For those at the competitive end of multisport, the quality of performance has always been judged by finishing positions over times. But that doesn’t mean it’s not nice to stop the clock in speedy fashion and when you are a mid to back-of-the-packer and unlikely to ever step on to the podium, those faster splits justify faith in your training and give confidence for the races to come.
To help you to a new PB (or PR if you’re of States-side persuasion) we’ve unearthed the following standard distance events in the UK that have historically produced some blistering times. Please note, terrain and distances differ and while all are billed as standard or Olympic distance, it is not guaranteed that each race is exactly a 1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run.
The quiet town on the Welsh border turns into a haven for triathlon at the end of May and is often used as a qualifier for the British Age-Group teams. This means a fast time doesn’t always guarantee a high finishing position, although you could count yourself unlucky to come up against someone quite as nippy as two-time Olympian Andrew Johns, who clocked 1:46:49 here in 1998.
Racing through the North Wales countryside there are three short, sharp climbs accounting for 325ft of elevation on the bike, plus another 95ft on the run, so it’s not the flattest course you’ll find, but the intimate setting means spectators can view from close quarters and provide an extra boost. It’s also notable as the race won by relative novice triathlete Chrissie Wellington in 2006 before she went on to become world age-group champion in Lausanne, Switzerland and then undefeated four-time Ironman world champion.
It doesn’t get any flatter than whizzing round the tarmac of the purpose-built rowing venue of Dorney Lake, the setting for four gold medals from Team GB at the 2012 Olympic Games. Not only is it the perfect beginner tri venue, but it’s tailor-made for fast times – provided the wind doesn’t blow.
This female only event is “perfect event to try for a personal best,” says Nick Rusling, chief executive of organisers Human Race. “The venue is set around the beautiful Eton Dorney Lake and the fast, tarmac closed-road bike and run course make it a great environment at an iconic venue.” Eight laps on the bike make it a touch over distance at 42.4km but also mean that should you run into mechanical strife help is never far away. Just pray those gusts stay away.
The world’s largest triathlon with over 13,000 competitors provides a whirligig of human exertion over a frenetic weekend. After a wetsuit swim in the Royal Victoria Dock (try not to focus on the Thames’ water you might be swallowing), any time lost in the gigantic transition area in the Excel exhibition centre can be made up on the course… provided you do not completely lose your bike first!
There are many different race options but the most favoured bike course takes you from Docklands alongside the Thames on a closed-roads out and back to Westminster where you can grab a quick time check from Big Ben. It provides a good road surface, decent views of the capital and a couple of fast-paced underpasses. The four-lap run is a generous/short “10km” with plenty of crowd support, and given the number of bodies looping the course, there are plenty of targets to catch. Many people take part as their introduction to triathlon, but maybe it’s time to consider a return and a PB?
With the elite level World Triathlon Series heading to Leeds for the first time this summer, those inspired by a bit of Brownlee Brothers action might want to dip into the fun at Allerthorpe Lakeland Park. A high quality event now in its ninth year and known for its friendly atmosphere on quiet, scenic rural roads, it comprises a multi-lap swim, single loop bike ride and flat run.
Won in 2015 by Emma Robinson (2:17:15) and Royal Marine Richard Ebbage (1:57:26) after a hugely impressive 55:40 bike split, if you need even more incentive, this year it will be held on the first weekend of the Rio Olympics – so you can imagine yourself as Alistair, Jonny, Non or Vicky as you fly your Team GB colours with pride.
The city centre location is not the only attraction that gives this race the big occasion feel. Organised by British Triathlon it is also part of the elite British Super Series and the venue for the age-group national championships. This lure means over 2,000 competitors take part with the swim in the Albert Docks, a four-lap bike course alongside the River Mersey and a two-lap run. It’s the north’s answer to the London Triathlon and given it took a buffering from gale force conditions last year, deserves a drop of Scouse sunshine. In 2015, aided by a speedy 58:45 bike split, Alex Lawton took victory in the men’s race in an impressive 1:56:20. Alice Jenkins took the women’s title in 2:09:29.
If you’ve still something to give after a summer of racing then a late season trip to the Bala Adventure and Watersports Centre in North Wales could be in the offing. With a minimum prize fund of £6,000 (provided minimum entry numbers are reached) competition is bound to be fierce. Not that you’d have it any other way in the chilly Lyn Tegid lake, but wetsuits are compulsory.
“The swim allows triathletes to stretch across the lake and find their own space very quickly. On a calm day times can be very fast,” says Wrecsam club president Julian Hunter. “The cycle section is 20k out and 20k back along the valley. It is slightly uphill on the way out, but easily achievable on the big chain ring. Once at the turn point it is a fast return with leading athletes hitting speeds well in excess of 40mph. The run uses the same road as the bike and again producing slightly faster times on the return leg and allowing sight of the chasing athletes.”
The course has made for some fast times in the past with records held by British professional triathletes David Bishop (1:50:13) and Lois Rosindale (2:02:13).
Finish your season on a high with a trip to this south coast tourist magnet. Don’t be fazed by the sea swim, its location is an award-winning blue flag beach and this is an event that has been given the seal of approval as both the Army Triathlon national champs and a British age-grouper qualifier in the past. The fast bike course takes you to the town of Ringwood on the edge of the New Forest and the run, described by the organisers as “PB-busting”, is on the seafront promenade and heads towards Boscombe Pier where views of the Isle Of Wight and The Purbecks will do their best to ease your lactic woes. It was certainly to the liking of speedy local Greg Shrosbree in 2014, the off-road specialist was over eight minutes ahead of his nearest competitor when he stopped the clock in 1:53:42. Grab yourself a starting slot before it sells out and you’ll have a PB licked like a 99 Flake on the prom.
Another inclusive event in the stunning grounds of a country home make this Bedfordshire race one of the UK’s most loved triathlons and a day out for all the family. Highlights include beautiful views of the abbey and deer park, a popular event village and the closed road cycle route through the picturesque roads surrounding Woburn.
Now in its ninth year, the ‘tri for life’ organisation has raised over £2m for good causes and this year is raising money for Great Ormond Street Hospital, Melanoma Focus and a charity chosen by the entrants. The surge in popularity has seen it expand to two days with Johan Olivier from London club FulOnTri winning last year in 2:06:55 (with a 30:58 run split) with Gemma Bardsley in 2:32:59 taking victory in the women’s race.
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