Ric Cooper and Challenge Roth, Iron Distance Triathlon

We don’t cover triathlon much at A Life of Adventure, but iron man distance tri is definitely a thing of endurance and so we’re happy to hear from Ric Cooper, who in July will be competing in Challenge Roth, Europe’s toughest event.

He is doing the 225km race (3.8km swim, 180km cycle and a full marathon to finish) together with his two sons and they have been training, all on the same programme, since December. They are pretty fearsome competitors, and if all goes well in training then all three family members will be aiming for sub 11 hour times for the event, which would be a fantastic achievement.

The three Coopers, along with the three other members of their party, have also offered to contribute a journal to A Life of Adventure, looking at the lighter side of their training. See Six Blokes at Challenge Roth Triathlon

Below, Ric Cooper looks over training so far and towards the event.

The swimming leg along the Main-Danube Canal, courtesy Challenge Roth

The swimming leg along the Main-Danube Canal, courtesy Challenge Roth

First a bit of Form
I have done 20+ triathlons over the years, winning 7 out of the 9 half iron distance races I have entered (in my age group), and I have done several World Championship / GB age group (55+) events at shorter tri distances. However I have competed in only two iron distance races; first the UK Championships at Bolton in 2013, which I won in my age group, meaning I qualified for, second, the World Championships in Kona in Hawaii. Unfortunately I arrived there with a run injury, so I ended up with a 4:40 marathon time, placing me 40th out of 120, whereas with a run-fit marathon might have placed in the top 10. So there is a certain “unfinished business” there…

I turn 60 before the end of 2018 and this means I will now be competing in the 60+ age group. I feel therefore that I have a decent chance of getting on the podium of a major international event for the first time. It’s almost certainly my iron distance triathlon swansong.

Why Roth, why now?
I fell in love with Roth after reading Chrissie Wellington’s book A Life without Limits, five years ago, where she describes the incredible atmosphere and crowds. I also like to support the Challenge organization because I find that Ironman, who run the majority of iron distance races around the world, have become over-commercial and no longer pay enough attention to the athlete experience.

The decision to enter Challenge Roth was made in the autumn of 2017, mostly prompted by my sons Jack and George deciding they wanted to give an iron man distance race a go. I immediately flagged Roth as ideal for them and me. Inevitably the timing is sub-optimal… I am just coming out of three year divorce process and will be remarrying later this year.

Once we had settled on the race, it didn’t take long to decide on a charity to raise money for. We each have our different reasons for choosing Mind, but what we all absolutely agree about is the amazing work they’re doing around mental health, something which far more people suffer with than everyone realises. The stigma surrounding mental health is finally being broken down, especially with men, and Mind has played a huge part in that. What we will be putting ourselves through at Roth doesn’t remotely compare to what people with mental health issues suffer on a daily basis.

See more about the work of mental health charity Mind at their website here.

rick 8.jpg

Training and Coaching
All three of us are coached by Chris Standidge at Total Tri. It’s fun (and quite competitive) all being on same programme. Training directed specifically at the event started in December and we’ve all been doing 10-15 hrs per week, including biking, swimming, running and strength and conditioning in gym. Ninety percent of our training is done solo, so being on the same programme adds an extra peer pressure not to miss a session.

What will be the most challenging aspect of the training?
My worry is only the running. First, it’s by far and away the most painful part for me, and second I have had a recurring Achilles injury for most of the last 6 month, which means I have done hardly any run training. Anyway, after consulting half the Achilles injury experts in the south of England, touch wood, their advice seems to have worked… I am just easing back into running, but pre-Roth I will only have 6-7 weeks of longer/marathon distance training. The nightmare scenario is that I build up a significant lead on the bike, and then sons and team mates come bounding past during final stages of run…

What is endurance for iron man distance triathlon? Can you train for it, or is endurance more of a mind-set?
Distance racing is about physical endurance, mental strength, intelligent pacing and optimised hydration and nutrition. All four of these elements have to be right to get to the start line in best possible shape - and then to deliver on or ahead of best expectations.

We have a bit of a “Never Give Up” mantra in the Cooper family, which started with me giving that advice to my daughters Rosy and Amy (then running national standard middle distance on the track), and progressed to Rosy playing it back to me when I was considering quitting during my Round Britain & Ireland Windsurf record attempt. This mind-set is likely to result in one or all Coopers going very deep into the pain locker in getting to the finish line. At Bolton I simply couldn’t walk or move after the race and was taken away in a wheelchair. At Kona I spent 40 mins in the first aid tent as I had lost a ‘greater than safe’ amount of body weight (4 kg, I think).

Looking forward
My swimming and bike training has gone well. If I can get 2-3 well paced, long runs done in next few weeks without an Achilles flare up, I will be stretch targeting 10 hrs 30, which would normally get me on the age group podium at Roth. I will probably not be run fit for our Monster Mojo pre-Roth test on 13th May, but winning the swim and bike section would be a good sign…

Climbing the Solar Berg, c Challenge Roth

Climbing the Solar Berg, c Challenge Roth