Race Date – 10/07/16
Report By Stuart Wood
Having completed my 1st Ironman this time last year, it is fair to say I caught the long course bug! So within one month of completing it I was searching for my 2016 race. Having shelled out a small fortune travelling to Switzerland for my 1st and of course the substantial entrance fee of Ironman, I was looking for a localish race with the IM distance, but minus the IM price tag. After a bit of interwebbing I came across The Bastion, so jumped straight in there and entered, swearing to beat my previous time!
Myself, the wife and 2 mates arrived early Saturday afternoon to setup tents (camping is cheap and in the field next to the event village), prep kit, rack the bikes, attend the race briefing and of course make the most of the complimentary ‘pasta party’ ready to race at 6am the next day. The village was well catered with various stalls to buy race merchandise, food and drink etc. all slap bang in the centre of the castle grounds, which are breathtaking to say the least!
The 3.8Km route is 2 laps of castle lake/river system; 900m in the lake and then 1Km through ‘river’ system before arriving back at the start point. The route was clearly marked with huge buoys every 100m in the lake section with ‘gates’ to swim through at 500 and 800 metres. The water visibility was poor; with the weather this was to be expected. Once passing through the 800m gate you moved into the ‘river’ which made sighting very simple, there were the odd collection of lily pad’s to avoid but these were few and far between.
I found myself further ahead than expected and by the 2nd lap there was no sign of a pack, turns out I was ahead of it, bonus!!!!
I’m not going to lie to you, I had not prepared for the amount of elevation (2678m Strava tells me) this course throws at you. In the closing weeks up to the race I checked the route profile and was concerned to say the least. No matter “you’re strong on the bike” I muttered to myself.
The course is comprised of three 60Km loops on open roads, the junctions were extremely well marshalled, holding traffic for riders to navigate them. The hills are constant but nothing too daunting and there are plenty of gradual descents to make up any lost time. The aid stations are well placed and stocked well with all manner of drinks and nutrition (High 5 when written).
Unfortunately the weather was unpleasant to say the least, lots of wind and average rainfall, by the third lap I was regretting being in a tri top!!!! However I still had a good ride of 6 hrs 33mins.
If I was unprepared for the bike I had MASSIVLEY underestimated the run!!!!!!!!!!!! Mainly off-road the website said, off-road it was; with something in the region of 700m of elevation (rough estimate as my GPS died after 1 and a half of the 4 laps). Having completed 3.8Km in the water and 180Km on the bike this marathon is not only an assault on your body but of your soul too!!!
The course takes you through some beautiful countryside and the picturesque grounds of the castle, none of which I was in any state to fully appreciate by this stage but the fact I noticed is a statement in itself. At least the sun had come out for this part of the race.
Aid stations were again brilliant; stocked with water, coke, jelly babies, bananas, energy drinks and gels. The marshals were really enthusiastic and always encouraged those of us who were clearly struggling by this stage.
This is, in my limited long course experience, possibly one of the hardest courses out there! That said you don’t go long for an easy ride now do you? A very well run event with a really welcoming atmosphere, my wife said from a spectators perspective everyone there couldn’t have looked after her better. For the athlete you’re quids in; an amazing bag full of goodies and a massage at the end of the race but trust me you earn every single bit.
This is not for the faint hearted and it was amazing to learn that for some competitors this was their 1st long course. None of that mattered while we were out there as one of the things I love about long course is the camaraderie, everyone looks out for each other and even if they can’t speak they will give you a thumbs up or a nod to show they understand the work you’re putting in.
The question is would I do it again? Honestly I don’t know, it was so much harder than I could have even begun to imagine, but I did and I beat my 2015 time by 20 mins. So in the future, once the pain has disappeared and I’m left with the many amazing memories I suspect I will, but that maybe a year or so away!