What is the Fastest UK Half Iron Distance Triathlon including Ironman-branded events?
This post is only about FAST, HALF Iron distances/Middle Distance Triathlons and only in the UK.
2021 – Lockdown Effects
It seems fairly obvious to me that it’s best for all of us to only plan to race in our home countries this year. Couple that with a lot of people recently having a LOT of time to train and get better then I suspect that the 2021 season will see excellent turnouts….lockdowns permitting.
Indeed I see that the Outlaw Full-Iron event (Nottingham) is now only open for charity places and I read recently that the USAT nationals are also full. So you need to get cracking NOW and book your domestic race, perhaps leaving some hope open for an international trip in September, at least that’s my plan.
Fastest UK Half Iron Triathlons – General Considerations
What makes for a fast HIM?
Factors generally include
- A course that isn’t over-distance on the bike leg
- Lake swim, not sea swim
- Flat bike and run
- Good bike and run road surfaces
- Sheltered or perhaps one that favours a prevailing Westerly wind
- Factors on the day.
But wait a minute. You might even find some confusion about what a Half Ironman race is.
To count as a proper Half Ironman, the race needs to be Ironman-branded and have a total of 70.3 miles incorporating a properly-measured Half Marathon (21.1km) and a 90km bike ride.
An improper, unbranded Half Iron race may have length discrepancies.
However, a Middle Distance Triathlon, as defined by the BTF rules, traditionally has a 1900m swim (varies between 1000m and 3000m) and an 80km bike and 20km run. So that’s going to be probably at least 6 minutes shorter on the shorter run leg and a race like Marlow at 85.6km (bike) will save you another 15 minutes or more compared to an Ironman-branded event. You can knock 20 minutes off your Ironman PB by simply doing a Middle Distance Triathlon and then being economical with the truth when you speak to anyone about it. Almost certainly, many hardened triathletes will not even be aware of those subtleties.
Thus the much-used acronym HIM, in reality, is used to cover 3 races:
- Half Ironman (precisely measured and branded)
- Half Iron – usually shorter than a branded half Ironman
- Middle Distance Triathlon. Officially shorter.
The Fastest Race Details
I had always blindly assumed that the Vitruvian (Rutland, nr Notts) was the flattest having done the Oly bike course there a few times quite quickly. Apparently not. Here are some of the races listed for this season and the bike elevations
The Gauntlet (Half-Iron)
Hever (2 separate race dates) – The Gauntlet has two loops to make up the 90km bike course which is relatively hard (bike profile link). It has average UK road surface conditions and an unpleasant race profile with 1 mile of total ascent. Parts of the run are cross country and the lake is a bit dirty and narrow at times. This is absolutely NOT a PB course but it is a pretty course. I reckon this Half Iron course is at least 30 minutes slower than a flatter middle distance course.
The Fugitive (Marlow)
This is stated as ‘fairly flat’ and the bike course comes in at 85.6km with 800m of climbing (course link). I’ve heard it has good PB potential.
Conquer The Chilterns
This looks super flat with only 350m of climbing over 78km. However, I don’t think I have the correct elevation/bike profile from RwGPS. The course looks SIGNIFICANTLY different on the organiser’s page (F3) but it should be relatively flat.
Shropshire Middle Distance
2000m swim – 78k cycle – 20k run, £179. This looks to be 2 laps totalling 550m of ascent. Again, fairly quick.
Marshman (Velocity Triathlon)
Coming in at 420m of ascent and with lots of pancake-flat sections you will be able to easily maintain a consistent effort, this is my contender for the fastest UK Half Iron. It’s not that well known about and is near the sand dunes of Camber where your family can go while you while the morning away on your bike. This a slightly short Iron-distance event. I don’t think the road surfaces are that great and the course is exposed to wind.
At 1900m swim – 85k bike – 21k run, £136 the Vitruvian is perhaps too short to be classed as a Half Iron…but we all do. That 5k short bike route is worth at least 10 minutes. However, the 850m elevation gain over two laps is not so much compared to other events but it will take back those 10 minutes from you easily enough. The last time I rode there I remember nice road surfaces (a great event) and easy, continually undulating roads.
The staffs/Weymouth courses are fairly hilly and so aren’t the fastest.
So the fastest is…?
I reckon the Marshman near Dungeness/Lydd is the quickest Half Iron?
Please feel free to suggest faster UK ones, a faster Middle Distance race or add corrections to the above info.
Courses change each year and organisers’ websites still often fail to give competitors the info they need.