It was only the weekend we had been waiting for all year and here it was, forecast was good, no wind, no rain and maybe a little too much sun. Riddy had done her back in dancing in heels the previous Saturday and Head Marshall Cath was on crutches with a shattered hip. Luckily Jess had rung round and we had the best set up to a Superhero ever. As per usual, the RUDD MARQUEE boys, Peter, Cliff, Seany and John all had their tops off and by Thursday the Marquee was up, ANTON WIMMER had bought in the drinks, PHIL ELLIS had set up the WATER (Thank Goodness – never so much needed by so few for so long!) and bought the Monster Superhero Bar that lives in a barn, ALEC LOCHORE had set up the transition zone and and the flags were flying against a blue sky and a green marsh.
We also had extra help from ‘Super Steward’ WILL GARNETT, who was shimmying up tent poles to attach ADNAMS banners, VICKI RINGER setting up the bar, LUCY BIRKBECK doing all the heavy carrying round the office, SARAH GREEN dropping in prizes for the HOLKHAM COUNTRY FAIR, stayed and ended up unloading 98 kayaks with NIALL who had just popped in to show his face. MARK LAPPING, PHIL ELLIS and SIMON WILSON STEPHENS were out marking the course and everything was feeling calm. CHARLES and BRYGIDA BOURNE of URBAN ARMOUR, our wonderful medal sponsors even treated us to a delicious HERO pub take out.
Friday check in and the rumours were flying around… Was Niall really doing the superhero again, and who is this Alan Hill bloke….? Apparently it was going to hit 30 degrees on Saturday at about 2pm when everyone was on the run. What colour are the t-shirts this year? Who had got last minute places from the waiting list… there were two new Brothers whose name began with B, someone said they were from Yorkshire? Were the red and white kayaks faster or slower than the others? One of our sponsors couldn’t make it to the safety briefing so we worked out which was last years winning kayak from the curled up old stickers and baggsed it for him. That caused quite a bit of consternation. Bikes and Ironman t-shirts were being openly paraded through the field. There was the sound of annual superhero friends greeting each other, ALGY’S POPCORN being scoffed and PINK LADIES taking scissors to their t-shirts, obviously wary of suntan lines.
CAPTAIN MARTYN FLITCROFT treated us to an excellent safety briefing, stressing the importance of hydration and common sense and MARK AND SIMON gave us all a good chat about sandbar tactics on the swim and outlined the importance of comradeship. Delicious carb loading supper prepared by SARA STOCKS of GREAT GRANOLA, who we are so pleased to get to help us with our food every year, as this is the only event she caters for. (Lucky us) Lots of new faces both amongst the marshals and competitors meant we were looking at the biggest event we had ever staged happening and we couldn’t wait. We are always so happy to welcome new people to the superhero, but we also realise that the same people returning every year gives us that unique atmosphere that is always commented on. (We are thinking of bringing out a 10 year t-shirt so do get in touch anyone who wants and deserves one.)
We woke up in our Jess-painted bespoke pink, blue and star painted caravan to an even hotter morning than anticipated. A later start due to the tide meant Marshall safety briefing and bacon butties started at 8.30. When ‘tags out’ opened in HQ at 9.00, the field came alive to the smell of sun cream, fear and rubber. DANNY and his mate from HOLKHAM were there on parking, TRI HARDER were in the field (even bringing a wetsuit for Nic Bizley who had forgotten his), FAT BIRDS were sorting out bikes, IAN WILLIAMSON and the massage crew had set up their tent. The boat marshals started turning up, always a good sign as it means the tide is coming in. Huge thanks to our new boat marshals, ROGER and ASH as well as SIMON, KEVIN, JIM and the ever loyal PETER BECK.
The walking party set off slowly in the sunshine, past the lovely marshals on the wall. The boats were loaded with competitors and slowly Gun Hill became not just a place for nesting terns (thanks for not disturbing them) but for massing superheroes. A nice man from NATURAL ENGLAND came to make sure we were all alright. Looking back to shore we could see the Lowland rescue boats, visible against the groynes and slight sandbar shadow, the tide was still coming in but it was never going to be a big one. ROLAND BEWICK’S FAKENHAM CANOE CLUB and NORTH NORFOLK RNLI PADDLE BOARDERS led by Liam were perfectly positioned on the beach when the call came through that the RNLI INSHORE LIFEBOAT was in the channel. We were were all ready to go, including JIM WHITESIDE and LOWLAND RESCUE. Someone hadn’t got a wetsuit , Stafford Proctor had a spare one, Someone hadn’t bought their goggles, Robert Gurney had some spare ones, photos were taken, bags stashed. The lifeguards formed a funnel and the count took place… 195! Someone hadn’t made it to the start but it didn’t matter – The competitors dove into the water at 11.15.
