Austin Hall is a Sundried ambassador who completed the Sprint Plus (Henry VIII) distance triathlon at Hever Castle. He tells us about his experience.
The last race of the season.
Sprint Plus – 800m Swim - 40km Bike - 8km Run
Race Result – 5th Overall, 2nd Age Group, Time: 2hr 12
Registration and Organisation
Hever Castle Triathlon was an important race for me as it was the last race of the season. My first impressions of a Castle Series Triathlon weren’t the best as the road directions to the car park were not clear and therefore took a further 30 minutes than expected to find the car park.
Once there, registration was straight forward and I was soon into transition, but behind schedule. Transition was packed and they didn’t allow you much transition space so the layout of my transition area was different to normal. That said, I did manage to rack in a good position.
By the time I had racked and sorted my kit out it was already 0700 and just 45 minutes until the race brief, so that only gave me 30 minutes warm up time. I wasn’t used to being rushed for warming up and when walking to the race brief I just didn’t feel sufficiently prepared for the start. Start time was scheduled for 0800, but we didn’t start until around 0810, and in that time I felt my body start to cool down and I wasn’t as switched on as I should have been.
Hearing the starter in the water was challenging and my reaction was therefore slow off the line. But I swam hard and fast, but controlled and managed to get myself into 3rd and more importantly onto the feet of the person in second. I have practised drafting a lot during training sessions back at Loughborough, but never been quite able to make it stick during races, so I used the draft to my maximum advantage.
I held onto 3rd (new 800m swim PB) and after a smooth transition found myself in 1st place heading out onto the road. I had done some research into the course at Hever, but it was a lot harder than I expected. It was a very undulating course, with some long medium-gradient climbs. I found it difficult to sustain periods on the aerobars due to the constant climbing and wasn’t confident in my bike handling to stay down on the bars on the descents and corners. The second lap of 20km seemed to drag on but after checking my watch, I was around about where I expected to be.
The bike into transition is horrible, as it is about 150m on gravel and then grass, but I had a great dismount and good transition to the run. That was when it all started to fall apart. The hills on the bike had just taken it all out of my legs and it was the worst feeling I have experienced running from the bike. To make matters worse, I hadn’t sufficiently researched the run course and wasn’t expecting it to be pretty much like a cross country circuit. I just tried to keep my pace as best as I could and managed to come home in 5th overall and 2nd in the age group.
In review, it was the toughest race I have completed. I was very disappointed in my run because I felt training had been going well. But after sitting down with my coach a week later we discussed that my programme should have been altered to get used to the hills. So I have learnt a lot from the race, being that I need to do more research into the course, adjust training accordingly and improve bike handling.
Hever Castle Triathlon is part of the prolific Castle Triathlon Series and is one of the biggest triathlons in the country with over 6,000 competitors taking part and 8,000 spectators expected to be in attendance each year. Sundried ambassador Davina Greenwell tells us what it's like to take part in this historic event.
2nd Place Was More Than I Could Have Hoped For
Last year I did my first ever triathlon at the Castle Series at Hever: it was a starter sprint - 200m swim, 15k Bike & 2k run. I loved it and caught the bug!
So, 12 months later, I returned to take on The Gauntlet which is half iron distance (1.9k Swim 90k Bike & 21k Run). It was quite a step up and the past few months have been a steep learning curve. It is safe to say that without the help of my coach Perry Agass, of TriSutto (www. trisutto.com), and a couple of training camps with ETE Tricamps, I would certainly be nowhere near where I am now!
The swim at Hever consists of a loop of their lake, then a blast down the adjoining river. A fantastic setting, and as you make your way down the river you can hear supporters on the bridges above you. I am certainly not what you would describe as a natural swimmer: more cat in a bath…. This does have its advantages though! Both my boyfriend Iain and coach Perry could spot me. The swim went really well except for one minor navigational issue when I ended up in some rather shallow water. I came out the water 9th lady in about 34 minutes. A ran up to T1 where I did a fair bit of faffing and decided not to put my socks on.
