My first middle distance race and first Ironman-branded event. I know Ironman gets a bad rap over costs etc but honestly I struggled to find any fault with the event. Yes the split transition does make for a bit of a pain on the Saturday with having to go to Stafford for registration and then onto Chasewater for bike racking but the outbound communications from Ironman was so strong that as long as you are organised, the prep day was pretty seamless.
I loved every aspect. The friendliness at registration, the merchandise store, the military precision in which they organise transition and trucks ferrying bags around. Even the shuttle buses to Chasewater were on tap, there was no waiting around getting anxious and arrived in plenty of time to do final bike checks in transition. The music in transition and at the start of the race was brilliant and really relaxed me. The start was delayed by an hour due to fog over the reservoir, and when they announced we were starting in 10 mins and that the full swim would go ahead, I’ve never heard a cheer like it.
Swim was awesome. 21 degrees and lots of buoys on course to support sighting. I never once felt worried, I’m a weak swimmer and felt completely safe and in control at all times.
Beautiful bike course, especially the lumpy part through Cannock Chase. Literally the best of British Countryside. The first 10 miles were a little congested and there was some drafting which was impossible to avoid from my perspective. I’d recommend taking it easy in the early part, I saw a nasty smash involving a young lady which ended her race. Once you are past 10 miles, it all strings out and you can really shift.
With the run moving from Shugborough to Stafford centre, I was a bit disappointed as had wanted to run the old course. But it was genuinely amazing and so well supported. Totally flat bar a couple of small bridges to run over. The sun was out, feed stations every 1.5 miles to keep you going. And the finish was just WOW. That’s a moment I will never forget.
Its a truly great race. In short - do it!
Posted on 11.06.18
Finally got my chance to race at Blenheim after years of wanting to. I know a lot of people say the price is steep but on reflection, I really think it’s money well spent. This is without a doubt one of the premier triathlon events I’ve ever done.
If I was making recommendations, here’s a few:
- Get there early and give yourself time in transition etc. It’s a busy place, you won’t be queueing etc, that side of things is very efficient, but you still have to get from the car to registration to transition and then on to lake, there’s a bit of walking. If you’re like me and want to be able to take your time getting set up, definitely build that time in so you can relax. I made some mistakes because I was rushed that caught me out at the start of the bike
- Race pack, the number was a bit flimsy and I had to punch two holes in it to fit my race belt, was worried I was going to rip it or it fly off on the bike at any moment. Bike and helmet stickers were irritating with the peel-off back too, took me ages to get them off which didn’t help when I was rushed
- Run water station, just one which normally would be fine, was turning into a real hot day though so I’d always make provision for an extra one. This is a really big event, and see no reason why this can’t be achieved.
Outside of all of this, I can only say this race is AWESOME. It’s a totally honest course, undulation in both the bike and run, and a hill straight out of the swim to get up to transition. It’s a beautiful route from start to finish with great crowds and on-course commentators whipping up the atmosphere. You can have fun but also if you really want to push yourself, the course is challenging enough to give you a real test. Finish chute is brilliant, I have a young family and my son ran down over the finish line with me which I reckon is my favourite moment in triathlon yet.
Definitely do this race, there really is nothing not to like!
Posted on 03.06.18
Its so great to be able to take part in ITU events, and despite the war stories I’d seen from 2016, I was definitely signing up for this.
Bikes had to be racked the day before for the Olympic distance at a Roundhay Park. Was very quick and I was done in transition in no time. You could have a practice swim in Waterloo Lake if you wanted, for a small fee, and there was some good fun to be had for the kids with a mini Duathlon and bouncy castles. There’s a nice atmosphere in the park, and some good merchandise and kit stalls for those last minute purchases.
Race day was pretty functional. The lake was just brilliant to swim in, super clear and could sight well. Felt shallow in some areas with the lake bed near the surface but really not a problem. It’s a little run up to transition and then you’re off and away on the bike.
Bike course is ok, all urbanised and shoots over to Headingley in the west and back. Couple of climbs and a lot of false flats. On paper it looked a relatively simple course but you do have to plug away a bit. Was disappointed it wasn’t a full 40km, to be fair to event organisers they advertise this, it’s nearer 37km.
Run is nice for about a km as it escapes the park and then is a pretty boring trek into town through a blend of neighbourhoods and A roads, with very sparse support. It hits the city centre around 7km and then the noise goes up ten fold, lots of people cheering right to the finish on millennium square. Best thing here is the pint of Erdinger Alkoholfrei and also a very robust medal to mark your achievement. Of disappointment was the cotton long sleeved t-shirt given out. Great for keeping warm so thumbs up there but not a technical or souvenier shirt really, faded badly after a single wash.
Getting back to Roundhay was a doddle to get everything, it’s five minutes from the finish to the bus stop and no waiting around. I was back at my accommodation post race in just over an hour having collected all my stuff. As long as you plan bike racking day and race day, and the organisers keep the same standard up, it can all be seamless.
Posted on 14.05.18
Loved this race. Super cheap to enter and just oh so easy on race day.
