Race Reports

Ironman Louisville Kentucky 2017


Helen Graham…..You Are An Ironman !!!!!!

Helen's 3rd attempt at completing 140.6 miles of triathlon was a great success. All the sweeter following the missed bike cut-off in Florida 2015 and the retirement during the Florida 2016 swim due to breathing difficulties.


Helen entered Ironman Louisville 2017 at the beginning of the year but injury and ill health prevented her from following a conventional training plan.

Preparation consisted of regaining the ability to run long distances, swimming as much as possible in Ardingly reservoir and learning to enjoy cycling fast down hills. 

Helen attempted to change her swim style from breast-stroke to freestyle in 2017 but progress was slow and for Louisville she reverted back to breast-stroke. 

In summer 2107 Helen completed the Prudential London Ride-46 and the Penticton Long Distance Triathlon (3km,120km,30km). However, just a few weeks before Louisville she missed the bike cut-off at Weymouth 70.3 having struggled with hypothermia and sea-sickness during the swim.

The volunteers and local athletes at Louisville were very friendly and encouraging with lots of positive advice.


The 3.8km wet-suit swim in the Ohio River was moderately challenging and busy despite the rolling-start with around 2,500 athletes. The first third of the swim is against the current then the rest of the swim has the current in your favour but then the water is more choppy. Overall this is a relatively fast Ironman swim course and Helen's 1:35:02 ranked her 2,201st coming out of the swim. This was the first time that Helen had ever managed to draft off another swimmer for a substantial time during a race. 


The 112mile bike course is relatively benign with rolling hills, good surface and picturesque scenery. However, a storm hit during the second half of the cycle with heavy rain and high winds. Leaves, twigs, branches and fruit blown from the trees made sections of the road hazardous for cycling but the race continued. Helen completed the cycle in 7:58:02 and was placed 2,208th overall at that time.


The Louisville 26.2mile run has a pleasant mostly flat course with good crowd support and a wonderful finish line atmosphere. The run is a big challenge even for triathletes who are good runners because there is so much fatigue by the final stages of an Ironman race. However, Helen knew that she would complete the race within the cut-off times having completed both the swim and cycle faster than expected. Plenty of time to do a comfortably paced run whilst enjoying every moment of this much anticipated experience. The Louisville finish is one of the best on the Ironman circuit with lots of bright lights, music and enthusiastic supporters as runners hit the red carpet that takes them to the arch that is located in the centre of the vibrant "Fourth Street Live" entertainment and retail complex.

Helen's 5:38:48 run allowed her to overtake 459 athletes so that she finished 1,749th overall. Finish time 15:41:41.


There were 2,271 finishers from the 2,750 athletes registered and it appears that around 2,500 started the swim.

Helen arose early next day to get in the queue for finishers kit and purchased everything available in her size. Apparently these trinkets will be needed for the lifetime of bragging to come.

Helen is hugely grateful for all the support from family and friends, especially those at Mid Sussex Triathlon Club and We Run Hassocks.


Lakesman 2017


Two members of Mid Sussex Tri Club ventured up to Keswick in the Lake District over the weekend of 17th and 18th June to compete in the Lakesman full distance triathlon, consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, a bike leg of 112 miles and a 26.2 mile run.  With the start and finish lines and transition based on the shores of Derwent Water, some stunning, if somewhat hilly, scenery was guaranteed to competitors.

In its second year, the race has a small but friendly atmosphere but with all the organisation and logistics of big brand races.  The race organisers were clearly hoping for better weather than the torrential rain of the inaugural race but probably weren't expecting the temperature to be in the mid to high 30s for the duration of the race!

With 2 hours 20 minutes permitted for the swim and a hard cut off of 10 hours 30 minutes after race start to commence the run, Clair Hunt was aiming to use the swim leg to buy herself time for the bike.  Her strategy was therefore one of getting close to the melee on the start line and being as competitive as possible.  Matthew Critchley, as the weaker swimmer, however had a different strategy; namely to stay out of trouble on the swim and pick off places on an opportunistic basis.

The strategy appeared to pay off for Matthew emerging from the water in a time of 01:43:10 just 3 minutes 43 seconds ahead of his team mate.  This put them in 247th and 260th places respectively overall.

Even with the benign conditions and a water temperature of 18-19 degrees C, one hour 45 minutes is a long time to be immersed and there always remains a risk of hypothermia.  Unfortunately for Clair the effects of exposure had taken its toll and the race marshals directed Clair to the medical tent for treatment and with that her race was over.

Matthew's strength was always going to be the bike leg and by the midway point had pulled back to 141st place.  Strong winds along the Cumbrian coast and extreme temperatures slowed the field over the second half of the course.   Matthew had dropped back slightly to 165th overall coming into transition for the second time in a total elapsed time of 08:08:16, exactly 02:00:04 behind the race leader.

