This race wasn’t on the plan at the beginning of the year. I had arranged my year so that all of my races were before August because August was to be full of hens and weddings however I enjoyed Mallorca 70.3 so much I decided to enter this to finish off the season. I wouldn’t be able to train as much as I had for Mallorca but I hoped that my fitness from Ireland would carry me through.
David entered too, as did our friends Scott and Sian and off we went on Saturday morning for the 4.5 hour drive to Weymouth. The campervan was full with four bikes, four athletes and all of our kit and bags.
We arrived at a sunny but windy Weymouth and managed to get a parking spot at the Pavilion where we registered before sitting on the carpark floor to put our stickers on the kit and sort our kit into the transition bags.
We then cycled through a busy Weymouth to transition to rack out kit before walking the mile or two back to the pick up the camper. As we walked along the front we could see that the sea was incredibly choppy. We crossed our fingers that it would calm down before the morning.
We stayed in a B&B half way between the start and the finish line. Perfect. The only disadvantages were that parking in Weymouth is very difficult so we had to spend some time looking for a spot which ended being some distance from where we were staying and our B&B didn’t offer eatly breakfast so we had to organise our own in our bedroom. Weymouth haven’t quite embraced the Ironman in the same way as other towns.
Sunday morning arrived and as we walked to transition we were delighted to see that the sea had calmed down completely so we were really surprised to hear the announcement that the swim had been shortened.
We changed in the dark on the side of the road into our wetsuits (the unglamorous side of triathlon that doesn’t find its way to instagram!) and made our way to the beach. This was by far the worst part of the day for me. The bare foot walk to the beach was bad enough but standing on the stones and shells was agony. It was also raining quite heavily by this point. Thankfully a kind spectator that I was chatting to held his umbrella over me for some shelter. By the time I’d made it into the water I was cold and fed up. I was delighted to get off my feet and into the warm water. No idea why it was short as the conditions were lovely. I didn’t have that “race feeling” however. I don’t know why. I’d been full of cold all week so hadn’t trained and I was definitely over-tapered. I swam as if I had all of the time in the world! 950 meters or 19 minutes later two helpful volunteers were grabbing my hands and I flew to my feet – I think I was lighter than they were expecting!!
In transition I had to make a few decisions about kit. It was pissing it down. I was already wearing my arm warmers and there were toe covers on my shoes. I added a jersey and coat. Not sure they were really needed because even though it was raining it wasn’t cold but after how cold I felt in Ireland didn’t take the risk – I never wanted to feel like that again.
The first part of the bike was really fast. There’s quite a cheeky climb out of the town itself but apart from that it was ok. I was holding 19mph for maybe the first third.
One thing that struck me straight away was the amount of people on the side of the road with punctures. It was incredible. People said it was just the rain washing debri into the road but it did seem to be an unusual amount. I heard the hedges has been cut just before the race which may have contributed to the amount of debri but apparently it was exactly the same at the race last year too with loads of punctures.
As I was approaching a sharp 90degree turn to the left about 12 miles into the bike the familiar “X” “Xhale” logo caught my eye on the side of the road, I looked up and shit, it was David. David looked so pale I thought he’d crashed. He looked like he’d had a scare. I immediately stopped, and asked him if he was hurt. Thankfully it was just a puncture. I was trying to be helpful but there was nothing I could do. There was a mechanic there too. David had managed to change the tube but we couldn’t get any air into the tube through the valve extender. So frustrating. David insisted that I cycled on.
I cycled off but my head was gone! I was cycling along shouting out swearwords. I was absolutely gutted for him. This was the second race from the last 3 that this valve extender had pulled David from a race – and they were both races where he was on for a podium. I knew everyone at home would be worried when he didn’t reach the next checkpoint and I wished I had my phone so I could send a message back that he was ok. I kept going and hoped that the fact I had reached the next checkpoint and cycled passed David would be reassurance for them that he was ok.
