In June 2017 Mark Billyard and Benjamin Lovell travelled to Herning, Denmark to represent Havering Tri and GB in the ETU Middle Distance Championships 2017
How did you qualify for GB?
Mark: I submitted my 4hr 26 mins middle distance time from the Ironman 70.3 World Championships the previous September. This was 109% of my age group world champions time and I was selected in the first tranche.
Ben: To qualify you need to be within 120% of your age group winner, in middle or long distance races. That was my goal at Dubai 70.3 earlier this year and I finished in 4hr 29 mins and was selected to represent GB in Herning.
Can anyone qualify?
Mark: Yes! Anyone can qualify who is able to submit a time from a suitable standard race within 120% of their age group winner in the last 18 months prior to the target race being qualified for (normally judged on depth of field and winning times).
To find out more about Age Group please visit the British Triathlon website;
Did you prepare any differently for this event?
Mark: This was designated as a B-race for me, sandwiched so closely between Ironman Lanzarote 3 weeks earlier and Ironman Austria 3 weeks after. It meant my training focus peaked for Lanzarote, with rest weeks after, and that Denmark essentially became a launchpad for Austria.
Where was the event held and what was the venue/course like?
Mark: The race was hosted around Herning, Denmark, around 40 minutes drive from Billund. The lake swim was really pleasant, in the mid to high teens. The bike leg took everyone into the moorland and forest on the hills around Herning before heading back into the city for a 4 lap run course intersecting the main sights.
Ben: The event was held in Herning, Denmark. The swim start and T1 was held about 10 miles from the city centre so there had to be two transition areas which can be slightly annoying when racking etc, especially when you don't know the area. However the bike course was a real challenge which I always like, very windy and a lot of rolling hills. The run course was nice too, 4 laps can be a bit mentally draining though.
What was the event like compared to other middle distance events? Did it look & feel different? (Atmosphere/experience/organisation, etc)
Mark: ETU have a tie up with Challenge so it feels very much there template, but with the added official championship element, with the special wave containing everyone in their club kit.
Ben: Because it was a European Championship there was quite a big buzz around the event. There were a lot of family out there so the GB athletes had loads of support. The organisation was fine, apart from picking up our bags at the end… bit of trouble sending the bags from T1.
Tell us about your time in Denmark? Pre/during/post race
Mark: It flashed by... we arrived late 2 days prior to the race and had to arrange last minute accommodation, in a lovely chateau. The day before we moved to more local "prison cell" accommodation, registered and got in the team photos, then assembled the bikes, test rode them and then drove to the lake, where we racked them and the bikes in the pouring rain. Luckily it rained itself out that day beforehand but we got back to the hotel soaked through.
Ben: We ended up being extremely lucky with the weather on the day, compared to the heavy rain we had surrounding the event. Before and after the race the weather was so miserable… it doesn't really put you in the best of moods before a race. So yeah during the race we had nice hot weather. Legoland the day after was pretty cool too
What went well? What did you enjoy the most?
Mark: The race itself was fun but tiring. As a weekend I still felt weary post Lanzarote. I enjoyed my first GBR race experience though.
Ben: I was happy with my bike and run times. I did enjoy the bike the most, the best bike course I've done. There were point where you had these long straight and you could really put the power down.
Any lessons learned?
Mark: Even with planning racing 3 weeks after Lanzarote didn't enable peak performance. Next time leave a bit more separation to do it justice.
Ben: Practice putting your bike shoes on the bike. Its a bit embarrassing when your on the side struggling to put them on, with a massive crowd patronisingly saying 'come on lovell' haha.
Would you apply for selection again?
Mark: I would apply for selection again if the ETU / ITU events fall at a suitable point in my season and enough notice is given to plan for the events within the rest of my race calendar.
Ben: 100%! I'd love to go out and bring a medal home for team GB. I would recommend anyone else to give it a go too.
How did it feel to be wearing the Union Jack?
Mark: Part of me felt very proud... another part felt quite ashamed and still feels ashamed to be British due to the countries current attitude and policies regarding the rest of the world. This makes it very hard to attend international events ultimately celebrating everything that brings people together.
Ben: Great, its something I didn't think I would be doing. You feel very proud.
Mark Billyard - 4:36:33
Benjamin Lovell - 4:31:54