Lancaster’s Stuart Hughes pulls it all together for triathlon success


LANCASTER – There will always be preferences among triathletes, favoring one or two of the disciplines and using them to compensate for a weakness or shortcoming in the other.

Swimming or cycling can pose challenges for runners getting into the sport, and running may not be a boon for competitive swimmers entering the fray.

For Stuart Hughes of Lancaster, who turned 60 in June, swimming and cycling are his favorites, but his running takes him into competition.

“I don’t like running, but I can do it,” he says, while adding dryly but humorously, “Running is my strongest test, and I’m very upset about it.”

Still, Hughes’ feet on the pavement propelled him into the 60-64 category at last month’s Boston Triathlon, an Olympic triathlon event comprising a 1-mile swim, a 22-mile bike ride and a 10 kilometer race.

Trailing the leaders by about six minutes entering the running heat, Hughes made up that 6 minutes and left those leaders 6 minutes behind. He finished in 2 hours, 20 minutes, 21 seconds, placing 56th out of 243 overall, while raising money for Boston Medical Center.

Hughes’ home on Spec Pond offers a training triathlete’s paradise, starting at its dock with the sparkling clear water naturally aligned for frequent 1-2 mile training swims, with barely a wake to have.

And the local scenic roads provide an ideal 20km cycle route and 6km running loop, assets that Hughes does not take for granted.

“I’ll see in my work schedule that I have a 40-minute gap, and I can just swim, just run, just bike,” he said. “That’s why this is heaven, you can do these three things.”

Hughes, however, is concerned about the future quality of his training surroundings, as a large distribution center is proposed for construction off Highway 70, about half a mile from his home.

“All three of my sports are currently under stress,” he said. “The scenic drives will be exposed to more traffic, and we’re at such a risk of runoff into the lake, which is quite beautiful.”

Lancaster addresses the question, whether to change the proposed site’s zoning from residential to industrial, at a special town meeting on Tuesday.

“The heavy truck and commuter traffic that accompanies developments of this size will cause road safety issues and introduce air, water and noise pollution, including diesel particulates from trucks and cars. idle,” added Hughes.

Lancaster's Stuart Hughes competes in the race portion of the 2019 Boston Triathlon.

Cycling has become second nature

As Hughes competed in field hockey, rugby and squash in his native England (“Deep down in my heart I’m a pretty average athlete, but I’m very focused”), he developed a taste for for cycling from an early age, when his grandfather owned a bike shop near the south coast of England. Before moving to the United States, Hughes frequently cycled 32 miles from Wimbledon to his office in London.

“England is very bike-friendly, and I think Boston is getting there,” he said.

Hughes, vice president of finance and accounting at Gannett (the parent company of Telegram & Gazette), met his wife Kathy, originally from Leominster, while she was working for the Bank of Boston on a project in London. They have been married for 31 years and raised their three children in England, including eldest son Madison, a two-time US Olympic rugby sevens captain, before Madison (Dartmouth), son Cameron (Providence) and daughter Cassie (Fairfield ) not attend university. in the USA.

As Madison prepared for the 2016 Games in Rio, Stuart and Kathy moved to the United States. They now live in the house they bought in Spec Pond, a traditional holiday and living place for Kathy’s family, the children having spent 4-6 weeks each summer with Kathy’s parents during their childhood.

Stuart spreads out his training while working out from home, a few days a week with a 1 or 2 mile swim, a few days with a 12.3 mile bike ride and a few days with a 4 mile run, which he completes in about 31 minutes. Hughes had competed in several corporate running events before competing in his first triathlon.

“The thing with triathlon is the organization required,” he said, “and it’s more tactical than running a marathon (he ran 3:12 at the London Marathon in 1997). You can get by in a triathlon with good organization and tactics … and a very expensive bike.”

Lessons learned from the beginnings in triathlon

Hughes learned valuable lessons from his first Boston triathlon, in June 2019 in South Boston, starting with swimming in Dorchester Bay.

“I did everything wrong,” he said. “On the swim, it’s a total zoo out there. I’m used to training in crystal clear water. Here they kick you in the face, you can’t see anything. My goggles go off. fogged up and I took a wrong turn. My family was watching me, and ‘there’s a guy who took a wrong turn’… ‘oh, it’s dad.’ I had done about another 400 meters of swimming, which was about seven minutes.”

“I then changed, got on the bike and forgot my sunglasses,” recalls Hughes. “So I went back, and it cost me about a minute.”

There Hughes met many cyclists even stronger than himself. “I did 19.3 miles an hour, the top guys were doing 23, 24 on average.”

His run three years ago in the heat “went very well”, with a total time of around 46 minutes over the 10km for a total time of 2:34:44, finishing almost 15 minutes from the winner Fabrizzio Giovannini in his age group 55-59. “I was a little disappointed, but then I thought, well, I didn’t spend enough on the bike, I swam too far, I forgot my sunglasses, and this was my first .

“So being an accountant, I did a lot of analysis,” said Hughes, who uploaded photos of the leaders, looking at their bikes, looking at their gaps. “There was a guy in 55-59 who finished in 2:10, I will never, ever beat him. But I identified an opportunity, that when I’m 60 I can win that, but I’m going to have to improve by 15 minutes.”

COVID then came along and canceled the 2020 and 21 Boston Triathlons, so Hughes didn’t have a chance to wind down his times in the event leading up to his shot at age 60. But he was ready this year.

“I studied a lot, I borrowed a friend’s bike, a Quintana Roo, this bike wants to go, it’s very good.”

winning combination

At the 2022 Boston Triathlon on Aug. 21, Hughes “only swam another 70 yards…a little more, but my goggles weren’t so fogged up.

“And I did well in my transition,” he added. “On the bike, I had four gel packs, two full bottles of water, and I start the race with a small water bottle, so you’re going to run on fuel. You can’t feed yourself while you swim, but on the bike you have the gel packs in the back pocket – every lap I had a gel pack.”

Hughes had given up three minutes to the leader on the swim, in 27:55, and gave another three minutes on the bike after finishing the circuit in 1:02:21, “but I’m still on track” entering the the 10K race.

Madison followed the event’s website and tracked her father’s closest competitors, who wore bib numbers in the 200s, meaning they were in the 55-59 and 60+ age groups. . “You’ll catch one, but not the other,” Madison told her father.

Again, Stuart, who wore No. 211, put in a solid 10K, as the two in front of him “slumped a bit,” he said. “Maybe they pushed too hard or they didn’t fill up.

“Right at the end, I sat on 205’s shoulder for half a mile, thinking he might be in my age group, and at the end, I sprinted past him, and he didn’t. didn’t answer. Turns out he wasn’t in my age range, he was in 55-59.”

As in 2019, Hughes was the fastest in his age group for the 10k, 46:18, an impressive 7:28 per mile, even in hot conditions.

Not too bad at all, especially for a man who favors water and cycling, even if the race makes him the winner.

—Contact John Conceison at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ConceisonJohn.

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