Saturday 25 September 2021

Photo of the day - 25: Castle Series Aquathlon at Hever Castle

For the first part of my season-closer weekend of multi-sports I took part in an Aquabike race. I'd not heard that such a thing existed. Aquathlons (swim and then run) are common-place, but an aquabike (swim and then cycle) is almost unheardof. It was organised by the Castle Series crew, and that's the only place where I have seen it organised. 

We started in the same wave as those doing the aquathlon, meaning that we all swam 750m in the lake at Hever Castle and then in transition half of the field ran 5km and the other half of us cycled 20km through the country lanes of the Kent Weald. It was a fairly lumpy course that went out towards Cowden, Penshurst and Chiddingstone. I was familiar with those places from doing training rides, though it's been a while since I rode those lanes at any fast pace. 

The race was enjoyable, but I must say it was a strange day out. I had originally planned on driving there, but given that all the queues at the filling stations were spilling out onto the roads I was worried about getting stuck in a traffic jam, and arriving late to the event. So I managed to get on a train at East Croydon make the half-hour journey to Hever, followed by a 10-minute ride to Hever Castle. I thought I got there in good time for the start of the race, but the event was quite big, with about five or six races going on concurrently. There was a lack of signposts on the site indicating where people had to go, so it was easy to get lost. 

I couldn't see how to get to the start line at the lake and when I asked a volunteer he didn't know either! So he had to look for another volunteer to ask and then when he found out, although he was nice enough to accompany me to the lake, he kept saying I had plenty of time even though my race was starting in 10 minutes and it was a long walk to the start line. I arrived at the start line with about 2 minutes to spare, and missed the pre-race briefing.

When racing, the marshal in the swim to bike transition didn't give any instructions on where I could mount my bike and start riding, so I had to stop and ask her. Then when I finished my bike ride the marshals didn't give any instruction on what I should do next, given that it was effectively the end of the race. It seemed weird that there was no finish gantry to go to, and my race would just finish abruptly in the bike funnel. Then a marshal in transition gave me a medal. So it was a bit of an meh kind of end to the race. In fact, it was only when I asked to go into the finish area to pick up some refreshments and saw a marshal collecting timing chips that I remembered to remove my timing chip. If I hadn't asked to go into that area I would have gone home with my timing chip still on.

Then to cap it all, when I got home and looked at the results my name didn't feature as I had been classed as a DNF! Eventually, my result was added to the list, and I apparently came about 14th or 15th out of 20. I don't know how accurate that was, as my Garmin had recorded a faster time. 

So, it was all a bit of a non-event in the end. I am not sure that an aquabike works because you need a finish line for cyclists. It's reasonable for competitors in an aquabike to expect a finish gantry where they can power through, give it that final spurt and even a victory/achievement salute. The way the course was set up, it would have been dangerous for us to do that while a triathlon or aquathlon or running race were taking place. But then to not have a finish gantry for cyclists does feel like you are being short changed, and potentially lead to you being accidentally classed as a non-finisher. It was a different experience, but I probably won't do it again - especially as it cost £70!

No comments: