Member Profile :: Chris Sardo


With the dark months rapidly approaching, it’s time to reflect on the year’s racing.  Usually that means what we messed up and what to do to iron things out for next year.  Most of the time, little or no credit is given for what was accomplished.

But a little discussion at home recently brought to my attention that the last 15 months or so had really gone rather well for me regarding my sport/hobby.  Given my history of injuries and having been written off by the medics on more than one occasion, it was wonderful to enjoy this period with little more than a few temporary niggles.

In 2013, I competed as a GB age-grouper at Sprint distance at the European Champs (Turkey) and World Champs (London).  2014’s qualification for the Olympic distance at the Europeans, had to be surrendered weeks before the event due to injury which would last the whole season.  So last year my aim was GB qualification at other distances too.

1)     The first step on this new journey started in June ’15 at Grafham Water which hosted the English Middle (half iron) Distance National Championships.  This would be my first full race at this distance (an attempt at the ‘half’ some weeks earlier at Bala, Wales, was cancelled near the end of the bike leg when a competitor tragically lost his life).   The unloved swim was tempered by having 2 laps with swimmers leaving the water after lap 1, running a few yards and then re-entering for another lap.  Despite this, as usual, my bike looked very lonely in my Age Group section of transition!  A good bike leg in mostly heavy rain then followed before 21km of extreme back pain on the run.  My son Luca had come over from Bath to join me for the weekend and having him cheering the old man on during the run and transitions was just brilliant!  And having him with me when the results were announced – National AG champ!! – and the thoughts of how the medics had kept telling me “forget it; no more”, left me with more than a few little tears behind the cycling sunnies!  Although I had won my AG at a small number of events in the past, they were sprints/standards, not at Half Iron distance and certainly not at the National Champs!

chris-sardo82)   A month later, we were in Geneva in scorching 35deg heat to race the European Sprint Triathlon Championships which I had qualified for over a tricky course in the Peak District. We drove down and spent a few days in this lovely city.   As always, this was a noisy, colourful and cosmopolitan affair with much going on, loads of GB supporters, top elites (a chat with superstar Xavier Gomez!) and closed roads around Lake Geneva and through the city itself.

My result of 11th in AG (3rd out of about 18 GBs in AG) was similar to my previous European Sprint experience which left me a little frustrated although I thoroughly enjoyed the race, the venue and the whole experience.

3)       Early this year I was lucky enough to have my name pulled from ATC’s hat to win a place at the London Marathon.  A marathon was not ever something I had my eye on because of my ‘glass body’ and I was reluctant to risk all the triathlon ‘fun’ by tackling the training required to do well over 42km.  But now, with an entry to London on a plate, I couldn’t turn down that opportunity and I put my mind to training for this new experience. The aim was to do as well as I could….perhaps try for a ‘Good for Age’ result and not merely to finish it.  Oh, and to remain uninjured.

chris-sardo5Part of the build-up included the Headcorn Half followed some weeks later by the Lydd 20 miler, both in the company of several ATC clubmates.  This was the first time I had raced these distances too and both went exactly to plan at 1:37 and about 2:45.  All good so far.

An offer to join the A&D coach to the Greenwich start was greatly appreciated.  It was generous of them to open the coach up to ATC too and great for me to have the company and all the advice on offer from the experienced A&D folks on board (although at the time all I needed to know was where the loos were!!

Nothing could have prepared me for the atmosphere along that course.  42km of constant wall-to-wall noise.  Nowhere on the route was ‘quiet’.  Yet I’d been warned how ‘easy’ it is to get carried along by the cheering supporters from the off and then be overcooked by the time we get to the Cutty Sark.  On the other hand, my little brain kept reminding me of certain ‘jibes’ by some ATC mates about Sprint tris vs marathon and also about ambitious target times which the KE had printed in an article that week!

Childish I know, but I have to admit by the time I reached half way and was still consistently clocking 8min miles, I was being driven by the memory of the ‘jibes’ to continue at that pace!  As it turned out, after I had caught up to the 3h30 pacer at about 4kms, he would never be more than an arm’s length away and I was ecstatic  to complete my debut marathon in 3h29m, earning a ‘Good for Age’ place for 2017 by 15 minutes in the process. Everything had gone exactly to plan and all the body had held out.  Absolutely loved it; thank you ATC!