The bike at Hever is best described as undulating and scenic but the strict instructions were that I was not out for a day’s sight seeing! The night before, Iain and I drove the course and my ears popped five times. Despite this, I thought it looked tough but fun. I am not overly brave on the bike so some of the downhill bits looked quite intimidating. Being from Suffolk, I don’t get a lot of practise on hills, so it was a bit of a gamble. Before I started, I was told to put everything I could into the bike. I felt really strong going up the hills but was giving the brakes a fair bit of work on the downhill sections. I knew things were going well though, as by the time I had completed the first lap no one had passed me. I saw Iain and Perry at the end of lap one and they told me not to slack off! I kept working and came in off the bike 3rd lady. Into T2 where again I decided against putting socks on!
The run is where I feel most confident, but after working hard on the bike, an undulating XC run was always going to be tough ask. I decided in my head not to look at my watch and just keep on running even if I felt really slow. I saw Iain and Perry half way round the 1st lap: they told me I looked strong (lies) and that I was making ground on the girls ahead of me. I just kept on plodding and trying to enjoy the flats and the downhill bits. When I got to the last water stop the guys were waiting for me and told me I was 40 seconds off the 1st lady…. get a move on!…. so I duly stopped and had some water and High 5. I dug deep and just as I turned to the finish I saw the leading girl! I tried my hardest to sprint….probably a fast jog….but I had left it too late. She finished 11 seconds in front of me. Apparently I need to run and drink in future!
2nd place was more than I could have ever hoped for and I was even lucky enough to win a pair of swanky wheels from Wheel Science for the fastest bike split! I seem to be recovering well, except for my poor feet….maybe socks would have been a good idea.... I will learn one day!
The Bastion Iron Distance Triathlon is a full distance triathlon and is part of the Castle Triathlon Series. It takes place at Hever Castle in Surrey, UK. Sundried ambassador Matt Leeman achieved a fantastic win at the 2017 event and gives us his account of the race.
Heat and Hills at The Bastion Full Iron Distance Triathlon
This was only my second full iron distance triathlon, so I'm very much still finding my feet when it comes to racing events this long. However, I've spent a good block of training away in Cyprus over the winter and more recently at altitude at the Trisutto base in St. Moritz, Switzerland. This has put me in the best possible position to break into the pro triathlon ranks as you have to fully commit or you'll fall short.
The swim start was the most picturesque I've raced, taking place at the end of the Hever Castle estate's Italian garden, with mist floating across the water's surface. The race organiser delayed the start so the mist could clear and then we were off. I lead the swim as this is my strength and something I like to capitalise on and to put others under pressure early on. It was a technical swim, consisting of a fair few turns coming back along a river section created to naturally fill the lake. I completed the 2.4-mile (3.86km) swim in a time of 50:27, taking the swim course record.
I had looked into the bike course profile before the race and knew it was going to be hilly. Luckily I favour the hills and got to work early and began putting time into my competitors, with the gap increasing each of the three laps. I enjoyed the bike and finished the 112 miles (180.25km) in a time of 05:29:55 (Including getting sent the wrong way but luckily realising the mistake after a couple of minutes!).
Back into the castle grounds and it was off on the run, the midday sun was fully beating down now, and similar to the bike, the run was going to be pretty hilly. I ran a conservative marathon distance (26.2 miles/42.16km) as I am racing again in two weeks time at the Outlaw in Nottingham, therefore had to be sensible to be able to back this performance up in a relatively short amount of time.
These days the trend for long course racing is to wear a skin suit rather than the conventional sleeveless tri-suit. I have tested both and I'm in agreement that the skinsuit is the best option for long distance. It is faster on the bike and keeps you cool on the run. The only place the sleeveless suit has an advantage is the swim, but this is relatively small and when you consider proportionately a lot longer time is spent on the bike and run than the swim, it is a very wise investment to make. I also got a lot of comments on how good the Sundried tri-suit looks!