (never been in the lead before and never previously won a race).

Steve and Pippa completed their runs with good form to produced fast finish times (17th male and 9th female respectively). Helen saved her best for last and she was the 7th fastest female runner (11th fastest female overall).

Name Overall Pos Overall Time Swim Bike Run
Graham, James 1. 05:25:46 0:38:40 02:59:10 1:36:05
Birchall, Steve 17. 07:20:43 0:35:12 03:44:47 2:43:27
Crouch, Pips 9 08:19:31 0:40:53 04:31:20 3:07:17
Graham, Helen 11 09:21:35 0:58:06 05:51:34 2:31:54


UK 70.3 Wimbleball


Up until a week I was unsure if I would compete in this iconic race again as I had pulled my left calf muscle at the Ardingly Standard Triathlon on 2/6/13. But as race day drew nearer, the injury had improved and as this would be my last visit to Wimbleball I made the decision to go ahead!!!

I drove there on Saturday and had an uneventful journey. On arrival I went through the registration procedure, sorted my kit out into the blue and red bags provided and racked my bike. The weather during the day was a mixture of wind, rain and sun, which then started me thinking, " hope it gets better by tomorrow, why did I decide to come!!" I attended the race briefing at 16.00hrs and then made my way to my digs about twenty minutes drive. It's a lovely old farmhouse sat in a hillside which overlooks one of the downhill sections of the bike course.
After the usual fitful nights sleep [no I wasn't having fits!!!] I had my normal bowl of porridge and drove to the race venue arriving about 05.00hrs. It was chilly, overcast and windy and I thought maybe the sun would come out later!!! I met up with Peter Court [from MSTC, always nice to know someone] who was also taking part. Well we completed our final preparations and it was time to get the old wet suit on! 

At about 06.45 our wave, the second, [only ever been one wave before!! ] made our way down to the lake. The first wave had just started and we were asked to enter the water, no turning back now!!! Having walked through the mud and weeds I immersed myself into the water thinking this is like a warm bath, well I knew it wasn't but it helps mentally. The temperature was cold but I have swam in colder water!!! Done a few strokes to warm up and impress the opposition and then the gun went off, definitely no turning back now!!!

The swim went okay with the usual disruptions of others swimming into you, over you and under you!!! I eventually came out of the water [and no I wasn't last!!! ] and then there is the 400m run to T1 which includes a steep grassy bank immediately you get out of the water!!!

Collect blue bike bag and into the change tent where you have the option of taking off your own wet suit or having assistance. Being old, wet and cold I decided to do it myself!!! Luckily I had put extra kit in the blue bike bag, so I put on a short sleeve cycle top [ MSTC of course!! ] and then really struggled to put my arm warmers on as I was wet and cold!! Once they were on I stuffed a thin rain jacket into a back pocket and made my way to the bike rack. By now the wind had picked up even more and the rain was persistent!

Out of T1 and start the bike course which kicks off with 3 miles up hill!! As I have done this race twice before I knew what to expect in relation to the course but that doesn't make it any easier. It is very tough, made considerably worse with the wind and rain!! It's a two lap course involving approximately 3904ft of climbing! As the miles went by the rain and wind got worse eventually forcing me to stop and put on the rain jacket!! The descents were quite dangerous in the rain as some involved very sharp left hand turns at the bottom!! All part of the fun and another reason for doing this race yet AGAIN!!! I managed all the climbs without getting off the bike, passing many that thought walking was the best option and they were a lot younger than me!!! Just before the end of the bike section I had a very negative thought! I was very wet and very cold and said to myself " do you really want to run a half marathon now!!!"

Anyway I got into T2 racked my bike still with a few negative thoughts but then I was in the change tent with my red run bag and the next thing I know I am out on the run course!! What happened there!! Maybe it was a C.R.A.F.T. moment!! Well at least the rain had eased but it was still windy and by now the off road course was very muddy in places. The first of the three laps was hard, the second even harder and well the third was just bloody awful but I was determined to finish what I had started. Never say never!!! I eventually crossed the line to the roar of the crowd in a very disappointing 8hrs 2mins 56secs !!  That was my slowest recorded time at Wimbleball but I still managed to come 3rd in my age group!!

Most importantly I finished, didn't have any injuries and after all it is only a race!! I am trying hard to make myself feel better!! I hope our three week annual holiday in Skiathos, which starts this Wednesday, will help to ease the disappointment and maybe I can figure out what went wrong!!! Sorry there are no split times as at the time of writing this I couldn't seem to find them on the website.[another C.R.A.F.T. moment!! ] Probably just as well as that would really piss me off!!!! 
I would like to thank Peter Court as he was waiting for me at the finish to cheer me through and I am sure he was as tired as me!! On a final note, good luck to anyone racing while I am away and I promise to practise my swimming!!!! Thanks everyone for your support on Facebook.

PS just found my split times!! Do you really want to see them, I think not!!! Oh well if you want a laugh;

swim  54:15
T1     10:33
bike   4:15:35
T2      6:20
run     2:36:16

age group 65-69  position 3rd  overall 1140. At least I wasn't last!!!!!!! 

Fambridge middle distance triathlon

When I told some of you that I was returning to Essex to participate in a middle distance triathlon, I'm sure you were picturing me swimming amongst discarded shopping trollies , cycling around burnt out cars and running through a travellers site wearing my Burberry tri suit and then returning to transition to find my bike on bricks with my new carbon wheels missing ! 

Well I can assure you it was nothing like that ! Fambridge is a picturesque village beside the River Crouch . The swim was a two lap circuit around the moored yachts and old Thames barges , I thought I was doing well but did struggle when we turned into the tide ,I was just pleased that I wasn't the last out of the water this time . The cycle route was two laps of a completely flat course through more quaint villages . Again I felt reasonably comfortable on the ride. The run was a four lap mainly off road route which included a path along side the river . I finished  the run without having to walk any part which again was something I had done in past middle distance events . My split times were 1.9km swim 55 min , 90km bike 3.23 and 18km run 1:52 . My total time was 6 hours and 18 minutes! 

Whilst I am pleased with my time , I'm still worried that I have to double this distance in August ! 

After the race most of the competitors relaxed in the garden of the nearby Ferry Boat Inn , I even bumped into some old team mates from Billericay rugby club who like me turned to triathlon once their playing days were over . 

I proudly wore my mid Sussex outfit back in my old manor , as much as I love Sussex , I'm always defensive of Essex as it is a nice place which is much maligned due to a minority of people who live there. 


Ironman Lanzarote 2013 Race Report

Many people consider this an iconic race, with its own special challenges and history. Certainly it is one of the tougher races on the official ironman circuit due to heat, winds and hills. Maybe it is difficult for Brits to get ready to race in the heat so early in the season, having trained in the cold. Lanzarote is a cycling and triathlon paradise so some serious competitors spend time training and acclimatising on the island for weeks before the race. 

Having said that, Lanzarote ironman is great fun and suitable for all abilities. You can take it slowly because there is plenty of time to finish. At the race briefing there were  plenty of people doing their first ironman and one person was doing their first triathlon! 

They let finishers go across the line with their kids, which a lot of races do not allow. It was all pretty friendly and laid back. Despite stern warnings at the race briefing, I did not see anybody get a penalty.



This was tricky, as UK open water swims had barely started due to terrible weather this year. Got head-butted during the pre-dawn warm-up. Glad the goggles did not break but got a grazed nasal bridge..

A mass start from the beach, dashing across a few metres of sand before wading into the surf at dawn. Seeded myself about 100th out of 1,800. Then got overtaken by about a thousand swimmers in the first 20 minutes. It is a 2 lap anticlockwise course with massive congestion especially on the left side because of a left turn at the first buoy that is only about 150 metres from the start. I was literally on the marker rope on the left and mostly had to pull myself along the rope for the first half-mile as proper swimming was not really possible. Lots of people went under the rope to get clear water to the left and I don't think any of them got penalised for cheating. Next time I would either set off far to the right or swim to the left of the rope (putting hat with race number showing on right, so the marshals in boats on left can't see who I am). 

A little disappointed with 1:16 swim but it was not an unpleasant experience despite the turmoil. Nice warm water with plenty of fish visible and I avoided any significant contacts.



The cycle started with an hour of drizzle and apparently it has never previously rained at lanazarote ironman in its history of over 20 years. Just like being back home, so no problem for me.

There is hardly any traffic on the island and much of the bike course is closed road. A single 112 mile loop around the island with a great mix of long straight bits to "go aero" as well as hill climbs and some technical descents. Good surface except for a couple of miles on a dreadful road reminiscent of Paris-Rubaix.

Plenty of drink stations in sensible places, so you only need one bottle on the bike at a time. Grab a water bottle first and gulp down half then pour rest over yourself to cool down. Grab a bottle of energy drink to put in bottle cage that will sustain fluid intake until the next drink station.

Some very windy bits mean that discs are discouraged. I used Zipp 303 and Zipp 808, 11-27 cassette and 42/55 q-rings. Had no problems with the high winds or climbing the steep hills with this set up.

My usual slow swim put me near the back of the field, so I enjoyed overtaking nearly 700 cyclists. The first half was slower than planned at only around 18mph. I really got pedalling over the second half of the course and managed an average of 19mph overall for the 112 miles in a pleasing sub-6 time of 5:53.



Feeling confident following 2:56 London Marathon a month previously. Left T2 with 7:20 on the clock. Needed a 3:15 marathon to secure an Ironman PB.

Mostly flat coastal tarmac run with nice views. Set off doing 7:15 minute miles and overtook maybe 200 runners in first half-marathon. Weather got roasting hot after a while and I hit the wall at mile 18 then trudged home doing 12:00 minutes per mile. Saw all those PB hopes and Kona aspirations slip away. Finished run in 3:54 and was surprised it wasn't a lot slower having been overtaken by a couple of hundred runners in the last few miles. Nevertheless, it was absolutely awesome to finish an exhilarating race.

At Lanzarote they seem to let everyone run into the finish banner (not just the winner). Grabbed banner triumphantly and raised it above my head with a big grin like Chrissie Wellington. Then got photo taken shaking hands with the race director (who presented my medal). Nice touch, being treated much the same as the race winner.

James Graham

  • 01:16:03 swim, 1039th overall, 72nd in age group
  • 05:48 T1, 171st
  • 05:53:44 cycle, 287th overall, 13th in age group
  • 04:39 T2, 389th
  • 03:54:08 run, 283rd overall, 16th in age group
  • 11:14:20 finish time, 273rd overall, 16th in age group 50-54



Next day, I attended my first Kona slot roll-down ceremony. It was good seeing Bart from Holland punch the air and praise the heavens, as the last of the 3 slots in our age group rolled down to him. I had chatted to Bart as we checked tyre pressures on adjacent  bike racks just before the race start. Bart had come 5th in age group compared to my 16th. Not so close as to be annoying, but close enough to give me hope for next time. I had finished just under 30 minutes slower than Bart. Bart had qualified for Kona via Lanzarote a few years previously and he had advised me before this race that "it is all about the marathon". It's easy to ask advice but harder to act on it. 

Many thanks to Helen, Gemma, Angus, Monty and all at MSTC for your continued support.