4)    A few weeks later, in early May, Luca again joined ‘the old man’ in Copenhagen, to race the European Long Distance DUATHLON Champs, my first duathlon as GB age-grouper.   We spent a few days in a waterfront apartment close to the start/finish/transition.  Like the ‘Grafman’ Nationals some months before, it was good to spend time together, and to have his help and support.  My focus on London marathon since January, however, meant some neglect of the swim/bike training and I wasn’t as prepared on the bike as I’d have liked to have been for this race.  So after a good first run, I had to work really hard on the bike to try to ride as I know I should, but this took its toll on the second run which was a frustrating and painful affair.  The final result was a 4th in AG and 1st GB home, the best I’ve achieved at European level. But again I was left frustrated knowing that had I cycled as I am capable of, it may well have been that elusive podium. Lesson learnt!

chris-sardo45)     Lisbon was the venue in June for the European Olympic Distance Triathlon Champs.  Lynn and I were joined by family of mine living in the Algarve who came up to help make some noise.   A swim in a protected harbour, followed by a 2-lap bike course on closed but exposed motorway and a packed and spectator-friendly 4-lap run along the promenade past bars and restaurants and a great indoor arena finish, made for both extremes: the most enjoyable weekend of Championship racing and fun to date, as well as the ‘worst’ European result! (15th in AG and about 5th GB).  Maybe too many Portuguese custard tarts with the family…..!?

6)   The final race of the season was what I’d been looking forward to the most.  Early September, and Lynn and I flew to Munich and drove across the border to Austria for a week amongst the mountains to race the European Middle Distance Triathlon Championships hosted by Challenge Walchsee.  A beautiful clear lake surrounded by magnificent Tyrol mountains and table-smooth roads made for a stunning venue and again we were blessed with brilliant sunshine on the day.  A couple of blokes in Austrian traditional gear (not cycling in those lederhosen!!) fired an ancient cannon on the lake shore to set off the elites, followed by a rolling start for all the Age Groupers. By now, the early morning mist had burnt off and the day was warming up to the point that I was fearing a non-wetsuit swim.  Over 1.9km without a wetsuit and I may still have been out there right now!  As it turned out, the swim in that crystal clear lake was a relaxed and controlled race on my part, so much so that I spent longer than most in there (as always!)

The bike was a magnificent, scenic and hilly 2 x 45km lap race which kept cyclists alert all the time….no boring mile after mile on the bars here!   Was also such fun taking back 24 places I’d lost in the swim.   The run, a gorgeous 4 x 5km laps around the Walchsee lake, was extremely difficult because of the high temperatures by then but mainly for me the old ‘back issues’ returning to haunt me. Despite this, I would haul in another 3 competitors by the time the red carpet appeared, to come in 10th in AG and 2nd GB home.  Only 2 GBs in top 10 and being one of those helped confirm my National win result from 2015, in my little insecure mind!

chris-sardo3Everything about the race went as well as I could’ve hoped for.  For me a solid result, an awesome setting, brilliant supporters, great organisation and racing over an exciting course….and all without technical incident.

We met so many folks there – competitors and supporters – everyone open, friendly and helpful, no matter which nation they represent……typical triathlon community.  Great to see folks from opposing nations helping each other during bike racking (“we can kick each other’s heads in during the swim tomorrow!!”).  Even our AirBnB host was a keen cyclist who insisted on proudly (justifiably!) showing us around the area and taking me for a recce of the bike course during the week before the race, despite not speaking a word of English (and you can guess the extent of my German, ja?!).  On race day, he was a volunteer at a bike drink station while his wife was lakeside on the run course, insanely jumping about each time I passed, ringing a huge cowbell and shouting out the ONE and ONLY word she could say in English (with the help of my name on my trisuit)…..”Sardo! Sardo!!”

So from June ‘15 to September ‘16, we’ve had GB representation at 4 different European Champs:  Middle Distance, Sprint and Olympic triathlon and long course Duathlon.  Also a National Championship triathlon win and a debut marathon at 3:29 in ATC colours.

chris-sardo2Some of these European results mean there is ‘automatic’ GB selection to the same European Champs (long distance duathlon & middle distance triathlon)for 2017, as well as London Marathon.  However, there are still decisions to be made about next year.

