Castle Triathlon put on a whole series of races over the year in various places but the jewel in the crown is the Festival of Endurance at Hever Castle, which is run by Brian Adcock, an ex Royal Marine Helicopter Pilot. Kev Burgess and Janaroo took on the Bastion and Gauntlet Triathlons respectively.
The weekend has a whole host of events ranging from Middle distance triathlon to Full Iron distance, 2 Aquathlons, 2 Duathlons, Half marathon, Marathon, Ultra, Long Distance and a Sportive. It’s a weekend of amazing full-on activity and I encourage you at least once in your Triathlon career to have a look and try one of their events.
This year there were 5 TA members taking part. Lynn Emmett, Janice Coglin-Hibbert, Julia Raymond and Allison Ragosa in the Gauntlet middle distance race, which was the middle-distance championships this year and myself, I was doing the Bastion Full iron distance event. Only one TA member (mad dog John Jacobs) has done the Bastion before as far as I am aware.
So how did it go?
Firstly, the camping is on site, relatively cheap and with electric hook up and a short 400 metre walk from transition, bonus. The event village is in the castle grounds next to transition and next to a stunningly beautiful lake and is well equipped with stalls, a bar and some merchandise bits and bobs.
The race briefing this year was mostly online except for the Bastion which was done by the race director Brian Adcock who made us synchronise watches at the start of the brief, first time I’ve done that since leaving the Army!! It set the tone for the rest of the weekend and I felt quite at home here.
The race and the set up has a very ‘can do’ feel about it, most of the staff are happy for you to receive help from spectators if you need it and there was a helpful athlete friendly atmosphere with no question too stupid for the race director to answer. All a refreshing change from the corporate Ironman brand which over the years has been found wanting in all these aspects in my opinion.
The bike courses are easy to follow so Jan and I drove them Friday night and rode some of it too. This was incredibly useful as we then had some idea what we would face. We also took advantage of the practice swim on the Saturday afternoon and a walk around the grounds/run route.
The Bastion race… by Kev Burgess
Race started at 6 am, rolling start with a small 2 foot jump into the lake off the Spanish steps, an easy non crowded swim to the far end of the lake and then looping back along the river , with the occasional bash into the bank and a few lily pads, back to the lake. This loop was done twice. A pleasant swim in the Bastion as the field was quite small, about 80 or so, it was a bit more crowded in the Gauntlet, so I am told.
The run to transition is one of the longer ones you’ll do, still only about half as long as Wales but long all the same then the rain hammered down… this seems to feature in all the race reports for the Bastion that I have read….Normal for July in the UK of course.
The bike course is 3 loops of just under 1000 metres of climbing each. Yes, you did read that right. That’s 3 x 1000metres of climbing. But what goes up must come down and I can guarantee you will love the descents. They are epic and superfast. I topped out at 87kph. The bike course took every bit of my energy and I got off the bike feeling broken, but I love running so it was not too bad.
The rain stopped halfway through the bike course, so it was a nice day when I started the run. 4 loops off road. A pure, trail runners joyful mud fest of a course. I loved the run. You run through 2 castles, Chiddingford which had an opera in the garden in full swing, ace! And Hever castle which is so so pretty. The woods were boggy, muddy, slippy and fun fun fun and then we ran through a field full of horse jumps. Beat that for a run course…Only downside was it was just shy of 1000 metres of climbing as well.
The Gauntlet – by Janice
Allison, Lynne, Julia and I all decided to take on The Gauntlet – and it did not disappoint as it was most definitely a challenge. Lynne and I were also part of the BTF Middle Distance Championships with Lynne bagging a bronze!
The swim was very busy starting at 7am with rolling start. Luckily just one loop for us (2 for The Bastion) and torrential rain came whilst swimming. This created a very beautiful scene across the lake but made for very difficult sighting. The loop into the river is narrow and difficult, so no surprise to say that the swim was my least favourite part, but I still managed my fastest ever time at the 1900m distance.
A muddy run in and out of transition was to follow, kit scattered everywhere, and all my clothing soaked (despite covering it all. Oh well). The bike is straight into hills and a long, long climb up to the top of Ashdown Forest. Beautiful views once the rain stopped. Just 2 laps of the bike course for the middle distance but that was enough. The second half of each loop was very rolling with some amazing descents. I’ve never clocked over 51mph before and it was awesome. But over 1500m of climbing in 56 miles is a lot and my legs felt it. After bike dismount, I tried to run but my legs were not having it, so another muddy run in to T2. I still loved the bike because of the sheer challenge. Unfortunately, Allison had a mechanical and had to retire but the remaining 3 of us pushed on.
But the run course was my favourite, mud, trails, meeting lots of other competitors and plenty of undulation in beautiful surroundings. Just under 13 miles to complete and somehow managed to stay on my fit and finish in one piece (although I have never been so muddy from a triathlon before). However, a good medal, t-shirt and nice, hot food was waiting at the finish so we were well looked after.
So, in a nutshell, if you like hills, you like trails and you want something better to look at than a seaside promenade or streetlamps on your run or bike then this is a cracker of a race. Its testing but achievable. It’s worth a crack, give it a bash. Already booked for next year so come and join us…