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The Finish Line

In May, three ordinary guys embarked on the challenge of a lifetime in an attempt to complete 6 long distance triathlons, in 6 consecutive days. That's a 2.4 mile swim followed by a 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile marathon each day!

 

Raising vital funds for The Abel Foundation, a charity close to their hearts, we've been proud to support the trio over the past year and also got a taste of the action on day five of the action up in the Cotswolds. 

 

Now the dust has settled and the reality of their incredible achievement has sunk in, we caught up with Rob, Jon and Matt for a post-event chat to see if they'll be returning to triathlon and what kept them motivated through the darkest days and nights of their challenge. 

Can you describe the moment when the challenge first started and you entered the water on the first day?

Rob: It was a mixture of nervous energy as up till that point I was so worried about logistics, budgets and social media etc. Knowing that all I needed to now focus on was swimming, cycling and running was such a huge relief once I got in the water.

Jon: It was a mixture of emotions in all honesty. I was excited to get stuck in and start, but also terrified because I had no idea how it would go and hard it may or may not be. Within 5 mins of swimming I had found my rhythm, relaxed a bit and started to focus.

Matt: Oddly the nervousness melted away after about the first 200m, the sun bouncing off the surface of the lake help massively but having the boys next to me swimming and the support boat following there was a sense of something special was happening. 

 

Has this extreme challenge put you off triathlon for life or made you want to try more/different ones?

Rob: Due to my injury, its only spurred me on to go again and prove to myself that I did have it in me to complete an ultra endurance event. So watch this space…

Jon:  Well it definitely hasn’t put me off! I will no doubt do more and explore other events also. This event was about survival and endurance, not speed which is what I enjoy.

Matt: Not in the slightest, I've always been a fan of pushing myself to the limits (although this was very close) I have come out of this understanding my body a little better and the potential pitfalls for the next event, but for the next couple of weeks I'm going to just enjoy the down time and reduced training schedule. 

 

Did you have a mantra to keep you going during the toughest hours/days?

Rob: No mantra as such but I just kept reminding myself why I was there and what I was doing it for! That and to make my son proud. Both those things definitely got me through the final 15 miles of the marathon after my Achilles had given up on me.

Jon:  #2% - This started of as a bit of a joke but then became our mantra, the percentage between failure and success it our mind was 2% and that’s what we adhered to.

Matt: I started the week with the mantra of "keep going because you couldn't before" but once we started i felt that we each became each other's motivation to keep going, knowing where each other's strengths and weaknesses made it possible to take the focus of the pain or struggles. 

 

What was the highlight(s) of the whole challenge?

Rob: There was so many, but three particularly stand out. Receiving a video from Francis Benali who was the inspiration behind the whole 6 in 6-day concept, getting to spend a week with some truly awesome people and getting to share the whole experience with my Dad.

Jon:  So many it is hard to pick just one, but the friendships and community built were definitely the overarching highlight for me.

Matt: I personally had at a particular moment in time where the rain stopped for a brief moment and we were cycling in a line chatting, felt like anything was possible at this time and we had broken a very difficult day 1 cycle. another would be the last day coming over the line, regardless of injuries and tiredness we started and finished this thing together and the picture at the end holds a special place in my heart.   

 

Were there any particular food/drink cravings?

Rob: Not really however I definitely craved more savoury foods like pork pies and peanuts than sweet food.

Jon:  Milkshakes were a game changer for me personally and savory foods in general.

Matt:  For me personally I am a sweet fiend so Haribo and oddly fruit i was craving sweet things. .....shock 

 

How did you manage the nutrition each day and keep your energy levels high?

Rob: After crashing on day one thanks to 100% not eating and drinking anywhere near enough, the team were very quick to ensure it didn’t happen again so I had a constant supply of food and drinks on hand, they even resulted to nagging me when I wasn’t feeling hungry. But it worked.

Jon: In all honesty we all had a basic knowledge, but the support team were amazing, providing us with food and essentials. Tom the team manager and Molly our nutrition expert really guided us predominantly.  

