Over 1,000 people from across the UK took part in the third annual Castle Howard triathlon. Sportsister’s Louise Hudson (pictured below) took part as a team joined by two triathlon novices in the Olympic distance relay event.
“We were thinking that you might like to do the swim?” It was on a girls’ weekend away in Edinburgh that a friend of mine first brought up the idea of doing a team triathlon. “I’d like to do the bike and Emma will do the run, but we need someone who is willing to swim in that lake!”
So, in the spirit of encouraging newbie triathlons in to this sport that I have grown to love, I agreed to take on the Castle Howard triathlon.
It’s part of a series of triathlons across the UK (read last years’ Castle Howard review here), Ireland (read our review from Ireland here) and France (read our review from France here) which all based in the grounds of stunning castles.
The exceptionally wet weather prior to the event almost caused it to be called off, with the owner of the Castle Howard estate calling race director Brian Adcock just days before saying it would have to be cancelled as the grounds were too wet to accommodate the car parking. But thanks to some last minute changes, the event was given the go-ahead.
This did cause a few small issues on the day. Upon arrival the queue for registration was huge and very slow moving, and there was a sense of panic amongst many racers as the clock ticked down to their event start time. Also the transition area had to be moved. Last year it was in front of the beautiful house on the grass leading down to the lake. But this year it was located behind the main house, some 500m or more, further away from the lake. This meant the run to the transition area after the swim was a punishing 1km uphill.
If you are looking for a flat course, then don’t even think about coming to Castle Howard. The run, the bike and even the path to the transition is all very hilly. But don’t let this put you off, as it is one of the most scenic routes in the UK.
The swim takes place in the lake, which organisers kindly clear weed from each year to make it easier to swim in. The water was around 18 degrees which meant wetsuits were optional but most competitors had one on.
Setting off from the boat house, the swim leg allows easy viewing for spectators and there was a great atmosphere at the start. For the Olympic distance (1500m) swimmers had to do two laps of the well marked course, before heading back on to dry land via a slippy platform.
Greeted by cheering spectators, it was then time for the killer climb up to the transition. Some five minutes later I made it to where my team mate Nicki was waiting, bike at the ready. After a quick handover of the timing chip, she was off and that was my leg done. By now the sun was shining and the surroundings couldn’t have looked more idyllic.
The bike course (46km) is described as technical – this means it’s tough! Two laps take competitors around the local area, winding through small villages and beautiful countryside. It’s also very hilly, but luckily Nicki lives locally and had been doing her training on these very same hills so she knew exactly what to expect!
Although the roads aren’t closed for the event, it is very well marshalled and signed and there wasn’t too much traffic about. We started in the last Olympic distance wave and so there was a real mix of riders out on the course from those on their second lap, to the Sprint distance racers on their first. This made it quite tricky to tell how you were doing in relation to the other racers, as you were never exactly sure which lap someone was on.
It was then time for our team’s final handover, and Nicki now back in the transition area passed the chip on to Emma who now had the task of running 10km around the grounds of the stately home. The majority of the run was off-road and it was a hilly, challenging route. The route had been slightly altered to accommodate for the wet weather in the lead up to the event, and so after completing the two 5km laps runners finished to the rear of the house, close to the transition area.
By the time our team had finished, the prize giving was well underway and so most spectators had moved away from the finish line which made it a bit lacking in atmosphere for our team’s moment of glory.
Other than that though the event was a real success, and both my team mates loved their first triathlon experience. There’s already been talk of signing up for next time – with one of my team setting her sights on tackling all three disciplines herself.
- Although the event is increasing in size each year it still has a friendly, unintimidating atmosphere for beginners
- A tough, technical route (a good or a bad point depending on your view)
- Stunning surroundings
- Offering relay entries allows those new to triathlon the chance to build up confidence
- A kid’s triathlon is held in the afternoon
- Not enough post race food options in the event village
- More marshalls were needed by the transition area as many cyclist’s went the wrong way
- A lack of support/atmosphere at the finish line for those who finished after the prize giving had started
Chateau du Chantilly, France – August 26
Hever Castle, UK – September 29-30
More info: www.castletriathlonseries.co.uk
Louise Hudson, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine