I had mixed feelings as I headed out onto the run. I knew that I could complete the distance as I’ve run further before. My longest run in training had only been 8 miles, so I was a little daunted.
Getting a boost from seeing friends
I had only just turned right to head out on the first half lap when I spotted Stuart on his final lap. It was really nice to see him so soon on the run and gave me a little boost.
I continued west along the seafront, past the beach huts and a feed station. Then I heard a familiar voice shouting “Well done, Roelie!” I glanced across and saw Roelie heading back down the seafront and then saw Katherine sitting on the floor, eating her lunch. I assumed that she was eating a portion of chips, which made me feel hungry and crave salty food (however, Katherine later reassured me that she was eating a delicious and healthy salad).
I headed out around the sea tower before heading around past the finish.
The second half of the run
As I headed back on the second half of the run, I kept looking down towards the road where cyclists were still returning. Before long, I was rewarded by the sight of a solid fluorescent yellow helmet. It was Liz! I shouted hello and got a thumbs up in return. Liz looked like she was having a fantastic time and really enjoying herself. This spurred me on towards the end of the seafront, where there was another feed station.
The feed station at the east end was manned by people from Bustinskin, a local tri club who organise lots of great events (including quite a few tris and sea swims that I did this summer). The lady at the front of the station called out hello to me and commented that she had read my blog, which was both surprising and flattering. (Hello, if you’re reading this now!)
After I had passed the feed station, I saw James on the run for the first time. This gave me some motivation to push on as I hoped that I might be able to maintain my short lead despite starting to slow. (I had assumed that James would have left transition ahead of me, so it was also a pleasant surprise to see him).
At this point in the race, I started to feel really rough. I was struggling to breathe. Even though I slowed, it didn’t seem possible for me to inhale enough oxygen. What should I do? Frustration and panic were setting in. I kept moving and tried to calm myself down. Would my breathing settle? I tried to distract myself by watching out for any of my friends who might still be running.
At the far end of the seafront, I ran past a raised area where Ant, Lindsay and Ellie were supporting.
After running past them it was possible to see runners who had already passed the sea tower. I saw Liz and almost shouted to her, but decided to save my limited breath… and also hoped that I might manage to catch up with her.
Unfortunately, I started to feel worse and worse, which made me wonder what I should do. The portaloos were coming up, so I decided to take a quick break. A moment of sitting down might help to calm me down and I could also use my inhaler.
I started thinking a lot about my breathing and recollecting the number of long races that I’ve had in the past where I’ve felt ‘choked up’ towards the end. My previous assumption was that I was having an emotional moment in the face of an important achievement (such as when I was getting towards the end of Milton Keynes Marathon), but I’m now wondering whether it was a symptom of asthma that I didn’t recognise. I’ve also found that any race where I’ve put in a hard effort leaves me with a very sore and achy chest. That’s far worse than tired legs. I thought everyone experienced this, but Stuart doesn’t think so. Maybe it’s also tied up with my asthma. I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on this.
A moment of fame
Anyway, after my quick comfort break, I felt that I was able to continue, so I headed off past the finishing line again, knowing that the next time I got there, it would all be over.
As I headed out onto the back street, a bike went past me, and I realised that the leading lady, Eleanor Haresign, was just about to run past. This moment was captured for posterity and tweeted.
It looks as if I might be in 2nd place 🙂
As I was heading back along the seafront, I saw James Nicolas looking very pleased with himself. I think he must have been relieved that he was heading towards the finish line. He veered over and we high-fived each other. This aspect of Weymouth is one of the parts that I found really motivational. Usually, I dislike courses with laps, but I managed to entertain myself by watching out for people that I knew who were at different places all over the course.
At the next feed station, I decided that I would have an orange quarter as they looked delicious – really fresh and juicy. It tasted so good. I also had an energy gel, in the hope that it would give me a boost to get around the final lap.
The second half of the seafront is more exposed and as I headed out onto it, I realised that my breathing had not improved and I started to get increasingly worried about it. I knew that I could walk and would still be able to finish the race but felt disappointed that my body was letting me down.
It wasn’t long before I spied Liz, exiting the feed station. She looked like she was having a super time, sharing a laugh with some of the marshals and with the biggest smile imaginable on her face. If you’re ever feeling down, Liz is the best person to see. We waved to each other as we passed.
I tried to get my inhaler out to use it again but managed to throw it on the floor, and the two parts separated. I put it back together and had a quick puff before heading into the feed station. There were lots of treats on offer, but all I really wanted was some still cola and some water to wash it down with. It tasted delicious, but as I’ve never tried running after drinking cola, I didn’t want to knock back too much! I was also conscious that it would be doing bad things to my teeth!
Motivation from a friend and a pro
After heading out of the feed station, I saw James Saunders again, who seemed to have lost his earlier running partner and looked like he had picked up his pace. This spurred me on. James also made a comment about the distance of the run. This was something that had caused much consternation amongst my friends. Originally, we expected it to be 13.1 miles (21.1km), but the pre-race information described it as 15 miles. I was too tired to calculate what I’d done and how far the finish might be but managed to grasp that James thought the course might be shorter.
My running pace was not as quick as I had expected, so I had been trying to avoid looking at my watch. However, it was a real blow to realise that I was moving at about 7:30/km. I was at that low point when I was passed by someone at quite a speed. As she went by, she called out, “I love your kit. It’s so pretty!” I glanced at the runner’s name and saw that it was Charisa Wernick, one of the elites. It was so flattering that even during a big race, a pro had time to comment. Go Team SOAS!
Passing friends again
I kept pushing. Just as I turned the corner, I spotted someone in the familiar colours of STC… it was Liz! At last, I was finally catching up with her. She stopped for a quick hug with a friend. I managed to draw level, just as we reached the Lordshill/STC motivation station. Ant, Lindsay, Suzanne, Stuart and Katherine were there cheering. I said a few words to Liz, but as I was so close to the finish, I wanted to maintain the pace that I had.
I think my relief at nearing the end is obvious in the photos!
As I rounded the final corner before the finish, I tried to make sure that my clothes and race number belt were in place, in the hope that I’d get a good photo. What I failed to think about was my body position and smile – oops! I look awful in the photos, but just wanted to sit down for a bit.
The red carpet finish
I finished just as a pro was finishing, so I had to avoid all of the children with balloons.
How did I do?
The run (which was approx 21km in the end) took me 2:26:38. That is considerably slower than I had hoped for. I managed to smash my target of 7:59:59 by finishing in 7:24:54!
After finishing, I got something to eat and put on some warm clothes before going out to cheer on Liz.
Liz looked so happy as she got onto the red carpet for her finish.
I think Liz ran the entire length of the red carpet with her arms in the air!!!
Overall, this was a truly amazing experience and I definitely want to do another half iron distance triathlon!
This video gives a flavour of what the experience was like for the pros
What’s your favourite half iron-distance race and why?