Steve Berry gives his top tips on The Bastion at Hever Castle

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Racing long this year? Racing The Bastion at Hever Castle or one of the half-iron, long distance aquabike or aquathlons taking place over the 1oth July 2016?

These top tips for this brilliant event are unmissable then. If you’re tempted then enter today – a 15% discount applies across The Bastion and the entire Castle Triathlon Series.

There is no doubt the Bastion present a formidable challenge, Brian Adcock really has designed a tough course that is full of delights as well.

The swim is a unique 2 lap swim of the lake and the River Eden, the swim does head East however and if it is a sunny day the sun will be right in your eyes, locate a fixed point on the far shore as a target to head for as you might not see the buoys very well with a low sun.

When swimming the river section, aim to keep in the middle of the river, there are a few weeds nearer the shore and if you get caught up in these it is sure to slow you down, the middle route will give you the straightest and fast swim.

As it is 2 laps don’t go so hard on the first lap, that completing the second lap because too hard a challenge, the river section does aid you a little, though it isn’t much of a current.

If you do get the chance to swim in the lake before the day, take the chance. It just gives you a chance to see what the river section is like and check out what is likely to be the best route.

On the bike you will be faced with a 3 lap course, it is quite a good idea to use the first few minutes of the ride to settle your heart rate down, as it is only about a mile before you are faced with the first hill, although not steep, it does drag on for quite a while so use this to settle into a good rhythm.

Don’t go too hard on the hills, there are plenty on this course and it really does pay to ride them at a steady effort rather than trying to get up them as fast as possible, don’t forget you still have a nice run to do afterwards. Most of the hills are not too steep, the steepest is the one out of Groombridge and that is really only at the bottom of the climb.

If you have a triathlon/TT bike, then use it, although the course is a tough hilly course there are plenty of opportunities to get into an aero position. This will save you time over and above what you might lose going uphill.

Select the appropriate gearing for the bike, no point in having too high a set of gears for the uphill parts, choose a gear that allows you to ride the hills at a steady effort rather than having to get out of the saddle to pedal.

Take each lap as a separate 60km cycle, this is easier mentally rather than thinking the ride as 180km, enjoy the atmosphere of the crowd as you pass the castle each lap.

Don’t forget to say Hi to Winnie the Pooh as you pass through Hartfield, this is a great location for friends and family to watch and cheer you on. They can even pay a visit to Pooh Corner whilst they wait for you to arrive on your next lap.

At the end of your 3 laps be careful as you re-enter the castle grounds as the road surface is a loose surface and although not too bad to cycle on it can be slippery.

The run is set amongst the grounds and surrounding area of Hever and Chiddingstone Castles, and it is mainly off road so my first tip is to wear off road shoes rather than your best racing flats.

There are a couple of steepish climbs out of the castle grounds, one a small gravel path and then a longer broken tarmac road, take both of these at a steady effort, they start to bite by the 4th lap. It may even pay to walk the short gravel path as running it isn’t much quicker.

Once out of the grounds the route is mainly rolling along bridleways, footpaths and the occasional road section. Most of these sections are fairly good, though if it has been raining either before or on the day some of the bridleways can be a little bit muddy.

As for the cycle, keep the effort in check for the first couple of laps and take on as much fluid and energy as you can.

Soak up the atmosphere as you enter Chiddingstone and the castle grounds, but be aware there is a narrow bridge that people maybe walking across at the same time.

The run through 16 Acre Island towards the end of each lap and the finish is probably the flattest part of the course, enjoy the run towards the finish area where there is fantastic support from everyone. It gives you a chance to settle into a good rhythm again.

Although a lot of the route is along quiet lanes and footpaths, there are plenty of feed stations around the course, and lots of encouragement from the marshalls to keep you motivated, and being a 4 lap course just tick off each lap rather than focus on the full distance.

The Bastion is a challenging event that is for sure, but it is also one that allows you to see the Kent countryside in all it’s glory. It truly is a great weekend and one to be enjoyed.

Original article published on the 30th June 2015 here: http://www.castletriathlonseries.co.uk/news/steve-berry-gives-bastion-top-tips/ 

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