2 December 2015 1 Comment

My Favourite Triathlons

Updated November 2015 and first published in 2010

These are my favourite triathlons. Most of them I’ve done more than once, and you’ll notice that they are all lake or reservoir swims (except Windsor, which is a river swim, and Wales which is a sea swim). They also all have countryside based bike legs. Not for me urban races with oily roads, stop/start 90° turns and roundabouts!

Sprints

Tri 2004 at the Boundary Breeze

Tri 2004 at the Boundary Breeze

Note: I haven’t actually done a sprint distance since 2008, so take this section with a massive pinch of salt! Although, If I were going to do another sprint then the Boundary Breeze would definitely be my first consideration.

The Boundary Breeze is run by Manchester Tri Club near Holmes Chapel in Cheshire and is a very fast course, the bike and run could hardly be flatter, and the swim is very sheltered, in a lovely lake, so it’s a great event for beginners. It’s a popular race, too, so you need to get your entry in early. Usually run in July. Likely to be 17th July 2016

The Royal Windsor. I’ve done the sprint at Windsor twice, including my first ever race. Windsor is a fantastic race to do. The bike leg is very fast through some lovely lanes and the return through Windsor Great Park is fabulous (although the bike leg is much longer than the standard 20km). The run through the town attracts loads of spectators and has a great atmosphere, although 3rd time up the castle hill will be a real stamina test. Very popular, so enter as soon as it goes live. Usually run in mid-June and is nearly full already. 12 June 2016

Olympic distance

Working hard to close in on a PB - Southport Tri

Working hard to close in on a PB – Southport Tri

The Royal Windsor. As per the sprint, this is a great race to do. I did this on the hottest day of that particular year and found the run very demanding indeed. Very popular (and quite expensive), keep an eye on the date when entries go live. Mid-June and at time of writing is nearly full. 12 June 2016

Bala standard distance. Llyn Tegid in North Wales is cold, and can be quite choppy so the swim can be pretty hard. The bike course is very fast, although far from completely flat. It’s also unusual in that it now takes place on closed roads. The old run route was very tough, but now it’s a lot easier (and faster). Some years you can register on race day, but Bala is a lovely place for a weekend away. This race attracts a good quality field. 4th September 2016

The Dambuster. This race is based on Rutland Water in Leicestershire. The bike route is quite open and has a number of rolling hills on it. It’s mostly on A roads but they are smooth and wide making it ideal for strong bike riders. The run is fast and flat around the lake itself. It’s a fast race attracting a high quality field. Very well organised by Pacesetter Events 18th June 2016

Southport. The swim is in a calm and warm briny lake behind the seafront at Southport. Both the bike and run are absolutely pan flat. This makes the event a great one for first timers but for one thing: wind. I did it on a reasonably benign day, but the exposure on the bike course in particular can make it a tough proposition. Well organised by Vital Events and good value. 22nd May 2016

Half-Ironman

Wimbleball 2006

Wimbleball 2006

UK Ironman 70.3. This race is the original (and toughest) Ironman 70.3 and takes place at Wimbleball Lake on Exmoor. It’s a beautiful venue but far from population centres, so quite a trek. It’s also not great for spectators. The bike course is legendary (2 15% hills per lap and many other tough hills) and the run is pretty hard too. Finishing Wimbleball is a real achievement on any triathlete’s palmares. Expect to be way outside your PB for the distance. Despite its reputation the race has sold out for the last few years so don’t leave entry too late. Expensive.  26 June 2016

The Vitruvian. Based around Rutland Water, this is a popular and well organised race that sells out every year and has won several awards. It’s run over the same course as the Dambuster making it demanding, but nothing like as hard as Wimbleball. The run is pretty flat: a good one to set your half-marathon PB on (assuming you’ve got enough left in your legs). 10th September 2016

Bala Middle Distance. The sting is most definitely in the tail in this race. While there is a fair amount of climbing on the bike leg, none of it is too steep and there are some very fast downhills to compensate. The run, on the other hand, is a bit of a beast, with a very tough climb at half distance. Don’t underestimate the swim, either, Llyn Tegid can be as smooth as a billiard table, or the choppiest inland lake I’ve ever swum in. The only downside of this great race is that it’s not brilliant for spectators. As the Welsh Middle Distance Championships the race attracts a good field and is traditionally run in mid-June. 5th June 2016

A Day in the Lakes. If you’ve done Wimbleball and you thought that was tough, then think again. This race is no ordinary half ironman. The swim is in Ullswater and can be fairly cold, but what comes next is the real test. The bike course takes you over the steep and tough Kirkstone Pass and Shap Fell, and the run is a full on fell run over the hills above Ullswater. The views are absolutely sensational and if you can cope with the course it’s a race you won’t forget. Well organised and extremely good value. Sunday 26th June 2016

Ironman

Sheephouse Lane: the "Big Hill", IMUK '09

Sheephouse Lane: the “Big Hill”, IMUK ’09

Ironman UK.  I’ve done this race twice, in 2009 and 2010. The course has changed considerably since then but its character I suspect has not. The bike section is tough and on typical British roads. Expect the bike to be hard work, especially the ascent of Sheephouse Lane. The swim is as easy as it gets in an Ironman being in the shallow and warm Pennington Flash. Support for the event has grown since 2009 and there are now good crowds, especially at the legendary COLT Alley in Adlington. 17th July 2016
Ironman Wales.  This race has a tough reputation: there’s a sea swim to start, followed by a bike that included over 2000m of ascent and a hilly marathon to finish. Each section on its own would be high in the world difficulty rankings, so combine all 3 and you’ve got one of the toughest, if not the toughest Ironman in the world. But, Tenby has taken this race to its heart and the crowds and atmosphere are fantastic all around the course. The venue is great for spectators and even though you won’t trouble your PB, you’ll certainly have a memorable day out! September 18th 2016

There are now hundreds of triathlons every year based in the UK  including 3 full M Dot Ironman events. To find events in your area, use the British Triathon events database

Crossing the line at Tenby

Crossing the line at Tenby

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  1. Tweets that mention » My Favourite Triathlons Irontwit -- Topsy.com - October 15, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by John Sutton, John Sutton and Halls Food Group, Halls Food Group. Halls Food Group said: RT @HGJohn: If you haven't entered the Windsor tri yet for 2011, there are only a few places left: http://bit.ly/cGV0YD (it's a fantastic race) […]

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