Castle Howard middle distance triathlon

I did Castle Howard standard distance back in 2019. This year, I was taking in the middle-distance version known as The Gauntlet.

They run a huge range of events which means races starting at different times and a rush to get bikes out of transition to make space for future races. Doing the longest race of the day made this easier: we arrived before everyone else, had reserved racking all day, and the roads were back open by the time we left.

The swim

The lake at Castle Howard is not deep. It is filled with mud and plant life. It really makes you appreciate how nice Waterloo Lake at Roundhay Park is. More annoyingly, the swim cap would not stay on my head. I had to stop several times on the first lap to try and pull it back on my head and re-arrange my goggles. This left me at the back with all the swimmers who keep switching to breaststroke causing a domino effect as everyone behind them also switches to breaststroke.

After a lap of wrestling with the swim cap, I stood up in the deep mud and pulled my goggles under my swim cap. This left me a good 50 metres off the back of the field but by the 100m buoy, I was back on their feet and going past them. As we rounded the top buoys I found myself sitting on three people’s feet with two other swimmers to each side of me, boxing me in. I zig-zagged trying to find a way past but they were swimming in perfect synchronisation. In the end, I dropped right off and went around the left side.

At this point, my swim cap went sailing away. This meant all of the water filled my hair which made me surprisingly less aero. I headed for the final buoy while the rest of the swim pack incorrectly headed back towards the start despite the many warnings during the pre-race brief that they should head straight for the final buoy.

Lacking my swim cap, I came out looking like the creature from the Black Lagoon.

The bike

The bike course starts off on The Stray and I headed down the hill carefully avoiding any comfort breaking. Then a gust of wind blew a leaf into my arm and almost gave me a papercut. That sums up long format racing: one minute you are on top of the world, the next you are close to crying because you’ve been beaten up by a particularly aggressive leaf.

The course then goes out into the Howardian Hills. And they are hills. There are over 1,000 metres of climbing over the 90k which is about the same climbing as the full course at IRONMAN Copenhagen. Climbing really gets to my back when I’m putting out any kind of power so I spent most of the bike course with a lot of lower back pain. Thankfully, the second half of the course flattens out slightly and I could get down on my aero bars a little more.

The run

The run course also starts with a lovely downhill. My stomach hadn’t really settled all day and I was feeling sick by this point so I reminded myself that I was here to get the distance in and have fun. The course is entirely inside the castle grounds and is all off-road making it very scenic but difficult to get a good footing. There are only two real fills but it does go up and down a fair bit.

The weather was a weird mix of warm with a bit of rain occasionally. To cool me down, I took two cups of water at each aid station: one to drink and one to douse myself in. This worked well for the first two aid stations but on the third, I got the tables mixed up and managed to pour isotonic all over myself.

I went through the first lap in 55 minutes but made a decision to back off a little and under fuel to keep my stomach a little happier. I gave a “well done, keep going” to everyone I went passed but there wasn’t any chatting as everyone was hurting by this point. I pushed a little at the end to ensure my half marathon time was uncomfortably under two hours.

Post-race we got a massage and a chicken salad (both included in the entry fee), and I also ran into Jack and Kirsten who were running the yoga tent. After I went into the food tent, the heavens truly opened. Nice timing for me although everything in transition, including my towel, ended up soaked.

The result

I finished in:

6:23:53

Good enough for 76 out of 135. Here are my splits:

Section Time 2019
Swim 43:07 41:59
T1 7:02 4:12
Bike 3:34:28 1:58:51
T2 4:34 2:20
Run 1:54:39 58:41

I’ve included my 2019 times for comparison even though that was a standard distance. I’m pleased with the swim time was I was almost as fast as 2019 despite doing 400 metres more, and having to fiddle with my goggles and swim cap. My bike was 10 minutes quicker per lap and my run laps were faster, too.

Not quite Outlaw X but pretty much what I expected: a hillier bike course makes for a slower time. It had a similar course profile to Weymouth but I was a good 20 minutes faster despite a longer swim here.

This was my 50th triathlon. Does anyone know where I get my t-shirt?

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This entry was posted on Monday, July 25th, 2022 at 11:00 am and is filed under Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.