Windsor Triathlon (Windsor) 12 June 2016. Sprint (750m swim/30km bike/5km run) and Olympic (1500m swim/40km bike/10km run)
Only previous triathlon was Winchester sprint, which has a pool swim, so wanted to do a sprint distance with a reasonably straight forward open water swim to gain a bit of confidence. It's also won numerous awards (7 time BTF event of the year) and gets very good reviews.
The sprint waves all go before the Olympic distance waves, which means an early start (my wave was at 0608). The waves are done by gender and age group, not ability, but you can enter a mates wave if there is someone you want to start with or race against. You need to walk about 600m upstream from transition to get to the swim start. The swim is then about 650m downstream in the River Thames before turning a buoy and swimming upstream to the exit point. There was a bit of a current when I swam, which made most of the swam very easy, but swimming back upstream at the end was hard work. There is then around a 350m run into transition to get your bike and a 400m exit run with the bike before you can mount.
The ride itself was a single loop on open roads, but there was very little traffic given the time of day. The ride is undulating, gradually rising rather then any serious hills, followed by a long open downhill stretch back into Windsor (great for picking up a bit of speed). There was a heavy shower for the first 5km of the bike, but after that it was dry and cool (the sun even came out). Although I was in the third wave, there were still lots of people ahead of me on the bike which made navigating very easy, but the route was well marshalled anyway.
The run is then 3 loops of a course which takes you up to Windsor castle and then an out and return along the River. The hill up to the castle is steep, but only about 200m long. Annoyingly it's at the start of the lap, so is the first thing you do after coming off the bike. Unlike my first triathlon, I felt quite good after the bike so was able to make up quite a few places on the run. Because its a lapped course its very hard to tell who is a lap ahead/behind you though.
I was 6th overall and 1st in age group. The standard in the sprint race wasn't as high as in the Olympic distance, but there were still over 400 finishers in the sprint. It's really weird to have finished racing by 0730 though!
Registration and racking up must be done on the Saturday (race on Sunday). Registration was done by surname, which meant I was registered at 1100 so had a lot of hanging around to do before the race (I could have gone to LEGOLAND!). There is a car park in playing fields of a local school where you can leave vehicles overnight. Some people bought motorhomes/vans and slept in them. I don't know whether camping would be allowed.
The transition area is in Alexandria park next to the river. The routes in and out of transition are all on tarmac paths, but the transition area itself is on grass. In previous years this has caused problems when it's been wet. Luckily it was very dry under foot when I did it. They are also very strict that there are no bags allowed in transition during the race and there is no bag drop facility.
It is a popular triathlon, seen as a bit of a bucket list event, and is located near London so there are a lot competitors and a lot of people riding very posh bikes (not all of them being ridden well though!)
Overall I enjoyed it and it was a well organised event. I'm not sure it's as amazing as the reviews suggest, and I certainly didn't think it was leaps and bounds ahead of other event I've done. Maybe one to do if you also want to spent a weekend in the local area.