Race Re-Cap: Leeds Castle Triathlon

Leeds Castle Triathlon

Leeds Castle Triathlon rounded off my race streak throughout June. I completed a sprint distance triathlon on four out of five weekends, including the Southend Triathlon, Thorpe Park Triathlon and The Oysterman. It’s been a fun challenge, reminding me of why I love shorter distance racing and trying different venues and locations.

Glen raced at Leeds Castle last summer and I went along to spectate. I regretted not signing up myself, as it is a beautiful venue and a fantastic race. This year we both returned to take part in the event.

Swim- 750m- 16:03
As expected, the triathlon was declared a non-wetsuit race. The water temperature was measured at 25.8°c, so there was definitely no need for neoprene! The swim course is in the castle moat and follows a zig-zag shape passing underneath the arches of the building. It’s possible to stand up at any point as the water is very shallow.

We began with a beach start, which was new to me. The gun was fired as we stood on dry land and everyone rushed into the water to begin swimming. I noticed a few people set off too fast, then fade and fall back and I swam past them. It was fairly congested particularly when turning around the buoys.

The water was very murky with silt and mud churned up by the previous waves. I couldn’t see in places some as it was completely black. As I swam underneath the castle, a leaf landed on my face and blocked my goggles!

Leeds Castle Triathlon

T1- 1:56
It felt strange coming into transition and not needing to strip off my wetsuit. I noticed how dirty I was- the front of my trisuit was covered in mud. I wiped my nose and loads of muck came out! Weeds were tangled under my watch strap.

Bike- 27km- 59:15
The bike course at Leeds Castle is longer than a typical sprint distance at 27km. We rode out of the castle grounds and onto the A20 for a simple out-and-back course, between two large roundabouts. It was undulating with a fairly strong cross-wind, but nothing too challenging.

I felt strong on the bike and surprised myself with how many people I was overtaking. Despite the extra 7km, I aimed to push hard and finish in around an hour. The faster cyclists from the previous waves started to appear on their return leg, so I looked out for Glen. He was the 5th or 6th cyclist I spotted, so I knew he was in a good position and racing well.

We returned to the castle grounds through a different gate and passed by the golf course. I made sure to slow down in anticipation of the dismount line, as they had warned us about someone who had misjudged his speed and flown off his bike!

Leeds Castle Triathlon

T2- 1:49
A friend from my club came into transition only seconds after me- it was Lydia’s first ever triathlon and she was smashing it!

Run- 5km- 32:53
Glen had warned me that the run course was very tough, with plenty of challenging hills. He wasn’t wrong! The route is entirely on grass within the castle grounds and features hill after hill after hill! The course had distance markers every kilometre and several water stations which is quite unusual in a sprint distance triathlon.

I haven’t done a huge amount of hill training, so I planned to power-walk the steepest sections and then run the downhills. Less than a kilometre into the run, I misplaced my foot and fell over landing on my knees. I wasn’t hurt as I landed on soft grass, so I got straight up and carried on running. I was a bit embarrassed and hoped no one had seen!

I chatted to several runners who overtook me- everyone seemed to be struggling with the hills regardless of their ability. There was a photographer positioned on one of the steepest sections- the lady running beside me commented that we would not walk until we had passed him.

Leeds Castle Triathlon

The race ends directly in front of the castle making for a very grand finish line. My time was 1:51:57 which is around 20 minutes slower than my usual sprint distance time, but understandable given the longer bike course and tough run.

Leeds Castle Triathlon has some of the best post-race goodies- we received a lovely medal, technical T-shirt (available in ladies fit) and a bag of snacks. The only downside to the race is that there is a fee for spectators.

Leeds Castle Triathlon

Have you ever been to Leeds Castle? Have you ever fallen over during a race?

Race Re-Cap: The Oysterman Triathlon

The Oysterman Triathlon

Another weekend, another race! This time I was down in Whitstable for The Oysterman sprint triathlon- I saw this race on Victoria’s Instagram last summer and instantly added it to my list for 2017. Whitstable is a lovely little harbour town in Kent, famous for it’s oysters hence the name of the triathlon.

Glen and I made a weekend of it and rented a room in a caravan on a holiday park in nearby Seasalter. Our first experience of using Airbnb for accommodation and we were pleasantly surprised. Staying locally saved us an hour in bed on race morning, but it was still an early start at 5.30am.

Registration and transition were set up on the grass banks of Tankerton Slopes. There was a feeling of this being a small, friendly and inclusive race as we arrived to set up. We joined the queue and I realised I had left my wetsuit in the car, so made a quick dash back to collect it. The Race Director came around to personally apologise as they were running slightly late- it was no problem as it allowed us longer to get set up. We went about the usual pre-race routine… applying number stickers to bikes and helmets, laying out kit on a towel, applying suncream.

