Tandem Triathlon

Throughout this blog I (Sam), will be writing in this bold, rather confident typeface.

And I (Ali), will be writing in this relaxed, more elegant font.

A little while ago, Ali and I….

That’s me.

….had an idea that was really quite random.  To take on the Bishop’s Castle Tandem Triathlon. Probably the only Tandem Triathlon in the World. So by default, the British, European and World Tandem Triathlon Championships.  Set in an area of outstanding Natural Beauty in the rolling Shropshire Hills, I was going to take on the 1k swim, tackle the tandem ….

….with me! And I was going to take on the 10k run.  How hard could it be?


sam and ali

We hit a couple of obstacles in the lead up to the race.  Firstly, a team name. 

Double Trouble.

Secondly, a tandem.

A tandem?!?  We haven’t got a tandem?

And thirdly, a chlorine allergy.

There is no way I am swapping to do the swim!

So in the weeks leading up to the race I managed to source a tandem: an old vintage relic with the gear shifters on the down tube.  I had volunteered myself to pilot the bike so thought I better get some practice in and made Chris sit on the back to avoid looking a bit odd on it on my own.  It didn’t go well. We couldn’t get started, couldn’t stay on it, and made it 100m away from home before Chris decided it was safer to walk home!  Oh well.  At least Ali had assured me she would be practicing daily on the back of a tandem during her week at Centre Parcs.



I had a brilliant week!  Nailed the rapids, rowing boats, high ropes, mountain bike course, several visits to the pancake house (clearly we needed to find out if sweet or salted pancakes were better)……Tandem?

Eventually it was Friday night and Ali and Jonny were here to stay! As the dinner was cooking…

Or rather not cooking, Sam had broken the oven…

we dusted the cobwebs off the tandem and went out for a quick practice.   I quickly established a running commentary such as “3, 2, 1, go,” “just making the gears harder”, “turning right here” and “stopping, stopping, foot down” which I’m sure Ali really appreciated.

Sam’s running commentary lasted forever and, if it is possible to do so, just made dinner even later….

After a fantastic evening of eating drinking and yapping away, we were soon up and out early doors to make our way to the race. 



Bishops Castle – what a friendly place!  As we walked round to check out what was what we first found the registration table and could have gone home happy after getting out personalised coasters! We found the start line, we found the finish, we found the man getting naked in the street in T1…

What T1?

Oh yeah there was no T1.  The swimmers just jumped out of the pool to run round and look for their tandem buddy (me!) waiting for them with the bike.  Back to the naked man….So Mr Speedo there had decided that the best option was to make best use of his tandem buddy to hold up what can only be described as a flannel as he stripped down to his birthday suit before popping on his cycling shorts!  Naturally all of this also happened next to a man dressed as a Nun and another in a pink dress with coordinated Fluro tights!?

I had been really looking forward to the open water 1k swim. However if I’d have read the race details I’d have known it was a pool swim.

In a 20m pool.


…..50 lengths!

I was drugged up on antihistamine to fight the chlorine and before I knew it I was off. After 20 lengths I got an almighty tap on the head with the float by my lane counter. I had been promoted to the fast lane. Excellent!! I got the giggles with 10 lengths to go as I started thinking about Ali waiting at the mount line. She was probably itching to get going and I tried to speed up a little to go and greet my partner! Out of the swim in 15 minutes, fastest of the females, and I was on my way to the flying mount of the tandem!

So whilst Sam was busy deciding which lane she wanted to swim in, I tried to suss out a bit more about the race. I noticed a few bikes had all started to stand in a row so I checked with the commentator who reassured me “you can start anywhere you like love!”  Of course we could!  Deciding to stick to the spot where Sam had left us (which just coincidentally happened to be next to a large kerb to help us get on the thing, as well as being a few meters in front of everyone else….) I chatted to Derek and explained that I loved running but definitely didn’t have a PB in my legs today.  “You won’t be PB-ing on that course!”

What did he mean by that? Oh, oh Sam’s out! Yes let’s go!!!

doing it

The bike mount was a bit…


We cycled all of 20m to the end of the car park and then had to get off, turn the bike round to the right, and start again!

We were doing it!!  I didn’t take my eyes off my feet for the first 10K and my knuckles were white from holding on so tightly… But we were doing it!  Of course, the most important advantage of having two people on the tandem, is that it means you can really make the most of having someone to talk to all the way round!

