The Olympic race distance at Hever Castle is well known amongst athletes as being one of the most physically challenging races on the Castle Triathlon circuit. With a technical swim that sees you weave through the small canals of Hever’s lake, a lumpy bike ride through the Kent countryside and an energy-sapping run around the castle grounds, there is plenty to think about to produce your best performance. As a local and veteran of the Hever Triathlon, who has won over both the Olympic and Gauntlet courses, here are my 5 top tips to take on the course:
- Sighting in the swim – with the Olympic Distance race taking place in the morning, the sun is usually low in the sky as you enter the water, making it difficult to see out across the lake once you’re in the water. I would recommend investing in a pair of mirrored goggles which will reflect some of that glare from the sun and allow you to spot the buoys, as well as making it easier to negotiate the meandering canals at the back end of the swim leg.
- Early climb on the bike – after you have got through T1 and exited the castle grounds you will hit a short downhill section before taking a sharp left at the T-junction and being faced with a gradual 7-8-minute climb. This can be difficult so soon after the swim when a lot of your blood hasn’t yet reached your legs, I would recommend building into the climb starting out in an easier gear and saving a little energy for later in the climb where the gradient gets a little steeper.
- Off-road running – like most of the Castle Series races, the majority of the 10k run takes place within the castle grounds and features a variety of trails through muddy woods and grassy fields. If the weather is wet some of these paths can become slippery, so I would recommend wearing trainers with slightly more tread on the bottom to give you more grip when going uphill and more confidence when attacking the downhill sections.
- Pacing on the bike and run – one of best bits of advice I could give would be to race this course with a more conservative mindset than you would on a flatter, faster course. With the amount of small sharp climbs on both the bike and run, powering up every one of them as hard as you can will come back to bite you in the later stages of the race. Trying to maintain a steady effort level on each climb and recovering on the downhill sections will serve you much better in the long run.
- Nutrition – as I mentioned previously, the Hever Course is more challenging than your normal flat triathlon course, so your overall finish time could be 10-20 minutes slower than your usual Olympic Distance race. You will, therefore, need to factor this into your nutrition strategy. This could involve making sure you take on extra water at aid stations, especially if it is a hot day, or taking an extra gel on the bike or run to ensure your body has enough fuel to get to that finish line.
I hope these tips are of some use to you come race day and I wish you all the best of luck! If you see me at a Castle Series race in the future please do come and say hi.
Written by Sam Wade, for Zone3
Edited by Catharyne Walton-Matthews