HELLRAISER: Celia conquers flames of hell in wild west heat
TRIATHLON: The name on everyone's lips at the 2017 Hell of the West was Celia Sullohern. The Clarence Valley Triathlon Club's newest member didn't win the annual event on Sunday, but she did shatter records in the 42 degree heat at Goondiwindi.
The 24-year-old blitzed the 20km run leg in one hour, 14 minutes and 59 seconds. At an average pace of just over 3:42 per kilometre, Sullohern recorded the fastest run leg of any competitor on the day - 31 seconds faster than winner and current Ironman 70.3 world champion Timothy Reed - and set a new mark for the fastest time ever by a female at the Hell of the West.
After posting the 66th best time for the swim (37.31) and 180th (2:30.11) for the 80km bike leg, the former international cross country athlete put her best foot forward in the run and blitzed past dozens of competitors to finish 32nd overall (4:22.42), the 5th woman home and 1st in her Female 20-24 age group.
"Tough physically, testing mentally but immensely satisfying to survive this one," Sullohern posted on social media after her extraordinary feat.
Sullohern moved to the Clarence Valley 12 months ago to join the team at Grafton Physiotherapy and won the 2016 Jacaranda Fun Run. Late last year Sullohern she moved to Yamba where she joined the Swift Multi-Sport training group coached by Darren Adams and began her foray into triathlon for the first time.
After winning her division at Kingscliff in November, the Hell of the West was just her second major triathlon and first over the Half-Ironman distance. The race holds a reputation as Australia's most gruelling triathlon and doubled as the 2017 Australian Long Course Championships.
"It was probably one of the hardest events I've ever done. I felt every step of it," she said.
"I hadn't done that distance before so it was a bit of an unknown and I was really stoked to get to the finish line. Exposed in that heat, it's mentally gruelling and it becomes more about everyone against the race rather than against each other. I don't think I had much left in the tank.
"I was most chuffed that I picked up the fastest run time and beat world champion Tim Reed.
"Being a rookie, I was very grateful for the guidance from Dave Lovell and Kim and Brian Elvery. Having other club members there made it a really nice social experience as well."
Husband and wife Kim and Brian Elvery also won their respective 55 to 59 divisions, which qualifies them for the World Long Course Championships to be held in Canada later in the year. Lovell finished a respectable 7th in his category.
So how was the recovery for Sullohern after exerting herself in the sweltering conditions?
"Not too bad," she said. "Only superficial, with blisters and chaffing."
In terms of experience, Sullohern may be an expert runner, but she is merely a novice in the world of triathlon. Despite beating professional triathletes at Goondiwindi, her coach believes she has the potential to cut swathes off her times, especially in the swim and cycle legs.
"Celia was the talk of the day," Adams said. "They all said it was simply amazing watching as she flew past people.
"That's running 20km at about 3:40 pace. The average bloke would be doing over four minutes, even some of the professionals.
"She's only 24, and hasn't even got a proper TT (time trial) bike. She only started doing triathlons a few months ago and this was only her second big one. She could be something special if she wanted to be."
So exactly how fast can she go?
"I'm enjoying it because I do have so much room to improve in the swim and bike legs and I'm able to chip away at it," Sullohern said. "There's still a lot of room for improvement with those two.
"It's been great training with Swiss, having a group to train with and bounce ideas off."
Adams coaches triathlon in Yamba under the Swift Multi-Sport banner in conjunction with his brother Jarrad Adams, who is a full time coach in Brisbane with about 40 athletes.
As well as preparing precise training programs for "about a dozen" athletes in the Lower Clarence, Darren also organises an open running group every Wednesday at 6am.
"It's open to everyone and we average about 20 people each week," he said. "There's a bit of a mixture, it caters for everyone.
"We run from Yamba Oval or Main Beach, depending on whether we're doing hill efforts or a straight run."
Sullohern plans to pull back to Olympic distance events for the remainder of the 2016/17 season before stepping up to the Half Ironman again for the Elite Energy Ultimate Yamba Triathlon on April 30. She said it was too early to start talking about turning professional in the sport.
"It's not something I've looked at. It's all a bit new."
2015 Hell of the West winner Lindsey Wall also represented Clarence Valley Triathlon Club, finishing 6th overall on this occasion in a time of 3:54.18, some 16 minutes in arrears of the winner Reed (3:38.42). Wall produced the second fastest bike leg in 1:57:32.
The overall female winner Sarah Crowley finished 8th overall and her time of 3:58.03 smashed the female race record which had stood since 1992 by almost 10 minutes.
While Sullohern is taking the weekend off, a team of about 30 Clarence Valley Triathlon Club members will head to South West Rocks for the popular Trial Bay Triathlons this Saturday and Sunday.
The BCU Coffs Tri will be held on March 5 and doubles as the NSW Championships and a National Standard Triathlon Qualifying Race and Age Group ITU World Championship Qualifying Race.
The Clarence Valley Triathlon Club crowned another Australian champion at a recent event, when Ray Hunt won his age division in the Australian Sprint Championships at Robina on the Gold Coast on January 29.
- Zest for life puts Ray ahead of the pack
- Australia Masters champ secures major Clarence Valley Sports award
- Valley triathlete takes on world
Clarence Valley results
(2km swim, 80km cycle, 20km run)
Lindsey Wall: 6th overall, 3:54.18 (0:30.24, 2:01.33, 1:24.00)
Celia Sullohern: 1st Female 20-24, 4:22.42 (37.31, 2:30.11, 1:14.59)
Brian Elvery: 1st Male 55-59, 4:29.25 (39.57, 2:12.27, 1:36.59)
David Lovell: 7th Male 50-54, 4:47.44 (40.17, 2:29.54, 1:37.33)
Kim Elvery: 1st Female 55-59, 5:09.59 (43.40, 2:34.50, 1:51.28)
Scott Acton: 39th Male 45-49, 5:46.27 (51.32, 2:55.56, 1:58.58)