Tuesday, January 15, 2013

#6 Issues 42 - 51 1993

Fairford *The* Duathlon

Men's 1 & 2 Greg Watson and Matt Brick
If there is one 220 event that I am completely pleased and satisfied with, it has to be the 1993 Fairford Duathlon. And the reason? Because I persuaded two stars from different sports to come and race. Allan Peiper had just retired as a pro Tour de France rider and Steve Ovett,  a Middle Distance Olympic Gold Medalist, who had just finished wall papering his Scottish mansion. Both were looking for new ventures (although they might not have realised it).

They were not multi-sport savvy, in fact they were duathlon virgins, but I called them both and pestered and called again and begged and called (in the nicest possible way) until they each said, "Enough! I'll do it". Today it might be like getting David Beckham to join your local football team and put in a proper shift and score the winning goal.

Olympic Gold Medal Man Steve Ovett
You know, they both had everything to lose and what were they gaining? A day out on a cold damp airfield and a good dose of pain. Fair play to them both, they took it seriously and put in as much training as possible. Allan even brought a basket of his own healthy foods, granolas and stuff, not knowing that he would be staying in our wholefood house for the weekend.

Orlando Pizzolato, 2 time NY Marathon winner, Allan Peiper thinking" WTF am I doing here?" and  Steve Parker.
This is not a race report, but suffice to say the "proper" duathletes imposed but Allan and Steve got the biggest cheers. Peiper gave a running commentary to the moto cameraman about the state of his liver. The 220 office had a bet that he wouldn't finish in the top ten - but he did, although Richard Hobson actually had the fastest bike split.

Woman's Winner, Duathlon Queen, Liz Downing.
 20 years later Allan happened to be near my house working with the BMC Racing Team so I dropped in to his hotel and with a glass of wine talked over old times :

AP: When you invited me, I couldn't resist the temptation. It turned out to be just what I needed as a sporting focus while I adjusted to a new life style.

World duathlon champion Matt Brick had sent me a training programme and I pretty much stuck to it. Race day was nerve wracking, I didn't know what to wear, I turned up too early for the start and got cold and wet. Then during the race it warmed up and I had too much clothing on.

In the last run I started to crack, I was fourth and running on auto-pilot. I had pain in my chest, then my liver and finally my legs. My calves started to tighten and I wondered what I was doing there. I managed to pick it up over the last 2k and finished tenth.


No problem with the mini interview with Allan Peiper and he paid for the wine, so it was a win, win  situation. But can't get hold of Steve Ovett . . . . . . yet.

And here is a true story.

The day before the duathlon Steve Ovett came round our house for a visit. At that time we had a slightly surly Welsh next door neighbour called Mr Jones. We were having a nice cup of tea when the door bell rang. I looked out, oh fuck! it's Mr Jones.

Mr Jones, in a somewhat angry welsh voice says "One of you lads has left his car blocking my drive". Steve Ovett jumps up, "Sorry Mr Jones, I'll move it straight away". Mr Jones looks at Steve Ovett and does a double take, then he does a triple take and realises he is confronting one of the most famous Brits to be found, STEVE OVETT!

Mr Jones: "Oh no, not to worry boyo, it's quite all right really. You just leave it there. I don't need to get out today, anyway. Thank you very much" with that we carefully shuffle Mr Jones out of the house while Steve moved his car and then we returned for more tea,

No Steve! Too much information!



Swindon, this is Swindon.

I made a mistake, in 1992 we had 800, this year we had 1,000, plus a waiting list, the largest entry for a triathlon in the UK to date. I had a computer program called Freehand and spoofed a copy of Picasso's Three Dancers into 220's Three Triathletes. This went on the T-shirt and a framed copy for the men's and woman's winner.

Volunteers Cuz, Jimmy, Mark, Jay & Tom - Thanks Guys!


Ironbridge the Third

Our third year at Ironbridge and our maximum entry of 500 had been filled many months before. Some very well known names on the start sheet; Greg Welch, Wendy Ingraham, the Aussie mob, some Dutchies and just about every top Brit known to man (or woman).

Welchy crosses the Ironbridge - we had it specially carpeted for him.
The highlight of the race was a pissing match on the bike between Greg Welch and, to him, some unknown lad called Matthew Bellfield. Matthew was a really good bike rider and they tried to out sprint each other up every hill to take and retake the lead. Welchy, a Hawaii Ironman winner wasn't going to be bested by a boy so they continued the battle all the way round. When it came to the run Greg sped off but by the second lap his exuberant riding took its toll and he stopped in a pub on the route for a sandwich. ha! ha!

