Kathryn’s 1st UK tri at Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace Sprint Triathlon – June 3rd 2017

Race reporter: Kathryn


When some of my oldest school friends mentioned at the start of the year that they wanted to do their first sprint triathlon as a way to get fit post having babies, I couldn’t refuse to go join them and support them. This was also to be my first triathlon in the UK. It’s in a beautiful setting in the grounds of the 18th century mansion and it turns out Blenheim is the 2nd largest organised triathlon in the UK with over 5000 people competing over the weekend in XS, S and M distances, so not a bad one to start with. It is also only 45 minutes from where I grew up, so our parents and other halves were also coming to support with the all-important picnic and wine for after!

With 2602 people competing on the Saturday and the number of spectators throughout the day, I was really impressed with how well organised the event was, with good crowd control and security in the transition zone, as well as a fantastic atmosphere created by the organisers and huge number of volunteers. This certainly explained the expensive entry fee (£100!) and some of this money does also go towards the event-sponsored charity, Bloodwise, which aims to beat blood cancers and one that is close to my heart.

It was a beautifully sunny warm day. After setting our fan club up with the picnic in front of the house overlooking the lake, we headed down the hillside to the water’s edge. This was to make for a challenging T1, consisting of a 600m run back uphill from the lake to the bike park.

Becky Talbot was the first to depart (being placed in the wave before us). She had arrived to find out she had forgotten her wetsuit, which didn’t help to calm the nerves for her first triathlon! Luckily, she was able to hire one from the merchandise stands! The rest of us (me, Becky Goode, Susannah and Michelle) went to cheer her off and waited the 20 minutes for the next departure.

There were approximately 200 people in each wave, lining up on the pontoon to jump in one at a time to swim to the start line about 20m out into the lake. This was good, as it forced you to do a bit of a warm-up swim before the start and enabled you to spread out across the start line. I found myself about half way along at the front (not somewhere I’m usually comfortable being), but it turned out to be the best decision as I had a clear path to swim the first 500m straight course out to the furthest buoy before turning the dog-leg back to the bank. With no legs or arms thrashing around me, I was able to keep calm and find my rhythm from the start and so had my best ever race swim coming out of the water in 14 minutes. I had even actually enjoyed it!! It was also a bonus to come out of the water exactly the same time as my friend Becky (who was a county swimmer back in school) and run through transition alongside her. My competitive nature set in, and this was no time to be friendly however, so I left Becky behind in T1 and jumped on my bike to the cheers of my Mum.

The 3-lap cycle course was tough. Each time you thought you could get up some speed, you turned a bend to find another sharp climb in front of you, so you needed to be good on the gears. Luckily by the third lap you knew what was coming and I was able to pass several people. I also managed to catch up with Becky T as she finished her last lap of the bike. The run was also not easy. I had expected the 2-lap course to be flat, but it was nothing of the sort. You did however get the support of the crowds and as you passed under the arch on each lap of the run, you hit the ‘power zone’ being cheered on by the guy on the microphone as he high-fived you with a big foam hand. I’d also had encouragement and ‘run advice’ from my supporters, which spurred me on to push for a sprint finish, with my name being called out as I crossed the line in 1hr30.

It was a great race and one I would highly recommend. This event appeals to all levels; being great for beginners due to its friendly atmosphere, as well as more experienced triathletes due to good competition (the Brownlee brothers were there last year) and an undulating technical cycle and run course. What made it particularly special however was sharing the experience with some of my oldest friends and seeing them achieve their goals. It had been really fun to get to train a little bit together in the months before, with Susannah braving a cold outdoor swim training session with the Expatries in Paris in February and Becky Talbot and I making an early Sunday morning spin class whilst being extremely hungover post our birthday drinks in London! I’m so proud of these ladies and I hope they’ve got the bug to do another one and perhaps come over for one in Paris next time!!