I raced Thorpe Park this morning and walked away with a PB of 2:41 (appreciate this is about 45 mins slower than the winner but I was happy with it) however like the bike course this race isn't without its ups and downs.
I've only ever done larger events previously (Hever, Windsor etc) and the first thing that struck me was that this one being much smaller (320 participants) attracts a far more intimidating crowd; don't get me wrong, they were all lovely but to a bit of a novice like me, the number of Aero Helmets, M-Dot tattoos and GB Skin Suits was a tad terrifying.
Swim is a one loop of the lake, it was a little punchy for the first 150 meters but then thins out and is fine. The water was pretty warm at 25 degrees and I almost regretted the wet suit but all in all an ok swim. The water isn't particularly deep so you do brush quite a bit of pond weed and about 100 meters before the swim exit there is a section you have to stand and wade through before diving back in (i thought this was the exit so was pretty thrown but it's well marshalled with someone to help you up and let you know where you need to go).
Swim out is pretty much straight into transition and bike mount is only about 20 meters from bike out. The bike leg is fun but you really do need to stay aware as a few sections are on fairly main, open roads, lots of roundabouts and a few tricky junctions but again marshalls were excellent and zero chance of getting lost (unlike Windsor). The bike is undulating with a couple of steep bits and is not particularly picturesque but enjoyable non the less. Worth noting that the bike leg wasn't 40k, I clocked it at just over 36k so was a little surprised when I came to the end and it does take the shine a bit off the PB.
On to the run which is 3 loops inside the park and to be honest a bit of a letdown as only about 1k of each loop is actually through the park (where the rides etc are), the rest is round the back of the park which is frankly a tad grotty. It's flat and easy going but nothing really to look at and no real support (other than again from the superb marshalls and water station crew).
Race ends in the park and you are able to stick around the theme park which is a nice touch. Cool medal and a really nice crowd of athletes (although as I said all pretty hardcore).
The Tri Project/Clapham Chasers team are awesome and the organisation, marshalling and even enthusiasm at the water stations was great and for me really made the day one to remember.