Some 150 nervous triathletes queued in the pre-dawn driving rain to board their coaches from Sandy Balls to Ellingham Lake for the start of The Forestman: an iron-distance endurance race starting with a three mile swim - the equivalent of swimming from Southampton to the Isle of Wight - a 112 mile cycle ride (the distance from London to Birmingham), and finished by a full 26.2 mile marathon.
As the sun broke through the dark morning clouds, the triathletes were provided with a few last words of perspective and contemplation by Rev. Andy Baker before beginning this formidable challenge and a competition which marked the climax of months of intense preparation. For competitors the all-absorbing training regimes which preceded it would no doubt have impacted every aspect of their lives.
The dedication required to achieve the necessary fitness will have meant hours of training during unsociable hours so as to minimise the impact on work, social, home and family life. But the distance only hints at the levels of endurance required; the ground conditions were everything you might expect from the New Forest and made for a truly strength-sapping course.
Uneven ground and steep hills meant the marathon-length run was exceptionally uncomfortable resulting in over 20 competitors dropping out on the final leg of the course. In a remarkable time of 10 hours and 28 minutes, Austin Mills of triathlon club Votwo was first to cross the finishing line at Sandy Balls. Throughout the early evening as the athletes completed the course, the holiday centre became a hub of excitement.
Once competitors finished the race, they had the opportunity to indulge in all the luxuries Sandy Balls had to offer. A barbeque provided much-needed nutrients for both supporters and those athletes who had recovered sufficiently to be able to regale stories of the day’s events over energy-replenishing food and drinks.
Sandy Balls accountant Del Granger, who was responsible for establishing the relationship between Sandy Balls and Race New Forest which organised the event, was one of the 96 competitors to successfully complete the gruelling course.
Arriving back at Sandy Balls almost 16 hours after the race began, Del had endured a painful race having badly damaged his knee in a fall from his bike early in the cycling phase.
“The Forestman course is certainly the toughest I’ve ever experienced; once you’ve survived the gruelling cycle ride, the prospect of a marathon run up and down steep forest hills provides an intense physical and mental challenge”, remarked Del.
“Sandy Balls is a really great venue for The Forestman; many of the competitors came with their families and stayed the whole weekend. The on-site facilities provide the perfect base and finish for both spectators and athletes alike.”
One athlete summed it up commenting: “I don’t reckon iron distance triathlon gets any better than this; a beautiful sunny evening and superb BBQ right by where the latter half of the field are finishing. This is post-Ironman heaven.”
For more information about New Forest Triathlon Centre based at Sandy Balls, contact email@example.com or 01425 651210
UK holidays, weekend breaks and short breaks at Sandy Balls Holiday Centre set in the New Forest National Park. We provide high quality holiday accommodation in luxury lodges and caravans and we also cater for tourers and campers. We have a range of facilities including a restaurant, pub, beauty suite,cycle centre and two swimming pools. There is also fantastic activties for all from archery and laser clay pigeon shooting to team games, arts and crafts and much more!