A relatively new half-Ironman race set in rural Staffordshire. Around 2600 triathletes take on the closed-road course with undulating hills on the bike and a mainly flat run around the stately home of Shugborough Hall.
- Read the Athletes guide, cover to cover especially first timers, pay attention to split transition and transportation details. Go to a briefing at registration.
- Polarised or tinted goggles for the swim as the rising sun can be blinding on earliest wave starts.
- If a nervous swimmer go to the back of your wave start, the waves soon spread out length and width ways, you will mostly have clear water to swim in.
- Be confident and competent in your bike handling skills, there are a few tricky bumps and turns and rough road surfaces in first 6 miles, also it may be wet on the day.
- The bike and run courses are not as pancake flat as advertised. So to get the most from the bike get some training rides in on hills both short & sharp and long grinds.
- Do a least one training run a week off road to get used to uneven and changing surfaces
- Learn how to sit and spin up hills to save yourself for the faster flats when you can get on the aerobars and fly
- Take clothing and kit for all weather conditions – toe thingys, arm armers, gillet can be a lifesaver on the day
- The run is multi terrain – sand, gravel, tarmac, grass, gravel and mud – dont wear new white running shoes. If you have comfy trail shoes these would be best option if raining and wet on race day.
- Enjoy the support from crowds on the bike & run course, a few thanks you’s along the way to spectators and marshals are most welcomed and will be paid back with interest and volume.
- Keep moving forward however slow – even if walking the hill on the run loop or slowing though Cannock Chase forest climb on the bike, as they both eventually end!
What was the organisation like?
On race day, transition from lake to T1 was painful, rough concrete, stone chipping and gravel.
Simple solution of matting would have made huge difference and running possible but we all walked and there were a lot of bloody sore feet in T1.
BIKE: Exiting Chasewater on the bike was like going over a hundred crocodiles laid in the road, the surface was rough and broken up and the speed bumps never ending.
Feed stations were perfectly located on the run and ride courses, the marshals, volunteers and organisation was spot on.
Three laps to collect coloured bands so you could tell where people were on course in relation to finishing.
What’s the course like?
The swim takes place in Chasewater Park – a massive lake which is a SSSI – Site of Special Scientific Interest so it’s a bit of a privilege to swim in it.
In this year (2015) the swim was long for the last 5 or 6 waves as many athletes recorded 2200m on their Garmins. As the wind increased it must have blown one of the huge buoys off course. Swim times were 5 to 8 minutes of peoples usual times for the late waves.
However, you aren’t allowed to touch the lake bed in case you harm the ecology so that is a bit nerve-wracking!
The bike ride is ‘fiddly’ for the first 6 miles and quite technical with sharp bends, short sharp hills, narrow country lanes with gravel, mud and cow muck to concentrate the mind.
After that it flows and undulates with plenty of time to get the head down & motor or sit up and enjoy the scenery as you spin along up a hill or across a reservoir.
The last 50 miles the course flowed, it certainly wasn’t the “Fast N Flat” as promoted (!) but the scenery, improving road surface and support was all fantastic.
On the run, it was a really nice looped course around the grass and gravel and tarmac of the Shugborough Estate. Like the bike, it had variety, scenery and support.
What was the atmosphere like?
Like all Ironman races it was great from the start with a brilliant PA system at the swim start from the early hours and a great announcer who kept it all pumped up.
Local support on the bike and run route was amazing, early morning families in PJ’s drinking tea cheering us on to the deafening roar of the crowds along the finishers red carpet.
Whilst not congested on the run, it was great have so many runners together on course adding to the atmosphere.
The support at the hall was phenomenal and funny too, in particular those at the pub and Gin Garden Party got louder, more excited and drunker each lap, it was brilliant.
How difficult is Staffordshire Ironman?
In terms of finish times, it’s comparable to other half Irons set in the UK. This chart for example shows that finish times for Ironman Staffs 70.3 compared to Ironman imbleball 70.3 are pretty similar across age ranges with Wimbleball taking competitors slightly longer.
Even Gomez commented on Twitter that the bike & run courses were tough.
It definitely isn’t ‘fast and flat’ as advertised by the organisers but it’s not the hardest middle distance race out there either.
My Race Diary
By Zoe Forman
Result: 6hrs 52 mins