Castle Howard (Rob Cassidy)

Having done the race in 2016 I was better prepared both mentally and with the gear I decided to pack. Most important were the trail shoes, not my racing flats. The run is mainly in fields with rugged terrain so these were a must. The race was on the Sunday but I went over the day before and registered, which allowed me to prep all my gear the night before. Luckily my parents who are very supportive were staying at a campsite only 2 miles away from the race so I stayed with them.

My wave start was 9am so I got to the transition area around 7.30am. Unfortunately, it was not numbered racking and some of the best spots had gone already so I racked by bike in the place I thought best and had a thorough check of all the entry and exit points. It was another warm day so my bike was fully loaded with 2 bottles and gels (a mistake I made last year). I headed down to the boat pavilion for the race briefing.

Swim

I made sure I was at the front of the queue to enter the water so I could test my googles which were brand new. I had tested them in training the week before but you never know. All good on that front so I picked my spot, right by the marker on the left hand side. Everyone was to my right but all the out markers were to be passed on your left so I wanted the tightest line. Plus, I am more comfortable breathing to the left and this meant there was nobody creating any chop etc on my favoured side. 2 laps were underway and I would say at the first 150m marker I was in the top 10, I then knocked it down a gear to get in a more sustainable stroke and rhythm – something I have been practicing all year. Got in a little pod of about 5 people and stuck with them all the way round. Time 26.33 but included in that was at least 400m to transition. My best swim of the year to date I would say.

Into T1 and took a little more time than recent races, with the long run from the swim all the water had drained out which made getting the legs off the suit that little bit tricky. Out of T1 in just over a minute then on my way on the bike.

Bike

A very lumpy course and one where you are constantly changing gear and also out of the saddle on some of the hills. 45km long and all on decent surface but mainly B roads. I knew my swim had put me in a good position so it was a little annoying for riders to come past me over the duration of the ride. I always do a silent curse as they do but then tell myself I beat them in the swim and there is always the run. There were KM markers every 5 and they went passed relatively quickly, I also used these to inform me when to take fuel on. By the time the bike had finished I had taken on board my gels and finished most of my fluids. The tough finish to the bike (literally is like a roller coaster) got the legs burning and I was glad to be entering T2. Racked my bike and on went the trail shoes. Time 1hr 28

Run

A very muddy affair due to the rain the night before and there were plenty of people slipping around the course (not me though). I had a good steady run picking of athletes all the way round. Even at the end I had a 50m race to the finish line when I caught up with somebody I had been reeling in for a while. As I got on his shoulder he had something left but so did I. Crossed the line together but I slid across and I am sure my toe was over first. Time 46mins

This was the first race of the year where I was a little disappointed with my end time as I felt my race was solid. However, my overall time was a minute slower with the bike costing me 4mins compared to 2016. Still, I concentrated on the positives and knew the effort I have put in swimming is paying off.  A great event, brilliantly organised but tough.

Castle Howard