2012 The Norfolk Superhero Challenge

The Norfolk Superhero Challenge is a unique quadrathlon event designed to be accessible to people of all abilities, from  more experienced athletes who want to push themselves to the limit to individuals who may be first time quadrathletes and wish to set themselves a new challenge and improve their fitness. Now in it’s 6th year, the event continues to go from strength to strength. This years event on Saturday 23rd June had 134 competitors, the race consisted of –

Swim – 1 mile from Gun Hill to the quay at Burnham Overy Staithe with the incoming tide.
Kayak – 4 mile course through the creeks of Burnham Overy Staithe.
Cycle -A new 45 mile circular route on North Norfolk’s most scenic roads.
Run – 8 miles across tracks, sand, mud and marsh.

The forecast had been for gales gusting to 40 mph earlier in the week, but the surprise visitor was the constant sunshine which shone down on the creeks and incoming tide at Burnham Overy Staithe on the morning of the race.  A strong south westerly kept everyone on their toes and held back the start, as tide battled wind.

At 8.30 am, after a relaxed flotilla of boat marshalls had ferried the competitors out to Gun Hill, 134 swimmers took to the water, surrounded by the fantastic support team of the well drilled Fakenham Canoe Club, led by Nigel and backed up by the Wells Inshore Lifeboat, helmed by Coxswain Allen.  Choppy waters and the constant offshore wind meant this year’s swim was the toughest in the Challenge’s 6 year history.  Yet somehow our lead swimmer still beat Peter Bickle and his empty ferry back past Dead Man’s Hole to shore.  He thought his eyes were deceiving him when the first competitor/porpoise/woman was seen to spring from the sea. The incredible time set in our fastest ever swim was 16 minutes and 46 seconds by Abbie Thorrington, a member of the British Triathlon squad.  Quite a few superheroes were seen to walk some of the gruelling swim but hey, there is nothing in the rules about that. The second competitor out of the water was 2011’s leading swimmer, Charles Wilson with a magnificent, normal human, time of 18.21 and Ross Johnson in third position with 18.42.

The kayak phase was wonderfully tightly contested.  On the short course, Saya Sheridan and Johnny Bland pipped Abbie Thorrington and her partner Mark Harrod by a mere 2 seconds with their impressive and well deserved first place with a time of 38.14, leaving only a minute before the 3rd positioned mixed team of Jo and Toby Dean came in.  That wind kept things exciting with proper waves reported breaking over the nose of our lead long course kayak, and last year’s champions, the indomitable Duncan Backus and Rob Stendrup, who recorded a time of 49.30.  A little horse play and pugelsticks on the water gave Mark and James Lapping the disappointment of second place and a time of 49.56.  Whilst, within a minute again, and a very respectable time of 50.48, third place was Phil Ellis’s and Russel DeBeer’s for the taking.

Transition times are always worth a mention when preparation is being made for the bike phase, you may not expect your partner to require a loo break and a cup of tea, but best made plans and all that gave us a staggering spread of times in the break between kayak in and bike out.  The time for bets on overall race placings should have been called when it is noted that the quickest time went to the ultimate race winners (1.30) and the slowest went to our best beloved holders of the wooden spoon (13.40).

That constant South Westerly wind took centre stage in the fight out to Sandringham as the bike course forged it’s way west.  Due to ever improving course times on the bike and the necessity of the tide to have fully retreated in order to open up the run course across the sea straddled creek, the bike course had been lengthened to 45 miles. Many of our wonderful competitors paid for their over exuberance in front of the crowds and on that nasty gravelly swing round the Obelisk with several A&E workers making their living digging gravel out of forearms and jamming shoulders back into place. Marcus Hawkins, Charlie Ward, Tim Heffer and Thomas Courthauld are definately worth a mention in the wounded but still heroes catergory. 2.09.10 was the mere wisp of a time it took Mark Harrod to show his first time partner Abbie Thorrington the sights and smells of our glorious county, Nick Toulan and Dan Pilling, the Lincolnshire Lads, didn’t hang around either to check out their first views of Nelson’s finest backroads, giving them just 2.13.49 worth of worry.  Charlie Ward and Matt Gingell, (2010 Trophy winners, 2011 Local heroes) mixed it up with Niall McCallum and Iain Wilson in the battle for 3rd place, with Revenge sadly being a dish served cold if not a little worse for it after a nasty spill by Charlie on an impressive overtaking manouvere.

Bananas and water stops interspersed with Pink t-shirts and Union Jacks marked out the daunting run route, as competitors again left the field to take to the sea wall, and swing out East to Holkham and the glorious sight of Rachel Symington jumping up and down  and shouting encouragement on Lady Anne’s Drive.  Running was obviously another specialist subject of Niall McCallum and Iain Wilson who powered their way to take the fastest time in 1.06.47.  Nick Toulan and Dan Pilling obviously felt at home on the marsh too when they speeded in with a time of 1.09.27, followed by Kevin Marshall and Darren Thomas hammering 1.11.08 down as their time.

From where the crowd were standing on the hard, there was however only one winning team.  The magnificent duo and now present holders of the Dame Edna Cup, Abbie Thorrington and Mark Harrod romped in with the whole marsh to themselves splashing through the sun glinted water to deafening cheers and congratulations from our wonderful supporters, including Marks previous partner the lovely Rowan Clifford. Those Lincolnshire Lads, and winners of the Lord Nelson looked too strong for our local Heroes Iain and Niall, in second place and our hearts were full to bursting when Phil Ellis and Russell DeBeer appeared to bring home a ‘podium finish’ in  third place.  Poor Jo and Toby Dean were beaten into 2nd place for the third year running in the Dame Edna, but take heart, by a possible Olympic dream.  Tears were wept when the winning ladies made it home, making Milla Beeson and Kate Wharton our new Lady Hamiltons.  The whole field surged out to the finish to see our wonderful wooden spoon winners Sez Hughes and Cath Edgington (Head Marshall, Big C coordinator and responsible for the raising of £6,897 for the East Anglian Air Ambulance).

Our massive thanks go out to our wonderful marshalls, who voted for their winner of the spirit of the superhero prize.  A hard decision when so much love is whizzing past you on bicycles and needing vaseline and bananas thrown at them.  Roland and his son Daniel Bewick’ sunny disposition was just pipped by the Spanish and South African ridiculous double act’s charms.  Alge Williams and Jerry Phillipi strode off easily with the Best Marshall Prize for pure and honest control tempered by slight cheek and naughtiness, with Henry hot on their heels as the new ‘tall-dark-handsome-man-that-can’ in the field.  (Must have been the year of the boys in pink).

Finally, thank you to the Big C who were our charity this year and were a real support to us just as you have made a real difference to them.


Category Winners

Lord Nelson Trophy Nick Toulan And Dan Pilling
Dame Edna Cup Abbie Thorrington and Mark Harrod
Lady Hamilton Cup Kate Wharton and Milla Beeson
Local Heroes Iain Wilson and Niall McCallum
Zimmer Winner Susie Towning and Suzanne Read

Special Mentions

Wooden Spoon Cath Edginton and Sez Hughes
Spirit of the Superhero Pablo Sanchez and Peter McShane
Marshall Prize Alge Williams and Jerry Phillipi

Superheros – Every single one of you!