For the past three years or so, I’ve been meaning to do the Thorpe Park triathlon (either the sprint or oly, I’m not fussy), but things have somehow conspired against it. So it was with some surprise that I found myself floating alongside 34 other 40-49 year olds on Sunday 5th June in the body of water under the entrance bridge, waiting for the start klaxon to send us on our way.
It was only the Wednesday before when I got permission to do something fun – provided it didn’t require the car. The options seemed to be ride to Woking and do the Go-Tri, ride to Woking and marshall the Go-Tri, or take the plunge into the ice depths that are Thorpe Park’s waterways.
I plumped for the latter and booked about an hour before the cut-off time. Sunday morning rolled around which saw me ride the half mile or so to the Park entrance, check in and find a spot in transition.
Transition was a recently mown field with four racks of bikes for the ~200 competitors, with a ‘village’ consisting of a DJ and an information tent. There were also 4 BTF enforcers, who it turns out were quite friendly, if a little intimidating to begin with. My neighbours were friendly, and race briefing snappy and informative.
The swim was 800 meters of square clockwise course in water that was actually reasonably tepid. Wetsuits were mandated which either means it was within the temperature range or they couldn’t be bothered to measure it. There were plenty of people in kayaks to assist you should the worst happen.
The lake wasn’t terribly clear, but I’ve swum in worse. Only interacted with weeds / the bottom one or twice, and there were a couple of friendly bodies to pull you out and back to a short jog into transition at the end.
Leaping onto my trusty steed, brushing as much freshly mown grass from my feet as possible, the bike course wended its way out of the park on a service road, and then turned left, up towards the Staines roundabout, before doubling back upon itself and heading back towards Chertsey. From there it was up the Thorpe by-pass to Egham and back again.
It felt like there were hundreds of motorcyclists on the route to enforce the no drafting policy, or they may have been there for safety only. Who knows.
Given the potential of the local area I’m a bit saddened by the bike course. They kept it local so you didn’t have to stray too far from the park, the roads are all reasonably well kept, and it was pretty much pancake flat, but I felt it lacked a touch of imagination. It’s not a road course I’d go out of my way to do again, particularly as the roads can get busy – although that wasn’t a problem at 0730 on a Sunday.
Coming back into the park we once again fought the grass cuttings and changed into running shoes and set off on a two lap course around the park consisting of a mixture of surfaces under foot: from the grass of the transition field to the tarmac surface of the park itself. The run was flat & flat with a water station and plenty of friendly marshals, but again lacked a certain je ne sais pas in terms of imagination. I had fondly envisaged we’d be wending our way through the rides or taking in some of Monk’s walk, but none of that materialised. The lasting memory I have of the run is of a dead frog about a third of the way into the first lap.
Crossing the finish line we were presented with the ubiquitous finishers medal to be dumped in the drawer with the rest of them, and that was that.
Despite the negatives in the missive above, I did genuinely enjoy myself and would do it again: the event was well organised, the marshals friendly, it was local enough to be ride-able to, and although the course lacked a certain something, the event as a whole had the intangible joie de vivre that I seek.