Just to check my facts I sent Greg a message, he replied:
"Of course mate. I bonked after the first of three laps so at the end of the 2nd lap they had a table set up out front of the pub, I stopped got a sandwich and downed a beer and took off. I ate the sandwich as I went. Still finished third after a handy lead off the bike with another English kid, good biker!"

Post race festivities provided by the "220's" also available for weddings etc.

Do the Strand

Alcohol is a wonderful thing, it can prompt you to take on all sorts of endeavours. Sitting in the bar of the 5* Strand Hotel in Helsinki and discussing the forthcoming sprint race it transpired that on Saturday afternoon there was to be a relay race . . . . . how many beers it took to come to the decision is lost in a mist, but agreement was made that 220 would be represented.

Your correspondent was allocated the 750 metre swim. I had only been in a swimming pool three times that year but figured the extra 14 pounds of body fat would make up for the loss of technique. Bill Smith, father of Spencer, would strap up his injured foot and pedal the 20k on a mountain bike and Ian Sweet, who once ran a marathon in the '70s, would attack the 5k run.

Lillie, Smith, Sweet.
Unfortunately I was lent a wetsuit, so having no further excuse I got into the Helsinki harbour. Most of our readers will be familiar with swimming in cold open water, but I had forgotten just how stupid this sport is. The klaxon goes and I am left behind. I swim round the course, pretending not to hear the laughter, get out eventually, and hand over to Bill.

Bill charges off in bottom gear, determined to get inside 45 minutes. He completes the first lap, coming round the corner in what can only be described as the Obree position. Fortunately I have had the good sense to throw away Bill's Gatorade and replace it with Foster's amber nectar. I hand it up, Bill takes a swig - expletive deleted - (actually I think he shouted out "Bastards!") and carries on for his second lap. He completes his ride with seconds to spare and hands over to Ian. Bill and I immediately repair to the hotel lounge for coffee and chocolate cake.

We understand Ian finished his bit, maintaining the standard set by the team (second last) but by the time he got back I'm afraid all the cake had gone.


Bath Handicap

A Bigger 220 Splash - after D Hockney.

Bath was usually 220's big race of the season because the BBC would come and film it. This year we decided to try something different to give it a bit more buzz. We handicapped the men's start so that the women had an equal chance of crossing the finish line at the same time.

a bloody Chippy Slater.
It wasn't complicated. We took the percentage of difference between the finishing times of men and women in the 1991 and '92 ITU World Championships, the 1992 and '93 ETU European Championships and last year's Bath Triathlon.

This calculation came to 11.22% giving the women's wave a 15 minutes and 22 seconds start.

Carol - flying.

Everyone seemed happy, we were, the athletes were and so was the BBC. However, it caused a furore up at ITU headquarters. Les McDonald really got his knickers in a twist, he didn't like it. I'm supposing he gave Sarah Springman an earful because she took up the anti-Bath cause. In fact she started to contact some of the girls to discuss a strike. Meanwhile McDonald was trying to get hold of Carol Montgomery but he couldn't because she was staying at our house. Ha!

Anyway, the race was more than OK - it was Exciting! Carol led all the way with her lead being whittled down the closer she got to home. The men in contention for the win were Simon Lessing and Hamish Carter. Now, Simon couldn't decide whether to go flat out and catch Carol and risk dragging Hamish with him or try and get Hamish to do the work. Cut a long story short, Simon sat behind Hamish towards the end of the bike and when it came to the run he was too far back, he nearly made it but for 33 seconds. I think this showed our handicapping was spot on.

Carol first prize £2,000, Simon second £1,000. I thought that was the end of the story until next day when Simon, who was also staying at our house, said "John, you've put me down as second". "Yes, Simon, that's correct". "But I beat all the men, I should be first man" he said. We agreed to differ and that I thought was that.

It was only later I discovered that Simon had put the Bath Triathlon as one of the major races of his season. It was written into the contracts with his many sponsors which meant he was due to be paid a win bonus (if he won). Being marked as second didn't qualify him as the winner. For all I know his sponsors might have taken pity on him and paid out, anyway . . . . . . . . . .

Sorry, Simon you were Second.

220 was a family affair. Everyone who helped, volunteered, wrote, contributed was treated as part of the 220 family. My own family were not excluded; Sally and our kids Jay, Tom and Carrie were all there each race day, not only that but most of their mates came as well. They did a lot of the unpleasant work like breaking down the site and cleaning up at the end of the day.  There was a regular gang of them and someone mentioned to me as he watched them cavort across the field picking up racking "They look like a pack of wild dogs!"

Will the racking man.
Carrie's friend Will was our racking man. He drove the van that pulled the trailer that carried the racking (and finish gantry) that came to every race from across the road in Swindon to across the Channel in Ardes, France. Thinking about it, Hexham was probably further, but not quite so exotic.

