Alnwick triathletes overcome soaring temperatures in Chicago

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Alnwick and District Triathlon Club is a very small tri club, with only about 100 senior members, but it punches well above its weight by having some of the best triathletes in Britain.

Great Britian sent about 300 triathletes to the International Triathlon Union Age Group World Championships in Chicago to compete in an aquathlon (750m swim and 5km run), sprint distance triathlon (750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run) and standard distance triathlon (1,500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run).

Out of those best 300 British triathletes, seven were from Alnwick Tri – an amazing feat for a club so far away from any of the qualification races, showing the dedication of the club and its members and its coaches to train, compete and qualify for European and world championships.

The first day of racing was the aquathlon, in which Denise Drummond, Tracey Sample, Ian Simon and Lisa Williams were competing.

Unbelievably for the US city in September, the temperature reached 36 C by the time they raced at midday, and all the competitors agreed that having four water stations for the 5km run was not enough.

Ian had a passable swim, but then ran fourth quickest in his age group to finish fifth in the 45-49 category, which was the best result of the Alnwick Tri members.

Denise coped with the heat much better than either Tracey or Lisa, and although it is normal for her to swim the fastest of the three, she also ran the fastest to finish sixth in the 50-54 age group.

Lisa and Tracey had their usual battle, with the latter coming out on top on this occasion in 19th place in the 45-49 category, with Lisa 26 seconds behind in 21st.

On the second day of racing, Ian Simon and Tracey Sample raced again, but this time in the sprint distance triathlon, joined by Amy Thorne in the 15-19 age group.

Amy raced at 10am so had a balmy (in comparison) 28C to contend with, and it was so hot that even in this first race of the day, two British athletes collapsed because of the heat and had to be taken to hospital.

This was Amy’s first attendance on the world stage, and she acquitted herself well despite what must have been overwhelming nerves and finished in 47th place out of 67 who started the race, having come out of the water in 13th place but ran in heed of the conditions to ensure she finished the race without collapsing.

By the time Ian and Tracey raced at 1pm, the heat had gone up to 38 C, and only three hours after they had finished racing, a tornado hit the Chicago area, leading to the elite women’s and under-23 elite women’s races having to be rescheduled.

Currents in the water meant both Ian and Tracey had worse swims than the previous day in the aquathlon, but both battled on in the cycle leg of the event to make up places.

Ian ran slower than the previous day but was still sixth fastest runner, pulling himself up to 12th place out of 119 starters.

Tracey was unable to push on in the run, with the first water station having run out of water and marshals now telling competitors to slow down due to the heat, and she finished 46th of 91 competitors in her 45-49 category.

On the final day of racing, Denise Drummond and Lisa Williams competed in the standard distance triathlon.

The temperature was warm, but not the oppressive heat of earlier in the week, so both were able to go full gas.

Just before the start of Denise’s race, the pontoon at the start of the swim broke, and for safety reasons, the swim was shortened to avoid it, which meant Denise did not get the normal advantage of being a good swimmer. However, she took this in her stride and finished 40th of 73 in her 50-54 category.

Unfortunately, Lisa picked up a foot injury during the aquathlon, so the 10km run was difficult, and at any other time, she would have not competed, but with it being the world championships and what she had been training for all year, she ran as best she could, finishing 43rd of 82.

All these were fantastic performances for Alnwick Tri, but the final club member competing at the world championships outshone them all.

Jo Gascoigne-Owens, a previous Northumberland Gazette sports personality of the year, was lucky enough to start in the elite aquathlon championships with all the professional athletes.

Even going into the swim familiarisation on the day before her race, the rest of the club were there cheering her on as she swam alongside the absolute best triathlon swimmers in the world.

Jo competed over a very similar course to the age groupers, with just the transition area being different where she picked up her trainers for the run.

She was 10th out of the water and then ran sixth fastest of the day to bring herself up to eighth overall.

Alnwick Tri is proud of Jo being a world and European age group champion, but stepping up to elite racing, and finishing eighth was a remarkable achievement.