Humid hell in Hawaii - but Kelly wants more

John Kelly in action in Maui
John Kelly in action in Maui

PLENTY of people do triathlons these days – but it takes special dedication to complete a longer-distance one. Especially when it’s in Hawaii.

But that’s exactly what University of Chichester lecturer John Kelly did – and within a few minutes of finishing the event in Maui, despite being pretty exhausted, he was already planning a return trip for the 2015 running.

The Xerra world championships consist of the usual three triathlon disciplines but over longer distances than the standard ones. Kelly describes it as a ‘cross-country triathlon’ and when you consider it’s a one-mile open-water swim in lively conditions, a 22-mile moutain-bike ride and a 10k run, you wouldn’t want to disagree.

The 48-year-old from Bracklesham finished 271st out of 850 competitiors, putting him in the top third, and was 31st in the 45-50 age group.

Those are impressive stats but Kelly said what put things in context for him was finding out the top 80 finishers all completed the whole course in under three hours.

Kelly, a senior lecturer in human physiology, crossed the line in 3hr 45min – one hour and 16 minutes after the winner. Now he’s already thinking about his targets for the November 2015 Xterra championship.

“It was harder than I thought. The big thing was the humidity. It was very hot – 37C on the day – but add the humidity to that and it’s a problem for humans.

“I’d done some preparation in a heat chamber at the university, which helped, and was in Maui for about six days before the race, but none of that can completely get you ready. I’ve ridden across deserts before but I’ve never been as hot and wet as I was during the Xterra.

“The swim was the worst bit. The surf was massive and I was looking at it thinking, I need to make sure I don’t drown! The first 200m of that were horrendous.

“I was at my happiest on the bike, and then the run was horrendous like the swim. I enjoyed competing and on this occasion I was just glad to finish.

“I’m so glad I qualified and did it and as soon as it was over I was thinking about getting back for next year’s event. There was a great atmosphere and there were events in the days before the race where the pros would share advice and experiences.

“I want to go back and do better next year and I’ve started looking at my training already.

Kelly has a long and varied sporting CV. “I have competed for the Army in cross-country and road running and a little bit in mountain biking. However, after leaving the Army, I focused much more on the MTB side and was regularly competing in local and national events including marathon-distance 60k to 100k MTB races.

“A highlight was completing the Tour Divide, a 2,700-mile MTB race from the Canadian to the Mexican border.

“I’ve completed lots of marathons, although not super quick – my PB is 2.48, and I’ve finished in the top ten a couple of times in cross-country versions such as the Neolithic Marathon.

“Two years ago, I decided I was getting a bit old for full-bore mountain biking so I planned to qualify for the Xterra world championships.

“I wasn’t a particularly strong swimmer, so that was my priority - and still is. Last year I didn’t make it – there was a little bit of illness and lack of fitness. This year, I managed to stay illness and injury-free and won the vets’ category at Arundel Triathlon and finished fourth in the national Xterra, good enough for the Maui qualification.”

Kelly is attached to Chichester Westgate Triathlon Club, whose training sessions and members he said had helped him enormously.

He also has support from Peter McGuinness at Geared Bikes, and Tri-it Sports, while Simon Delves, a university colleague and lecturer in thermal physiology, accompanied Kelly on the trip to Hawaii’s second-largest island.

Anyone who wants to get involved in his 2015 Xterra effort can contact him at j.kelly@chi.ac.uk

STEVE BONE