Dad ready for iconic triathlon

Glamorgan Gazette - - Your Views - ABBY BOLTER abby.bolter@waleson­line.co.uk

A MAN who played rugby at a se­nior level is pre­par­ing to take on triathlon’s most iconic event.

Paul Thomas from Maesteg is one of the fittest men in his age cat­e­gory in the world but missed out twice on qual­i­fy­ing for the Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship by sec­onds.

Then he took a chance at a triathlon in Mex­ico and won a place, which will see him com­pete against the world’s tough­est athletes in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, next month.

The 48-year-old en­gi­neer­ing man­ager for Ortho Clin­i­cal Di­ag­nos­tics in Pen­coed will un­der­take a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and marathon in sear­ing tem­per­a­tures.

And by his side on Oc­to­ber 14 will be fel­low mem­bers of the club he co-founded, Wu­usss Tri – Huw Jones, 46, a for­mer Aber­crave RFC player, and John Lit­tle­wood.

“Kona is the Holy Grail of all iron­man rac­ing,” said Paul, who is mar­ried to Paula and dad to Sarah, 28, Laura, 21, amd Mia, 20.

“I am look­ing for­ward to ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it and hope­fully hav­ing a good race.”

Paul played for the Old Par­ish, Maesteg RFC, as open-side flanker from 1990 to 1996 when the team was in the old pre­mier­ship.

After giv­ing up the game he went to uni­ver­sity and “put a bit of weight on”.

But he joined a gym and after re­gain­ing his fit­ness and un­der­tak­ing fundrais­ing for Ty Hafan, in­clud­ing com­plet­ing the Welsh three peaks chal­lenge, he thought he would give Iron­man Wales a go.

On his first at­tempt in 2011 he com­pleted the course in 11-and-a-half hours – al­most six hours quicker than the time limit – but bad luck hit him the next cou­ple of years and a bro­ken bike wheel pre­vented him fin­is­ing at all. He missed out twice by sec­onds on the qual­i­fy­ing time for the Iron­man World Cham­pi­onsip, the sec­ond time in Tenby in 2016.

But he was de­ter­mined to make it so he en­tered a com­pe­ti­tion in Mex­ico weeks later and made the qual­i­fy­ing time in the 4549 age group.

“I just rolled the dice and fin­ished in fourth in 10 hours and 40 sec­onds,” he said.

Now, after months of 6.30am swims and long runs, he will fly out to Hawaii next week to ac­cli­ma­tise ahead of the race.

“I think I en­joy it be­cause it does test you men­tally,” he said.

“So far I haven’t run the perfect race for me, so it would be nice for ev­ery­thing to just slip into place, to do a perfect swim, a perfect bike and a perfect run.”

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