I usually compete in Ironman branded races around the world but decided to do a local half iron race as a gap filler - this one looked ideal.
There were warning signs from the beginning when I actually had to email the race organisers a week before the race asking for the event guide - which still hadn't been released. I didn't even know what the start time was! It was finally released 5 days before the event.
Registration was pretty simple but they were trying to charge £2/3 for parking on the saturday (registration day) for a registration (pack collection) process which took about 45 seconds. I was glad I parked in the public car park and didn't bother to get a ticket for those short few minutes!
On race morning I paid the £5 fee to park at the venue which was fine. Transition was a bit of a mess - no allocated racking so you just racked anywhere and there seemed to be no rules about what you could keep in transition.
Down to the swim start and the male wave began. The female wave was due to start shortly afterwards (15 mins later) but as we started to get into the water they shouted at us to get out because there was no safety boat or kayaks. The two loop course which was long and narrow would mean that we would collide with the men at some point. So the officials just told us to wait until they could sort something out. No-one seemed to have a clue what was going on.
I had timed a gel 10 mins before the start so this was a bit annoying. Rather than being advised a time, we were just repeatedly told to wait until further instruction. They then started moving us out of the way so the first men could exit. This was a very narrow river towpath so was a bit of a mess! We ended up waiting for at almost an hour before our start time - we had to wait until all the men were out of the water.
Once in the water, the swim was fine - until one of the safety kayakers shouted at me to move across to avoid collision with the slower swimmers who hadn't reached the turnaround point yet. I gradually swam across but apparently it was a bit too gradual as the kayaker actually hit me with his oar repeatedly. I had to pause my swim and put my head up to find out what the hell was going on. Very unprofessional - it wasn't exactly like I was off-course and I wasn't even close to colliding with the others.
Out of the swim and onto the bike. The bike course was three loops of a massive gradual climb and fast descent, but at certainy points on the course (open to traffic) there were no marshalls, such as at a couple of roundabouts. At the first roundabout I actually had to shout at a woman who crossed the road right in front of me. There were two marshalls nearby who were just sat on the floor completely disinterested. This made for a bit of a stressful race as you had to be on high alert to traffic and pedestrians the whole time due to the lack of marshalls (and their indifference).
The run was along the river towpath and being a sunday afternoon, was packed with people going for a nice sunday stroll. No marshalls, so people, dogs and children were getting in the way of runners which was more than a bit annoying. At the aid station (only one on the 5k course bar one in the transition area), I had to shout at the marshall to request water as they weren't prepared with cups some of the time.
At the finish, I was more than a little miffed at being handed a light rubbery/plastic medal. Bit of a joke when you've paid over £100 to race - and there was no goody bag or anything! I'm not quibbling over goody bags but generally when you are used to high quality races these things come as standard. There were also no age group prizes so despite coming 2nd in my AG, I didn't recieve anything for this.
Furthermore, when I went to collect my bike from transition, my wetsuit had been taken. I asked the person "manning" transition - who didn't look older than about 14 years old - and he just shrugged. So my wetsuit never turned up - the organisers said they hold responsibility over lost belongings.
All in all, not an experience I would be keen to repeat. It starkly highlighted why local races need to up their game when the organisation is as shoddy as this.