Triathletes swimming at the Cotswold Standard Distance Triathlon
Cotswold 226
Training > Long distance

Ironman-distance triathlons: guide to 8 of the UK's best

In the UK we are lucky to have a whole host of triathlons, from super sprints to iron distances, to choose from. Here we share some tips and advice for racing 7 of the UK's favourite full distance triathlons


Where: Ashton Keynes, Gloucestershire

When: July

Great for iron newbies and PB hunters, the 226 is a small but loved Iron circuit fixture. So how do you whup the west country wonder? 2015 finisher Mary Morton has this advice


There’s plenty of space at the venue and everything you need is close by. You don’t need to rack the day before, and registration is painless. Camping is available but there’s also plenty of accommodation nearby. Transition is clearly set out with loos and segregated changing yards from the bikes.


There’s a gentle slope into the crystal clear water, which is cool but definitely not cold. There’s also plenty of opportunity to warm up if you need to. It’s a two-lap swim course, which skirts around the outside of the lake with a short dogleg into the middle. Sighting is easy as there are big buoys and several landmarks. Spectators can also follow easily. Due to the calm and predictable waters, pacing is a doddle and the exit is via a ramp with helpful hands to guide you to your feet. The journey to T1 is a short one.


The bike is also two laps, and having recce’d the course I knew there were some gentle climbs in store despite it being reportedly flat. The first aid station is only about 16km in. The countryside is beautiful and the roads smooth. There are few technical turns and climbs, yet the exposed course can exacerbate spray if it’s raining. The support is thin so the sight of marshals is welcome.


T2 is stress-free, and there was plenty of toilet roll left in the portaloos by the time I arrived! The run is four laps, so it can be psychologically damaging if you see athletes already sporting bands when you start. But the aid stations are well-stocked and the organisers offered to supply anything we asked for. 

We named the Cotswold 226 4th best Iron-distance tri for beginners in Europe


Where: Dartford, Kent

When: August

If battling 226km isn’t hard enough, the Midnight Man organisers throw a night event at you. Here’s how to race in the dark of Dartford by a man who knows, 2012 second placer Dave Clamp


Take kit for all temperatures: it can be hot in the evening, but that can change by 3am and you’ll feel it if you’re down to walking pace on the run. Doing the marathon at night can be pleasant, though, compared to suffering in the heat at many summer daytime Ironman races. For the race, it’s worth practising nutrition for the later start time and doing some sessions where you swim at 6pm, then go for a 3-4hr bike to acclimatise to cycling as it changes from day to night.


One factor is that you’ll be swimming when the sun is getting low, so sighting is difficult. Walk round the lake’s edge to spot landmarks to aid direction, as the early evening glare can make the buoys difficult to spot. Also make sure your crew take plenty of insect repellent; they’ll be sitting at dusk and dawn near still water. My daughter was so badly bitten that she was off work afterwards!


Cycling in the dark feels quite strange because you have the sensation of moving faster than you really are. So use a powerful front lamp and make sure that it’s very firmly fastened on; there are a few speed bumps on the course and mine came flying off a few times. There were a lot of punctures when I did it, so be prepared physically and mentally for that, and practise changing punctures before the race.


Like the bike, the marathon run course is fairly flat so fast times can be recorded here. But be prepared for bigger potential changes in temperature than on a normal daytime Ironman. You can get quite cold in the night, especially if you start walking.

We named the Midnight Man the 9th best Iron-distance tri for beginners in Europe

Continue reading our guide to the best UK's Iron-distance triathlons (3/4)


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