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Fri 3rd Dec 2021
Karl Alexander runs The Gauntlet
Posted by: karlalexander
Posted on: Tuesday 1st October 2013

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In his last update after Challenge Henley, Karl Alexander had all but indicated that his 'best season so far' was all but over, with new goals and determination set to be focussed on 2014.

That didn't last too long as after feeling surprisingly good after recovering from Henley, he wanted to squeeze another race in and The Gauntlet, the new half-iron addition to the Markel Hever Castle Triathlon fitted nicely into his calendar. That proved to be a very good decision...

Less than a week after racing Challenge Henley I resumed light training, and was shocked to find that I was feeling good, really good, and I was keen to add another race in to my season.

Hever Castle in Kent played host to the Markel Castle Series Triathlon which comprised The Henry VIII Mid-Distance (800m/40km/8km), The Hever Olympic and new for 2013, The Gauntlet half iron distance which caught my eye.

Arriving at Hever Castle at 06:30 it was a short woodland walk to the race village and registration and with a start time of 8am I had plenty of time to rack my bike and pay a visit to the Wiggle shop to buy a new race belt. Despite owning about 10, I managed to forget one!

Returning to transition, I spotted editor John Levison and wandered over for a chat. As we stood talking I noticed some familiar names going about their pre-race prep, most notably Fraser Cartmell and ITU athlete David McNamee racing his first middle distance event.

Karl Alexander at The Gauntlet

With the start fast approaching we were all ushered down to the lake and the pre-race brief, delivered by Race Director Brian Adcock, was detailed and humorous and with a rousing cheer we entered the water which was bloody freezing!

Karl Alexander at The GauntletThe swim was an unusual combination of lake and river which gave spectators some awesome views as the athletes passed under two bridges on the one lap, 1.9km course. I usually have fairly uneventful swims that follow a tried and tested routine; swim hard for 200 meters, find clear water and settle into my rhythm. However, this time I was swam over, kicked in the face and finally had my goggles pulled from my face. Luckily due to the shallow nature of the lake I was able to simply stand up and reset myself before exiting the water in 27:58.

The run to transition is an uphill 200 meter affair and running through my wife shouted I was in 17th and about five minutes down on the leaders. Racing through transition it was out onto the 90 km bike course and within 5km I had moved up 10 or more places and was feeling good.

At about the 15km point, Dan Bigham cruised past me looking super-strong and I upped the tempo. Over the next few miles I kept him in sight but was very aware that his pace would have an impact on my run and eased off slightly keeping to my race plan. The bike course is far from flat and is a real challenge - whilst there aren't any massively significant hills, you're either slogging up or racing down one.

Karl Alexander at The Gauntlet

After 2:38:42 and 56.7 miles (Strava file here), I entered T2 and was quickly out on the 13.1 mile run course which comprises very little tarmac surface and is predominantly cross-country. Approaching a marshal I asked what position I was in and was confused when she said "first". My immediate reaction was that I'd made a mistake somewhere. I knew that a few guys were ahead on the road and I hadn't passed anyone, or had I? With the Olympic Distance race bike course joining The Gauntlet course with 10km to go, had I passed them without realising?

Coming out of trees and across a field I was met by a race marshal driving a golf buggy who confirmed I was leading. Immediately I asked what my gap was and was told around TWO minutes, so there I was, 5km into the run and leading by two minutes. I was feeling strong and relaxed and kept pushing. At about 7km the route splits and Gauntlet athletes were required to run the perimeter of a field whilst the Olympic competitors went straight across. As I re-joined the Olympic route I looked back around the field and it was empty - I was at least 2km ahead.

Heading in to the second lap I was aware that with 10km still to go I hadn't won yet. Approaching the previously mentioned field I looked across and saw a GB trisuit running crazy fast, and with about a mile to go I was being chased by David McNamee. I've never pushed so hard or hurt so much, as I increased my speed and gave everything I had crossing the finish line to first place, followed only 23 seconds later by David.

I was immediately told that the win may not have been mine and that the lead riders had gone off course on the first lap of the bike and had ridden an additional 5km citing poor signage and the lead motorcycle as the reason. To say I was upset was an understatement, I had listened to the same race brief, read the same race instruction and followed the same signs.

Karl Alexander at The GauntletAfter speaking to Brian Adcock he reassured me that I had won and that the bad luck that affected the leaders would be investigated... and I caught up with King Henry VIII!!

I'm proud of my performance and only three weeks after an iron-distance event I'm pleased I was able to take the start line let alone be in contention to take the win, which I celebrated with an Erdinger ‘pour' to the appreciation of David and third placed Richard Horton.

Personally, I think The Gauntlet was an awesome event, stunning swim, tough bike and breathtaking (in every sense) run. The marshals were brilliant and all offered support, the crowds were amazing on course and the local residents really seemed to embrace the spectacle on their doorstep. Put this race in your diary!

Thanks to my friends at Erdinger Alkoholfrei who kept my wife entertained and warm, to Brian and his fantastic team of marshals and for the fantastic support from fellow racers and spectators.

Karl Alexander at The Gauntlet

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