At the pre-race briefing, we were given a pep-talk by former Olympic triple jumper Michelle Griffith-Robinson, who assured as that despite being a professional athlete she couldn’t complete a 500m swim!

Swim- 500m- 14:18
At 7am, it was already set to be the hottest day of the year and I was longing to get into the sea. The water felt cool and refreshing as I waded out to take my position for the race start. Unlike Southend, the pebbles were smooth underfoot and the sea was clear and clean.

The Oysterman Triathlon

The swim course took us on an out-and-back following the shoreline. I actually didn’t see the first buoy as the sun was so strong. The turning point at the second buoy appeared very quickly. On the way out, we had the benefit of the current behind us, however on the return it was much tougher swimming against the flow of the water. At some points, I felt as though I was swimming on the spot without making any forward progress. I concentrated on making my stroke strong and kicking hard to get moving through these tough spots. It’s good training for my Solent swim in September as I’ll encounter strong currents then.

Transition 1- 4:03
Coming out of the sea, there was a steep slope up to the transition area. It was quite a challenge trying to run uphill after a swim! After getting ready for the bike course, I accidentally knocked over someone’s helmet and sunglasses. I stopped to put them back into place, as I’d like my kit treated with the same respect.

Bike- 20km- 42:36
The bike route goes along the promenade then out to the surrounding countryside, with small loop which is repeated to bring the distance up to 20km. It’s flat throughout apart from a small bridge over the A299. However, the road surfaces were quite rough with big potholes in the more residential areas.

I worked hard on the bike, concentrating on catching and overtaking the next person ahead of me. At some points, I couldn’t see anyone else on the course and panicked that I’d taken a wrong turn. When the next marshal or signpost came in to sight, I was relieved to know I was on track!

On the return to the beach front, I did actually take the wrong exit on a mini-roundabout, however I corrected myself after only a few metres. I got a PB for the bike distance, which was great to see my hard work is paying off.

Transition 2- 1:06
Second transition went fairly smoothly, however I did leave my sunglasses behind!

Run- 5km- 31:12
The temperature was had reached 23°c by the time I headed out onto the run, so I knew it would be a struggle. The course follows the grass banks before looping around a nature reserve and returning back along the beach path. It’s very flat throughout, but the section in the nature reserve is on uneven trails. I’m not particularly good at trail running, so I tried to focus on my footing to avoid tripping over.

The heat was really draining- I looked out at the glittering sea and wished I was back in the water! I tried to shelter in a slither of shade by the beach huts, but there wasn’t really any escaping the sun. My only criticism of The Oysterman is the water stations on the run course- they were at approximately 1.2km and 4.8km. It would have been better to place one at the half-way point where most runners were in need of a drink.

The final stretch is a tough uphill to the finish line on the cliff-top. I must admit I walked up the slope before breaking into a run again when the finish line was in sight. Junior parkrun was due to start at 9.30am, so I was determined to finish my run before the speedy kids came out on the course!

I finished in 1:33:17 and immediately sat down in the shade to recover! Can you spot the mistake on the finishers medal? They will be sending the correct versions out to us!

The Oysterman Triathlon

Unfortunately there was no photographers on course, so I have a lack of images to accompany this post, except for a few post-race photos of myself and Glen.

The Oysterman Triathlon

I loved The Oysterman, it’s been my favourite triathlon of the season so far. Whitstable is a beautiful location and everything was perfectly organised (despite the medal mishap). I can only see this race growing in popularity in the coming years.

Have you ever been to Whitstable? Do you struggle in the heat or do you prefer warm weather racing? Do you like oysters?

How to cope with a non-wetsuit swim in a triathlon

Panicking about a non-wetsuit swim? It can be a little daunting, but with these tips there's no need to let a lack of rubber ruin your triathlon

The recent hot weather has resulted in lake temperatures rising to something resembling a warm bath. British Triathlon Federation competition rules state that wetsuits are forbidden in water temperatures above 22°c, so it’s likely that many races over the coming weekend will be declared non-wetsuit.

Swimming without a wetsuit can be incredibly daunting when you’ve practiced all season in that protective neoprene layer. Triathletes tend to rely on their wetsuit for buoyancy and speed- a non-wetsuit race can send even the most experienced athletes into a panic. However there’s no need to let the lack of rubber ruin your race, here are some tips to bear in mind if you are faced with a non-wetsuit triathlon…

Get in some practice

If time allows, head over to your local lake for a few training laps in just your trisuit. Get used to the feeling of the water on your skin as you move through the water- it’s quite a different sensation. You will be less buoyant and may need to consider your body position in the water, remember to keep your head, hips and heels in line.