It took a month in hospital with a broken leg and other serious back/shoulder injuries following a hit & run while cycling, to get me started in triathlon 5 years ago.  That and the prognosis that has been dished out to me so often, makes me so thankful and blessed for every step I am able to take and enjoy.  I am so aware of how important our health is and how fragile our lives are.

I love the competitive racing, especially competing abroad and I love the welcoming and supportive triathlon community. We all have our personal stories to tell of our journeys and reasons for participating.  I am grateful to ATC and the support of the Captains’ Fund as well as the support and influence of several members personally and also extremely fortunate to have the absolute support of my biggest fan, my long-suffering wife Lynn.  Hopefully my little grandson, Joshua, will be inspired by Papa’s adventures to also get to understand the many joys and benefits that our sport and its community can bring, whether as a newbie or an elite or anywhere in between.

I feel extremely proud, honoured and humbled to wear GB colours and would love to wear them on a podium at a European Championships sometime. Maybe next year……!















Member Profile :: Craig Rawbone

craigrawboneI honestly thought I would never be able to do a triathlon.

In my early twenties my health took a bit of a spiral and it got to a point where any form of movement was extremely painful. Thanks to a very persistent Mum, I was eventually diagnosed with something called “Ankylosing Spondylitis”.

I started swimming as a direct consequence of my illness. Looking back I think swimming was something of a silver lining, at the time it was the only place I felt normal, it was also a massive outlet for me. Running initially was a no go, as at my worst I relied on the use of walking sticks and family members to help me get round. In regards to cycling, even before my illness I couldn’t ride a bike for any distance.

Fast forward a decade and a half, and my condition is fairly under control due to swimming, a self-help group and some new medication. I’ve been a member of the club for over a year now. I’ve learnt to ride a bike, although some members may disagree with that statement :-), and I’ve only got 17 more park runs to go before I reach 100.

I regularly attend the training sessions provided by the club which I find invaluable.

The first one I ever attended was something called the ‘The Blue Bell’ run. I find meeting new people can be a bit daunting; however, these concerns soon disappeared after meeting Paul and Adey. Paul was leading the training session and explained the course and what you had to do. During the training session I still vividly remember that everybody was making an effort to chat and introduce themselves. At the time I thought it spoke volumes for the club.

One of my concerns before joining the club was that everybody would be super fit, but it soon became apparent that the club catered for a wide range of abilities. From people attempting their first triathlon to those competing in ultra-marathons and Ironman events. Training sessions are well thought out to deal with the various abilities.

If you need to get confidence on the bike I can definitely recommend Alex’s brunch ride every month. He’s always there to offer help and advice and at the end of the ride you have the option of a cooked breakfast and an opportunity to socialise a bit more with other members of the club.

I also found the Go-Tri events the previous year were useful to gain confidence in open water swimming. The participant numbers are a lot less and they have canoeist in the water to help you out if you get into trouble. On my first attempt I made the mistake of not acclimatising correctly on entering the water. I then tried to swim like I was in the pool, a few minutes later I was holding onto a canoe struggling for breath. It then took me two more attempts before finally completing the 300 metre swim. I was grateful that the canoeists were there that day.

So last year I completed my first sprint tri and this year the aim was to complete the standard distance which I did at the Owler. Along the way I also did my first cycling sportive, standard distance duathlon and just completed my first 10k run. At each of these events there was always somebody from the Ashford Tri Club offering words of encouragement.

I’m now contemplating a half marathon in November.

Paul Barron :: Ashford Tri Club Head Coach

paulbarron2006: There was I, mooching around at the gym and having an occasional ride around the forest on my MTB ‘leisure bike’ when a gym instructor called Lee said:

“Do you fancy joining our group and doing a duathlon?”. I didn’t know what a duathlon was but my time at the gym had no purpose and the duathlon sounded ’fun’.

