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Cardiff triathlon, review

The Cardiff Triathlon is run by Always Aim High Events who dreamed up and run the iconic Slateman triathlon as well as a number of successful swim, bike and run events throughout Wales. 

We took part in the 2017 edition of the race, which was in its third year and had already reached an iconic status.

You enter online and can choose from three distances (Olympic, Sprint or Super Sprint) at the Cardiff Triathlon and compete either as an individual or as a relay. Note though that there is no relay option for the super sprint. The wide choice of distance, possibility to race as a really team and the closed roads are extremely attractive features for beginners to the sport.

Entry fees will be the same for the 2018 edition as they were in 2017:

Individual Relay
Until end of January 2018 From the 1st of February 2018 Until end of January 2018 From the 1st of February 2018
Olympic 83.95 87.95 99.95 104.95
Sprint 73.95 76.95 89.95 93.95
Super sprint 57.95 n/a n/a

In 2017, the Olympic distance race doubled up as the Welsh Triathlon Championship for that distance, which added another interest.

Location

Location is everything with this race! The transition area is on Roald Dahl Plass, just in front of the Wales Millennium Centre and just the location makes you feel like you are in a Roman amphitheatre. This impression is further reinforced when you walk under a foot bridge that looks a lot like an ancient aqueduct to go to the swim and are greeted by the very impressive Cardiff Bay, which manages to look both wild (there’s a nature reserve and some impressive cliffs) and polished thanks to the impressive architecture around Roald Dahl Plass. 

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The bike and run are a bit less grandiose and more in keeping with what you would expect from a city triathlon.

Getting there and parking

Finding the race start is as simple as locating the Wales Millennium Centre: just follow the signs or your onboard SATNAV. 

There is plenty of parking in the area but we recommend to keep things simple by using the main parking area in the County Hall, which costs £3 for the whole day. The car park opens at 5am and is very well organised, plentiful, totally stress-free and very close (5 minute walk) to the transition area.

Race day registration 

Registration was simple and efficient with a tablet system that enabled you to look up your race number and go to the right person. Full marks for the goodie bags not actually being “bag” but lovely Pedal Cover cycling caps that contained our race numbers and timing chips as well as some awesome socks provided by Suunto and some High Five nutrition. 

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End of June in Cardiff!

Transition

Besides being awesome, the transition site was very roomy, racking areas were numbered according to the wave you belonged to and best of all, the volunteer who let us into transition actually told us which way our bike should face (even numbers facing one way and odd numbers the other way so that no two neighbouring bikes would face the same way and get tangled).  Large bags and buckets were not allowed in transition, meaning that you would need a bag drop if you had not brought spectators/support.

Our bike numbers were duly checked against our bib numbers when we exited transition too.

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Bag drop

There was a dedicated bag drop area, but it was literally a “bag drop” as competitors left their bags (which were not numbered as no bag identification was provided) on the side of the transition area. There was a small sheltered area but most of the bags were out and exposed to the rain. Since nobody had come with us, we had no choice but to leave all our belongings and valuables (car keys, wallets…) in that area where security was obviously not a concern as Mr Tiger  who had started in the first wave and finished way before me could take both his bag and mine away from transition without being challenged at any time. 

Toilets

A row of portaloos was located outside of transition and there was several issues with this. Firstly, you had to do a very big detour in order to use the toilets during the race. Yes, you shouldn’t need  to on an Olympic distance but sometimes you might want to. In particular as a woman having your period, you might really need to and this bring us to the other issues: the paper ran out way too fast and there was no way to clean your hands (no optional sanitisers as in some other races) which potentially brings on a bloody situation in the above mentioned period situation. Big thumbs down here, we’re sure you can do better.

Post race 

There was a small post race area where nutrition (high five recovery products, water, biscuits, fruits and crisps) waited for us under a tent. We think this area was a little too cosy as it quickly became crowded as more and more finishers joined us. No results handed out at the finish line but a live tracker meaning that we could find out our times fairly quickly. 

Post race conforts were limited to a (mixed?) changing tent the other side of transition, there were no shower facilities or post race massages provision. 

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There were two event photographers, photos were online a few days after the race and sorted chronologically for both photographers so competitors have to sieve through quite a few photos in order to find themselves.

General race organisation

Race organisation was very smooth on the whole. We particularly liked starting the swim in waves and having an almost all female wave was definitely a nice touch. The marshalling was great, efficient and hugely encouraging. 

The first wave started at 7 am and the others followed at 5 minute interval, the sprint waves started at 8:30 and the super sprint at 9:10, which meant that everyone finished within the same time frame. Swim cut off times were easy to understand with all Olympic athletes having to be out by the start of the sprint and all sprint athletes by the start of the super sprint. The bike cut off was also very simple to understand: 10:30, the same time for all distances and no mention of a cutoff for the run.