Consistent pacing would always be critical to ensuring a strong finish to the race, particularly given the prevailing conditions.  With 5 laps of a 5.25 mile circuit, Matthew was able to maintain a consistent pace with lap times within a couple of minutes of each other to finish the marathon in 149th place recording a time of 05:12:30.  This gave an overall time of 13:29:36, finishing in 174th overall and 04:13:55 behind race winner Joe Duckworth.  The first lady, Nicola King from the Arragon's Triathlon Club, finished in a time of 11:20:44 putting her in 34th place overall.

It was both Clair's and Matthew's first attempt at this distance having both successfully competed at a number of middle distance and half Ironman races.  There clearly remains unfinished business at Lakesman for the pair of them, albeit for different reasons.  Clair has vowed to use this opportunity to learn and come back stronger next year and Matthew is keen to try again but next time, with luck, in more temperate conditions and see what time he can post.

Latest MSTC news


A Doctor's Guide to Marathon Training

Club member Dr Jim Graham of Hassocks has published a Doctor's Marathon Training Lifestyle Guide for runners and triathletes, for beginners to elite runners. It provides insight from a physician who has studied the sport and personally raced more than 50 marathons. At 53 years of age Jim is still getting faster with a 2hr 51min marathon finish at Brighton in 2016.  Jim himself completed four full ironmans, two half ironmans and four marathons in 2016 and finished in the top half of his age group at the Ironman Triathlon World Championships at Kona, Hawaii in 2016. All revenue for the guide in January 2017 will be donated to the Alzheimer's society, a charity that Jim has been supporting for some time. Marathon running is a family sport as Jim's wife Helen is also a marathon runner. She is also a Doctor.

Ironman All World Athlete medals

Dr Jim Graham has been awarded a AWA gold medal for his Ironman performances in 2016. This places him in the top 1% in the world for his age group.In addition club member Douglas Mac Taggart has been awarded an AWA bronze medal for being placed in the top 10% of his age group. In 2016 Douglas completed 2 full Ironmans at Vichy and Wales, together with 2 Ultra marathons and 14 marathons. This year Doug is planning on doing 3 Ironmans, the first being at Lake Taupo in Zew Zealand.

Charity Donation

The club made a donation of £750 to Chailey Heritage's Seymour Dept to assist with their activity week in the summer term. This sum was raised from entry fees paid for events run by the club.

Portsmouth Marathon

Thirteen members participated in the 7th Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon on the 18th December just before Christmas. The route is from South Parade Pier to the end of the Hayling Billy Line and return. Although it is flat marathon, it has some fantastic views across Langstone Harbour.  The profits from entry fees are donated to the RNLI.

James Graham was the 1st member to finish on 3.10.51 with Kevin James following in 3.28.38 and Mike Jaffe just behind Kevin in 3.28.39 . Emma Jaffe was 1st club lady to finish in 4.02.57 with Helen Graham following on 4.30.54. Clair Hunt was competing in her 1st marathon and finished in 6.24.27. the other members times were: Steve Alden 3.49.44, Rob Hoodless 3.53.28, Julienne Stuart-Colwill and Matthew Critchley 5.55.55, Jean Fish 4.56.37, Vicky Von Der Linden 5.27.01, and Sarah Hinton 5.41.45.

New Years Day swim at Weirwood Reservoir

Four members braved the cold water, just a smidgeon over 5 degrees celsius, at Weirwood Reservoir on New Years Day. A few others watched.


Jim Graham’s Ironman Kona 2016 Race Report


In Brief

Mid Sussex Triathlon Club member, Jim Graham, was fortunate enough to get a legacy slot for the 2016 Ironman World Championship in Kona on 8th October 2016. The 11:26 finish time ranked in the top half of age group. This was a very pleasing result despite being 1:41 slower than PB.

Kona is THE Iconic Triathlon Venue and you don't need to be racing in the main event in order to participate or enjoy the experience. Kona is a lovely super-friendly town with lots of preliminary events, banquets, tourism and partying. Being a volunteer marshal for the main race is really rewarding. The whole town is a giant expo for race week and there are loads of free hats, shirts, gels, lubricants, cycle-bottles etc. There are numerous pros and former world champions to spot, listen to and chat with.

WTC (World Triathlon Corporation) have this race week as their annual celebration so everything is lavish and grand (despite there being a relatively small select group of main event racers compared to mega-races like Roth or Frankfurt).

In Depth


Inevitably, long distance triathlon would have arisen eventually in one or several places in the world. The fact that Hawaii was the location that established the specific iron race distances is probably fundamental to the current huge appeal of triathlon. This course and the pros who have excelled here have become legendary.

Imagine being in a sauna for up to 17hours doing continual multi-sport. That is what the Ironman World Championship is like. However, Kailua-Kona in Hawaii is a beautiful tropical paradise with very hospitable friendly locals, so the race is an absolute pleasure despite the challenging conditions.