Matt: I was fed !! the support team physically fed me food while I was on the treatment bed and run, it was a running joke that the second I finished an event I would just have something put in my mouth have the time I didn't know what it was normally pasta but the mashed-up banana and peanut butter was a shock

 

Is there anything you would change about the challenge?

Rob: Seems obvious but my injury, having said that its only spurred me on to heal and come back stronger.

Jon: Only thing I would change is Robs injury, it was hard for all to accept as we started this journey together and wanted to do the whole journey together. 

Matt: I feel the organising of the event and resilience was exemplary however I would have been happier if we could all of been together throughout the event sadly due to injury this wasn't always the case but that's always a factor when doing endurance and very hard to plan and prepare for.  

 

What team did you have working around you throughout the week?

Rob: We had the amazing team at Solent University both in a sport science capacity under Tom’s guidance and the therapists working under the watchful eye of Jonny at Johnathan Clarke Physiotherapy. Dan and the guys at Lake 32 who made us feel at home. And Callum and Andy who ensured we stayed alive throughout the week and catered to our every need.

Jon: We had so many amazing people around us throughout the week – Southampton Solent Uni, Family and Friends, Lake 32 just to name a few.

Matt: The greatest team you could ever ask for, we can't offer more thanks to the whole crew each of them gave up time and dedicated they're lives to us for 6 days and we are so thankful. 

 

For anyone thinking of undertaking a long distance triathlon or multi-day event, what advice would you share?

Rob: Train, train and train some more, I didn’t train anywhere near enough and I paid the price. Believe in yourself, you will inspire so many people without even realizing it. Make sure you have the team around you to get you over that finish line.

Jon: Training is imperative to prepare the body. This doesn’t mean you have to be quick or particularly good, as a majority of the event is mindset in my opinion. However, if you have laid the foundations and you are prepared to plod it all then the body is remarkable in its durability.

Matt: Train, train and train. Slow build work over a long period worked best for me as I like to be quick I had to learn to pace and reduce my cadence and speed across all disciplines, I would also say enlist the help of others having the boys to call on the bike or after the run made then boredom easier to bere, plus i would 100% suggest speaking to loved ones and family to express just how much work is involved. I had the support of an amazing wife and family that allowed me to train the 2 hours plus a day required towards the end of the training program. Also, don't stress the missed training days, it's a marathon not a sprint !! 

 

How has life been since you finished the challenge back to “normal” family/work life?

Rob: It’s been very strange as I would say I am normally a mentally strong person but my injury and what happened definitely has had a negative impact on my mental health so I have done my best to get closure on the week and focus on my family and my new business.

Jon: Feels like something is missing in my life now, and I am looking for the next adventure.

Matt: Very exciting as this has certainly sparked something in me so this is just the springboard for what's to come next, as regards normal life I am still adjusting. I'm missing the crew being around me and the conversations and drive to a common goal was infectious however I will be booking up some events to make use of the fitness I've gained in the past 13 months. 

 

Any special thanks or messages you would like to add?

Rob: To my wife Rachel and son Ethan who put up with so much over the last 13 months, thank you for supporting and believing in me. Hopefully I did you both proud. To everyone that was involved in the week, believed in us, supported us and sponsored us, thank you for turning my dream to raise much needed money for The Abel Foundation into a reality. For that I will be forever grateful. To JP and Matt, when's the next one? Only joking! I am so proud of what you both achieved, finishing what I couldn't! Thank you for believing in The Abel Foundation and my dream to raise money for them. It wouldn't have been the same without you two.

Jon: To all that helped, sponsored and were involved thank you. To Rob and Matt – Two life friends that worked so hard on this challenge, it was a privilege to be a part of it with you, thanks lads.

Matt: Wow, obviously we have a list of sponsors who I would like to thank you however I most certainly would like to thank my wife and kids for being so supportive, my friends and family that came to support me and make the experience all the more special and without question JP and Rob. I couldn't have asked for two greater guys to embark on this challenge with, very special memories we have had together and shared and it's been an absolute honour to call them brothers. 

 

Congratulations from everyone at TRI UK and we can't wait to see what the future has in store. We get the feeling this is only the start of your triathlon journey and there's lots of exciting things to look forward to.