Fast times for Coffs triathletes

WHEN the cannon signalled the start of the 2007 Australian Ironman Triathlon at Port Macquarie on Sunday, 14 Coffs Harbour residents were among the 1600 people to test themselves in the toughest one-day endurance in the country and four of those Coffs Triathlon Club members were tackling the 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42.2km run distance for the first time in an event that pushes both body and mind to the limit, and to their credit the debutantes all passed with flying colours.

Chris Cherry was the first of these to greet the finisher, recording an impressive 10 hours 37 minute result.

He looked in control throughout the event and will undoubtedly improve on this time in the future. Not far behind was Leighton Rogan, with an 11 hour 19 minute time.

This was made more credible considering he was on an unfamiliar bike after having written off his previous cycle in a training accident only a fortnight ago.

Former Coffs Policeman, Steve Pittman overcome a recent shoulder reconstruction to finish strongly in 12 hours 56 minutes. Pittman was consistent in all three legs, and looks to have a promising future over this distance.

Sharon Williams' long training hours over the past six months paid dividends when she finished in 16 hours 20 minutes. She certainly made those critics advising her that she was not ready for such a challenge eat their words.

When Woolgoolga High School teacher Jenni Williams started at 6.30am on Sunday, she had to battle both nerves and self-doubt when entering the water, but still managed an impressive 16 hours and 14 minutes. Williams is a perfect example of what can be achieved when you set your goals on a target, and commit yourself to fulfill your dreams. Wendy Maley's 14 hour 39 minute result, also came with a fair dose of courage. Battling stomach problems, Maley battled through to tough out yet another Ironman finish.

Training partners Barry Campton and Peter Wood crossed the line together in 14 hours 32 minutes. Both had the chance to gain bragging rights over the other for the next 12 months, but could not be separated in the sprint to the line. Coffs Policeman, Cliff Lloyd enjoyed his second trip over this distance and impressed with a 14 hour 8 minute finish. At around two metres tall, Lloyd was easy to spot on the course, and always looked comfortable.

Smiling her way around the course for her 11th finish over this distance was Anne Grundy. Finishing in 13 hours 15 minutes, Grundy never looked out of her comfort zone as she cruised past competitors half her age.

After carrying an injury over recent months, Toormina's Dennis Jeff did well to complete the course in 13 hours six minutes. Jeff can now take time to recover prior to completing travel preparations to participate in Ironman Austria.

At 11.00am on Saturday, with only a few remaining hours to check-in your bike, John Fuller still did not have a cycle for the event. Four days out from the race cracks were discovered in his frame, making it too dangerous to ride. Local bike mechanic Glenn Price came to the rescue and located a replacement, which arrived in Port Macquarie early on Saturday afternoon. Fuller managed to overcome this inconvenience to record a creditable 11 hours 50 minutes.

Emerald Beach resident Craig Bulloch made a return to Ironman racing after nearly nine years absence. His time of 10 hours 50 minutes was a fair way off his best, but he was well satisfied with the result following an interrupted preparation.

Facing the starter for his 10th trip over the distance, Andrew Rowlings managed to finish in 10 hours and 24 minutes. This time was good enough to snare him a start in the World Ironman Championships to be staged in Hawaii on October 13 of this year.

Overall winner of the race, France's Patrick Vernay described the course as one of the toughest he has raced on, when the wind picked up during cycle leg and made going tough for all participants. Vernay managed to hold off a fast-finishing Australian, Jason Shortis with Craig Alexander filling third place.

The women were led home by Rebekah Keat, who registered her maiden Ironman win.

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