The men's race at Challenge Henley is shaping up to be a cracker. The top three from 2012 are all signed-up to compete, and they're going to be joined on the start line by 2011 runner-up Nicholas Ward Munoz. We caught up with Nicholas to get his take on the race, the competition, and what age groupers should do to make sure they enjoy the day!
What has made you decide to do Challenge Henley?
I raced there two years ago and I really wanted to come back. I wanted to bring my wife as I enjoyed everything there: the race atmosphere, the course, and the town. That helped a lot. Also, it fits in my preparation plans. I don't think I'd be ready to race before September and that's the first big race then. So I just thought it was the best idea to sign up and come back again.
Can you talk a bit about your experience of the race?
I think they've changed the bike course this year to something a bit flatter and faster, which makes things a bit easier. But in general I really like the race logistics. Everything is more or less in the same place so it's easy to get to, there's not tons of traffic and it's a really nice area. When they do races in the big cities it can be complicated but this is really simple and really nice and it's a nice cosy atmosphere.
The swim is pretty cold but it's really beautiful. It's not really choppy and it's not dangerous so that helps a lot of people who are doing their first ironman or half distance. Then the run is pretty flat and easy. I believe there are four loops, which is always nice as you pass through the start line four times with people cheering for you. You can see athletes all of the time from either side of the river.
How's the training going?
I should have been doing a lot of races this summer but I suffer from hay fever allergies so I'm not able to prepare that well. So right now I'm getting some base training in – a lot of miles and a lot of distance. In August I'll start to peak up with some hard stuff so hopefully I'll be in good shape for September.
We've got a good pro field coming back – what do you think your chances are?
If I'm in good shape I think we all stand a chance to win. Right now the level of pro athletes is increasing and it's levelling out so anything can happen. Stephen has won before and I guess he's the main favourite, but I think we all stand a chance. Joel [Jameson] is a strong athlete – he's beaten me a couple of times so it would be nice to try and beat him for once! And there's Tuukka [Miettinen] – he's done some really good performances – he made top five in Ironman Lanzarote. He could be a dangerous man out there.
Finally, what tips do you have for age groupers competing in Henley?
I always say the same thing to people doing their first long distance race: don't stress with the small details or small things. Get out there and enjoy the swim, then out on the bike enjoy the scenery and the people cheering. You've got to enjoy what you're doing.
If you start stressing or worrying about the time and whether you're fast enough or your position in it then you just don't really enjoy it and the race turns around. Then it's not as good an experience as it could be. If you really focus on the positive things then you can really enjoy it and have a positive experience.
If you want to join over 1200 athletes racing at the UK’s fastest long distance triathlon, there are still places available on the start line of the 2013 Challenge Henley or Henley Half. To enter, visit www.challengehenley.com