Dad ready for iconic triathlon
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.”