Brave Bassetlaw trio conquer arduous Ironman Staffordshire challenge

HE'S DUNNE IT! -- Kevin Dunne crosses the finish line after knocking 30 minutes off his 2015 time.
HE'S DUNNE IT! -- Kevin Dunne crosses the finish line after knocking 30 minutes off his 2015 time.

Three brave members of Bassetlaw Triathlon Club are patting themselves on the back after completing the arduous Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire challenge.

Kevin Dunne and Jason Lippitt tackled the course for the second year running, while a nervous Ian Rookes was taking part his first Ironman event. But all three were among more than 2,000 competitors to conquer the challenge, with Dunne finishing 875th in a total time of five hours, 59.31 seconds, which knocked a massive 30 minutes off his 2015 effort, Lippitt was 1,590th in seven hours, one minute, 30 seconds and Rookes 1,796th in eight hours, two minutes, 24 seconds.

The course involved a 1.2-mile swim in Chasewater Reservoir, followed by a 56-mile bike ride around the Staffordshire countryside, taking in the beautiful scenery of Cannock Chase, and was rounded off by a 13.1-mile half-marathon round the Shugborough Estate, which was the former ancestral home of Lord Litchfield.

The Bassetlaw trio were up at the crack of dawn for a 5 am shuttle bus transporting them to the start at Chasewater, and between 7.30 am and 8.25 am, they were off and away.

For the swim, they had to walk down a pontoon, dive into the water and set off immediately without any chance of acclimatisation. But luckily, the water temperature was a pleasing 20 degrees.

After exiting the water, the trio got out of their wetsuits and changed into their cycling gear for the race’s first transition period before shooting off into the countryside.

Not long afterwards, the heavens opened and torrential rain washed lots of debris across the path of the cyclists. Lippitt commented: “I have never been so scared on two wheels in my life! The rain was apocalyptic and like nails digging into you. I was physically painful and many riders came off their bikes in some nasty falls.”

There were also 850 metres of climbing, so the Bassetlaw boys did particularly well in such horrid conditions to emerge with such respectable times, especially Rookes, who suffered a couple of punctures en route.

By the time they arrived for the second transition period at Shugborough Estate, the rain had stopped, but it had got into the ground, which made conditions for running heavy to say the least.

The half-marathon comprised a three-lap loop over a variety of surfaces, including cobblestones, Tarmac, shale paths and muddy footpaths in woods and fields, not to mention a steady 600-800-metre hill-climb through the pretty village of Great Haywood.

Hundreds of spectators gave all the runners encouragement along the way, however, making those weary legs go a bit faster, and Dunne, Lippitt and Rookes often heard the welcome cries of “Go Bassetlaw!” as they ran past.

It still proved to be a real test for Lippitt, who said: “During the middle section, I was walking and feeling sick, but I managed to sprint finish, so I was gutted to find that my time was just over seven hours.”

Dunne was delighted to improve so much on his performance 12 months earlier, while debutant Rookes hailed “a fantastic event from beginning to end” and vowed to return next year. He has also signed up for a similar event in Mallorca.

“The scenes at Shugborough were amazing, with so much support from the crowd,” he said. “The finish line is one I will never forget and when I received hearty congratulations, I felt on top of the world. It wasn’t fast or pretty, but it is one of the best events out there.

“I want to thank Kevin and Jason for giving me the confidence to have a go. Three years ago, I couldn’t even swim one length of the pool!”