Blenheim Palace Triathlon 2020
For three of us traccies looking for a triathlon goal in 2020 meant a waiting game until finally in September a few late season events were released and we jumped at a chance to race at the prestigious Blenheim Palace event. This sprint distance here is on most triathlete’s bucket list and is attended by the elites and often royalty such as Jenson Button.
An early start on the Sunday meant staying over on the Saturday night and educating ourselves in Oxford. Spencer Hoult, however, hadn’t learnt about using dykes in the local area as a short cut, and after some screams from the bushes he emerged with two filthy legs. He also announced forgetting his race belt required for spinning your race number rear for the bike and front for the run. An old pair of Andrew Richardson’s pants was upcycled using the waist band, the first Kelvin Clein race belt was born.
Swim; Andrew Richardson was within the first wave of the day at sunrise. The event had introduced waves as it does every year but with added precautions with swimmers entering every 3 seconds. This made the swim less of a fight in the water. Christopher Brenchley’s swim started shortly after and Spencer Hoult entered the water a few hours later giving us the opportunity to spectate each other and get a few photos. The open water lake swim is the fear of many triathletes though our swim this time was graced by a stunning sun rise over the palace and its surroundings and plenty of canoeist marshals to keep us safe. A dolphin like dive was needed to exit the shallow pontoon and into the fresh water at 16 degrees C, a quick thrash across the lake and back was the plan. Well, the plan sort of worked and with modest times but we felt this area needs some work in training.
Transition 1; A wobbly feeling to get rid of the sea legs was tested with an infamous 400m run uphill in your wetsuit back to your transition area. Some overtaking then at last we’re running! The skills in stripping your wetsuit and keeping hold of your goggles and negotiating some cobbles barefoot all whilst running is all part of your race time along with the donning your bike hat and shoes when finally finding your bike. The race belt with your number saves all the pinning and allows it to be read from the rear whilst on your bike. Still running now in your cleated shoes but hopefully without the wetsuit we were on to the bikes.
Bike; A smooth but undulating route consisted of 3 laps of the palace private roads. Cattle grids, little steep narrow bridges and sharp hill climbs with narrow descents. All of us hit the bike section hard this relatively short ride of 20k meant overtaking and chasing down fast bike riders, choosing the racing line, learning on the first lap where your power could be put to the best use and adopting an aero position on the fast-downhill sections. It suited a cyclist with good bike skills and hill climb ability rather than those turning up with expensive time trial machines and with little to no ability. Really good marshals encouraged us all the way. Luckily the condition of the Thanet roads and trails trained us to an advantage here, keep both wheels on the tarmac and please keep of the grass.
Transition 2; Running again with cleated shoes on cobbles, although the owners had rolled out the red carpet in places. Off with our hats and shoes and with the last part of the pyjama race on with our running shoes. A snaking transition run shook off the bike legs, spin your number forwards and over the running timer mat.
Run; Just 6k a walk in the park. 2 laps in fact around the beautiful grounds. Running at last and at full speed with every bit of energy left out on the course. A few hills or some might say slopes and some fast-straight sections, smiling all the way distantly overtaking the swimmers to enter the home-straight graced arms aloft to a few spectators. Our names were individually announced, and we handed ourselves a medal and finishers shirts.
The sprint distance is enough of a challenge and allows athletes to race each other wheel to wheel, shoulder to shoulder and is recommended to both newbies and hardened triathletes going for a target time. The event at Blenheim was excellent and recommended even with the added issues during the current epidemic. The organisers and marshals are a credit to the event.
Christopher Brenchley 18:39/5:21/41:19/1:54/21:07 total 1hr 28min
Andrew Richardson 15:26/5:57/43:31/2:39/22:43 total 1hr 30min
Spencer Hoult 27:39/7:28/45:31/3:23/25:40 total 1hr 49min