I love racing. It means I’m motivated to get out training, which in turn means I can eat cake. I’ve been lucky enough to do lots of races, so thought I’d put together a list of my top 5 triathlon events. Races I’ve loved the most and would recommend to anyone. Some terrific races haven’t made the list – and those that have range from sprint to Ironman and even, God strike me down, a duathlon. We at Black Line would love to hear what your favourite races are and why.
So, here are my top 5 triathlon races.
5. Thames Turbo Sprint
Our friends at Thames Turbo put on a series of four sprint races on every bank holiday Monday. There’s a couple of wrinkles – a red light in the middle of the bike course, the road surface is Beirut-esque in places and a seven minute ‘non-compete’ zone at the end of the bike to get back to T2 – but they’re all part of the fun. The Turbos run a cracking club and these races are spot on. Everyone in the club supports and marshals throughout the year, and it’s as much about first timers giving it a go on bikes with baskets on as it is those of us with trick bikes and aero helmets. Hampton Pool is awesome, it’s a short ride from home, the run goes through the splendid Bushy Park and everyone is lovely. I’m an addict. If you’re unsure about giving triathlon a go, then try this out. You’ll love it too. Just remember to respect the red…
4. Challenge Roth
However big triathlon is getting in the UK thanks to the Brownlees, Chrissie et al, in Germany it is bigger. They love the sport. I suspect it’s the opportunity to swan around in Lycra, compression socks, Crocs and neon visors. Roth is the spiritual home of Ironman in Europe. The oldest race and a region that laps it up. There’s much awesomeness going on here… a swim in a narrow canal where you can’t get lost, a fast bike course on silky smooth roads, the most amazing Tour-esque crowd on the Solar hill, and locals that sit out all day drinking high strength lager, shouting ‘hop hop hop’ as you go about your work. If you’re into iron-distance racing you simply have to do Roth. It’s worth it just for the firework display that welcomes the final finishers in at midnight. And the Bavarian meat platter the following day.
Duathlons are like marmite to the triathlon community. Designed by pool-dodging wimps who aren’t tough enough for triathlon? Or is it just those super fast runners come out to play to make us look like the jack of all trades that we really are? I tend to avoid them… other than my annual trip to the aptly named Ballbuster. However, this is no ordinary duathlon. Races of any type or distance rarely come harder. It’s like a marathon, and I retired from doing those (unless preceded by a 6-7hr warm up splash and pedal) because they hurt so much. I train on Boxhill most weekends and it’s not particularly hard to ride up. However the challenge of climbing Col de Box by foot, three times by bike and then by foot once more for good measure is quite unique. The second run is pure hell with legs like blocks of ice. Plus it’s in March and November. It will be cold and probably wet. It’s agony. I love it.
2. Ironman Wales
There’s so much to hate about this race. Choppy sea swim, 18% hills on the bike, more hills on the marathon, wind and rain. It’s just one tough bastard of a race. But those reasons are also reasons to love it. This is triathlon as it was meant to be – throw any targeted splits out of the window as the course is a brute, the conditions could be anything (although the rain will come in sideways, that’s written in the contract)… it’s just simply about getting yourself to the finish line in one piece however you can. Pembrokeshire is stunning – bombing down the hill through the sand dunes at Freshwater West at 40mph with a gale blowing in off the ocean while my disc wheel acted as a parachute throwing the bike across the road is one of my favourite memories of my racing year. Then Tenby during the run is amazing. Thousands of drunk Welsh folk screaming at you as you go up and down a bloody big hill. Madness. There are two Ironman races in the UK, both with similar ingredients – hilly and hard. For one reason or another I’ve never been attracted to Bolton, but at Tenby they throw a little magic into the mix. It’s a cracker.
1. Ironman 70.3 UK – Wimbleball
I love Ironman racing, but top of the pops here is ‘only’ a half Ironman. But anyone who has done Wimbleball will tell you this isn’t really ‘only’ a half – it’s more like a three-quarter Ironman. There’s a theme to the sharp end of my list… hills. If you also like hills then get yourself to Wimbleball. Frankly it’s a bit of an organisational shambles down at Wimbleball Lake, as anyone who has sat in the weekend long traffic jam will tell you. The folk at Ironman UK try to get 2,000 people and kit down and out on a single track lane via a rickety fence into a mudbath of a field. Plus there’s no mobile reception within 10 miles. It’s a bit of a shambles. But when the gun goes it’s all worth it. A freezing swim, having to run up a massive hill to get you to T1, a reported 56 hills in 56 miles on the bike, then to top it off they throw the same sting in the tail at you as they do at Ironman Wales – a hilly run after a hilly bike. Only this time you need off road shoes as half of it is on the side of a grass bank. There’s this one hill on the run hidden away from view that must be 15% or so. Listen closely and you’ll hear grown men whimper and talk to themselves. Three out and back sections on the run mean you can’t shy away from a proper head to head race with anyone you know that’s close to you. Old fashioned racing as it should be, and I keep going back for more. Do it.