When it comes to planning your triathlon season and choosing which races to enter, ‘each to their own’ and rightly so. We all race for different reasons and there are many considerations that influence our decisions about where and when (and how far) to race. After all, for the vast majority of us who aren’t professional triathletes, triathlon fits in and around our lives.
Many of the most popular triathlons fill up quickly, so now is the time to ensure you get your spot in the triathlons you want. But there are an awful lot of them out there. Which to choose?
We all have our favourites, and these are 10 of mine, in date order:
- Hampton Court (Thames Turbo race series), Bank Holiday Monday 6th May and Bank Holiday Monday 26th August 2019 – register for 6th May or register for 26th August. This is a unique race which starts with a 426m swim in an outdoor pool, which is great for less experienced swimmers or those who don’t like open water swims. Basically you swim up & down a 35.5m lane, under the lane rope, up & down again. Repeat that 6 times until you reach the exit steps. Great fun and a good chance to gain experience when swimming with people in your space. It’s also a non-wetsuit swim! While not on closed roads, the bike course is fairly quiet due to the Bank Holiday. You race through Lower Sunbury, Shepperton and Chertsey. It should go without saying but do not jump the traffic lights. They are marshalled and you will be disqualified; it’s for your own safety as well as others. The run takes place in the wonderful Bushey Park and it’s flat and fast.
- Eton Dorney, 18th – 19th May 2019 – I have a soft spot for the events held here over what’s called the Eton Sprints Weekend. Registration is still open and there are so many great reasons to participate – variety and frequency of races, accessibility and close to London, free parking, opportunity for kids to take part, perfect for beginners due to being closed roads, spacious, well organised, friendly – I could go on. It’s a perfect first race for a novice triathlete; the swim is straightforward, the transition area is easy to navigate, the bike is a non-technical closed road bike loop, and the run is a simple out and back. Plus, you have your choice of Super sprint, Sprint, Olympic and Relay distances.
- Blenheim Palace Triathlon, 1st -2nd June 2019 – This fantastic event has sold out 5 years running (no pun intended!) so be sure to register ASAP if this one is on your list. It’s a fantastic family and friends day out. Set over both Saturday and Sunday, it’s easy to get to and there’s plenty of car parking. You have a selection of races here: Super sprint distance (400m swim, 10K bike, 2.5K Run); sprint distance (750 swim, 20K bike, 5K Run); and mixed relays (sprint distances). The venue itself is stunning and suits everyone from complete beginners to the experienced, competitive triathlete. The swim takes place in the beautiful Blenheim Palace lake with an uphill run into T1. The bike takes place in the stunning grounds (closed roads which is perfect for beginners) and the run also takes place in the grounds. The transition areas are situated right in front of the Palace itself. It’s such a fun weekend of competitive sport.
- Staffordshire, 9th June 2019 – registration still open for this 70.3 Ironman. And with 85 qualifying places available for the 2019 70.3 World Champs in Nice on 7th September, this is a race to target if you have those aspirations. I’ve not raced this one but last year I had 5 athletes that I coach competing and it was fantastic. The 1.2-mile swim is in Chasewater reservoir, 1-loop anti-clockwise with a short run into T1. The 56-mile bike course is undulating with 850m of elevation as well as some fast sections, through stunning countryside. The run is the 3 loops along the river Sow, into and around Stafford Town Centre before a left-hand turn into Market Square and the finish. Definitely another race on my personal radar.
- Ironman Nice, 30th June 2019: Nice is an iconic race and steeped in Ironman history. It’s also the site for this year’s 70.3 World Championships in September. The swim in the gorgeous Mediterranean has a rolling start so there’s plenty of space. I distinctly remember swimming over the shelf that drops steeply to the ocean floor after maybe 20 or 30 strokes and looking through the clear dark blue water to the depths. It’s a 2-loop course and is definitely my favourite swim course to-date on the Ironman circuit. Nice is famous for its single loop closed road bike course – 2000m of mountain climbing with some very fast, technical descents passing through beautiful countryside and villages. The run is a flat and fast 4-loop course along the Promenade des Anglais with the stunning sea constantly in view. But be warned! This is an incredibly popular race so you need to book very early to avoid disappointment. In fact, this year’s race sold out quite a few months ago! So, if you fancy it for 2020, you can sign up for an email reminder when registration opens for 2020.
