I had promised myself I would never, ever ride the hills of a Hever triathlon again. But when the lovely people at Castle Triathlon offered me a place at their 70.3, The Gauntlet… well, I couldn’t say no, could I?!
I felt pretty relaxed about my third 70.3 in the build-up to racing in Kent again. I followed a 6 week training plan, re-joined forces with Alan (Performance Chef), treated myself to a new bike (my new love) and went running with Lewes AC round the track (my actual new love). I’d really enjoyed training again, after a month or so off not doing a whole lot apart from lifting weights and sunbathing. I also loved not training for an ironman. Hello, 2 hour ride, you beautiful thing, you! Hi there, 1 hour run, lookin’ good! I think I will be doing more 70.3s – the training means you can have a life AND play tri, winner.
The race didn’t start until 8am, which meant a leisurely 5am quiet drive up to Hever to register. Registration was very straightforward – we’d been texted our number the day before and just had to show the message to collect our race envelope and ‘The Gauntlet’ rucksack and t-shirt. Racking in transition was super easy too, and very well organised considering it was such a big race. Wetsuit on, bike, shoes, visor in place and I headed down to the swim, full of excitement.
The swim at Hever is stunning. You’ll remember from my report on The Bastion that it’s in the lake at the castle, with a long swim down the middle of the lake and a trip back up the river to the finish – and pretty brown. It was still just as gross as it was in July – and even easier to swim into the back of someone, as there were three times as many participants.
The swim is always the best and the worst bit for me: I’m always full of nerves before the start, but once I get going, always want to go forever. I quickly got into a steady stroke, and remembered to keep my mouth shut. The sun started shine through the drizzle, and as much as I could with just a side eye, tried to enjoy the scenery this time.
All too quickly it was over, and I was being hauled out of the water by a marshal and toddled up to transition to find my bike. Which I couldn’t find. For ages. So I looked a bit potty running up and down getting in everyone’s way…
Once I had eventually found Cassie the Canyon, we headed off onto the course that I was soooo looking forward to. Off we went up and down the hills through Kent, past all the bits I knew and loved: along the long climb through Chuck Hatch, past Neave’s Farmhouse, past the empty pub, past the farm shop… I should be saying it wasn’t any easier than last time… but of course it was. It was shorter, for a start, so I felt happier to push a bit harder on the uphills. It wasn’t driving rain and wind, which made the whole thing a bazillion times more fun and the downhills less terrifying. And I now have Cassie and much as I hate to admit it, she made such a huge difference. Going up the hills was a dream; I couldn’t believe the difference. I really didn’t want a different level of bike of make my triathlon experience so much more fun… but it does…
This is probably the only triathlon I’ve ever done where I could have just kept going on the bike – as I knew, and was dreading what was to come on the run.
Whizzing back into the castle was still a relief of sorts, and I hopped off Cassie, nipped to the toilet, fixed my visor and braced myself for the hills, spills and more hills.
It is impossible not to enjoy this route though. It was slightly different from The Bastion run, but takes in all the best bits. There were, again, super cheery marshals every turning and very well stocked aid stations, and it was really nice to be surrounded by people this time, as we Gauntlet-ers had now joined the Olympic distance athletes on their runs. I got quite emotional at times on the run, as I went through all the areas that had been difficult, amazing and fun during The Bastion. I saw the alpacas that Mark had taken lots of pictures of whilst waiting for me to come through in July, ran alone down ‘banana lane’ and stopped again at the aid station which had saved my bonking bacon during last time’s marathon. It was a fun run, only to be ruined by some man who came up to run with me saying “you’re doing a good time here – you can pace me… you must have a slow bike and a fairly good run to be finishing now? My bike’s really good but I struggle on the run.” Pro tip: don’t comment on other people’s races – ever. Ever.
The finish was standard Castle Triathlon excellence, with lots of fresh fruit, malt loaf, plenty of water, coke and high 5, free cartons of coconut water, as well as a free massage for Gauntlet competitors and a meal. They know how to spoil you! It great that it is really straightforward to pick your stuff up again from transition, even though there were kids coming in to do their races and heaps going on.
As I headed back over the hills again back home, I did feel totes emosh. I’ve worked hard this year, and had such fun. Hever will always hold a special place in my triathlon memories, so thank you, Castle Triathlon for making such a tough course so easy to enjoy.
Will I be back next year? Perhaps. If they promise to take out some hills.
The Castle Triathlon Series gave me a place in The Gauntlet. The fact that it was free makes zero difference to my thoughts on the race, and I would recommend their races to anyone.
I have had to display my race through images of lions, as I had no supporters (I have used up my supporter credit notes) and I ain’t paying good bike money for pro photos.