Former Luton Sixth Form College student and PE teacher Owain Matthews enjoyed the best sporting experience of his life when he competed in the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
Matthews finished the long-distance triathlon in 9.28.07mins, which saw him rank 56th in his age group and 222nd overall.
He clocked 1.04.35hrs for the 2.4-mile swim, 5.09.45hrs for the 112-mile bike ride, and 3.08.17hrs for the 26.2-mile run.
His overall time was 15 minutes quicker than he clocked at the Ironman Australia in May, which had seen him qualify for the World Championship at his first attempt at the gruelling challenge.
He said: “I could not have gone to Hawaii in better shape. I made huge improvement in my cycling and was stronger all round. I was positive of an improved result from my first Ironman.
“Race day in Kona is like no other event I’ve ever competed in – 2,100 people who have qualified or been given the right to compete are all in great shape and ready to lay it on the line for nine to 17 hours.”
Matthews was a student at Luton Sixth Form College from 1998 until 2000, and a PE teacher from 2004 until he emigrated to Australia two years ago.
The 31-year-old described the swim as the “most frantic, physical, challenging and awe-inspiring” part of the day, with competitors fighting and climbing over each other to find some clear water which never materialised for the entire duration.
“All I kept thinking was wow, this is amazing and testing all at the same time,” he said.
Five hours plus on the bike was next, with the second part of the out-and-back route particularly tough as it was into a headwind.
Matthews continued: “Despite all this I just kept thinking, ‘I’m in the most iconic Ironman race in the world, sharing the road with the pros and the best age groupers, I’m knackered and hungry, but I’m loving every minute of it.’”
However, the final marathon distance run proved too much in the end, as he added: “I was feeling good, maybe not as sprightly as I’d like after 180km, but no major issues other than burning shoulders.
“I was feeling optimistic when I hit the halfway point in around 1.26hrs, but this is where the race starts!
“The finish is the best part of the Ironman, worth every minute of pain. You forget to do, say, hug, high five all the people you want to, but it’s at this moment that you’re thinking about them all.
“This event truly was the best sporting experience of my life and I will go back to Kona again, not just for the competition but for the journey and experience.
“I was pleased with my improved time, but still feel that I have more to give and once I nail the run, I will get closer to the result I want.”
Matthew has returned home to Sydney for a short break before resuming training for Ironman Australia in May, where he will be aiming to qualify for the 2014 World Championship, and a return to Hawaii.