Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Inaugural Chatsworth Triathlon

A standard distance tri in a glorious country house location with a river swim? I'll have one of those please! I was looking for a race to do in combination with a visit to Chesterfield and seemed like just the ticket. At the last minute, Lizzie decided she wanted a piece of the action and entered herself into the sprint, which was to be her first ever triathlon.

After registering on the Saturday, we got a glimpse of the Hunting Tower that was the main feature of the run. It was high up. I wasn't even sure 5k would even get you up there! Lizzie was already contemplating pulling out before Mum took us on a recce of the bike route. A little loop of the roundabouts around Chatsworth led onto the A621 toward Owler Bar, which funnily enough, also went up. There was a theme here. It was still going up..and then up some more. The car had gone quiet apart from a few muttered expletives coming from the back seat.

The amble down to the swim start on the muddy looking Derwent River on Sunday was lengthy. It did not appear to have much in the way of a flow which was probably a blessing given that the swim was an out and back. Six numbered orange buoys marked a centre line that divided the river. All the standard distancers would go out to the sixth and the the sprinters would be turning back at the fourth.

I was in the first wave with all the other standard distance women. Originally I thought it would be quite civilised with only 60-70 other people, but that many wired women in half of an already narrow river meant one thing: carnage. It was all very grabby and aggressive up until somewhere after the second buoy where I found a bit of space. There was a lot of debris in the water which was off-putting but not as off-putting as water so shallow that I was grabbing handfuls of river bottom with each stroke. After the fifth buoy it was so shallow that I just stood up and waded through the water, which was a fabulous opportunity to catch my breath and take in the surroundings. It actually turned out to be far quicker than swimming too, which I am sure says something about my technique. I had a very nice chat with another lady who had caught on to the trick and we made back a few places before having to start swimming again. Shame I can't implement a swim/walk strategy for every triathlon. Apparently after our wave they shortened the swim to the fifth buoy only.

The 350m run back to transition was nice and soft and grassy apart from one bit across a stony path which could have done with being covered. A quick turnaround led onto the main road out of the Chatsworth Estate, a gentle warm up for the legs before the assault on the hill began. The climb to Owler Bar is about 4 miles, flattening out in the last half a mile before you cruise around the oval roundabout and realise that descent you've been dreaming about is into a headwind. The road was silky smooth though and the descent was still a blinder. I was pleased to have gone out early as the traffic at the bottom was already starting to pick up and I couldn't help being a tiny bit grumpy about having to stop and wait at the roundabout for a lifetime (maybe 20 seconds..) before getting going again.

The hill was harder the second time but at least there were more people to chase. I witnessed some very dangerous driving and some very dangerous cycling but just did my own thing and stayed out of the way of the lunatics.

I knew the run was going to be hard. With my dodgy lungs and the fact that I was certainly not going for the win, I started easily. The moment you left transition you were climbing, first up a grassy slope then a stony track and finally a more off-road dirt track. I kept teetering up, my slow running just getting me past those that had broken into a walk. It was a real lung-buster that eventually joined a more gently undulating top path. The path led to a turnaround point where I smugly declined some Jaffa cakes before excitedly heading back the same way for a cracking bit of downhill. Back at the bottom I was feeling hugely re-energised for the second loop, so I managed to pick up the pace a bit before really going for it on the final descent. With everyone travelling on the same track, it was a bit of an obstacle course trying to avoid all the people going in the opposite direction. I managed to give a very enthusiastic high five to Lizzie who was on her climb and finally came through the line feeling marvellous. Every triathlon should finish with a good, long downhill!

I was a bit gutted that there was no race memento and there are a few things that need ironing out with this new event, but the location is superb and it's tough enough to make the repetition of out and backs interesting. I was quietly pleased with 12th lady and loudly pleased that Lizzie loved her first triathlon and is already thinking about her next. Mission complete.

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