Hever Gauntlet 2013
This was only my second half-iron distance after completing the Vitruvian last year. I thought it might be a good step up with the more hilly course and full distance bike leg - and it certainly provided the extra challenge....
First impressions was the that event has grown hugely from the last time I did the standard distance in the very first year of triathlons at Hever. The huge transition area gave a hint as to the number of competitors out on the course yesterday, and the extra sales marquees, food/drink stalls and various activities (climbing walls, archery, balloon rides etc) show that they've put thought into encouraging spectators to attend.
After a very full race briefing from Brain Adcock we took to the lake for the new 1.9km course. This took us 600m to the turn point at the far end, which allowed the 350 or so competitors to thin out, and then back on ourselves and down into the River Eden tributary. The bridges allowed cheering spectators to encourage competitors along and the winding nature of the river made for some technical navigating which made this certainly the most interesting open water swim I've taken part in (heard a rumour there may be a swim only event next year).
The transition from swim to bike was a fair run up the grassy bank and 90km on the bike loomed. Doing a home triathlon such as this has a couple of benefits. I had quite a few cheers for "7oaks tri" whilst on the bike course (thanks for sorting the nice tri kit Tony) and knowing the roads and particularly the hills quite well definitely helped. The course was two loops of 45km heading out to Ashdown forest and then back through Groombridge, Fordham and joining the standard route loops around Penshurst and back round below Bough Beech. This year Hever employed a traffic management company so traffic was stopped for you at all junctions which made for an enjoyable non-stop ride. The hills were tough as expected (1500m of climbing in the two loops) and my legs were definitely flagging as I rode that last 10k drag back to Hever and final transition.
Having done a version of the Hever tri before and experienced the cross country nature of the shorter course I thought I knew what I was in for on the run. However the extensions to the course for Gauntlet competitors involved a lot of serious cross country with short sharp hills, muddy narrow paths, and generally the type of terrain that saps everything left in your legs! The second 10.5km lap really took it out of me and in the last 3 km it was all I could do to keep up a semblance of a run, the proximity of the finishing line being just enough to keep me going. Thanks to Dan Goscomb for cheering me as I passed him on the first lap and not gloating too much when he passed me again with about 1km to go :)
Anyway, a great, if very very hard event, lent more kudos by the large amount of GB and French athletes out in full kit on the course. It was also a nice touch the Gauntlet competitors were ushered though to a separate marquee at the end to receive an additional goody rucksack with t-shirt, and to get some free food and drink and sit amongst the GB team would had taken part in various events on the day. Channel 4 also sent a camera crew and helicopter to take in the action and the footage is due to be broadcast on Channel 4, Sky Sports and Euro Sports. Once the pain has subsided in my legs I may think about signing up again for next year...
Results here: http://www.stuweb.co.uk/events/2013/09/29/1298/