About 8 of us started the journey, training each week together and mid-week alone, the ‘training together’ bit dropped off as most of the group developed injuries (sound familiar?). Eventually only two of us reached the start line’, Lee and I trained together, raced together, finished together and, completely surprisingly and ‘SPECTACULARLY’, came first and second in our age group – smiling and gesticulating like Olympic heroes! On that day I saw my first triathlon and this is where my enthusiasm began to grow… I got the bug!

Shortly after the race I joined ATC, a great club and I became involved in the whole ‘club/teamy’ thing, however, I realised most club members were at different standards (in those days we had less than 50 members) so group training wasn’t always possible.

2007/2008: I entered my first couple of sprint triathlons and was extremely motivated when I entered my first ‘club championship’ at East Grinstead. The club was supportive and the event was magnificent. It was a big stage for me and I enjoyed every moment and crossed the finish line with a beaming smile.

2009/2011: I completed more duathlons, sportifs, runs and adventure races culminating in the ‘Forestman’ a long distance triathlon in the New Forest (I couldn’t bring myself to pay for the proper Ironman and this was much prettier with an off-road marathon). My finish line smile may have been a bit droopy but it was beaming inside.

2013: A couple of ATC members were considering ultra-running. I enjoyed the countryside and running so why not do a long one. With support from family and mates we spent almost a year in preparation and in June 2013 we set out on our journey, again with families and friends as Support Crew 103 miles from Wye village. About 24 hours later we kept bumping into sky blue shirts, inspiring us for the last 20 miles we met ATC runners, ATC cyclists and ATC supporters. We crossed the line in Wye village with around 50 ATC members, family and great mates cheering us on. I managed the smile too.

Along my journey: I was Men’s Captain for a couple of years, I became Chairman when the previous person moved away. Later I decided to concentrate on my development as a coach, leaving the committee work after about 5 years at the helm. Now, as Head Coach, I am proud to coordinate a super team of qualified coaches at ATC.

2017: I plan to ‘go long’ again. My personal journey continues. My family and friends will be with me and will support me; it will be a tough year and I will cross the finish lines grateful for their encouragement. I will finish my races with the same smile I always have because I enjoy my sport. It is a personal journey, however, it cannot happen without the support around me. Usually an individual sport, always a team effort.

Member Profile: Pete Heritage

pete_hAlthough I didn’t know it at the time, my journey towards triathlons started around 5 years ago. After years of working out in a gym, I decided to go for a run. It was only 3k, but it was so hard! I wasn’t anywhere near as fit as I thought.

After building up distance slowly but surely, I ran a marathon, plus multiple obstacle course races. Looking for another challenge, I bought a bike.

I was now enjoying running and cycling. I’d always liked the idea of triathlons, but it never seemed like an option because my swimming was so bad. Honestly, I was terrible. I needed to learn how to swim from scratch, but I was too intimidated to join a club.

Then two years ago, I finally plucked up the courage to go to one of the ATC Tuesday night coached swimming sessions at Ashford Girls School with a couple of mates.

I was introduced to Ruth, who would be my coach. She asked me to swim a length or two so she could see what she had to work with. I couldn’t even swim a length of the 20 metre pool. It was embarrassing.

But Ruth was amazing. She basically taught me how to swim, building a competent swimmer, piece by piece. All of the other coaches are brilliant too.

A few months later, I did my first triathlon. Then another, and another. I did six triathlons in my first year. It’s safe to say I’d caught the triathlon bug.

This club is so friendly and welcoming. It genuinely is suitable for everyone, regardless of experience, fitness or pace.

I realised this after taking part in the Owler half-Ironman distance triathlon. I’d had an absolute shocker. My swim was awful (it was a miracle that I was even swimming in open water!), and I had a nightmare on the bike. I’d had two punctures, and only one spare inner tube. Eventually a kind passerby gave me a spare tube, but I spent nearly all of the 56 mile ride in last place. It was a wet and miserable day. I was miserable too.

By the end of the race, I think I’d managed to get to third from last. As I entered the Julie Rose Stadium for the finish, it was a bleak sight. The organisers were packing up, the spectators were long gone. I’d pretty much decided to give up triathlons all together.

