The Letchworth Garden City Duck’N’Dash Aquathlon took place on Sunday 1 September, where over 250 athletes competed in the club’s fourth, annual, end-of-summer event. The unique race quirkily combines the use of a 1930s, 50m outdoor pool and a gritty cross-country route around the adjacent Norton Common.
The Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter kicked off proceedings, and sizzling bacon sarnies and morning coffee added a glow of warmth to the early Sunday cool as the swarm of Green’N’Black FreedomTri volunteers beavered away from dawn on the finishing touches.
Race organisers retained the same range of events as last year, with competition taking place across five junior age-groups, two senior races, plus a team relay option. With so much on offer, a jostling crowd of over 400 lined up to watch the action unfold.
With six lanes across an Olympic-size pool, the ‘TriStart’ Ducklings took to the water at 9am. Their event included several variations on the 50m swim-length format and five different combinations of run distance, from 600m to 6km, ably assisted by a small army of marshalls who controlled, cajoled and consoled everyone from the first wave of ‘medal-hopefuls’, right through to the ‘smiling septuagenarians’.
Sara Laitner and Joseph English won the 8-year-olds race over a 50m ‘Duck’ in the pool and a 600m ‘Dash’ along the common. Christina Durbin led a charge of Triforce junior winners, while Robin Kettle took the boys’ race (9-10 years), Tia Wilson and James Mabbs the 11-12s, Erin McCaffray (an age-group winner for the second consecutive year) and Alex Evens the 13-14s, and Seraphine McCormick and Chris Price the Youth category.
Swiftest ‘Drake’ of the day over the 600m swim and 6km run was Terry Bonnett of Triforce, whose splits of 9:14mins and 22:07mins were strong enough not only for a podium place, but also to set a new course record of 31:22min. Ladies’ record-holder Laura Cowley was back to defend her title, but was beaten to the tape this year by a phenomenal performance from GB Aquathlon specialist Annie Wilson, who’s currently preparing for the forthcoming World Championships in Hyde Park.
The ‘Duck’ event combined a 400m swim with a two-lap, 6km run, and was won by newcomer to the area Michael Taylor. Racing for the RAF, Taylor finished in another record time of 29:08mins – over 6mins ahead of ladies’ winner Laura Grimer, whose combined time of 35:27mins was good enought to take second overall.
Fairlands Valley Spartans had a good day at the races with Tony Bradford finishing third ‘Duck’ and winning the Vet 50 race in 35:49mins, just ahead of fellow Spartan Lisa Burgess. Jon Hunt took male Vet 40 honours (39:32mins) and Andrea Mann female Vet 40 (40:50mins). Rachel Annetts of North Herts Road Runners completed the podium, winning the female vet 50 in 41:18mins.
Finally, FreedomTri’s own Mark ‘Sparky’ Whittle and Simon Jackson beat 20 other relay teams in what proved to be a more popular race-category than ever before to cross the noisy finish-line in a joint time of just 30:17mins – successfully passing on the timing-chip ‘baton’ and setting a new relay record to challenge all-comers in 2014.