This weekend sees the UK's second biggest triathlon taking place at Kent's Hever Castle. More than 7,000 swim/bike/run fanatics will take over the 13th century castle for two days of racing in stunning surroundings and with a fantastic festival atmosphere.
With so many athletes racing this weekend, we’ve asked for some race tips from Carol Bridge, previous winner of the middle distance Gauntlet, and David Bishop, who's previously nabbed second in the men’s Olympic distance race.
“Firstly, if you get the chance, make sure you check out Hever Castle and its gardens, you’ll then be able to appreciate how lucky you are to race in such a venue. The course is simply beautiful! The swim start is picturesque; you walk down into the water from the famous loggia set in the heart of the gardens. Be careful here though, as it can be slippery. I hear the swim course is different this year so I can’t comment too much on the swim. I do know you follow a similar route to the Gauntlet and get the chance to swim along the River Eden, which, from the looks of last year is very cool. At least it will give athletes less chance to go off course!
“The run up to T1 and transition itself is fairly long. I would suggest, use this time to relax a little bit and focus on getting it right. Hever is such a big event now meaning transition will likely be a maze. Make sure you know what you are doing, where the exits are and where your bike is located. I always look for familiar landmarks, well flags or banners on the side of fences. You spend hours swimming up and down in a pool to improve your swimming; don’t waste those hard earned seconds in transition!
“The bike is challenging but fun! Don’t blow your doors on the first climb, which you hit within the couple of km. This is possibly one of the hardest sections on the course but you still have a long way to go, and two laps! The bike really does have a bit of everything…. Flat sections, hills, long descents. Play to your strengths and make sure you fuel yourself. Hever is a tough day out. If you don’t get this right you will pay for it at the end of the run.
“The road coming into T2 is fairly narrow, so if you are planning on overtaking then make sure you have done so before you enter the castle grounds. The spectators usually gather around the entrance to T2 so make sure you have wiped the spittle from your face. If you are in a close battle with a rival this is a good opportunity to see where you are in the race. The transition again is fairly lengthy presenting another opportunity to relax and gather your thoughts.
“The run is possibly my favourite discipline of the day. It is confined within the castle grounds, it is largely off-road so choose appropriate footwear – I find race flats fine, but if conditions are wet and you find running off-road difficult at the best of times then perhaps a shoe with more grip would be a better choice. Like the bike, the course is tough so pace yourself for the two laps! Apart from that, enjoy the weekend. I always say the Castle Series events are more than just a race!”
Carol’s tips for the Gauntlet
“Hever’s swim course is really beautiful but, as with all open-water swims, navigating the course is challenging. Make sure you wear tinted goggles – the sun will dazzle your vision otherwise. On some parts of the course you’re very close to the bank, so use it to guide your direction when you breathe to the side. This will reduce the number of times you’ll need to lift your head to look forward.
“It’s an obvious and very common tip, but really make sure you practise swimming in your wetsuit. It’s very different to swimming without. Also rehearse taking your wet wetsuit off quickly for transitions.
“The course at Hever is not what you might expect for this part of England. There are quite a few hills and some that are pretty steep. Make sure your bike has suitable gears. I used 11/25 on the back and 53/39 on the front. Try to spin as much as you can on the climb, conserving enough energy to power over the top so your speed increases as quickly as possible immediately afterwards.
“Nutrition is obviously very important in the Gauntlet. There are a number of food stations along the bike and run routes, which is great, but make sure you have your own supply of gels and bars just in case you miss the food stations. After the race, you will be very dehydrated so be sure to drink plenty. I find isotonic sports drinks like Erdinger are very good to rehydrate after the event.
“The run is two 10.5km laps on a mix of road, trail and bridleways so keep an eye on the pre-race weather and choose your footwear accordingly. Although it’ll be a tough day, make the most of the experience. There is a great atmosphere and the finishing chute is lined with spectators. I can guarantee it will feel amazing running the last 100m to the line.”
Make sure you take time to visit the 220 Triathlon stand at Hever if you're there this weekend – and look out for 220’s Helen and Matt who are both racing! Are you racing too this weekend? Let us know in the comments!