The day had finally arrived for the my main event of the year. The Hever Castle triathlon was the first event I had entered earlier this year when I first thought about giving triathlon a try. The Hever junior triathlon is the largest junior triathlon in the world and is part of the castle series of triathlons. The series consists of five events taking place at Lough Cutra Castle in Ireland, Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire, Castle Howard in Yorkshire, Chateau De Chantilly in France and Hever Castle in Kent.
I had been sent the details for the event a few days earlier informing me that I was in wave 8 and my start time was 3:45pm. We decided that we wanted to get on site early so we set off from home around 9am. Traffic was good and we arrived at the car park just before 11am. We parked in the carpark where the camping was situated and there was plenty of room. It was a short 15 minute walk to the main area of the triathlon and we were soon at the registration tent. We checked in and asked what time we could register and were told that the registration for the junior race for 8-10 years would open at 12:45pm. We decided to have some lunch and was watching some the adult waves swimming in the lake, which also gave me a change to look at my swim course for the afternoon.
After lunch we had a bit of a look around some of the trade stands and then tried to register, unfortunately they weren’t registering my wave until 2:45pm so I had another two hours to wait. We decided to head back to the car and pick up my bike and gear ready for the race. Dad gave my bike another check over and ensured the tyres were fully inflated and that everything we needed was in my bag and ready. We managed to register a little earlier and Dad pulled a fast one by telling the first marshal I was in wave 6 so that we could walk down to the registration tent. Once we got to the tent we collected my race number, stickers for bike and helmet as well as my timing chip. We then headed over to the queue for transition so that we could rack my bike and I could get my race gear on.
At this event they allow one parent in transition to assist juniors under the age of 10 so Dad was able to come in and help me rack my bike and layout my stuff for transition. Having already done a couple of triathlons this year, plus a duathlon we have a good way to layout my gear ready for transition and Dad put the elastic bands on my pedals ready for me to jump on quickly. With hindsight we should have racked my bike at the far end of the rack so that I would have less distance to run with my bike (we will definitely be doing this next year). Once I had all my gear laid out I had a last visit to the toilet before Dad helped me to get in to my wetsuit and put my timing chip around my left leg. I was now ready for the race and we headed over to the lake as it was now only 30 minutes to me starting. Wave 6 was just setting off as they were running a few minutes behind so I got to watch them and wave 7 as well. Once everyone in wave 7 had completed the swim they called my wave through to the holding area for our briefing before the swim.
The man in charge gave us very clear instructions during the briefing on how the race would go and what to do if we got in to trouble on the swim. Once he had finished he told us to walk over the pontoon and sit down on the edge. I was feeling a little a nervous about the race as I didn’t know what to expect from the course. We were then told to slide in to the water, which was really cold. We were then told to swim out level with the first black buoy and to stay behind it ready for the start. The count down started from 10 but I only remember hearing 7, 3, 2, 1 and I was off. I went off at what I felt was a good pace and I got to the buoy in second place. I was lacking confidence going round the buoy and I came round in 5th place. I didn’t feel I was that well placed in the field as I headed in the direction of the finish and pushed my pace up a notch. I was soon passing other swimmers as they seemed to be slowing. As I came in towards the finish I was right with the first two swimmers and I kept pushing to move in to second place. I came out of the water well but my legs were feeling a little wobbly as I started to run towards transition. It was quite slippery running up the hill but I was right behind the wave leader as we made our way into transition.
I arrived in transition and spotted my Dad. One parent for each child under 10 years old were allowed in transition to help with wetsuits and lifting bikes up and down. Dad had soon pulled my wetsuit off and whilst I put on my race belt, shoes and helmet Dad lifted my bike down. I grabbed my bike from him and ran out of transition, jumped on my bike at the mount line and the leader was only just in front. As we went up a little incline I overtook the leader. The course was quite undulating and I was soon going down a big hill in top gear giving it plenty of speed to keep the lead. Unfortunately the ground was pretty rough and with my speed I lost a bit of control and came off my bike to my right hand side rolling over a few times as I hit the ground with my bike coming over the top of me. A few other competitors came past me but one boy stopped and asked if I was ok which was kind of him. He waited with me until a marshal arrived. The marshals asked me if I was ok and if I wanted to continue with the race which I did. I picked up my bike and the marshal could see the handle bars and brake levers were twisted so he straightened them up a little for me so I could continue on. I was a bit battered, bruised with a few cuts and scraps but I got on my bike, gritted my teeth and started pedalling. Fortunately the bike course from there was pretty flat and my right arm was feeling really sore as I came to the final hill. The track was covered in gravel so I pushed my bike up the hill as I didn’t want to come off again, then I got on at the top and pedalled the last few meters into transition.
When I arrived back in transition Dad asked if I was ok. I think he had been a bit worried as I had been gone sometime and he had seen other children arriving back. I handed him my bike and whilst I was taking of my helmet I told him I had come off my bike. I put my helmet down and took off out of transition and on to the run.
There was a small incline at the start of the run and my legs were feeling a little heavy but I could see a boy in front and when we reached the water station he stopped for a drink. I just grabbed a cup of water to pour over my arm as it was bleeding a little and hurting quite a bit. I carried on running leaving the other boy behind. I could see a girl ahead and I was now feeling a little stronger so I pushed a little harder and passed her and no one had come past me on the run. I was soon at the bottom of the hill leading up to transition and gave a final push up the hill and started my sprint towards the finish line.
I crossed the line and felt really proud that I had finished the race despite having come of my bike. Bailey Matthews was there to give me my medal, which was really nice and then I was able to get a drink and some cake and biscuits.
Mum and Dad had arrived at the end by then and checked that I was ok after coming off the bike and told me how well I had done to complete the race after coming of my bike. They then took me off to the first aid tent where I got my scraps and cuts washed out.
I really enjoyed the event on the whole but I do regret pushing quite so hard at the start of the bike as if I hadn’t of come off I’m pretty sure I would have made the top 30. I have already booked to return next year and will be making sure I get a top 10 finish.