The Castle Triathlon Series consists of 5 races (at castles) across the UK and one in France. I was initially drawn towards entering them because they are in beautiful parts of the country. At the beginning of the year I was accepted onto the elite wave which was a fantastic step in the right direction for me. They are perfect because they are still non-drafting events but with the highest possible competition, so are a good transition between age group races and elite races. Next, I had to figure out which races in the series I could do which would fit in and complement my other races and training schedule. I settled on Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire (I still can’t pronounce it properly…) and Castle Howard in Yorkshire. This would involve a fair bit of travelling, but it meant we could also have a nice weekend away together.
26th June: Cholmondeley Castle.
Cholmondeley Castle is a private residence in a beautiful setting. This provided a fantastic opportunity to explore the grounds of somewhere you aren’t normally allowed. When we turned up the day before, the organisers were still setting the event village up so we sat and watched a local cricket game in the sun. How very English! I always travel to the course on the day before the race for these long distance events because I can register there and avoid having to queue up on the morning. It also means I can view the transition area and drive the bike route. This helps calm the nerves a bit, but on this occasion it was counter-acted with the big words “ELITE WAVE” written all over my pack of information envelope. Much to my amusement I also found out that the swim involved an Aussie exit to start the second lap. This involves completing the first lap of the swim course, getting out of the water, and then running 200 metres back round to where the swim start was and then jumping (or flopping in my case…) back into the water for the second lap. Thankfully, you weren’t allowed to dive back into the water, which has never been my strong suit. This was quite a stressful thought seeing as I hadn’t done it before, but also added a light hearted touch to the race.
On the morning of the race I was directed to the elite section of the transition area to rack my bike, which didn’t exactly help settle the nerves. When we got into the water we quickly realised why you weren’t able to dive. You couldn’t stand up, due to all the silt in the lake, with the water level only coming up to your waist. Also, the silt had all been churned up from the previous wave before ours. As you can imagine – sticking your face in that to start swimming was rather disgusting. We started with all the elite men too, which added more spice and chaos. The Aussie exit played havoc with my breathing. As it turns out, going from a lying down position, to running, to lying down again and trying to swim is quite difficult.
As I exited the water someone said I was 8th lady which is quite good for my standards. I quickly went through transition and jumped on my bike trying to hunt down the other 7 in front of me. The bike was two laps of a very undulating course with a few large hills. I found the first lap really hard work and settled into it a bit more on the second lap, by which point I really had to dig deep. I passed a few ladies throughout the course, which always gives me that energy boost when I do so, as I know I’m making progress.
I started the run (after dropping my bike on my foot during transition – d’oh) in 4th place. I never really thought I’d be so high at this point in the race, but I knew I had to aim for a podium finish now. I willed my legs on and caught up with Samantha Rose from the Torq Racing team, about halfway through the run, but had no idea how far in front the other two were. I couldn’t see them amongst the hills and twists and turns of the course, suggesting I was probably quite far behind them sadly. There were some very steep off-road and uneven ground sections which meant you had to be really careful of your footing.
After what seemed like a lot longer than a 10km course, I was very happy and relieved to cross the line in 3rd position. I never really thought about where I could finish in my first elite Castle series race, but it certainly wasn’t 3rd, that’s for sure! I think this all got to me a bit, because at this point I thought it would be a good idea to jump into an ice bath which had been set up by one of my favourite sponsors, Threo. I’ve seen a few people get into ice baths before and I’ve often thought “ah it can’t be that bad”. Trust me, it is. You really appreciate it the next morning though. After being cryogenically frozen for 2 minutes, I then made my way to the podium to collect my medal, alongside Hannah Drewett who had won the race by a considerable margin.