Ideal swimming conditions on top of the water but maybe not enough water below meant we had a lovely calm CHEQUERS INN swim leg with absolutely no panicking swimmers and a wonderfully controlled escort of safety craft. Despite the fact that a lot of competitors could be seen walking the straightest line, it showed that it paid to stay in the channel, as this year, Abbie Thorrington set a new course record of 14:48. Sam ‘shoulders’ Kendrick, last year’s paddle boarder leader, was on her tail but just could not catch her with 15:23. Second and third for the girls was Eve Dewsnap with 19:29 and Rachel Symington, our own swim coach with 19:59. Second and third for the boys were Tom Vickery with 15:51 and Rob Lines with 15:54. Pretty impressive.
We think we might have quite a lot of video footage on the LIVING LEADER kayak leg of PETE NAYLOR’s old teammate from last year, Ben Jackson, as he was operating the drone camera of DRIFT MEDIA alongside PAUL JOY which was up above you a lot of the time. Several kayaks went into the water backwards but the marshals did a wonderful job of creating a funnel of pink for ease of launching. All the kayaks turned at the right place, there was the usual scrum to get over the bank, and the short course was won by Lucy and Harry Hitchcock with a time of 36:30, followed by Saya Sheridan and Nicholas Bertrand 37:46, and Diane Swanepole and Rob Lines in hot pursuit with 38:39. The long course obviously took a longer time with Dan Guppy and Simon Riches clocked round in 49:05, Paul Forster and Tom Vickery in 49.29 and Lex Brun and Matt Noble-Clarke squeaking third with 49.33.
Back in the field the marshals were working hard with James Holden and Stuart Cameron especially taking kayaks on the run from you all and stacking them all up in the trailers, whilst simultaneously directing spectators and beaming happily. The marshals were numerous, cheerful calm and strong throughout and that is what makes the superhero such a unique event in the triathlon and endurance racing world. You don’t get such great marshals everywhere apparently.
By the time the BARRATT & COOKE bike leg started, the day was getting hot. A lot of water was being taken by the competitors from all the marshal points. We were ready for you, water was moved around the course by our excellent NORFOLK AND SUFFOLK 4×4 boys and on the back leg of the course chilled bottles of water were being delivered personally by HQ. Niall McCallum’s watch apparently beeped every 15 minutes; whereupon he would feed his partner, Alan Hill energy snacks or empty water bottles down him, this caused great hilarity of all surrounding them. Sadly the bike was calamitous for some, with Dylan Bogg and Roger Canham having a inter-team collision with each other on a corner, and poor Roger came away with a broken collar bone. Emma Littmoden came off at Sandringham and need 15 stitches (sorry, by the prize giving we had exaggerated that up to 17) in her shoulder. Finally, Ant Ringer came a cropper on the cattle grid and also broke his collar bone. Ow Ow Ow… we hope you are all making a good recovery. David Horton Fawkes and Ben Hunter Watts proved that two surnames are better than one, when they won the bike leg with a time of 2:05:45. Jamie Carter and Andy Nunn came second with a time of 2:06:02 and Robert Gurney and Tim Hansell came third with 2:06:20. Well done to you all. That is always a contentious leg, well fought over.
The paramedics were busy dealing with the bike falls, so we were lucky to have amongst our marshal team, several other medical professionals, including, DI BLACK, KAREN SNOOK and TIM MORTON all of whom voluntarily stepped up to the challenge of keeping you safe; being alert to your physical and mental state and stepping in when required. Thank you to them and to you for heeding their advice. We had also trained up 12 of our marshals as first aiders on a course run by MARTYN FLITCROFT back in May for which we are very grateful. Good job none of them were required when Clare Birch got shot at whilst on her bike past Sandringham by someone shooting pigeons. Literally a piece of shot hit her face! She says she is going to dine out on that story.
So to the HOLKHAM run, it is often dispiriting for those runners to be leaving the field only to find the crowd has their backs to them as they have spotted the lead runners already coming back across the marsh having completed the epic last leg. So how marvellous to have the GRESHAM’S Band powering through some very uplifting music which was floating out across the village. Water that had been left in transition boxes for this final stage was by now at almost egg boiling temperatures, so it was wonderful to have jugs of cold water and more bottles available at bottom gate as dehydration would have been a bad move at this stage. big disappointment was felt to anyone who left their partner on the run, usual suspects guilty again. The conditions we had on Saturday were just the time when it is important to stick together, the buddy system which Simon talked about in a ‘mental health’ situation was just as relevant on the beach. (We will not be inviting anyone back in 2018 who left their partner on the beach.) But luckily our true stalwart marshals were there for them, equipped with sun cream, bananas, cheers and even a fancy dress outfit or two. (What happens in the woods stays in the woods so we are told.) Our trailing pair of runners were given two bottles of chilled water at every checkpoint, which they found miraculous, as the temperature had indeed soared. A special mention to Ladies Marshall prize winners SAM GURNEY and VICKI RINGER who were at the beach outpost. Luckily though, there was wind on the Sahara straight and it was blowing right in your faces. The race for 1st place was tight, tighter than anyone wanted, wrong turns, lost partners, mirages in the desert – it was all happening out on the beach. The winners of the fastest run were Andrew Nunn and Jamie Carter with a time of 1:09:45, 2nd in the run leg were Simon Able and John O’Neal and third were Lex Brun and Matt Noble-Clark with 1:13:26. Last year’ previous winner with Niall, DAVE WALKER came and was the medal giver as you all came over the finish line as Superheroes and were rewarded with VITACOCO
Ian Williamson and his massage team were having to work hard as the day was still hot. The RQ CAPITAL ‘champions supper’ was delicious with GRAVES HOG ROAST and the usual scrum of extra Supper ticket administration. BEN ZAVEN CRANE bought the party to the marquee with his eclectic and spot on prize giving sound track.
Mark and Simon did a great job of the speeches, the stories came out of the missing partners, the puncture repairers, and the new friends made along the way. The Lord Nelson Trophy had passed on to new hands, Niall has stepped away from his unbroken line of wins. The Ormegoddon Boys, Chris Langlois and Jon Holt had bought a special Guernsey bottle of Gin to hand on as the Spirit prize to the newly voted favourites, who had won the hearts of the marshals and competitors for taking part in the event in the true spirit of the Superhero.
LORD NELSON TROPHY
To Be Advised Jamie Carter & Andrew Nunn 4:33:57
Ugly Five Zero Matthew Noble Clark & Lex Brun 4:34:29
Cold Chips n Dip Simon Riches & Dan Guppy 4:37:29
DAME EDNA TROPHY
No Payne No Gain Matt Payne & Sheila Oxtoby 4:42:23
Small and Hall Nick Littmoden & Frankie Hall 4:59:23
Tri Harder Ben Walker & Eve Dewsnap 5:06:23
LADY HAMILTON CUP
In Preparation Emily Lochore & Nicky Knowles 5:16:09
The Brunettes Emma Lloyd-Davies & Abbie Brun 5:34:08
Then all decorum went out of the window – tables were dragged outside for the view of the flags on the marsh, the pink ladies were back behind the bar, crutches were being raised above the dance floor and the teenagers were night swimming in the creek. The ‘Charles Miller Rose’ moment came at 2pm, after the gate crashers were ousted, Superhero hats were awarded to the special clearer uppers and a translator was required in order for us to communicate with pink lady Matthew. It was the latest after party we have ever had and did we mention your t-shirt s GLOW IN THE DARK! You have all been marvellous and posted all your photos on Instagram and Facebook – Thank you for your messages, we really appreciate them and will try, in the next few days, to pass as many as possible on to the PINK LADIES.
The great fact of it was, that we all had a lot of fun, even if it didn’t feel like it at the time. It was a hot, gruelling, some say the hardest Superhero yet, some didn’t make it, but all of those who tried, all of those that did – and those that helped make it happen for everyone else, are all Superheroes.
In order for us to keep helping people, keeping that Superhero spirit alive: please could you keep fundraising, passing on those well wishers sponsorship to the following fund. The Norfolk Superhero Foundation, raising money for small local Mental Health and Well Being charities.
Or you can send us a cheque paid out to “Norfolk Community foundation’ c/o Norfolk Superhero Challenge, Painswhin Farm, Helhoughton, Fakenham Norfolk NR21 7BZ
And to end it all and to say thank you to you all for all your brilliant enthusiasm and thanks – have a little look at the video DRIFT MEDIA has put together for us.
P.S. We have got the date for next year and its the 16th June 2018, which is a BIG tide, but ‘shhhhhhhh!’ don’t tell anyone else, otherwise how are we going to fit you all in?
P.P.S. There are masses of photos on Facebook and Instagram do have a look – Click on the buttons below to bring them up and contact JEZ BATCH, our marvellous photographer, if you want any copies of this fantastic photos.
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