The opening race in the popular Castle Triathlon Series. Set around the stunning Lough Cutra Castle and lake in west Ireland, this is about as picturesque a race as you can get and quite a challenge too thanks to a undulating and twisting bike course.
When: Late May, since 2012
Where: Lough Cutra, Ireland.
Size: 1200 triathletes
Official race website HERE
- Camp overnight, it’s a great spot and you’ll wake up hearing the Irish bagpipes from the race village!
- Make sure you pay attention to race briefing as the swim buoys are different depending on race length
- Watch your footing on way in as there are some nasty rocks on the lake floor
- Leave T1 in bare feet as there’s a bit of mud on the way out that may get into cycle shoes
- Don’t hammer it straight away on bike as there are 2 speed bumps inside the castle grounds
- Don’t opt for a ‘straight line speed demon’ bike as there are very few long, straight, flat sections
- Train for twists, turns and constant gear changes up and down hills
- Look up – it’s a gorgeous bike course
- Train for grass, gravel and mud running. Most of it’s off-road
- If it’s hot, wear a hat as there are a couple of open fields that can be very hot
What’s the organisation and set up like?
This is a well-oiled race from Castle Triathlon. We’ve reviewed most of their races (Hever being the largest) and they are very professional and family friendly. Booking the race was all done online with regular emails and correspondence from the team including a text the day before with race number and instructions.
The race village is smaller than other events but has a few food stands and some entertainment (climbing wall etc) for kids and big kids alike. The race briefing is given by Brian who set the company up and is very thorough. But to be honest, the signage is so good that there is no real danger of you going off course.
The signs on the run in this year (2016) were a bit confusing as I think one of them was wrong making it look like we’d only run 2km instead of 4km at one stage.
There are 2 feed stations – one at about 9 km (and 29km) into bike and one at around 3,5km (and 7km) into run.
The race finish is excellent with Castle Tri’s trademark coconut water, water melons, oranges and various drinks.
What’s the course like?
Gorgeous and interesting all the way around. The lake is huge – the largest privately owned lake in Europe. The water is warm and although visibility is poor, it is clean.
The bike course is brilliant fun on mainly closed roads and never flat. It’s not a ‘head down and power through’ type race, it’s a constant technical challenge that forces you to look around at the pretty farmland and cottages lining the route. The only real ‘urban’ bit is through the small town of Gort which is one of the best bits as the traffic is stopped by the police and riders wiz around a sharp bend up the high street.
The tarmac is a bit rough in parts and there is some loose gravel to watch for as well.
The run course is nearly all off-road and equally picturesque. It’s a mixture of woodland running and open fields making it really interesting and it feels a lot shorter than 10km/20km which is welcome at that stage in the race!
How difficult is Lough Cutra Castle Triathlon?
The bike course will put paid to most people’s chances of a PB simply because it is so challenging technically.
It’s tough to keep momentum and speed over the constant small hills. There are only two major hills per 20km lap but it’s a case of really concentrating on cycling skills to progress at speed and keep the rhythm.
The run course is fairly flat albeit bumpy at points so can sap the energy from your legs – especially on a hot day in the fields.
How’s the atmosphere?
Ireland is a very friendly place so, as you can imagine, the build up is brilliant. The race village is small but an Irish bagpiper gets things going from early doors.
There’s also a great atmosphere in the campsite where many triathletes stay overnight.
In the race it’s good fun although there aren’t many spectators as other races. Some of the local families did put on a great welcome though with clapping and cheering as we went past.
Back at the castle, the finish line vibe is brilliant as people cheer you across the line and there is no rush to move off allowing people to recover and chat in the finish zone.
My Race Diary
Raced – 2016
This was my third Castle Tri race and it was superb. The weather was brilliant and I really enjoyed it until the last 5km!
I did the Olympic distance and had my best swim yet – 26mins 30. Sadly I forgot to attach my timechip so didn’t get times for the rest as my watch battery ran out.
But I guessed my time was around 2:53 which I was very pleased with as I went pretty hard on the bike (for me!) and then struggled through the run as best I could.
I was hoping for a PB as I’ve had a long time out of tri (missed a year) but sadly I think the bike course is not set up for fast, flat racing. Instead it was far more fun and I soon forgot the PB and really enjoyed the challenge of the hills and turns.