It sounds like something from a horror movie… running through an empty theme park as unoccupied rollercoasters creak along their tracks overhead. This however wasn’t a film, it was the scene of my last triathlon at Thorpe Park.
The Thorpe Park triathlon has been on my to-do list for a while, but the date had always clashed with another race. Finally I had a free weekend so I didn’t hesitate to sign up to swim, bike and run the sprint distance on “an island like no other” before the season ended.
The triathlon takes place before the park opens to the public, so as usual it was an early start (alarm set for 4:20am) for the drive over to Surrey.
750m Swim- 15:12
The swim took place in Fleet Lake, one of the many bodies of water which surround the theme park itself. My wave was the third and final one of the day with another 60 females and relay entries. Being a sprint distance, I knew the swim was fairly short at 750m so I hoped to swim as hard and as fast as I could!
The lake was fairly pleasant and shallow, although I did come across a clump of weeds over the back section.
As I turned by head to breathe, I looked across at the rides looming along the skyline. The Thorpe Shark hotel backs onto the lake- I did laugh to myself as I thought of the hotel guests opening their curtains on Sunday morning to find the lake full of bodies in wetsuits.
As I swam to the exit ramp, I caught my arm in the netting covering the large yellow buoy and fought for a few seconds to release it. You can see the buoy on it’s side in the below photo- I think I pulled it over!
Transition 1- 2:24
Out of the water and over a footbridge to the transition area, as I unzipped my wetsuit and took off my hat and goggles. I found my bike easily in the centre of the racking and got ready for the bike course.
20km Cycle- 44:45
The bike course took us out of the park on the service road onto the surrounding roads. It was very flat throughout with straight sections of road and a few roundabouts to negotiate. Being so early on a Sunday morning meant that the roads were almost traffic free.
I’m always super conscious of being accused of drafting in a triathlon. I’d never deliberately cheat so I try leave an ample gap between the cyclist in front, even if that means holding back and riding slower than I’d like to. I was playing cat-and-mouse with the same four women throughout the cycle course, I’d overtake them then they’d pull back in front of me for a while, it kept the ride interesting having people to chase down!
Transition 2- 1:51
My second transition didn’t go quite as smoothly, as I bent over to change my shoes snot was pouring out of my nose (sorry for TMI)! As I blew my nose on a tissue, my piercing flew out and dropped onto the ground. Hunting around for a few seconds, I picked it up covered in a clump of grass which I brushed off and popped it back in! In hindsight, I probably should have left my nose stud where it fell and worried about that later!
5km Run- 25:39
The run is a two lap course within the park itself on flat pavements and grass. We ran underneath the rides and past the arcades as they began whirring to life ready for the day ahead. I was tempted to have a quick go on a soft toy grabber machine as I ran past!
It was quite interesting to pass through the service areas and see parts of the rides which had been taken out of operation for maintenance. Log boats from the water flume ride were stacked alongside the run course waiting for repair. I really enjoyed going behind the scenes of the theme park outside of opening hours.
The finish line was through a gate onto a lawn area by a marquee. I jumped through the gate, hands in the air finishing in 1:30:04 and 28th out of 61 women. Definitely one of the most enjoyable triathlons I’ve ever participated in! I actually found the 5k run course to be slightly short, coming up at 2.85 miles which accounts for my quicker than usual run time!
I’ve not actually done a sprint distance, since my very first triathlon at Blenheim Palace in 2014. As that race took me almost 2 hours, I’m pleased to get a personal best by 30 minutes! I really enjoyed racing this shorter distance as I was done and dusted before 9am.
Of course the trip to Thorpe Park wouldn’t be complete without actually going on the rides. We packed away the bikes into the car and got changed in the toilets before joining the queues for the park’s biggest rollercoasters. I’ve not been to Thorpe Park since 2008, so there were plenty of new attractions to terrify myself on- I was actually more nervous about some of the rides than the race!
Have you ever raced in a Theme Park? What’s your favourite ride?