19th September 2014

FUNDRAISING IN MEMORY OF TRACY KITE BY JOEL MORGAN

FUNDRAISING IN MEMORY OF TRACY KITE WHO WORKED FOR THE CYRENIANS CHARITY FOR OVER 10 YEARS AND SADLY DIED THIS YEAR (BY JOEL MORGAN)

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A couple of years ago, I had decided to take up Triathlon with a couple of friends. As with all sports, you train hard and get better the more that you do it. After I had done my first Sprint Triathlon, I knew that I had the bug and wanted to go further. 

The next distance was an Olympic (this is what the Team GB Brownlee brothers race). This was a lot tougher than I expected! I obviously needed to do more training.

I kept training until I felt comfortable with the idea of doing a middle-distance event. When I say ‘middle-distance,’ I mean the 70.3 (as in miles!). And not just any 70.3… but the Ironman the brand that started it all. 

I signed up for this event in September 2013 and put together a training plan which saw me training for 5 days out of 7. My partner, Jennifer, made sure that I was eating right and that I was also stretching and seeing the sports massage team at Fire & Earth on a regular basis. 

In the middle of all this, in February of this year, I received the devastating news that a close friend had been found dead in very tragic circumstances. Tracy was the life and soul of any gathering and I had known her since childhood, this news affected me deeply. 

Following this, for a couple of weeks training just went out of the window. It was only after the funeral that I decided that I would complete the Ironman in memory of my friend and raise funds for the charity which she had dedicated the last 10 years of her life to; The Coventry Cyrenians.

Training continued and intensified over the following months until I was comfortable doing all of the individual distances which are: a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and a half marathon. 

August 31st at 10:10 in Lake Zell, Austria and all the training would be put to the test. The claxon sounded and we were off! This was a mass start with around 400 people in the water all at once, so there were hands and feet everywhere. Everybody was aiming for the first buoy which at that point, was just a speck in the distance. As I got to the buoy, the wave that started after me had caught up and it was like being in a washing machine as I tried to get round it. Someone even tried to swim over me and I ended up swallowing a mouthful of the lake! After the faster swimmers had passed, the water became calmer and the swim to the second buoy and then back to the start were much easier. 

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45 minutes had passed as I exited the water and I was happy and smiling as I climbed the steps heading into Transition 1 (this is where you change disciplines). Off came the swim hat, goggles, wetsuit and on went my cycling gear. It was a long run to my bike and then another long run to the mount line where I could finally get stuck in to my favourite part of the race, cycling.

The first 20km of the bike were great; slightly down hill on closed roads and my average speed for this first section was over 25mph. Then we hit the off ramp and the sign in front of us was for the HochKonig Mountain… The next 15km was really tough as we ascended almost 1000m. Anyone who’s ridden with me would know that I’m not fond of hills in this country, never mind mountains in the Alps!

I had selected my gear with this in mind and tapped out a steady pace, staying with a group of riders who also did not like going uphill! At 13km we reached the village of Dienten - this was the first feed station - and where the steady climb we had just made would end and the near vertical climb for the next 2km to the summit would begin. Ahead of me, I could see riders zigzagging across the road, other riders getting off their bikes and walking, and one rider sat at the side of the road with an emergency metallic blanket wrapped around him, completely abandoning the race.

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 This was the longest 2km I have ever ridden. Reaching the summit was a huge relief! I have to say that the roads in Austria are superb and I was looking forward to going back down the other side. I took the first few corners at speed passing riders that were taking a more cautious line and then disaster hit as the rain started. It was biblical. At this point, I was travelling at over 40mph. Every drop of rain stung as it hit me. Within 5 minutes, there were rivers of water running down the mountain roads and I finally had to relent and slow down. It rained for the remainder of the ride, taking us down to the valley floor and through countless villages until we returned to the lake and into Transition for the second time. 

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                                                                                               Straightaway, off came the bike gear and I dried myself down, got my running shoes on and ran out of Transition onto the lakeside. The run was a two lap affair that saw us run into the town centre amongst the cheering supporters for a mini loop, before heading back out to the lake and running along the north side of the shore. The first 3km was fantastic and I felt surprisingly fresh. I checked my watch to see that I was back on my planned running pace of 9 minute miles. At 4km though, things weren’t as good as I realised that the climb of the Hochkonig had taken its toll on my legs and I was slowing down. Then, to my horror, I discovered the run route wasn’t flat but had a climb into a small village on the far side of the lake. I soon settled into my much slower pace and seemed to become a rolling road block, with an apparently endless number of triathletes passing me. All the time that this was happening, I had the knowledge that I would have to run along here again on the next loop. 

Every aid station was welcomed and I made sure that I walked through each one. This was to make sure that I took on essential fluids and gave my legs a chance to rest before re-starting my shuffle (I couldn’t call it running at this point) that led back to the town and the beautiful sight of the finish line. 

At 19km into the run, my legs felt like lead and every step took so much effort. I had to keep telling myself not to stop, even though I was in a world of pain. I just kept thinking about all off the sponsorship and the donations as we had raised - just over £800 at this point - and this spurred me on to get to the end. 

As I turned for the last time and headed into the town, I could hear the supporters. I turned another corner and then I could see them, they were cheering every single athlete. The buzz that I instantly felt energised my body, the pain disappeared and I started to run again. I could see the finish straight ahead; it was a narrow track about 8 feet wide and it was lined with supporters waiting for their family member and friends to finish this gruelling event. In the moment, I high-fived a few people on the run in and then I heard the announcers say my name! I felt a huge smile cross my face and 10 metres from the line, picked up the pace again. It was simply just pure relief as I crossed the line, was presented with a medal and then ushered to one side for the final photograph of my Ironman experience. 

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I had completed my first Ironman 70.3 race in 6 hours, 48 minutes and 39 seconds! It was an amazing achievement but all I wanted to do now, was to find my girlfriend and get a beer (although, not necessarily in that order!). Two other friends also competed that day and they both finished safely and well within the cut-off time. 

I’m happy to say that wasn’t the only highlight from Austria, as I also proposed to Jennifer and she said yes! What has she let herself in for?... 

After completing the race, donations to the charity shot up to just over the £1000 target! I’m very happy to have put myself through this in order to have raised money in memory of my friend Tracy Snook Kite, and I would like to thank each and every one of you who contributed. It really made the difference and helped me get though one of the toughest experiences of my life.