Hever Castle Triathlon – Race Recap

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of doing my first and only triathlon of 2020. Not only that but it was also my first ‘in person’ race of the year. In September. Which is as strange to me as the fact that I have to add ‘in person’ so we know it wasn’t a virtual event.

So 2020.

I finished it too! Which wasn’t necessarily a done deal. My triathlon training this year has been very hit & miss, to say the least. Trying to train for a 100 mile bike ride, a half-marathon, an ultra, a triathlon in the same summer while juggling periods of Covid-19 quarantine or lockdown was messy. Add to this the uncertainty of any of these events taking place, and you get the picture: inconsistency was the theme over the summer.

It’ll come as no surprise to most of you that all but two of the races above did eventually get cancelled. So did the original triathlon I had signed up to but then I got the opportunity to transfer my place to the one taking place at Hever Castle instead. So I did. Because why not?

Just to make sure I had one of the worst training ahead of a triathlon in a distance I’m not that familiar with, I added another 2 weeks quarantine in the month leading up to the event. Where I only did Pilates. Which is great but nowhere near enough to prep for an event involving 1500m swim + 40km bike ride + 10km run…

So how did it go?

The Swim 🏊‍♀️

Oh my was it cold! ❄️

So much so that the organisers almost halved the distance. We had to cover 800m instead of the planned 1500m. Not that I was complaining about this!

The new Covid-19 secure start, where each competitor sets off on their own, every 10 seconds, as opposed to the mass wave start was a dream (demonstrated here). I enjoyed the space, peace and quiet that came with a solo start. I also had no time to hang around in the water and realise how cold I was getting. As soon as you went down the steps to get in the water, your time started. So once in the water, you better get swimming!

My face, hands and feet never felt so cold but thankfully the wetsuit did its job and the rest of me was warm enough.

The Bike 🚴🏻‍♀️

Ok – strangely enough, this part of the triathlon is slowing becoming my least favourite. And the course at Hever Castle certainly doesn’t help. Most of it is ‘undulating’. Which is a nice way to describe a route that doesn’t have much flat sections… You go up or you go down. Not much in between.

Most of my rides this summer were long and slow so needless to say racing an undulating course was painful. My legs were burning and I was cursing.

I guess I should be thankful that at least I wasn’t cold? Putting on my windproof jacket before setting off was the best decision I made all day as the wind was relentless. My feet however didn’t get a chance to warm up like my thighs did though. They were so cold after the swim and got being blasted with icy cold air on the bike course for 2 hours. My toes were feeling like tiny ice cubes when I arrived back in transition for the last part. I was also very fed up with the whole experience at this point. Wondering why I put myself through this once a year or more. It was only my second attempt at the Olympic distance and the longer bike ride still leaves me a bit demoralised.

The Run 🏃🏼‍♀️

As always, it was hard to get into a rhythm. My feet, or more specifically felt stiff and had to warm up but as I started overtaking people (who were probably on their last lap of the marathon, bless them), my enthusiasm went up. It was such a change from the bike, where I got overtaken by literally everyone!

The course was mostly flat, on grass and hard packed. Loads of paying attention was needed though as it was far from even ground but I was having a good time. Maybe it’s because I was overtaking other runners, maybe because I was in my element but running felt good. I did take a couple of walking breaks when going uphill. I simply didn’t have the drive to push when I knew I wouldn’t be setting any personal bests. Not on that course. There’s a killer hill about 500m from the finish…

When I crossed the finish line, I was spent, exhausted. But I also remembered why I keep coming back to triathlons. The feeling of achievement is like nothing else. I’ve given everything, I swam, I cycled, I ran on tired legs and mind and finished strong.

Next year I’ll set a PB on that course. Hever, I’ll be back.

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