It is a humbling experience. Many elite athletes in their prime (with Ironman podium finishes elsewhere in the world) suffer at Kona and fail to finish or get beaten by 70 year olds. By the way, some of those 70 year olds are super-human and can beat all of our PB's.

Getting a slot

Currently about a quarter of a million triathletes compete each year in qualifying races to try to get one of a couple of thousand places to the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Big Island, Hawaii on the second Saturday each October. Some events seem a bit easier than others for qualifying but you always need to finish in the top 1-2% of age group. 

Annually, there are about 100 legacy slots distributed amongst those who have completed more than a dozen official Ironman full-distance races. There are a handful of executive and charity places available in order to raise money for good causes (one charity is currently asking for a thirty-five thousand pound bond/pledge from the athlete who takes the single slot that they have for 2017).

There are a handful of slots for disabled athletes and for the US military.

There are about 100 professional slots, but obviously those are impossible for normal human beings to get. This year there were only 9 UK professionals good enough to reach this standard and 2 of these failed to finish.

Pre-race Training

Getting a Kona slot is a bit overwhelming, because of the thought of competing with the world's best. Even if you have your best race ever, you will still most likely rank low in age group and finish considerably slower than PB.

I decided to do a series of races to get me in shape and to bundle all this into a challenge to honour my father-in-law who has Alzheimer's disease. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/James-Graham19

Training was was all about doing this series of races then avoiding injury in order to get to the Kona start-line intact.

3/4/16 Paris Marathon in 2:59

17/4/16 Brighton Marathon in 2:51 (PB)

24/4/16 London Marathon in 2:55

21/5/16 Lanzarote Ironman 140.7 in 13:56 (bike broke)

11/9/16 Weymouth Ironman 70.3 in 5:38

18/9/16 Wales ironman 140.7 in 11:27

Pre-race week

Kona exceeded all expectations. As soon as you get off the plane it is clear that Hawaiians take great pride in being kind, patient and hospitable. Literally an island paradise and also the Ironman event does live up to the hype. 

My wife, Helen, probably had a better week than me because there was so much great stuff to do and no worries for her about saving energy for the the big race.

  • Ho'ala swim race 38k
  • PATH 10k run race
  • Underpants Run 1.5miles
  • Traditional feasts x2
  • Heroes of Hawaii banquet
  • All World Athlete Breakfast with Dave Scott and Mark Allen
  • Parade of Nations
  • Welcome banquet
  • Black Sands Beach Turtle watching
  • Daily swimming, cycling and running
  • Active volcano lava tour
  • Coffee plantation tour

Race Morning

The bike racks and transition on the pier were immaculate. Every inch carpeted and nothing out of place. Not too cramped for space. This was one was clearly going to be different from other races. Terrific kind attention from the army of volunteers and marshals. The excitement and expectation was palpable.

Sensational sunrise as we did the final bike check then waded into the water for the start. Seen it on TV, dvd's and on youtube many times. Unreal.

The mass start at Dig-Me Beach and the cannon going off. Wonderful. Felt like "home", despite being almost as different from a UK triathlon start as it is possible to be. No particular stress or worries about that swim in that lovely clear warm tropical calm water. Nothing to prove on the swim but slight anxiety that any number of bike issues could spoil this (possibly once in a lifetime) experience.


Sensibly, I seeded myself with the slowest 10% (far to the left of the pier). Beautiful warm clear waters with lots of fish. I had gazed at the sea-life and sighted the tropical landscape every morning for the last week but on race day it was the same pair of feet to look at for most of the 1:27 swim. A massive non-neoprene swim PB for me but one of the slowest swims of the day in this elite field (2100th out of 2316).

It was all serene until the final half mile when the top female age-groupers (who had set off 15 mins later than the men) bombed past and over me.


No problem finding my bike bag or bike in T1 as the bulk of my age group were long gone.

There are some slightly tricky sections at mile 2 and mile 4.5, so I took it easy and settled down. This cycle must not be ruined by a stupid accident. 

The plan was to drink 1500ml per hour (yes, 1500ml!) and not get in an accident or get a drafting penalty. It seemed almost impossible to drink that much but experts say it is needed at Kona. The heat, high winds and humidity readily cause dehydration plus salt depletion. Feed stations every 7 miles were needed in order to get enough to drink and to constantly drench body in water. One bottle-cage was just for water to drench body in between feed stations.

There appeared to be double the usual number of draft-buster motorbike marshals and the penalty tents were always full.

A rushed 4 minute T1 caused insufficient suncream application, so the subsequent fear of sunburn encouraged quicker pedalling.

The gusts of wind in the northern half of the bike course were extreme and it was good to not have deep rims (Zipp 303 front and 808 rear did the job nicely).

