The impressively named Gauntlet, the half iron distance triathlon at Lough Cutra Castle, Gort, Co. Galway has been a resounding success since it was introduced two years ago. Numbers have doubled each year and are now at more than 400 with 1500 in total expected on the day. The outstanding event has been selected by Triathlon Ireland as a Vodafone National Series event which adds to its appeal. It’s also the Castle where Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall stayed during their visit to Ireland last year.
The Gauntlet course is one of the most attractive middle distance races in the country. The swim is in the castle lake, the cycle is around the spectacular lunar landscape of The Burren and the run is around the beautiful castle grounds and woodland. The winner of the men’s race in 2015 was Kevin Thornton from Galway Tri Club, leading from the swim exit and smashing the course record with 4:15:08. A tight race for second was won by Mariusz Olejniczak of Naas Triathlon Club pipping UK elite Matt Leeman by just 30 seconds. Siobhan Gallagher (Donegal) won the women’s race in a time of 5:11:39.
Last year’s Olympic distance winner Kitty Perle has moved up to The Gauntlet for 2016. Many competitors like George Anderson from Oxford are using The Gauntlet as part of their training for the Bastion at Hever Castle or another full iron distance triathlon. For others The Gauntlet is an achievement in itself and it is their first race of this length; at least one brave person is doing it as their first ever triathlon! Veteran competitor John Joe Higgins from Tuam is 68 years young and returning for yet another Gauntlet. There’s a huge local entry and big numbers coming from the rest of Ireland and the UK.
The event is one of 8 different triathlons taking place at Lough Cutra Castle on Sunday 29th May. Lough Cutra Castle Triathlon is part of the iconic Castle Triathlon Series which includes events in three castles in England plus one in France. It is a shining light on the Irish triathlon calendar and attracts entries from all over Ireland, the UK, France and beyond. The combination of top quality elite athletes, a stunning location, challenging course and a family-friendly festival environment is truly a winner. It is a Triathlon Ireland sanctioned event.
So many different triathlons mean there is an option for everyone, whatever their fitness level or age. The Starter Tri is aimed at adult newcomers who have never done a triathlon before and although all triathlons are challenging, it is well within the compass of anyone who has done some training. The distances are 200m swim, 13km cycle and 2km run. To encourage first timers, a free training programme can be downloaded from the website.
Triathlon (Viscount Gough) involves a 400m swim, 20km cycle and 4km run. The next distance up is The Prendergast which at 800m swim, 40km cycle and 8km run is a perfect step building triathletes towards the Standard or Olympic distance triathlon (The Lough Cutra – 1.5km swim, 40km cycle, 10km run). It’s easy to see why 1500 triathletes choose Lough Cutra as an early season race.
Three children’s triathlons are specifically designed for different age groups – 8-10 year olds, 11-12 year olds and 13-15 year olds, each with swim, cycle an run distances to suit. All elements of the children’s triathlons stay safely within the Castle estate and are suitable for children who just want to give triathlon a go as well as those who are in a tri club.
All triathlons finish right in front of the fairytale castle. On the lawns nearby are the stands, music, dancing and kiddie entertainment (climbing wall, bouncy castles etc.). There is a spectator charge of €5 per adult and €3 per child. Local partners include Gotta Run specialist running store in Oranmore, Sasta Cafe and Coole Football Club. The charity partner is ISPCC. Competitors are asked to make donations to ISPCC Childline on registration or via www.mycharity.ie. Entries can still be made online at www.loughcutratri.ie.