Interview with 2023 FOE Bastion Open Winner Toby Raine

We recently spoke to Bastion winner Toby who gave us their thoughts on our tough Full Iron race!

First congratulations winning the Bastion! What were your thoughts as you crossed the finish line?

Toby: Thank you, I felt a wave of elation as I turned for the finishing straight and saw the finishing tape. I was constantly telling myself not to let up and finish the run strongly, and to see the finishing tape was amazing validation for the work I put in. “It’s over” was my first thought as I crossed the line as I had been on course for almost 12 hours and to finish in any sense is a great achievement. I was also overjoyed to see my wife and family at the finish line who had cheered me on all day and it felt great to repay them for all their sacrifices building up to the day.

What were your biggest challenges and triumphs on the course?

Toby:The swim was incredibly beautiful. I knew it was a pretty swim venue, but when we had our final race briefing on the water’s edge I could tell it was something special. The swim went well for me as I held a good pace and the buoys were very big and obvious to sight. Having said that, I did manage to start swimming to the wrong buoy at one point, but I was quickly pushed back on course by one of the kayakers which was very helpful. I grew up in Tunbridge Wells, so I knew the bike course’s roads well. However, that didn’t make it any easier and perhaps in some cases made the first lap mentally tougher as I was preparing myself for some of the hills, including the infamous Groombridge Hill. As I crested Groombridge Hill for the first time I was happy with how it went for me, but then I reached behind me for my spare bottle only to find a now empty cage!

This was certainly not what I wanted to happen and threw my nutrition plan out of the window less than a quarter into the bike.Thus, I needed to spend the remainder of my first lap replanning my nutrition until I could get to the feed station at Hever Castle and then onto my personal need bag halfway round the second lap which had my bottles and nutrition for the second half of the bike. However, it turns out lightning does strike twice, and we were unable to locate my personal need bag. So I was now on plan C for my bike nutrition. Fortunately the on course gels and electrolytes bottles were an absolute lifeline for me and the feed volunteers were great in helping me with them. Riding the rest of the course went really well for me as I was prepared to ride to my target power on the hills and hold a solid pace on the “flat” sections. The big benefit of such a hilly course is the large amount of time going down which was always well received and an opportunity to push my speed a bit for free.

By far my biggest challenge though was the run. I started out with high hopes, but this was quickly brought back to earth during my first lap with three remaining. I was also feeling all the hills from the bike in my legs and it made the run very challenging for me. Fortunately, I got a time check at one of the feed stations telling me that second place had just entered T2 and I had opened up a 45 minute lead on the bike! From that point on I knew it was about survival; pacing the run smartly, and keeping up with water and nutrition as I went round. Whilst it certainly wasn’t my fastest run, I feel that I ran it effectively and without making any errors.

What was training like for this event?

Toby: I’m not sure there are many courses harder than the Bastion, something I wish I knew before signing up! I had been training for about 12 hours a week, for 6 months leading up to the event. However, I had done a few triathlons the year before and was producing decent results in those so I had a good starting point to build on. Fitting the training around work and life was often challenging and required some creativity to get it in sometimes. I also raced some local sprint triathlons in the months before Hever to practise an early morning routine and become well drilled with transition zones. I also recced the bike course which went a long way and tells you significantly more than a computer could ever do.

What would be your advice to anyone looking at taking part in the Bastion or full iron distance?

Toby: Some advice I received early on, was to do 80% of the race distance in each discipline, three times before race day. This was invaluable to me as spreading these long days throughout my training allowed me to see the progress I was making in training, but also to prepare me for what would happen late on in the race. The other thing is not to underestimate nutrition and to come with a plan. And as happened to me, something will go wrong. You don’t know what that will be but you still need to be ready. At the end of the day, everyone comes away with a story of something amazing or some problem that they overcame. Those are the stories you will tell for the rest of your life.


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