Castle Howard Triathlon

I have been feeling pretty terrible recently. After my ironman, I did nothing for a week, then a week of light training. Then I smashed 10 minutes of my sprint distance time, while ill, and was ill for another whole week.

So, by the start of week four, I stepped on the turbo trainer and found I couldn’t hold my power. Not even close. I finished the workout at 70% intensity. I’ve never had recovery take this long, but I decided to listen to my body: eat more and take it easy.

All of this meant that I came to Castle Howard with the aim of setting a personal worst time over the standard distance and doing something that other people have called “enjoying myself”. It’s a foreign concept to me, but I decided to take it easy and give that a go.


We arrived on Saturday afternoon, just in time to cheer the HPH relay teams home. The club was well represented with three separate mixed relay teams, all of whom worked hard to put Hyde Park Harriers on the map.

We were originally going to camp, but the weather looked miserable, so we checked into the campsite for our event passes before heading off to a local hotel for the night.

This worked out really well because The Talbot, the hotel in Malton, had a music festival going on in their back yard. It turns out that Venla really likes reggae music, and had a good dance to Levi Roots who was headlining the festival. We had some Chinese takeaway from Tang’s Delight before heading to bed. It took me a bit of time to get to sleep due to the noise coming from the bar, but the large bed was big enough to accommodate all of us.

I got up at 6am, tried and failed to get some breakfast at the hotel, and then made the short drive back to Castle Howard to start the race.

The swim

After a long race briefing in which none of us really understood the swim course, we made our way into the water and started the race. The lake was murky and I ran into weeds with my hands, feet or face with almost every stroke.

The course was a little confusing at times. At World Triathlon Leeds, the colour of the buoy indicated which side you should swim around it. Not so with Castle Howard. They had two colours but some you passed on the left and others you passed on the right.

My left knee was hurting and I resorted to switching to front crawl repeatedly to get some respite. I’m still nervous about cramping up, so I took it pretty steady. It was a two-lap course with the next wave starting 30 minutes after us. I almost made it to the turnaround point on my second lap before I heard the whistle go and decided to speed up to stay ahead of them.

This, it turns out, was a mistake. The burst made me feel a bit dizzy and disorientated and I think I started to have a little panic attack. I slowed down and used some of my best self talk to bring my anxiety and my breathing under control and then managed to beat out a steady breaststroke around the final buoy where I felt more confident again and put in some more front crawl.

As I got to the finish, the lake became too shallow and I stood up, only to find my feet in thick mud. I waded over to the site to grab the fencing and eventually managed to unstick my feet enough to make it up to the swim exit.

After that, it was simply a matter of running the 600 metres up the hill to transition. Thankfully, the club was there to cheer me on, and remind me to remove my neck protector before getting on the bike this time!

Transition 1

I cycle without socks now, which is a big time saver as I can just throw my triathlon shoes on and set off. Although, on this occasion, I also did an energy gel.

I usually take a gel flask that I keep in my back pocket. I can operate this with one hand, so I can take all of my gels on the bike. However, I wanted to represent the club in my tri suit and the tri suit does not have a back pocket. In the end, I decided it was more important to represent the club, and so had to rework my nutrition strategy so that I could do individual gel sachets.

The cycle

Because they use the same cycle route for the standard in the middle distance race, it was a 45km route. However, emergency gas works had added a 5km detour, so that meant the 40km cycle was now a 50km cycle.

And hilly. Really hilly. Most triathlon courses are pretty flat but this one was like riding the Tour de Yorkshire. Regular 8% climbs, with some as high as 11%, and a lot of false flats that were hard work, too.

I kept overtaking one guy in the climbs, who would then overtake me on the descents. I thought I had left him behind after one of the long climbs but he appeared again half an hour later. And I caught him back up half an hour later after that, on the flat of all places.

I stopped at the feed stop to do one of the gels I had tucked into my race belt (another victim of the lack of a pocket for my flask), and because my back needed a good stretch by this point, too.

Shortly after, I almost got taken out by a car. They were turning onto a side road and not looking where they were going. When they saw me, they slammed on and managed to finish with their bonnet halfway across my lane. Luckily, I was to the left and did not need to make a course adjustment. But my heart was definitely in my mouth.

As we got back to Castle Howard, up another large hill, the club was once again there to cheer me on. As we got to the roundabout, the sign said left, so I made a move to go left. It turned out the roundabout was still live to traffic and I needed to go around it as normal, but luckily the marshall’s shouts were in time and I quickly corrected my course.

Transition 2

No problems here. Another gel down the neck and my trainers on.

The run

The run started with a long downhill and my knee was really giving me some grief. After the first few kilometres, it eased off into a general ache, possibly because I showed down. The course was on trail with some narrow bits that involved dodging around people and some steep hills that held mud steps dug into them.

Although some of the triathletes on the course were faster than me, a lot of the runners were slower and I got a bit of a boost from seeing that most people were struggling and I was able to keep running, albeit at a pretty slow pace.

At the second water point, I took a caffeine gel to tide me over to the finish. I had a brief walk after the feed station, while I munched two jelly babies. After that, it was a metaphorical sprint for home.

Returning to the grounds was lovely. It was scenic most of the way, but running between all of the visitors and spectators and along the side of the house was cool. The closer we got to the finish, the more supporters there were cheering, including the club yet again! I went in for some high fives before crossing the line.

The result

I finished in:


And my splits were:

Section Time
Swim 41:59
T1 4:12
Bike 1:58:51
T2 2:20
Run 58:41

I am happy with all of that. I said I did not want to push it too hard, and I did manage to take it easy, or at least “easier”. I had some time to look around and enjoy myself in parts. The extra distance added probably 25 minutes on to the cycle, and the hills and an easy-paced run accounted for the remaining difference to a more usual time.

Event organisation

The event organisation was mixed.

They closed the rounds from 2pm to 5pm on Saturday for the junior event. However, they said the campsite would still be open. The diversion took us the wrong way, though, and when we stopped to ask the marshalls, they had not been told anything about what was going on. In the end, we did a loop three-quarters of the way around Castle Howard before finding the road in.

When we got there, we found nobody manning the campsite desk. We drove around for half an hour and tried to call the campsite manager, but it just dropped to voicemail. In the end, we managed to get through and get everything sorted.

They also had not prepared enough racking for all the events they were running. Even before people had finished the standard distance, they were begging people to collect their bikes from transition so that they could free up space for the junior races.

And everyone ran out of bacon on Saturday.

Beyond that, though, the event looked well put together. They had activities for children, including a bouncy castle (they had two, but one of them was broken), a large event village and plenty of marshalls out on the course.


Well done to everyone who raced over the weekend! It is great to see the club continuing to grow and develop and the Castle Howard weekend is a great example of that. I would race at Castle Howard again.



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This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 24th, 2019 at 11:00 am and is filed under Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.