The triathlon is often described as one of the ‘friendliest’ sports. However, there was certainly evidence of the military competitive spirit in full force, as the Navy, RAF and Army Triathlon Associations battled it out at Cotswold Water Park’s annual Inter-Services triathlon.
Nearly 100 of their top tri-athletes took to the lake to compete. Sadly, there was no time to enjoy the surrounding views of the stunning Cotswold countryside as they swam ferociously through 1.5 km of open water, leapt out of their wetsuits to cycle 41 km of tricky terrain and finished the course with a 10 km run.
The RAF Triathlon Association took away the coveted prize this year despite competitors predicting the Army Triathlon Association would come out on top, as their physical fitness is consistently so high.
Both the RAF Triathlon Association’s ladies’ and men’s teams took first prize with Luke Pollard and Sam Rose winning individually. They glided in past the finishing line with an ease that made it look as though they’d literally just been for a walk in the park. Pollard completed the race in 2:02:00.7 with Sam Rose not far behind at 2:14:13.5.
Every tri-athlete has a tricky part of the race they don’t enjoy so much, or one where they don’t feel as comfortable. For Luke, who amazingly only learnt to cycle a mere four years ago, the toughest part was the swim. He also had to stop when he encountered some problems with his bike. He was soon able to catch up with competitors who had overtaken him though, including fellow team mate Ben Terry, who was in the lead for a while.
Luke says: “I pushed hard to catch up with Ben until he was in sight. I had 7k to go and needed to make sure I didn’t run out of energy. Pace management is important of course, but I tend to race in sync with how my body is feeling.
Rather than using gadgets, I’ve learnt to understand how my body reacts to the different stresses I put it under.” He added: “My mental strength and focus also helped get me through the race. That’s just as important as physical fitness.”
Rapidly Growing Sport
As one of the fastest growing sports in the UK the number of members and participants has steadily increased and there are over 500 registered triathlon clubs in Britain. As well as the success of the Brownlee brothers in the 2012 Olympics, the variety that triathlons offer is one of the biggest appeals of the sport.
Guest competitor for the Army Triathlon Association, Fiona Scotter, said: “You need a mixture of skills as you’re using different muscles rather than repeating the same movements over again. This helps build muscle definition, but when you switch sports in the race your body can have different reactions. The bike into run section is often the hardest to segue into but you can prepare for this in your training.”
Lynsey Carveth, team manager of the winning RAF Ladies’ team, said that because triathlons combine three separate disciplines, individuals normally have particular skills in different areas. “One team member may not be as confident in the water as they are on a bike. Therefore, it’s important to combine those different strengths and make sure we’ve a good mix of skills that will benefit the whole team.”
Their three weeks of rigid training in Majorca, which focused on strength and conditioning certainly paid off!
“You can tell the tri-athletes in the workplace as they’re highly functional – they manage their time better and are often the individuals who get things done in the shortest time possible.”
Glyn Painter - Head Coach, Army Triathlon Association
Physical fitness is an important part of life in the Services but what other positive aspects does it bring? Glyn Painter, head coach for the Army Triathlon Association since 2005, competed in the veterans’ category. He said: “The fitter you are the better you are at dealing with stress, as you’re far more equipped to deal with rises in the stress hormone cortisol. Physical and mental health go hand in hand. Most soldiers are motivated but a tri-athlete can get up early in morning to do a tough swim before a day’s work, fit in a lunchtime session cycle, or a run at night.”
He added: “You can tell the tri-athletes in the workplace as they’re highly functional – they manage their time better and are often the individuals who get things done in the shortest time possible.”
Toby Clay, Chairman of the Royal Navy Triathlon said that the training involved in sport helps you develop a self-discipline that makes you more resilient in your working and personal life. He said: “It’s an escape from everyday life, and ironically, is a good way of winding down and relaxing.”
Team Spirit and Community
The Officers’ Association supported the event to celebrate the charity’s commitment to the positive benefits physical fitness brings– throughout an individual’s military career and beyond.
CEO Lee Holloway said: “Although we help people in transition, we also perceive physical fitness as an essential part of dealing with the stresses and challenges that can arise throughout this process. The team spirit so evident here today also reflects the strong sense of community that the OA fosters. ”
Triathlon winners and times
Luke POLLARD (RAF): 2:02:00.7
Sam ROSE (RAF): 2:14:13.5