T2 was my best discipline at Weymouth Half.
After grabbing my bag and putting on my helmet, it was time to put on my race belt and ride.
I’d decided to put my shoes on before getting to my bike. There was a slightly twisty section before getting out onto the road, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of spectators. As soon as I was out onto the main road, I heard Ellie cheering 🙂
Ellie managed to take a couple of photos and then I was off.
The first part of the bike course
I knew that it would be quite a long time before I saw anyone I knew. I was also aware that whichever way we were going out of Weymouth, it would be up a steep hill, so I started taking on fluids as soon as possible.
The first part of the course was familiar as we had cycled on it during a triathlon earlier this year. Fortunately, the route was well-marked. There were marshals at all junctions, so although I remained observant, I wasn’t too worried about the traffic.
It wasn’t long before we got to the steep hill. Someone had written all of the pros names on the hill in chalk, but I was focussing too hard on keeping my balance and getting up the hill to read the names. I was also quite surprised by the number of supporters on the hill, which was really motivational. I was also cheered by the number of people who I was able to pass on the hill. Towards the top, the supporters seemed to be getting very vocal and were taking lots of photographs, which was very flattering. After I turned the corner and was starting to relax a bit as the angle of elevation became less steep, I suddenly became aware of why the crowd had been going crazy. I was immediately ahead of the elite men who had started their second lap of the course!
I pushed on, and as the photos show, I finally made it to the top of the hill.
Support on the course
The course was picturesque. Despite the fact that it was early in the morning, there were quite a lot of spectators out and about. Many of the bystanders were elderly people who were clapping enthusiastically, so I did my best to smile and give them a thumbs up.
Fairly early into the course, a couple of men on bikes who were not in the race cycled passed me and made some comments, so I spoke to them. They pulled alongside me and asked me what I was doing, so I explained about the race. They then asked me whether I’d like to stick on their wheels for a while, but I quickly declined explaining that I could be disqualified. We then came to a junction where I had to turn off and they headed onwards.
A little while later, a man in an Oxford Tri Club kit passed me. As soon as we got to the next hill, I passed him. We ended up playing a cat-and-mouse game for about 25km, with me passing him on every uphill and him passing me on every downhill. I felt frustrated that I wasn’t able to go as fast as some other people going downhill. I tried not to brake but I’m still very nervous after my accident earlier this year and worry that I will crash.
In the photos below, you can see my foe. They were taken at a point when I was still in the lead 🙂
Seeing fellow STC racers
At one point in the course, there was an out and back section. It was quite nice to see other riders, although I had no idea of how much further ahead than me they were. I didn’t feel disappointed that I was at the back as I was conscious that I had started in the last swim wave. I was also a little distracted as I wondered whether I would see Stuart, Gary, Suzanne or one of my other friends on the bike.
After a little while, someone called out to me and I realised it was James. This reassured me that the turn around point couldn’t be too far ahead. I estimated that James would have been 5 minutes faster than me on the swim and that he had started 5-10 minutes ahead of me. I also assumed that he would have taken several minutes less time in transition than me. This meant that he would be about 20 minutes ahead of me.
A few minutes after passing James, I saw someone up ahead in a Southampton Tri Club trisuit. I knew it couldn’t be Liz as I had left her in the changing tent, so I guessed it was Jan. I shouted some support and then passed her as quickly as possible on the hill. Possibly it was a bit too quickly, but Jan’s a senior official, so I didn’t want her to think I should be disqualified for drafting!
Accident on the bike course
Further down the road, there was a man in some lurid patterned yellow trousers standing in the middle of the road and shouting something. I’m not sure why, but my first thought was that he was a saboteur. A couple of other cyclists had stopped and I could see a girl walking up the hill pushing her bike. The man explained that there had been an accident and said something about the air ambulance. I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew that we were still on the clock, but I had no idea what had happened up ahead.
Soon, Jan arrived on the scene. She pointed out that if we proceeded with caution in single file then we should be OK. She carried on, so I followed her (at a suitable distance). I was so relieved that she had turned up, otherwise I think we would have stopped for a while. Apparently, a fast male cyclist had tried to overtake another fast male cyclist on the way up the hill. He went onto the wrong side of the road and went straight into a female cyclist who was on her way down the hill. Apparently, there were no serious injuries, but the air ambulance and another ambulance were required at the time.
Nutrition was available at the turn around point, but I didn’t fancy anything, so I carried on, passing the chap from Oxford Tri Club who was refuelling. We called out to each other and I said I’d see him again soon. Sure enough, he passed me on the way up the next hill.
Before the event, my strategy had been to stop every 25-30km to drink and take on nutrition. I’m terrible at eating and drinking whilst moving, but I just didn’t want to stop, so I forced myself to drink as much as possible. I had a bottle of pink grapefruit High-5 with caffeine in it and a bottle of water. To be honest, I’d much rather drink water, but I knew that just some water wouldn’t be enough to sustain me for the entire event. I also had a small flapjack and a few black cherry shotbloks. I tried to take small bites of the flapjack as I struggle to chew and swallow it whilst cycling. Old habits die hard and several times I bit off more than I should have! I was really pleased that I drank 75% of my electrolyte drink and about 25% of my water.
By the time I reached the tank museum, I was feeling fantastic. Had I been cycling too hard? I had managed to drop the chap from Oxford Tri Club and seemed to be cycling alone. The last section of the course was great as I was familiar with it. I knew that there were no more hills coming up, just a gentle incline that was barely noticeable, so I started pushing the pace.
Fear of a mechanical
I’ve had my road bike for a year and in that time I’ve only ever had one puncture. (It was on a steep hill in Cornwall, whilst on a 100km ride with Stu and Donna). I tried to fix it myself, but the tyre would not budge. My colleagues started asking me whether I had tubs. After a lot of huffing and puffing with the tyre levers, we managed to replace the inner tube. The experience meant that getting a puncture was something I feared most about the race. If it happened, it would take me so long to fix it that I would end up finishing with the last iron-distance competitors.
When I got to the final 10k, I felt relieved. If I needed to run with my bike, I could manage the distance. (The fact that I was wearing cleats wasn’t something that I considered!) I was also glad to see that my average pace had been creeping up and was around 24.1kph. The Garmin Sharp Ride Out had given me confidence that I could ride consistently at 25kph without exhausting myself, so I was pushing as hard as possible to reach that target. Although I didn’t make that time, I was pleased that I managed to remain ‘in the zone’. If I cycle on my own for more than 45 minutes, I tend to start daydreaming and my pace drops.
When I turned at the final roundabout, I could already see people running on the seafront, so I started to pick up my cadence to get my legs ready for what was coming. I undid my shoes and slipped my feet out of them. As soon as I reached the dismount line, I jumped off and passed my bag to the waiting marshal.
How did I do?
My time for the bike was 3:47:02 – 116/131 women.
I was delighted that I had beaten my targets. My realistic target was 4:15-4:30 with an optimistic target of 4:00-4:15. I was even more surprised that I finished within 2-3 minutes of James N., Roelie and Clare, all of whom I would consider to be much better cyclists than me.
I ran around the corner to where my transition bag was lined up.
I quickly found my bag and stopped by it to grab a couple of bits. A marshal called out to me saying that I had to go into the changing tent. I then heard someone else say my name and was surprised to see James in amongst the transition bags. He had been quite a long way ahead on the bike, so I had expected him to be long gone on the run. He wasn’t having a very lucky day.
I put on my trainers, abandoned my helmet, headband and sunglasses and grabbed my visor. After a quick puff of my inhaler, I was off… This transition only took me 2:40, which placed me 8th in my category and 46th female, so it was by far my best discipline of the day!