We were not so keen on the original instructions that required competitors to wait until the end of the elite race (starting at 12) to remove our bikes from transition. We understand that the idea is to keep competitors around until the prize giving ceremony, which is a great but finishing at 10 am and having to wait until 1 PM seems a bit over the top. “Fortunately”, heavy rain and wind gave us a 10 minute window to clear bikes and gear from transition.  

Swim

Future competitors should note that there is quite a long walk (c.a. 500m?) from transition to the swim start and some of the surfaces are rough. Bring flip flops or old shoes that you can leave near the swim entry if you’ve got sensitive feet.

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The swim exit. All nicely carpeted, no sore feet there!

The water was warm but surprisingly not salty and felt like a lake, we learnt after the event that we did indeed swim in a freshwater lake that forms at the estuary of the river. Points to note are a small current (aiding the swimmers), a short chop (not waves but enough to hinder breathing in some cases and to cause distress to some of the competitors) and the fact that the exit and entry points are not the same so that you won’t be running on the gravel/stones when you exit the swim. Sighting was simple but we both felt that there were not enough safety boats/canoes as Mr Tiger (and a couple other swimmers) came to the rescue of another competitor in distress who despite signalling for help had not been noticed by the safety boats. I only saw two boats during the swim.

The swim is just one lap for all distances. We loved having AC/DC playing at the start of each wave, in particular hells bells for the first wave 🙂 

Bike

The bike is on closed roads, meaning there are no cars (in theory but competitors should always watch out). There are three laps of 13 km on the Olympic distance (so the whole course is 1km short) and elevation is negligible. Don’t be fooled though, the course demands attention. First, it’s in a city centre so there are speed bumps, roundabouts, sharp corners, uneven road surfaces and varying road widths to negotiate. Secondly, you are not alone (cue Michael Jackson music), not all riders are going at the same speed and with several laps, many different waves and event lengths there are always more people joining the fun. Some of these competitors will be confident careful riders, some will be nervous newbies and some will be careless PB hunters.

Marshalling on the bike course was good and we did see a few referees (supposed to keep an eye on drafting) but no action was taken despite some competitors riding in peloton formation. To be fair, it must be difficult to implement non-drafting rules or penalties over such a short loop and with so many competitors.

Run

The run consists of two laps mostly within sight of the sea, with the turnaround along the Cardiff Bay Barrage (which we had to thank for our freshwater swim). Even though the course is flat, we found it varied and interesting, which made it interesting. My watch recorded 9.5 km for the run and other competitors also recorded a slightly short course. I particularly liked the last kilometre or so as you can really feel the end of the race is nearing and fully savour the experience.

Finish line 

We didn’t see anyone running over the line with kids or family, so assume it’s either not allowed or that the finish chute layout was unsuitable. The finish line in itself is great, long and wide so you can really have a chance to spot friends or family in the spectators (if you’re looking that is!).

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Medals were nicely branded with a great logo but might be on the light side for those who like heavy bling.

Nutrition

High Five were the event’s nutrition sponsor and did a really good job. There were two aid stations. The main one was strategically located on the edge of transition so you walked past it going into the swim then ran past it when exiting the swim and ran past it again when going out onto the run. The second one was at the halfway point on the run. All had gels and isotonic drinks.

High Five also supplied recovery products at the end of the race.

For spectators

Simply put, this is a great event for spectators. The location is beautiful and there are cafés and restaurants aplenty around transition. Also supporting and seeing the athletes is very simple as they pass by or through the Roald Dahl Plass several times. 

For kids

There were no special kid-specific events or activities on that event.

Other activities

Besides the restaurants, cafés and brasseries, there is plenty to do once after the triathlon if you want to stay a bit longer. Both the Doctor Who Experience and Techniquest are within walking distance or you can head towards the city centre.

Event village 

The event village was another great feature of this race. Besides the usual catering van suspects, you could meet and discover brands that were partners/sponsors of the 

AquaSphere, Bonk! Athletic, HIGH5 Nutrition, KitBrix, Muk Junkie, Pedalcover Insurance, Superfeet and SUUNTO. 

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Our Bonk Athletic t-shirts are not only great quality, they’re also perfect for food shopping!

Conclusion

This is a really great race for beginners or nervous people, not just because of the closed roads and friendly atmosphere but also because of the elite races and Welsh championships, which raise the bar and ensure the event isn’t just a local race but a race that attracts the best athletes and brands. 

The almost all female wave was also a very nice touch and we felt that a lot of effort was being made into encouraging women into the sport. 

We are both very pleased to have done that race, which we had been wondering about since it’s first edition. Would we do it again? Probably not but generally we prefer hilly courses and single laps so the Slateman tri might actually be better for us!

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Would we recommend it? Again, it depends on what you expect. If you’re beginning and want a safe course, this is close to perfect, if you like a bit of “sightseeing” and discovering some countryside while cycling, then this might not be the best race for you.

 

 

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This entry was posted on August 14, 2017 by in Events, Wales and tagged , , , , .

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