When I was accepted to race as an Elite in this series earlier in the year I identified Cholmondeley Castle and Castle Howard as two that would fit into my race and training programming. I distinctly remember saying to my coach, Mitch, that maybe I should enter three races to be eligible for a series prize. I very quickly back tracked and told myself not to get ahead of myself. But when I came away with a very unexpected 3rd place and a 1st place, I realised I had to enter another one. Unfortunately though this only left Chateau Chantilly as we will be in Mexico still for Hever Castle which is the last one in the series.
Planning a last minute trip to France turned out to be rather expensive and more stressful than I imagined, especially with it being so close to the World Championships. We have never driven to France before so there were some last minute driving kit purchases and rules to read up on. In the end, it worked out really well because the Monday was a bank holiday which meant we could actually spend some time together and not have to rush back.
I have never been on a car Ferry before so this was a rather exciting experience. As soon as we were parked up I jumped out of the car and explored the ferry. However I failed to notice, or be told, that you cannot return to your car once the ferry has left the port. The problem was that I had left all my water and entertainment down there so it was a quiet ferry crossing to France once the exploration had ceased.
We had booked a lovely B&B in a town close to Chantilly, Senlis. The place was down a cobbled street and more like a families spare room, rather than a traditional B&B! It was so unbelievably hot on the Saturday when we arrived. I felt so sorry for some of my fellow Stortford Tri club members (including some juniors) who were racing. We registered on Saturday and I was struck by the beauty of the setting and the Chateau. The photos really do not do it justice. I thought Castle Howard was beautiful, but this took it to a whole new level.
The swim was rather interesting. After both a French and English race briefing we climbed down a wall to get into the water which turned out to only came up to your waist. With half of that being a combination of silt and duck poo. Lovely! Without any warning or time to warm up, the starting siren went and we were off. This lead to a rather frenzied start and I was clobbered around the head a few times. Despite this, I found myself in a nice little pack early on and was able to stay with them for most of it. The swim was the best part for spectators as they could walk along the wall next to you. I exited the swim and my boyfriend said I was 5th female which was a nice surprise.
The run to transition was long, which included going up a lot of castle steps. Once I had caught my breath and found my bike, we ended up cycling on a gravel/ sandy road out of the castle grounds. This wasn’t a great way to start because I was really worried about getting a puncture. The first thing I had to remember to do was cycle on the RIGHT hand side of the road which I very nearly forgot. If anyone tells you the bike course is flat, they are lying! It certainly wasn’t hilly, but not flat either. On race day there was also an awful head wind on the one flat section which was incredibly demoralising. There was a switch back at one point on the course and the wind was making the leaves hit us like pellets – it was a strange autumn feeling mixed in with the heat. The road surface was also bad in certain places which was a shame.
This meant my water bottle started to work its way loose from the fixing which was worrying as it was warm. I knew it would be hot on the run so didn’t want to run the risk of being dehydrated when I got off the bike. I also witnessed my first drafting penalties being handed out. Two of the guys in front of me were both given penalties by the draft buster. Fortunately I wasn’t caught up in their group so escaped. However, once the draft buster had moved on, they actually drafted even more! The bike loop was one long (45km) lonely lap and I was really glad when it was time to head back into the castle grounds.
The run was also one lap, which was all off road. However, I was glad to see it was nowhere near as hilly as Castle Howard. There was also quite a large section where trees provided some shelter from the sun which made it a bit cooler, and was very welcome. When I started the run my boyfriend shouted that I was the 1st lady. My response was “1st?!!” I really wasn’t expecting this as I didn’t remember going past 4 other females. I was very happy and surprised but unfortunately my response sounded more angry apparently – sorry about that. That must be what happens when you’re tired. However, because I hadn’t realised I was in first place, I also had no idea how far behind the next female was. This meant I was running 10km trying to look over my shoulder at every possibility which was difficult on a one lap course. The marshals were brilliant as they kept shouting “Premier Femme” at me, handing me some water and also throwing water at me which I was grateful for!
The finishing line seemed to take forever to come, but I was so happy to take the win. Thank you to Tom J Powell for the great photos! I would also like to thank Castle Triathlon for another fantastic race. There is such a lovely feeling when you have finished and are able to enjoy the festival type atmosphere.
One thing I have noticed about this year’s racing season is my families responses when they get a message from me. They are no longer satisfied with a message on where I finished. If I do not tell them what my times were, who was racing and if I was happy with it then I get the Spanish inquisition! It is great though to have such brilliant support whether they are there with me or at home tracking the race.
When we returned to the B&B the French family were so lovely. Once we had communicated that I had won and showed them my prize, they invited us to join their family Sunday lunch. This was really amusing and made the trip really special.
Now it is very nearly the season finale, which makes my stomach lurch thinking about it. This year has gone incredibly quickly but I have had so much fun at the same time. I now have some last minute training and preparation to do for the World Championships on the 18th September.
I will try and post something again pre-race once we have arrived in Mexico but I can’t promise anything.
Thank you as always to my coach (ACS_Mitchell), physio (Ed Kirby Physio) and my sponsors for making this possible.