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