We asked Will what it was all about:
220 was a blast, loved all of it….still have a couple of the crew T-shirts in frames, one from the Ironbridge Ironman and the other was a Coate Water event….some of the blog is a trip down memory lane especially the bit were your dad is Chef Carbo Load and does all the horoscopes the same! I remember being sat in your kitchen at the old breakfast table reading them and thinking wow!
Have great memories of Tom and Jay “carpet surfing” as we prepared the finish gantry for a Bath event ……Later on as the season progressed one or two of the events were televised……both me and Fat Scott were watching one of the national events and bang…..Your dad pops up on the TV being interviewed……don’t know why but both me and Scot were a bit star struck…..we were sat in my lounge in Steph's house in Sparcells telling each other how we knew John Lillie ……from then on your dad was always known as “Roger Mellie…the man on the telly”!..............My favourite memories are Wroughton Airfield……we were driving down the runway after a run-bike-run event collecting the racking in the van… Fat Scott was driving and there was about six of us hanging off the back of the trailer, loading and holding it all together (loading that blinking trailer was an art!)…we were travelling at about 25 mph and in my infinite wisdom I thought I could jump off the trailer in to the long grass by the runway………I'm hanging on the edge with one arm shouting at Scott to drive close to the grass…….I lean too far and slip off the moving trailer onto the runway with only shorts and a crew T-shirt on……Scott saw me fall in the mirror and slammed the brakes on…………all the boys including your brother Tom were slammed into the racking and I was left rolling down the runway……passing the trailer and van on my way. Everyone was like whoooo . . shit that hurt!……………I was left with only a minor scrape on the shoulder of the crew T…..how things were not a lot messier than that is unbelievable...........on the Saturday we were up at the airfield preparing and the guy who used to ride your dad about on the bike was there…..I asked if he would take me for a blast down the runway and he willingly obliged……..after one run down to the end at speeds that felt like 2000mph I shit myself…………he stopped and spoke to the other draft busters and I stepped off the bike…….he sped off again and I had a long walk back to the registration area across the field……after about 25 mins I returned…….he came over and informed me he has been looking for me and didn’t realise I had got off the bike................he didn’t seem very happy.

220 Racking - You can tell it's at Hexam 'cos it's snowing.

Availability of this offer is limited to relations and employees of 220 magazine

Tabs on tables . . . . Tabs On Tables! . . . . . . TABS ON TABLES!

I made up some 90 minute cassette tapes with funky-ish music to get everyone in the right mood, but there was another background chant - I doubt we'll hear it again, "Tabs On Tables!"

For its day it was a brilliant timing system. Every competitor was issued with a wrist band with their number on it. On this wrist band were three Velcro tabs with the same number printed on them. At the end of each section, swim, bike and run, the competitor would have to give in a tab. Doing this at speed was a bit difficult and some would try and forget in all the excitement of getting out of the water in one piece. So we had big tables covered with green baize and all they had to do was tear off a tab and plonk it on the table. The timing team would take the tabs in order and stick them on a strip of Velcro mounted on a board, Another timing team person would write the finishing time next to the tab, when the board was full up it would go to, amongst others, Mick Flatters, the data entry person,  who would key it all into a computer.

So Tabs On Tables! was the cry at each transition at each event for at least seven years. The wrist band part was also a security measure. You couldn't get into the transition area, which was surrounded by a 2 metre high fence, without your wrist band and you had to give it in when leaving with your bike after the race and it had to match another number affixed to you bike.

Lorraine Ferris was the timing boss and she made up a team of regulars, including local athletics timekeepers but also partners or parents of competitors, who didn't miss a beat. We had some sponsorship from the watch company Lorus so they all looked the part in their 220-Lorus shirts. The tab system meant no transposed numbers, and it didn't matter if a bib number couldn't be seen when passing through the timing system, the team would get every number.

Lorraine explains:  From left to right top row - Gerald a qualified athletics timekeeper, Paul Whiting from Wootton Bassett Hounds RC, Lynn Ferris my Sister-in-Law and wife of triathlete Bob Ferris, Sue Turner my running partner and triathletes wife.
Bottom Row - Linda Haminton, mother of then promising triathlete Iain Hamilton, Lorraine Ferris looking very young, Caroline Buck (then wife of Stu Dinwoodie and another running partner of mine) and Mira Gittings, Cirencester Running club and triathletes wife.  

Some were asked because of their time-keeping skills, others because they would be good at bossing triathletes around to slap their tabs on the table, but all for their ability to perform under pressure when you had some of the best triathletes in the world relying on you to get the job done accurately.

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