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Fri 19th Aug 2022
© Finisher Pix
The speedy Charles Pennington
Posted by: John Levison
Posted on: Thursday 9th July 2015

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British Age-Group athlete Charles Pennington from Team Freespeed Skechers Performance, produced a stunning performance just over a week ago at Ironman Austria, Klagenfurt.

A Major in the Royal Marines, Pennington not only won his 35-39 Age-Group in an exceptional time of 8:45:43, but was also the fastest Age-Group athlete overall. He finished with the tenth fastest time of the day, including the Pro athletes.

Pennington is an accomplished athlete - he won The Vitruvian last year, and has a Silver medal from the 2012 Ironman 70.3 World Championships on an extensive sporting C.V. - so I had a chat with the military man to find out more about him, his race, and why the Kona podium in October is his next major target.

I also discovered that his race in Austria almost never happened at all...

Before we get on to talking about you and your performance, let me ask you about the event and venue. I'm a huge fan of the Klagenfurt event, having been there in both racing and spectator modes - why did you choose Ironman Austria?

"I'd heard really good things about the race, and having done Ironman Wales and Ironman Lanzarote previously, I thought lets try a 'fast' course to see how that goes. I have to say the whole event was very slick - the aid stations, the support - everything you could hope for was more than covered, so it really lived up to expectations in that regard".

You are relatively new to Ironman distance - can you talk a little about your previous experiences at Ironman Lanzarote and Ironman Wales, both last year?

"In Lanzarote I biked well, but I don't think I ate and drank enough - and as a result I suffered for that on the run. Ironman Wales went well for me - I biked solidly, but this time was able to run really well (3:08:11). Because of that I won my Age-Group (Ed. and was seventh overall), and that meant I qualified for Kona 2015 there. I then really had no pressure in Austria, as I wasn't chasing a Kona place".

Charles Pennington - Ironman Record

Ironman Lanzarote 2014
35-39 - 15th
Ironman Wales 2014
35-39 -1st
Ironman Austria 2015
35-39 - 1st

Lanzarote and Wales are both tough courses - with Klagenfurt, potentially at least, offering an opportunity for faster times. Having done so well in terms of overall position, Age-Group position and time - which of those, if any, were your targets before the event?

"Primarily, I wanted to finish under nine hours and run under three hours - I knew I could swim and run well based on my training, but I didn't know how a fast bike would impact the overall race".

Charles Pennington, Ironman Austria 2015 ©FinisherPixThey have made some changes to the mass start in Austria in recent years, with a 'Fast Wave' going after the Pro's, then further waves after that. Where did you start in that schedule?

"Well, it turns out I nearly hadn't entered the race at all! I'd booked a package through (triathlon travel specialists), Nirvana, quite a while back and had thought at the time I had booked travel, accomodation and race entry. About 10 days before I realised I hadn't booked the entry part... anyway, thankfully Nirvana were able to fix things for me!

"This year they changed the wave starts to include that fast wave, but because of the entry mix up I hadn't had a chance to apply for that, so I actually started in wave five, approx. 30 minutes after the Pro's. I did have to swim thru / around a fair number of swimmers, but overall I was happy. Would I have gone faster in the earlier wave? Maybe, maybe not".

A strong start in the swim then, how about the bike?

"In my head I had the thought of around a one hour swim / five hour bike / three hour run - with transitions included within that - as the route towards a sub-nine hour finish. I held the same sort of average wattage as I did in Wales and at the end of the first lap of the bike, I felt perhaps I was a little conservative pace wise, but it was comfortable. I'm not really a powerful cyclist and was surprised to be one of the fastest on the bike in my Age-Group."

The Austria course is very different from those of Lanzarote and Wales, did it feel very different while racing over a faster / flatter course?

"It was actually not that different from Wales, despite the difference in the course. I'd learned a lot from the race in Lanzarote and the feelings in Austria were actually very similar to those at Ironman Wales".

Charles Pennington, Ironman Austria 2015 ©FinisherPix

Looking at your previous results and your run speed in Klagenfurt, I'm assuming you must be pretty confident in, and have a very strong running background?

"We always knew I could run well, but my coach and I thought lets also actually focus on it to make it a more of a 'weapon' if you like rather than just rely on it. I did the London Marathon earlier in the year (2:34:48), so I knew my running was strong before Austria".

It looked like another sunny and beautiful day in Klagenfurt - how were the conditions for racing?

"Temperatures were pretty good. The water was warm but it was still a wetsuit swim. I think the temperatures on the day were from mid 20's up to around 27/28°c perhaps. A fair bit of the run course also has some shade, plus there were plenty of hoses. The aid stations were also well placed and plentiful, so I 'fast walked' those to make sure I was hydrated, cool and fuelled".

Never having been at the pointy end of the field like that myself (!), were you aware when racing of where you were in relation to the rest of your Age-Group?

"No, I didn't have a clue where I was. There would have been lots of people from my category that started in the earlier wave, plus I started with a mix of different ages with different race numbers - I just do my own thing. When I got off of the bike I could see that there weren't many bikes on the racks from the previous waves, but beyond that, I really had no idea".

Charles Pennington, Ironman Austria 2015 ©FinisherPix

Next stop Kona - and some big ambitions there?

"I'm coming to the end of my Marines employment shortly and that means that I'll be able to go to Hawaii three weeks prior to the race, an opportunity I wouldn't normally get with holidays etc.

"Yes, I want to podium. Austria was great and has given me a lot of confidence that I can peform well - but I recognise that Kona is a different prospect, but I do want to do well".

Charles Pennington, Ironman Austria 2015 ©FinisherPixWhat about your training - are you a big mileage / training hours athlete?

"I've been coached by Chris Roberts for five years now. I'd describe my training as 'consistent quality' rather than big hours. It's probably a maximum of 15 hours on a normal 'non training camp' week. That would include lots of intervals and that seems to work well for me".

With Austria done and Kona the big target, what's next for you?

"First priority is really recovery from Austria and to spend some time with my family!

"I will do a couple of races between now and Kona, because I think racing does help you get into the right mindset - but overall, probably less than I've done in previous years.

"I've got the Military Championships first, then I'll do the Olympic Plus event at the London Triathlon. After that it will be either the Vitruvian or the Rubicon Middle Distance. I won the Vitruvian last year, so I think it would be good to go back there as the defending champion.

"I must say that I was absolutely blown away by the number of messages, tweets and texts I had received when I picked up my phone after the race - I thought the phone would explode! It was actually quite emotional reading those and also thinking about my father who died recently".

#GBKONA 2015 Coverage

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