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When teacher Craig McKee decided to do the UK Ultimate Triathlon to mark his 40th birthday, he had no idea he would win the veteran’s event, finish sixth overall and clock the fastest cycling leg in a field of nearly 100 competitors.
He completed his first – and probably last – ironman distance in an incredible 9 hours 46 minutes 30 seconds.
Competing in Whitchurch, Shropshire he swam the 2.4 miles in Alderford Lake in 1-08.36, cycled 112 miles in 4-47.29 and then ran a marathon, 26.2 miles in 3-45.50, the second fastest of the few marathons he had done.
McKee, who taught at Bilton Junior School for eight years and was deputy head at Hillmorton Primary for four, said: “I never look at my watch until the end as nothing I see will make me feel better!
“The average time for these events is around 12-35, I had 10-30 in my mind which I would have been happy with and anything sub 10 is a real achievement.”
“I’d done a sprint triathlon ten years ago, an Olympic distance in 2011 and a half ironman just before my daughter was born in 2017, so when I was 40 I thought I’d do the full distance, but of course the event was deferred for a year because of Covid,” added McKee, who until Easter was clocking up over 40 miles a day in all weathers, cycling to work as headteacher of Warwick’s Budbrooke Primary School.
In December he was hit by a car coming home on the A45 but luckily wasn’t seriously injured.
He had been open water training in Stoney Cove quarry in Leicestershire, so found last weekend’s water temperatures almost tropical!
“I only started swimming there in April, in full wet suit, hat, gloves the lot and it was so cold, 6 degrees that first week, you couldn’t put your face in and I could only stay in 20 minutes,” he said.
“Cycling or running you can power on when you’re tired, but swimming causes actual physical pain!”
Gradually he was able to build up time and distance but found it by far the toughest part of his training.
After all the cool weather it turned out to be very warm for the race.
“I was OK to about ten miles then it got quite hot,” added McKee, who in 2010 cycled from Lands End to John O’Groats to raise money for Cancer Research, averaging 152 miles a day for six days.
“Half the run was on grass, which sucks the energy out of your legs. It was just a case of putting one foot in front of the other.
“I saw a quote the other day which said be naive enough to start and stubborn enough to finish. Those last few hours were a challenge.
“I was really pleased with my time – but I don’t think I’ll be doing it again!”
Having been a member of Rugby RCC for eight years, Craig joined elite cycling team, Team Jewson-MI Racing-Polypipe-7 formation-McCann in 2017.
Team boss Mick Ives is full of praise for his cyclist’s amazing achievements.
“He caused a massive upset at his first attempt at this type of competition,” said Ives.
“We have an award for the best performance by a team member during the season and this will take some beating.”