One of the reasons I chose the Cotswold 113 as my first middle-distance triathlon, is that the event organisers hold a familiarisation day about three weeks before the race. It’s a great chance to recce the route and ask any questions before the big day. This is quite unique in that there aren’t many other triathlon events which hold a guided course familiarisation.
It was a 5am start yesterday to head over to the Ashton Keynes Waterpark, ready for the swim start at 8:30am. I’m looking forward to a lie-in after months of early starts for training!
The venue itself is a watersports lake within the Cotswolds Country Park- there are changing facilities, showers, toilets, free parking and a cafe on site. The carpark was actually very muddy, so that’s something to make my spectators aware of for race day!
We gathered on the banks of the lake for a briefing before making our way into the water. The water temperature was measured at 15.5 degrees, so it was definitely warmer than Grafham earlier this month! It’s predicted to be 18-20 degrees on race day- practically tropical!
The swim course was not marked out with buoys, so it was a case of following the kayaker. We cut the course short in order to avoid other swimmers who were using the lake, so the total distance was around 1550m (it will be 1900m on the day). Some areas were very shallow so we actually stood up to walk until it was deep enough to swim- apparently on race day we will be guided around these points.
I took it slowly and swam at an easy pace, just enjoying being in the water and getting into a rhythm with my stroke. Next time I’m in this lake, it will be frantic with adrenaline so I wanted to enjoy the calm before the storm! I swam near to Hayley, a friend from my triathlon club, whereas my husband Glen and brother Sean went off ahead.
The hair at the back of my neck was caught in the velcro of my wetsuit and pulling every time I turned my head to breathe, so I stopped a couple of times to sort it out. I felt like I was going to end up with a bald patch! I’ll tuck it into my swimming cap more carefully on race day.
We stopped at the point which will be the exit on the day and some people practiced climbing out onto the ramp. I wasn’t worried about practicing this, so I treaded water until we moved off again.
After the swim we got changed and regrouped, ready for a guided lap of the bike course. We headed out in three large groups, keeping the speed fairly slow at 14-16mph.
The route was almost completely flat with the exception of two short hills, which were not particularly challenging. This could be a very fast bike course as you are able to get into a rhythm on the flat roads. The roads will be not be closed on race day, but they are generally fairly quiet and police will be directing traffic on the main junctions. Much of the course was on country lanes and through picturesque villages with the typical Cotswold limestone cottages.
I chatted to a few people who had raced this triathlon before and they all agreed it is a great event- one that they come back to year after year. I also spoke to one of the event organisers who shared his advice on how to approach the two main hills.
We stopped quite often to make sure no one was left behind and for toilet stops. This photo looks lovely, but just seconds before there were 15 men weeing up that gate behind me!
We cycled one lap of approximately 28 miles, but of course on the day we will complete it twice making up the 56 mile distance.
The run course takes you around the perimeter of the lakes within the waterpark and out onto the surrounding roads.
I was surprised at how much of the run is trail-based, the surface was slippery mud with lots of puddles to hop over. I don’t actually own a pair of trail shoes, but they would be a good idea to provide some extra grip. I’m actually now planning to practice a bit more trail running over the next few weeks before race day as most of my training has been on roads up until this point. Running on trails is actually better for me than road running, as the soft ground lessens the impact, so hopefully my old injuries won’t flare up on race day.
As with the bike course, the run was almost completely flat, but the paths are narrow in places so we had to run single-file. Most of the course was enclosed by trees, which will provide welcome shade if it is sunny on race day.
Arriving back at the race HQ, we were talked through how the site will be laid out on the day in terms of the transition area and all-important finish line!
The day also allowed us to find out where our hotel is and make a plan for race morning. As we are staying just 2 miles from the race HQ, we decided it will be best to cycle to the start instead of trying to park the car on site. Apparently the carpark gets busy very early-I think I heard them say to arrive at 3am to secure a good parking spot!
Overall, it was a fantastic day which helped to settle my nerves about the race and really get the excitement pumping! The race organisers are so friendly and accommodating- really committed to making this a great event for everyone. I’ve trained so hard for this race since January, I’m now just so ready for June 12th!
Have you ever done a course familiarisation before race day? Have you ever been to the Cotswolds?