Trust in your training

Remember that you are more than capable of swimming the distance. Look back over your training and remind yourself of the miles you’ve swam in the pool all without a wetsuit- you can do it!

Control the controllables

The water temperature is a factor completely beyond your control– don’t waste vital energy worrying about it. Focus on the aspects which you can control- your nutrition, your equipment and your attitude.

Be prepared

Usually the call is made on race morning regarding the use of wetsuits, so it’s worth bringing yours incase there is a last-minute change. The weather is unpredictable and an unexpected cold spell might mean that wetsuits are an option once again.

Think of the positives

Without a wetsuit, your transition times will be quicker- no more fumbling with the zip as you come out of the water. You won’t get any chafing around your neck and you won’t have to rinse and dry your wetsuit after the race.

Relax and enjoy

Swimming is always more effortless when you relax. Tensing up will hinder your stroke and prevent you from gliding through the water. It’s rare that we get to swim non-wetsuit in the UK so make the most of the opportunity before the lakes return to icy temperatures!

Have you ever swam non-wetsuit in a race? How did you get on?

Race Re-Cap: Thorpe Park Triathlon 2017

Thorpe Park Triathlon

I’m racing quite frequently this summer. The beauty of sprint triathlons is that you can recover quickly and be ready to race again the following weekend.

Usually I prefer to never do the same race twice as I like a variety of different courses and locations. However, I really enjoyed Thorpe Park Triathlon last September so decided to go back again and see if I could improve my time.

Once again, it was an incredibly early start with a 4am alarm. I think the lack of sleep gets to me more than the racing!

Thorpe Park Triathlon

Swim- 750m- 15:47
My wave was due to begin at 7.40am, so after seeing Glen off at 7.10am I figured I had some time before I headed to the start. I put on my wetsuit and waited around the swim exit watching the earlier swimmers leave the lake. Glen was out of the water in 12 minutes, so I made my way over to the lake entrance to wait my turn.

I was surprised to see that my entire wave were already in the water 20 minutes early! I checked with a marshall that it was indeed Wave 5 and panicked realising I had almost missed the start of the race. I made a quick decision and jumped into the lake, swimming hard to catch the group as the klaxon sounded.

The swim passed in a blur. I wasn’t in the best frame of mind after a bad start to the triathlon. I was confused about why they had started much earlier than the advertised time. Or was it me? Had my watch stopped?

I later found out that due to the terrorist incident in London the night before, Thorpe Park was on high alert. Security wanted the triathlon finished and the park cleared as soon as possible, so they had taken the decision to move the times forward. I totally understand the decision, but it would have been helpful if we were informed!

Despite the panicked start, I finished the swim only 35 seconds slower than last September.

Thorpe Park Triathlon

Transition 1- 1:46
My first transition went smoothly, I found my bike on the crowded racking and headed to the bike out as quickly as possible.

Bike- 21km- 44:51
I was familiar with the course from last year, it’s pretty straightforward and on flat, mostly traffic-free roads. Being the Triathlon England National Championships, there were a lot of competitive athletes on the course. Plenty of speedy riders on TT bikes came flying past me throughout the bike course.

The early start meant that the weather was cool and mild with a slight breeze, perfect conditions for riding. I reminded myself to drink regularly on the bike as it’s pretty easy to forget when you’re focused on riding as quickly as possible.

I’m nothing if not consistent, as my bike time was only 5 seconds different from September!

Thorpe Park Triathlon

Transition 2- 1:58
Back into the park via the service roads, squeezed my bike onto the racking, changed my shoes and headed back out.

Run- 5km- 27:18
The run course is one of the most enjoyable aspects of this race, it’s a lot of fun being let loose in the theme park before it opens to the public. The course is on grass by the lake and pavements between the roller-coasters. As it’s two laps, I saw Glen and my friends Trevor and Cristina around the finish line which always gives a much-needed boost.

Again, I was being passed by a lot of fast runners. I try not to become disheartened and keep pushing as hard as I can without worrying about others. Determined to beat my previous time, I kept checking my Garmin as I ran. I realised it was going to be tight to come in sub 1.30, as my swim and bike times were similar to my last Thorpe Park Triathlon. On my second lap, I knew it would not be a PB so I just focused on enjoying the course.

I finished in 1:31:43 which is a little slower than last year. I was initially a little disappointed as I really felt like I was riding and running stronger than last time, but ultimately I’m not going to get upset over 90 seconds! Thorpe Park was still an amazing event, despite the miscommunication around the swim start. I’d really recommend this race to both beginners and more advanced athletes.

Thorpe Park Triathlon

Have you ever almost missed the start of a race? What’s your favourite theme park?