Paced it nicely using heart rate monitor and overtook lots of people in the last 30 miles. The 5:55 cycle was pleasing and the DIY bike constructed from eBay second-hand parts and duct-tape performed perfectly.


It was a massive relief to start the run and feel confident that this most important of all races would now be completed.

Extreme overheating potential was mitigated by feed stations every mile issuing fluids, sponges, gels and ice. It was good having the drink bottle carried in the tri-suit back pocket to provide extra drinks in between each feed station. Lots of ice was stuffed under tri-suit and hat but it mostly melted within 10 minutes. Lots of supporters on the course had hoses to cool us. Those who overheated had to slow down but fortunately, I kept a good pace even in the infamous hot microclimate of the 4-mile "energy lab section".

It was great feeling strong during the hot airless ascent out of the "energy lab" (just before mile 20) and thereafter gradually increasing pace to overtake many athletes until completing the run in 3:53. The final half-mile mile was an ecstatic sprint ending in a mad dash to the finisher's arch. Too pumped-up with emotion to slow-down and pose for pictures. Stuff of dreams.


Helen was a volunteer marshall for the finish-line and I literally ran into her arms, which was a very special moment to complete a wonderful event.

Next day was spent chilling out, packing the bikes and attending the Champions Banquet Awards Ceremony. Being placed 101st out of 203 starters in the 50-54 male age group was almost unbelievable. How could I have beaten that many athletes at this race when for 8 years of trying (16 previous Ironman races) those guys had been beating me and grabbing all the podium places? I would have been content to beat just one of them in order to prove that my participation in the World Championship was justified.


Big Island Hawaii is literally still growing, with huge quantities of red-hot lava being deposited on land and at sea every day. A couple of days after the big race we found ourselves jogging for miles in the lava fields to get access to the latest up-close viewing places. At sunset the bubbling lava glows spectacularly and it looks like the end of the world and the beginning of the world simultaneously. 

Reflection and Thanks

This is the race report that I have dreamt about writing since first doing a local sprint triathlon in 2008. Some people apparently have sufficient ability to get a Kona slot at will. For most of us it is nearly impossible and that makes this achievement sweeter. My journey has been blessed with plenty of help and support from family and friends. 

Mid Sussex Triathlon Club is full of so many inspirational people who provide lots of positive energy and all of our successes should be considered a team effort. It was fantastic for me to share this experience with my most important person (Helen). 

The next time someone from our club gets a Kona slot, we should rent out a decent sized house for race week and have a large club gathering as that would be awesome. The flights would be the main expense, then we could survive on the free hand-outs of isotonic drinks and energy bars/gels. Expenses could be off-set by selling all the accumulated free hats and tee-shirts on eBay when we get home.

Race Summary


01:27:49 (Division Rank: 185)


05:55:52 (Division Rank: 150)


03:53:34 (Division Rank: 101)

Transition Details

T1: Swim-to-bike 00:04:35

T2: Bike-to-run 00:04:52

Finish Time


Overall Rank 1,316 out of 2,316

Division Rank (age 50-54) 101 out of 203


MSTC end-of-season marathons, duathlons and more


Once the Triathlon season is finished,  many club members enter running events, to pursue additional goals other than pure triathlons.

Lisbon Marathon

Tony Asquith completed the Lisbon Marathon in mid October along with his son and best man.

Ed Barnes: Duathlons

Ed Barnes had a few busy weeks in October, when, after 3 months of intensive training, he completed the Windsor Half Marathon, Oulton Park Standard Duathlon and finally the Bedford sprint Euro Qualifier Duathlon (5km run, 20km bike and 2.5km run) on the 16th October, achieving 1.02.18 in gusty winds and torrential rain.

Beachy Head Marathon Saturday 29th October

The Eastbourne Beachy Head Marathon is one of the biggest off-road marathons in the UK. Formerly known as the Seven Sisters Marathon, it is popular for its scenic and challenging route through the South Downs National Park countryside. Four members participated this year, with Jean Fish completing the course in 6 hours, Amanda Durrant in 6.02, Sam Drake in 6.37 and Simon Hodges, along with wife Josie, in  just over 7 hours.

End of Season Saturday morning training swim in Ardingly Reservoir Saturday 29th October

Fifteen swimmers braved the chilly water early Saturday morning, with some in fancy dress, to celebrate 6 months of swim training on Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings,  deservedly followed by bacon rolls and mulled wine!

River Thames Autumn Half Marathon Sunday 30th October

Vicky Von der Linden took on this event which is alongside the River Thames, achieving a personal best of 2.06.00. She was joined by her brother Luke Davids who achieved 1.34.29.

Dublin Marathon Sunday 30th October

Occasional MSTC member George Murray completed the Dublin Marathon, his first, in 3.00.59, earning automatic entries into the London Marathons of 2018 and 2019 - if he wants them!