Freedom finds record figures in Summer of Sport 2012

Race report from the Letchworth Garden City DuckNDash Aquathlon... featuring a 50m pool, Freedom flapjacks and the Black Keys

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The Letchworth Garden City DuckNDash Aquathlon took place on Sunday 02 September attracting a record level of 270 entries for this now-established, end-of-summer event, which uses the quirky combination of the 1930’s fifty-metre outdoor pool and gritty XC route around adjacent Norton Common.

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US rockers The Black Keys opened the 2012 show and Gold on the Ceiling seemed a fitting start as the swarm of green’N’black FreedomTri volunteers beavered away on the finishing touches for this ‘bigger and better’ third version of The DND. Organisers had increased the range of junior categories with competition in five age-groups, two senior races plus a team relay option and with Ducks and Drakes between 08-80 years, the crowd that assembled poolside on a beautiful North Herts morning was nudging the 500 mark.

The cross-section of local sponsors brought together by the club adds a ‘big race vibe’ to this community event, FreedomTri proving once again that imagination, hard work and real co-operation between key players can keep multisport accessible to the common man. BTF-affiliated entry was held between £10-15.00 and the fully-loaded Freedom goody-bags put those of many a major race organiser to shame. The club strap-line is simply ‘Enjoy It’ … and with almost 50% of the entry being from juniors under the age of 16, the sports-carnival atmosphere and pre-race banter promised a morning of Fun as well as of serious competition.

With six lanes across an Olympic-size pool, the ‘TriStart’ Ducklings took to the water at 09h00 with several variations on the 50m swim-length and five different combinations of run-distance from 0.6k to 6k, accurately calibrated by computerised chip-timing and assisted by a small army of marshalls who controlled, cajoled and consoled the first wave of ‘medal-hopefuls’ right through to the ‘smiling septuagenarians’, just happy to be still out there running, swimming and… Enjoying It!

Ben Gamble and Lucy West won the 8-year old race over a 50m ‘Duck’ in the pool and a 600m ‘Dash’ along the common. They were followed by Daniel English and Vicky Brackenbury (09-10 years), James Brackenbury and Jessica Laitner (11-12), Finn Barnes and Erin McCaffray (13-14) then Jamie McPherson and Zoe Hague winning the male and female (15-16) titles for the second consecutive year.

The senior event saw some highly competitive athletes impress both in water and overland with some interesting trends emerging for aficionados of this event; North Herts Road Runners demonstrating once again that fitness and experience in one endurance discipline can cross-over into broader multisport performance. 

 Swiftest ‘Drake’ of the day over 600m swim and 6k run was aptly-named Owen Bird of Loughborough Students Tri whose splits of 9:47 / 23:14 were strong enough for podium place but not to claim the 2011 course record of 32:22 set by Ollie Williams, who was away racing the half-Ironman triathlon in Galway. Laura Cowley of Herts Phoenix rose majestically from the water to produce an outstanding 22:56 run and take the women’s race in 33:39. Laura finished in 3rd place overall, narrowly behind Phil Curtis of Cambridge Tri who improved on his 2011 time only to finish 2nd once again. Vet 40 honours went to Iain Milligan and Astrid McKeown of NHRR then to DND stalwarts Nicky Bull and Stephen Livingstone in the V50. 

The ‘Duck’ event combined a 400m swim with the 2-lap, 6k run and was won by Keith Mulholland who did set a new course record for the shorter event in 30:09 beating Boxfit Tri’s Nathan Scott by 81 seconds. Cath Harris arguably produced the best personal result of the day by winning both the women’s Duck and Vet 40 races in 38:12 while Rachel Annetts and Garry Tame, both of NHRR, triumphed in the V50 category.

Finally, FreedomTri’s own Ben Gilbert and Rob Willis beat 9 other Relay teams through this now-becalmed turquoise tank of water and no-less challenging run-course to cross the noisy finish-line in an aggregate time of 34:07 – going one better than their second place of last year.

The assembled Ducklings, Ducks and Drakes downed recovery drinks from Your Sports Fuel, gobbled on various versions of Freedom Flapjack fresh from the Fentons kitchen, plundered goody-bags provided by the local Sainsbury’s and got retail therapy, courtesy of Trisports of Letchworth.

The ever-popular DND prize-draw included dinner-for-two at award-winning gastro-pub The Fox at Willian; a gourmet duck-hamper, courtesy of local solicitors Horizon Law; and presentation packs of organic ales, complete with themed beer-glasses from the one-and-only Freedom Brewery! FreedomTri certainly show the rest of the world how to ‘Enjoy it!’

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To view full results, links to DND sponsors & event-photos, visit: www.FreedomTri.org.uk