Ali was chatting my head off but because of the wind she couldn’t quite hear my replies, so the only way to carry on chatting was to turn my head round to carry on the convo!  I sort of forgot about the fact I actually needed to look where I was going!

Not being able to see anything on the back hadn’t seemed to bother me much until then!!

My best memory of the bike went a bit like this:

Sam can we free wheel for a minute?

Yes, sure, why?

My feet aren’t on the pedals?

What on earth are you doing?

Ok they’re on.

[5 mins later]

Sam, can we free wheel for a minute?

The most exciting thing was when we saw other tandems in front of us.  We had not expected this to happen.  Without a word we both picked up the pace and rode past with a cheer!

As we saw more people up ahead, Ali started stroking my bum. “Ali what are you doing?” I’d ask to which she’d say “I’m getting more aero!” Oh God, she’s on the drops!

All the chatting and taking in the views meant that before we knew it we were climbing the killer hill for the second time where we overtook a few more people who took the sensible option of getting off and walking.

We’d make it to T2!!

Jonny and Derek seemed amazed to see us! We had done brilliantly! It was a little confusing about what we were supposed to do here so we jumped off the bike and ran (or rather shuffled) with it down a little trail forest.

When can I run, when can I run?

Not yet, we need to rack the tandem. 


Where’s the racking?


I spotted a free patch of grass and shouted “here!” before pushing the tandem to one side and dashing away!

Go Ali Go!!!

I think I got a bit too excited and put on a full on sprint and before I knew it I was hurtling down a pretty steep descent! Which just kept going on….and on! Until then it happened, I was faced with the first of a million hills to climb. If you weren’t running down one, you were pulling yourself up.  So this is what Derek meant!!

Still managing to keep some pace and overtake a few, a cheered everyone running back in the other direction of the out-and-back course, however barely got a smile back… What was up there?!  As I finally got to the longest ever 4.5k marker I scrambled up the last steep stretch to the 5k point, very pleased with myself I quickly turned and went flying back down.

Hurry up Ali, I’m freezing!

A couple of minutes later when it started to level out I heard “where are you going?!!”  Very pleased with myself thinking he was just surprised how quickly I’d done it “back down, I’ve been to the top”  “You’re supposed to go over it and back the other side”

Oh bugger.

Once again I was climbing to the top of the summit, and this time carried on to indeed the other side.

Phew, the hills weren’t quite so bad on this side but that’s when the heavens opened, it was pouring it down and the trail turned to mud. Luckily I was boiling from my extra miles and I was loving it!

Jonny, Derek and I were absolutely soaked and shivering. Hurry up Ali!

Home straight! The km markers came just as slowly as they did on the way out, but finally I was stumbling up and hating the hill that I’d loved so much at the start, ready to put a quick sprint on as I went round the corner for when everyone could see me again.

Then I saw a gazelle in the distance running towards us with steam coming up off her head! FANTASTIC ALI! So I got ready again with the tandem and passed Ali’s helmet to her.

So at this stage you are probably wondering why Sam is passing me my helmet?

Ah yes.

There are many things Sam didn’t tell me about this race – like the fact the run was up a mountain, and she didn’t own a tandem. She also forgot to mention that the race was swim-bike-run-bike.  So we were back on the tandem for the final flourish!


By this point all our race nerves had gone and we jumped,

Well err, climbed…

on to the tandem and got going for the last bit.  The roads were soaking from the torrential rain and my hands had gone white because they were so cold so I couldn’t actually feel the brakes. I didn’t tell Ali that.

You never told me that!!!

And before we knew it we were at the finish! What an amazing event! We had smiled, laughed, chatted and giggled from start to finish!

And it turns out we won the women’s event by 36 minutes! We are now unofficial British


And world tandem triathlon champions! Haha!!

A huge thank you to Mick for loaning us the tandem, to Jonny and all of Chris’s family and Phil’s family for coming to support us, and to the organisers and marshals for a fantastic event. There are so many little quirks to this event, and we would not change a thing!!!  A big well done to Chris and Phil who finished 2nd in the men’s category, although we could match their speed on the swim and run we couldn’t quite match their bike speed (with a bike split that was erm, 20 minutes *cough cough* quicker than ours!) They may be the Tandem Titans this year, but watch out next year boys!

You’re doing the run next year

Thank you Bishop’s Castle Tandem Triathlon.  See you in 2015!

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