A well organised triathlon set in the beautiful Cholmondeley Estate in Cheshire complete with spectating alpacas! A good option for novices with testing hills on the bike for more experienced triathletes.
Where: Cheshire, north west England
When: June (reviewed in 2013 & 2017)
Size: Approx 800 triathletes (200 juniors)
Distances: Olympic, mid-distance, sprint and junior
Official race website here.
- As always research your race in advance from the comprehensive instructions provided. It makes race day much less stressful
- Take your bike and your gear to registration as you will get your goody bag and numbers before being shuffled straight through into the transition area
- Attend the race brief ready and raring to go, as soon as it is over you will be ushered into the water!
- Wear non-tinted goggles if possible as the visibility is low at points during the swim
- Save some energy for the a 120m gently uphill grassy run to transition out of the swim
- Watch out for the underwater step on the exit to the swim
- Technical, rolling bike course, drive it beforehand if possible and watch out for a compromised road surface in places
- Take advantage of the last few hundred meters of the bike which are flat to get your feet out of your shoes and prepare for T2
- The run is mostly tarmac, although there is a grassy/muddy hill repeated twice on the Olympic course. Wear appropriate shoes.
- Remember to lift your head or you’ll miss the swans, lamas and alpacas amongst other wildlife!
What’s the set up and organisation like?
The Markel Castle Triathlon Series organisers are an experienced bunch and really know how to lay on a good event. The transition opens quite late for the earlier races, however if you arrive the advised one hour prior to your start time then you will have plenty of time. This is largely due to the efficiency and well thought out manner in which registration and transition is setup.
As always with the Castle Triathlon Series there is no paperwork required. Just give your name to the friendly staff, and before you know it you will have racked your bike and be climbing into your wetsuit.
The event is well marshalled and the organisers have involved the police so that the traffic can be stopped at the major junctions. This is a great move and it means you don’t have to worry quite so much at the few crossroads that you navigate through. The police stop the traffic while the marshals makes sure you go in the right direction. There are also other marshals out on the course just to make sure that you don’t turn anywhere that you shouldn’t. There was also plenty of event signage, so there was no opportunity to make any excuse for taking a wrong turn!
What’s the course like?
The race briefing was given by race Director Brian Adcock and was done at the beginning of the swim, covering everything from swim safety to choosing the correct route to the event rules and everything in between.
Swim – The lake was surprisingly warm but underwater visibility was zero and at the turns it was disturbingly pitch black.
The course was well marked with large inflatable neon buoys and for the Olympic course featured two laps. You don’t need to worry about the faster swimmers from the wave behind as they wont catch the slower swimmers in your wave until you are on your second lap and on a slightly different track, as you aim across the lake at a slight angle towards the water exit. Watch out for the underwater concrete step on the water exit, then you are into a 120m gently uphill grassy run to transition.
Cycle – The cycle is rolling and technical with around 740ft of climbing per lap. It was wet and windy in 2013 and some potholes were hidden by standing water which caught a few people out. As always ride with care, listen to the marshals and pace yourself. The last couple of miles are mostly flat or downhill so you can get a chance to recover. The last few hundred meters give you plenty of opportunity to coast along the private road and get your feet out of your shoes while you prepare for T2. The Olympic course again did two laps.
Run – The run was mostly on tarmac and ran through the picturesque grounds of the Cholmondeley Estate. It is mostly flat and if you remember to lift your head you will see swans, lamas and alpacas amongst other wildlife.
It is a beautiful route and the Olympic distance features two laps with an extra 1km offroad grassy loop to make up the distance. This adds a reasonable hill to each lap and even after quite a lot of rain it wasn’t too slippery.
The two lap style course for the longer distance gives the triathlete plenty of opportunity for good pacing and allows you to execute the second lap perfectly. It also gives spectators a chance to see you that little bit more.
How difficult is Cholmondeley Castle Triathlon?
This is a great triathlon for novices. The warm lake, police marshalling and private run course help to put the novice at ease. There are also a variety of shorter courses on offer with the sprint in particular being far less than half the distance of the Olympic event and being very well attended with a wide range of competitors.
There are some big hills to watch out for though and the bike course is particularly technical with a good understanding of gearing essential for a smooth race. The run is fairly flat but mixed terrain and again there is a hill to be aware off on each lap.
What is there to do Apres Race?
As soon as you cross the finish line you are given your medal and are confronted with tables laden with melon, bananas, water melon, oranges and cake.
You are also given a pint of non-alcoholic lager if you fancy it, which a lot of triathletes did. If you fancy something a touch more
unhealthy then you can drop off your timing chip and head to one of the food vans on site. A lot of competitors were already talking about other events in the series and I spoke to several that were planning to be at the biggest event in the series, Hever Castle, in September. Are you ready for more?!
Official race website here including information about the kids race.
Cholmondeley Castle visitors information here.
My Race Diary
By Richard Lander Stow
Richard is an experienced endurance athlete and charity fundraiser who writes about his challenges and more on an excellent website called Bike Run Swim. To find out more about his race click here: http://www.bikerunswim.co.uk/markel-castle-triathlon-series-cholmondeley-castle-review/