Leeds Castle Triathlon - 2019
Saturday was not a good day. It was the hottest day of the year so far with temperatures around 30c. I arrived at the hotel and started to off load the bikes. As I rode mine down the carpark, I pushed the button to change gear, nothing, no gear change. Panic quickly set in as the day before my road bike Di2 electronic shifting had also failed. I’d identified a faulty port in the junction box, but this was found by swapping out the junction box in my TT bike. Lesson learnt, don’t mess around with your race bike the days leading up to an event! With the bike in the hotel room I went about fixing the problem. To this day I still do not know what the problem was, but after an hour of unplugging and plugging wires back in it started working (looking back now I would bet that it was just an incorrectly seated battery). With the panic over I collected Judy (my Wife) from the train station, we drove the bike course to remind ourselves and headed off to pick up my Mum and Dad for an evening meal in Maidstone.
Race day dawned sunny and still. The heat of yesterday had passed and it was a pleasant 18c with forecast highs of mid 20s by lunchtime. We packed the car and drove the 15mins to the castle grounds for registration. This is when we found out that the heat of the previous day had increased the water temperature in the moat to above 25c and that wetsuits were banned. My second panic of the weekend! We completed registration, carried out the usual kit checks and headed down to transition, without our wetsuits.
We recalled that last year we both swam in the lake without a wetsuit, I’d completed 1.5km and Judy 750m. It went well, but we had not prepared ourselves mentally to swimming today in just our trisuits. We racked our bikes and prepared our transition areas. Judy’s wave started about 30mins ahead of mine and we’d worked out that we should get back to T2 at around the same time.
After the race briefing I hugged Judy, wished her a great race and told her to “believe” in herself, we were both nervous, as were most people about the swim. Thankfully the moat is shallow and small with the 1.5km course made up of two laps.
She was off, a short run across a gravel beach and into the water. She found some space and looked calm and in control. I then refocused on my race. The 30mins passed quickly and soon I was at the waters edge. I walked up to my knees, it was warm, wetted my goggles and returned to the start line. Then we were off. Down the beach and into the water heading straight for the castle and first turn buoy. This was navigated without incident and onto the next. This turn was more crowded and it was unnerving to feel hands directly on your body as opposed to through a wetsuit. The rest of the swim went without incident. I spent most of the swim trying to keep my legs high, as there was no buoyancy from the wetsuit. It was a hard swim and a slow one, but it was the same for all but the good swimmers.
Out of the water and a short run into transition. Helmet on, and off to the mount line. Jump on the bike, feet into shoes and up the hill on my way out of the castle grounds. At the top of the hill I tightened my shoes and settled into the ride. Just as I did I saw my Parents to the left cheering us all on. I’d totally forgotten they were here to watch, and it was a great boost for the rest of the race.
The bike course is pretty much a straight out and back along a main road. Undulating, but with a gradual downhill on the way out, meaning a gradual uphill on the way back, and today this was accompanied with a slight head wind. I spotted Judy as she come back on the return leg. Her new red Trek looking great in the sun. She looked strong on the bike and ahead of schedule.
My bike leg passed without incident and soon I was turning back into the castle grounds. Having passed the castle the road follows the edge of the moat and the dismount line quickly approached. Loosen shoes, check who else is near and ahead of me, feet onto shoes, leg over saddle, spot the line and foot down just before it. Run with the bike and into transition. I found my place, racked the bike, took off my helmet and on with the running shoes.
I’d tried not think about the run during the bike as last year the run course came as a shock. It’s pretty much all off road and most of it is either up hill or down hill. The heat hit me, but it was not as hot as Weert so I kept up the pace. Two laps made up the 10k, the first half of each lap is uphill. I took water at each aid station and poured some over me to keep cool. I must have removed the pain of last year’s run from my mind as I’d forgotten how steep a couple of the hills were. We may well have been climbing stairs! Strangely I was enjoying it.
Mum and Dad were near the turn point to lap two and it was great to high five them. I saw Judy on the run and caught her up. She’d had a great bike and was on track to smash last year’s time, which she did. With 8km completed I still felt strong and pushed on. The final straight is up and incline with supporters on both sides, straight on passed the second lap turn point and into the finish chute and across the line.
It was a great race which unlike last year did not have the pressure of needing to qualify. The swim was a couple of minutes slower as a result of not having the wetsuit, the bike was quicker and the run about the same time as last year. The event is well organised, the swim around and under the castle is fun, the bike course is fast (but not that interesting) and the run is brutal, but if you can look around is very scenic. Moral of the story, don’t mess with your equipment before race day.