- Ironman Vichy, 25th August 2019 – still open for registration. I raced IM Vichy 3 months after racing Nice so I had high expectations following my experience in Nice. Vichy was different but it certainly did not disappoint for a number of reasons (and this encompasses everything about why I ‘TRI’). My wife and I took the opportunity for a road trip to Vichy, from London, through Paris, which gave us some quality time together as well as seeing some sights along the way. We stayed in a stunning farmhouse about 3K outside Vichy itself, in the middle of nowhere – it was perfect! Other IM athletes were staying there too and I’m still in contact with many of them to this day. The race itself was a fast course, though they’ve since changed the flat bike to 1650m of climbing. The swim is 2-loop lake swim (Lac d’Allier) with an Australian exit on the second loop. Go prepared for a non-wetsuit swim, it can be very hot. The run is a 4-loop marathon around Lac d’Allier which I loved as it reminded me of many of my training runs along the Thames.
- Zell am See-Kaprun, Austria, 1st September 2019 – open for registration. This 70.3 Ironman has previously hosted the 70.3 World Championships and it’s a superb venue and town. The swim is a potentially fast one: out for 935m, 30m round one buoy then another, and back 935m to T1. A great opportunity to find a rhythm and go hard! The bike is reminiscent of Ironman Nice. It’s visually stunning and initially very quick until 40/50K in. After a descent from Lend there’s a 90-degree left turn and over a bridge; if it’s wet, go steady, it’s greasy!! You then face the 13K climb to Dienten up the Hochkonig, which is the highlight of the race. The first 6km sit around 6% gradient, but the last 3km ramp up to around 15%! You’ll be descending from 1900m above sea level in a technical descent, and then it’s a quick ride into T2. The run is 2 loops around lake Zell, finishing up in the centre of town where there’s fantastic support. I like this triathlon so much that I’m signed up this year – I have a score to settle with the Hochkonig!
- Ironman Wales, 15th September 2019: already sold out, but whenever I think or talk about this race I can’t help but smile. That may well be because it was my very first Ironman so it will always be very special. Wales has a fearsome reputation and it’s relentless from start to finish! I’ve had the pleasure of the North Beach swim when it was pancake flat and the misery when it was like swimming in a washing machine. It’s completely unpredictable so preparation and mental strength is key to this race. You’ll also hear and read about the infamous Jellyfish and to top off the swim there’s a 1K transition run, up the beach pathway and through the town to T1. If you like hills and undulations for the bike, you’ll be facing 2450m of elevation. Constantly up and down with the famous Sandersfoot climb and my favourite, Heartbreak Hill. I’ll never forget climbing Heartbreak Hill, the supporters made me feel like I was winning the Tour De France – they definitely helped take the pain away! The run was the hardest marathon I’ve EVER run – 5K uphill and 5K downhill 4 times – but the roadside support is a huge part of the success of Ironman Wales. Again, this is a popular race so sign up for an email reminder to get your registration in for 2020.
- Hever Castle, 28th -29th September 2019 – this 2nd largest UK triathlon has established itself as an essential destination on the British race circuit. Another stunning venue with something to offer everyone from children to first-timers and professionals. Part of the Castle series of triathlons, there are multiple distances on offer taking place over a weekend, so this is another venue with a fantastic atmosphere for everyone to enjoy. The swim starts in front of the castle with a straight section until a left turn at a buoy. You’ll then swim around a large tree-lined island and into a much narrower course until you’re back in front of the castle. The bike is an undulating cycle that takes you around a circuit through the High Weald of Kent, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and up to the stunning Ashdown forest for the longer distance races. It’s a tough but great ride. The run is largely off-road, again undulating, through land owned by the Bellhurst Nature Conservation Trust, before returning to the castle grounds and the tree-lined finishing chute beside the lake.
- Cascais, Portugal, 29th September 2019 – also still open for registration. I had the pleasure of coaching 2 athletes who raced here the first year of this 70.3 Ironman in 2017 so I was there spectating/coaching. I remember thinking that I must race this course myself. It’s a harbour/ bay swim which looked fun and was fast too. The bike starts on the main road out of town followed by a loop of the Estoril motor racing circuit. There are 950m of climbing with some stunning ocean views. Coming back towards T2 you ride along the sand dunes which can be windy but beautiful. The run is a 2-loop course passing through town where there is great support and atmosphere. A brilliant race that’s definitely on my own list.
Of course, there are so many great triathlons out there, in fact there are 330 of them in the UK alone for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, so you have plenty of UK races to choose from. If you like to combine travelling with your triathlon, the official Ironman website has a comprehensive list of events at all distances around the world.
So, enter your races and let’s get training!