Then I heard my name being shouted over the PA system. I looked over to see who it was, and noticed that a group from ATC had waited behind for me. Bare in mind I hadn’t been with the club long, I’d never even had a conversation with most of these people. Yet they waited for a long time in the rain for me, just because I was one of them.

Genuinely, I’ll never forget that. What a great club.

This year I completed my first Ironman, which was one of the best experiences of my life. And it would never have been possible without ATC.

Member Profile: ‘Lady’ Karen Allnutt

10621919_10153516323466636_1543658531_nPrior to my official membership I felt like an ‘honorary’ member. Chairman Garry Curley, after hearing that I had entered my first marathon, took me under his wing and helped me with a training plan. I joined the long Saturday runs and enjoyed the company, encouragement and invaluable advice from several long standing members of the club as the distances increased weekly.

After completing Brighton Marathon in 2013 and saying never again, I was soon persuaded to enter a 50 mile ultra – NDW50. Garry established a solid training and made sure I stuck to it. On the day we crossed the finish line in just under 12 hours and was crewed by Joey Chasseaud, who’s support was invaluable. I took some time out and re-emerged in October to complete Beachy Head Marathon and decided it was high time I started paying a membership.

Now a full member of Ashford Tri Club, I thought I should perhaps consider entering a triathlon. I could only swim breaststroke and didn’t even own a bike, so how was I going to make it happen? I entered East Grinstead Sprint Tri in 2015 which was the club championship. Unable to make the club’s coached swim sessions on Tuesday due to family commitments, I decided it was best for me to stick to breaststroke and just to work on distance and speed. I purchased a bike, had a fitting and started getting the miles in. I was well looked after on my first club ride – the Warehorne brunch ride, given plenty of advice, encouragement and I was moved safely to the middle of the pack when I was fatigued.

The whole concept of a triathlon, including kit, equipment and transitions was completely alien to me. I decided on a two piece Tri suit which I am really pleased with and felt a ‘mock triathlon’ would be good practice to see how I get on with my kit. Fellow club member Joey took me through the process and stuck with me on the bike and on the run. I was on such a high by the time I had finished and completely confident for race day.

As I arrived at East Grinstead, help was on hand to get me set up and ready to go. Some laughs were had as we queued for the swim, which eased my nerves. I felt strong on the swim and took a little too much time in transition. After setting off on my bike ‘Bez’ I enjoyed the scenic ride on the wide roads. Some of the hills were really tough, with time for recovery on some pleasant stretches in between, I managed confidently. After a much quicker transition, And heading off for a steady run, I managed a final sprint finish as I saw many club members cheering me on and I completed my first Sprint Tri in 1:57:40.

By the end of the year I had completed a second Sprint Tri at Canterbury and turned my attention back to marathon running during the winter months.

I completed my first Duathlon last weekend at Gravesend, at the club championship. I had a lot of fun and felt inspired by the impressive performances and results. The support was again fantastic.

I am looking forward to my first Sprint Triathlon of 2016 at Cranbrook in June.

I am very proud to be a member of such a friendly and supportive club. If you have ever considered triathlon, ATC can offer coaching to suit all abilities and you will be made very welcome.

Member Profile: Ruth Newman

12837536_10154680610393312_1072047839_oMember since 2011/2012

I took up triathlon in 2011 as a cure for empty nest syndrome and to fight middle-aged spread. I had previously done a lot of swimming and a fair bit of running, so tri seemed like a natural progression.

After competing in a local sprint tri as a non-member and coming second in my age group (all right, there were only two of us), I got a taste for it and decided to join ATC to meet and train with other triathletes and to work out what to do in transition.  I’m really glad that I did, as I have met so many supportive and inspirational people at ATC.  I am also able to use my ASA swimming teacher qualification to help members improve their swimming.

I mainly do tri to keep fit and I only enter a few races each year, but find that these give a focus and a sense of urgency to my training.  It’s also a lot of fun to train with and compete alongside other club members.  Chatting to team mates before a race helps with nerves and as I’m not the fastest, there are always plenty of friendly faces cheering me across the finish line! In 2016 I am planning to do at least one standard distance tri, as well as a fair few sprint tris and runs.

Strongest discipline: swim

Weakest discipline: bike, closely followed by transition (I’m a bit of a faffer).

High point – winning club trophy and other awards in 2013.

Low point: any ride involving significant climbs

I enjoy being involved with ATC through coaching, marshalling and generally helping out at events; there is a real team spirit and sense of fun in the club. There’s a place for everyone from the serious competitor to those at the more recreational end of the training spectrum. As one of the more mature members, I love the fact that young and not so young train and compete together. I would particularly encourage any women thinking of joining to do so – you will find plenty of friendly people to train with and members are very willing to share their expertise to help you gain confidence and achieve your goals.

Member Profile: Joey Chasseaud

12837692_10208843061736581_814784476_oMember of Ashford Tri Club since October 2013.
Have run casually for years, especially at uni in my early 20s. Cycled often with my purple fold up bike too with much success, against traffic, in hilly Wales… Bought a road bike in 2007 and joined Ashford Wheelers CC in July 2008. Raced until 2014 with their club and bought a carbon triathlon/tt bike in 2009, not realising the benefit of it straight away, nor any of the potential. Struggled for comfort with racing saddles, so short and sweet races of 25 miles were the most i would do.
First run race was Givaudan 10k 2013, as prep for Chilham Castle 10k which would be with my sister and brother in law. My personal trainer suggested i get in touch with Ashford Tri Club as a way to train and improve my ability for the run. It was inspired and i raced as ATC with the club for the first time at Givaudan. It was a thrill despite the soaking rain. I loved the club spirit and it became addictive to go out running, cycling and learn to swim front crawl over winter as a team.
First multisport was Hole Park Cross Country Duathlon 2014 and it broke me, having thought the super distance might be a “slightly” reasonable challenge. Won 3rd man trophy nevertheless. Sevenoaks sprint tri was next and new issues, like stomach cramp and chilling conditions.
Having solved most issues, gained confidence, new friends and found a level of form, particularly on the “love/hate” tt bike, Olympic distance and half ironman x2 followed in the debut season with great ATC rivalry. Ironman distance was next logical step and having seen some impressive club performances at the Outlaw, i entered for 2015, then thought about what a challenge that might be. Hmm, underestimated slightly.
2015 was exciting with a Hole Park rematch. East Grinstead then and in the ‘ironman mindset’ of being calculated. That went out the window with a dropped chain. Fury followed, dashing back on the bike and flat out on the run. Realising i can be quick! Eventually the Outlaw arrived with no running, from injuries, casual bike training and minimal swim practice. Not prepared at all and raced to finish. It was a thrill despite a fall on the bike all by myself and a painful 96 miles of riding one armed. 13.5hrs were a life changing moment.
This year is ultra marathon time and preparations for much better races. Triathlon has been the best thing ever. Looking forward to 2016 with the inspirational ATC.
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Member Profile: Mark Whittingham

Mark WMember of Ashford Tri Club  since January 2014.

Joined ATC initially to get fit, after 25yrs of smoking and had not really done much in the way of sport since about 30 yrs of age. 6 months in bought my first bike and completed a 10 mile TT. 2 months later bought my 2nd bike, much to the disapproval of my wife.  In October 2014, I ran my first 10k road race and turned my attention to swimming, as it turned out I was not as good at swimming as I thought and found myself learning to swim again. By this point I was hooked and entered my first sprint triathlon at East Grinstead, 10th May 2015.

I went on to complete a further 4 triathlons in my first season of competition and the support of the coaches and members of Ashford tri club was invaluable. I would probably say that although I’ve not got the body of my 20yr old self I am certainly a lot fitter than I was then.

When I learned that I had won a club award (Club Trier), I was absolutely gobsmacked and it has spurred me on to try longer distance races this year, that started with the canterbury 10 miler and hoping to finish with a half Ironman distance at Hever Castle.

Some facts about me some people may find interesting:

I joined the Royal Navy at seventeen and trained as an Aircraft weapons and electrical systems engineer working primarily on the Harrier jump Jet and getting paid to party all over the world.

I have disarmed a misfired sidewinder missile.

I have flown a Harrier T4N Jump Jet (a proper pilot did the taking off and landing part, I did the rest!!!)

In my misspent youth I organised and dj’d  a couple of underground raves.

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