The middle part of the bike course was undulating and about half was was the steepest hill. On the steepest hill myself and another girl were getting really frustrated as we were trying to weave around the heavier, slower cyclists. It is against the rules to cross the middle line. It is also against the rules for two cyclists to cycle side by side. I could hear the girl ahead of me calling at these men that she was coming through but they weren’t budging. They were just happily cycling together chatting. Eventually she passed and I then had no option but to follow her and to cross the white line. As I passed them I turned to them and asked them “any reason why you’re cycling side by side blocking everyone?!”I think this shows what my mood was like during the bike! The men were a bit arsey back aggressively asking me “you what?!” and yelling after me quite threateningly “we’ll be catching up with you in a minute” – challenge accepted. I didn’t see them again.
Not all of my fellow cyclists were quite an annoying. I’m sure many cyclists will have had this happen to them on a ride – there was another girl called Becky I think, she was in my age-group (25-29) , dressed in turquoise and we were passing each other back and forth constantly throughout the last half of the bike. Everytime we’d pass each other we would laugh “sorry, me again” and encourage the other which was nice. It’s nice to see a smiley face when you’re cycling into the rain and headwind!
Everytime I would hear a faster cyclist coming behind me I would turn my head hoping it was David and that he’d been able to continue but unfortunately it seemed it was out of the race.
In my head, from looking at the elevation online pre-race I had thought the final section of the bike was downhill. It definitely wasn’t with a few short and sharp hills pulling my average down, the lack of miles since since Ironman Ireland too having an effect maybe.
Back to T2 and onto the run. I see Scott running closely followed by David! “I’m doing a Skipper!” he yelled. The week before we had spectated Ironman Wales and Joe Skipper had run the marathon despite being DQ’d on the bike. David was doing the same, although he hadn’t been DQ’d, he was out of the race as he hadn’t completed the bike.
My running preperation for Weymouth had been a bit strange really. I was injured after Ironman Ireland so I had barely run, three 2.5 mile runs, a four miler at Cippyn (where I’d won), a 10km PB at Cardiff PB and one 8 mile run was the extent of my running. So not many runs and I hadn’t run any big miles, but the ones I had done were good so I wasn’t sure where this left me. I went off at 8.30min/miles in the hope of running more consistently than I had in Mallorca.
The first half of the run went ok, I was running quite consistently and had a chat with Ieuan, who also races for Xhale. He told me he’d had a shocker as he had put on the wrong race chip that morning! That’s not one you hear everyday!
I was 7 miles in when David pulled up beside me. He’d just finished his half marathon. He had run a 1 hour 20 half marathon, the same time as he had done 2 weeks previously at the World Championships despite the fact that he had nothing to run for. This was a positive thing as he is clearly running well at the moment but also very frustrating as it left him with a lot of “what ifs”. He asked me how I was going and I said I was starting to feel it. 8 miles was the furthest I’d been in training. “Come on.” He said “let’s make sure one of us has a good race.” and we ran the rest of the race together. He was a star – passing me coke from the aid stations and sheltering me from the headwind. We were also chuffed to spot Sian running, neither of us had seen her beforehand and we were worried that she’d also succumbed to a puncture on the bike so we were delighted to spot her absolutely flying through the run. Turns out they’d been so slow getting everyone into the water Sian hadn’t started her swim until the rest of us were already out on the bike course!
I was delighted to run a 1.54, two minutes off my half marathon time in Mallorca – a PB off the bike! It was quite strange running over the line with David – he’s usually finished waaaay ahead of me! My swim and bike were definitely not as strong as they were in Mallorca but considering the lack of training, the fact I was full of cold, stopping with David on the bike and the rainy conditions I was still happy. I think my finish time for both races were exactly the same overall, but Mallorca had a full 1900m swim whereas here was only 950m.
Overall, I don’t know if I would race Weymouth 70.3 again. I’m sure the bike would be much nicer if the weather was nice and the run is lovely, flat and well supported but the painful beach start and the large amount of punctures did put me off! I suppose it was always going to be tough for Weymouth to impress me considering I’d just got back from spectating David at the 70.3 World Championships in Nice which had been such an amazing experience!
The best thing about this race was definitely doing it with David, Scott and Sian and that night we headed to the Dorset Burger Company for some some amazing burgers. Would definitely recommend this place for post-race!
Off season for me now, I’ve had one week of absolutely no training at all followed by a week of doing whatever I like which I’ve really enjoyed and needed.
My plan for the winter is to get strong and do a lot of rehab in the hope of getting rid of these running niggles once and for all!