In light of Tim Don’s amazing recent performance at Ironman Brazil, finishing in 7 hours and 40 mins, I thought I’d share a couple of memories from when I raced against him. (When I say ‘raced against him’ I mean that I was in the same race and wasn’t for a moment ‘racing’ Tim).
Back in 1999 I was living in Bournemouth, and during the summer there were a few open water swim aquathons, one of which a young Tim Don took part in. I would like to say I raced against him, but from the moment the race started he was gone.
The race was approximately 500m swim followed by a hilly 5k run. I remember being happy with my run and not happy with my swim, although some of that was trying to remove my wetsuit.
A few years later I decided to have a go at qualifying for the age group world championships (Olympic distance) that were going to be held in Queenstown, New Zealand. The first qualifying race of the season was in Windsor, and I lined up with a few friends from the Oxford Tri Club, who also wanted to qualify. I can’t remember too much about the race, except that it felt good, as I finished 63rd overall, out of a field in excess of 1000, in a time of 2hours and 10 mins.
Tri-suits were a bit shorter in the leg back then and you didn’t get a time penalty for undoing your zip. I was also under the misguided impression that if I shaved off my beard I would go faster.
What about Tim? He was racing in the elite wave that day, and technically I beat him, as he was DQ’d, along with almost all of the elites. The leading swimmer turned at the wrong buoy and most of the elites followed. Three elites who were slower swimmers turned a bit further down the river at the correct buoy, giving the referee no option but to DQ the majority of the field.
Despite my quick time it wasn’t enough for me to qualify, although I did go in the end, as I was third reserve and three others pulled out. Tim, on the other hand, failed to qualify, although he had by that time raced in the Olympics, and would go on to race in both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics as well.
Back to Ironman Brazil, and I struggle to comprehend just how fast Tim completed each discipline. 44 mins for the swim, 4hours and 6 min for the bike and 2 hr 44 for the marathon. Not many people could do any one of those events in the time, so my hat is well and truly doffed to Mr Don, and all the best in Kona at the end of the season.