Sunday saw the third edition of the Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire, set in the beautiful surroundings of Shugborough Estate grounds. In addition to the scenic views the 1800 or so athletes were also ‘treated’ to a hot summers day of racing, which certainly created an extra layer of difficulty to the task of collecting the finishers medal at the finish chute. Indeed, playing to stereotypes – this particular Scotsman noticed the temperatures too, given they reached upwards of 30C!
Personally, I had a good day of racing across the disciplines of swim, bike and run and came away from the event perfectly content with my 5th place amongst a good quality field of international athletes.
We started our day in the welcomingly clear and relatively warm waters of Chasewater Country Park for the 1.2 mile swim. The swim portion of triathlons are often a real worry point for many competitors as the open water can create a fear factor (fear of not being able to see easily, all the other athletes in close proximity and of course the inability to quickly put your foot down on the bottom or hold onto the ‘edge’ should you panic). So, on the basis of a flat calm water and the warmer temperature (around 19C) the reservoir in Chasewater provided as good an open water venue as I’ve swum in here in the UK.
Fully closed and traffic free roads ensured that riding our bikes on the lanes and roads of Staffordshire was an extremely safe experience, and as with the swim venue, I would echo my thoughts that this was one of the best bike routes for a triathlon that I’ve experienced anywhere. It appears that the course may change for subsequent editions of the event but as long as the closed format continues, you can be sure that you’ll feel safe on the roads whilst competing. In general, there were good road surfaces too which is not always the case on home roads! In summary, I will admit that I enjoyed the 56 mile bike ride much more than I expected to.
To close out the Staffordshire Ironman 70.3 athletes were treated to a fantastic backdrop in the shape of Shugborough Country House and Estate grounds. Having never visited beforehand I was more than pleasantly surprised to see the venue on the Saturday afternoon. The multi loop half marathon run course incorporated much of the estate grounds which gave a fantastic mix of pavement and off road (but not too technical, simple forest paths). Crucially, given the warm temperatures on Sunday there was a significant proportion of shaded sections which without doubt helped to keep body temperatures a little cooler than if we have been out in the wide open spaces that a lot of the estate ground offered. It also seemed to be a super location for families to spectate and cheers from the sidelines as there were plenty of grassy areas and shaded wooded sections.
To everyone who may have also been out on the course competing over the weekend – very well done, as it goes without saying that this was an extremely demanding day to be tackling a half distance triathlon! I for one will hope to be back next year competing at the Staffordshire 70.3, regardless of where the new finish location ends up being confirmed.
Words by Fraser Cartmell, image courtesy of Patrik Lundin/Getty Images.