From car park to registration to transition set up, real close proximity and done in a flash. There was a quick race briefing and then three waves for the lake. Simple anti-clockwise route and no congestion.
The bike course is the real jewel in the crown here, awesome country roads and at one point found myself with no one in sight and just endless green valleys either side. There’s a cheeky little climb in there but totally manageable.
The run is trail-based, all round Ragley Hall, with mild undulation.
This is a brilliant race full stop, particularly if you want a speedy time but a little bit of challenge thrown in to keep you on your toes. Definitely a perfect and friendly race for first timers to enjoy.
Race profile is pretty low and wasn’t overloaded with info in the weeks and months before the race, which is obviously different to the bigger events. The organisers might want to keep it relatively small and perhaps its better for it. Definitely one to sign up for and put in your schedule regardless, it’s a fantastic event!
Posted on 14.05.18
Wasnt my best day at the office for the sprint race. A disappointing swim and a crash on the bike with swim burns wasn’t fun, the run was great fun though and the best part of the day, really lovely run through the Trentham Estate and well supported too, particularly amongst the competitors.
I’ll just give a view on the swim and bike.
Swim: There wasn’t enough time given to get all the wave competitors into the lake, I found myself 25m or so back from the start line still making my way forward when the klaxon went off. Not only was the entire swim competely pitch black which freaked me out for the duration, but there was a tonne of weeds that had been cut and leftfloating. Honestly it was zero fun, recorded my slowest sprint swim ever and have never been so happy to get out of the water. There was a warning about the weeds in the briefing but was completely unprepared for the lack of visibility. The run to transition had a compulsory shoe element which I’m never a fan of, it just wastes time for me. The ground looked pretty decent for bare feet in my opinion.
Bike: Yes I crashed, and it was all my fault. I put my head down for a few seconds and caught someone up who seemed like they were miles away in a flash. When I looked up, I was on their shoulder and somersaulting over my handlebars. Ouch!! Thankfully they were ok and just rode on without a care in the world. I dusted myself down, no damage to bike or me bar some skin burn, and got on with finishing the race. The bike course is pretty flat and you can get some solid speed going, the organisers are able to close one side of the dual carriageway so you feel safe. It’s not a pretty course, just functional.
It was a wretched day on the weather front too, so transition was like mushy peas under foot. The saving grace for me on the day was the run and also getting looked after by the medics afterwards for my skin burn.
I wouldn’t recommend this race to first timers because of the lake swim, it was far from ideal and you want to enjoy this part as it’s always a big thing getting into open water. It’s a fast course for those wanting to improve however so on that basis, it’s one for your list.
If you have a young family supporting you, the Monkey Forest next door is a great way to wind down for a couple of hours after the race. They serve hot food and there is a playpark. A nice way to thank them for cheering you on all morning.
Posted on 14.05.18
A beautiful venue with some real testing climbs on the bike and the run, and an absolute blast to race. Super friendly Marshall team and the course itself was WOW, stunning to race on.
Few areas the organisers could look at to improve on the general experience:
- Race branding: Arrived at the car park and the race felt like a side show to the venue, just a few small illuminous signs up with directions to race HQ. Immortal have a cool brand so would like to see more branded signage to help with directions. Really friendly Marshall pointed me in the right direction but I honestly would not have known the race was on if I was just visiting.
- Race Briefing: Would have liked to see course maps sent out in advance as I was confused by the maps in registration area, no idea if there was going to be laps etc. It was super hard to hear the announcer at the race briefing ahead of the swim and had to ask three different people and then a Marshall how many turns and buoys to navigate around.
- Swim Waves: Adjacent to my point on race briefing ahead of the swim. Even though there were only 180 competitors, the mass start made it bumpy for the first half of the swim. I’m a relatively slow swimmer and expected it to thin out more quickly. Would be practical to set off waves 5-10 mins apart based on self seeding for swim time and brief each group before they jump in. Would make hearing the briefing easier and stop the swim congestion. They could also mention the water visibility to calm the nerves. The swim start is pitch black, as are a few pockets of the swim. It clears after 50 metres or so and is beautiful but having that reassurance ahead of jumping in would be great. Never easy for the nerves getting in open water, less so when you can’t even see your hands.
- Swim transition: Sure this is a logistical thing but looking at the area round the lake, didn’t see why the transition couldn’t be next to the swim. It was a 500m or so uphill run on tough gravel and road, you need a pair of shoes to run up there comfortably. Or the organisers need to invest in some matting to lay down as a path all the way up.
- Nutrition: Just water at the start of the run. Would have liked to see two aid stations and with energy drink. Everyone was racing well over 90 mins on a challenging course, needed more support here to get through the run.
Feels like I’m nitpicking with a lot of this stuff, I walked away feeling liked I’d done one of the best races ever - the course is that good - and so great as a test at the start of the UK season. If the Immortal team can look at a few of these areas over the next year or two, I can really see this being a must-do race for triathletes all over the UK and internationally too.
Posted on 14.05.18