This was the first Olympic distance triathlon that I did last year, so I decided to enter it to try to beat my time. I also thought it would be a good race to do as it involves a sea swim and I haven’t done any sea swims so far this year.
Unfortunately, the day didn’t start well. I spent yesterday evening organising everything and Stuart set a 5am alarm, before having an early night. I slept well… but probably a little too well. When I woke, I decided to check the time, rather than waiting for the alarm to go off – aarrgghh! It was just after 6am. We had hoped that getting up at 5 would ensure that we would be on the road before 6am, but that wasn’t to be.
Stuart and I dressed as quickly as possible and took our breakfasts out to the car. Stu managed to eat a slice of peanut butter on toast, but I realised that adding whey powder to my pre-race favourite of porridge with ground almonds and dried apricots had made it completely unpalatable. It had a strange texture and a really unpleasant taste, so I gave up trying to eat it and hoped that I would have enough energy to complete the race. At that point, I also realised that all of the food I had carefully prepared to take with me was still in the fridge 🙁
Race registration was due to close at 7:30am and we didn’t leave until 6:20am, so we knew there was a risk that we would miss the race. At times, there was some traffic, but we managed to get to the car park and we directed to a space that wasn’t far from registration (although we weren’t sure where registration was and wandered around the entire car park before going into the right building.
We took our race packs back to the car and stuck the labels on our bikes, bags and swimming hats so that we would be able to enter transition. We put our rucksacks on and cycled to the start.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to get ready, which made me a bit stressed. I had hoped to have enough time to get myself really well-organised. I’d also read this week about the importance of doing a ‘reverse tri’ before the start of a real triathlon – the article suggested that I should go for a 5-minute run, followed by a 5-minute bike run and then 5 minutes in the water. This sounded sensible – the run gets your heart-rate up, the ride ensures your bike is in the right gear and the time in the water helps you to acclimatise.
After the race briefing, I rushed back to transition as I needed to put my race belt down and grab my goggles, ear plugs and swimming hats (I hate the free latex hats that are given out at races, so I like to wear my own silicone hat underneath). We were then told to hurry down to the beach as the race was about to start.
I managed to get nearly waist deep in the water before we were told to return to shore. I had put my face in the water and although it was a bit cold (16.5 C) it didn’t feel too bad. In the briefing, we had been told that the race would start in the water, but this wasn’t quite true – we had to start at the water’s edge. I was a little disappointed as I wanted to properly acclimatise, but it couldn’t be helped and at least we’d made the start.
The start horn sounded and we were off. I was able to stride out a bit before I started swimming, but I found that I wasn’t able to breathe. I was also surprised by how much salt I could taste as soon as I put my face in the water (no, I wasn’t trying to drink it, but it was seeping in through my pores!)
I struggled to get my breathing under control and don’t think that my swimming strokes would be acceptable at tri club, but at least I was moving. I tried to swim normally, but it was very choppy, so if I swam the way I usually do, breathing every 3 strokes, I found that I kept getting a face-full of water. I decided to switch to an even pattern so that I was just breathing to my left, but I was too panicky to breathe every four and found that I was hyperventilating when I tried to breathe every 2 strokes. The only thing that made me feel better was that I was surrounded by others swimmers and knew that I was ahead of a few people.
A positive about the swim was that we had to swim out a long way from the shore, whereas in previous years, we haven’t swum out as far and have had to swim a long way parallel to the shore which has looked much further from the shoreline.
I turned at the buoy and saw that the distance to the other marker buoy wasn’t far, which was good as there was quite a swell. Later on, people told me that they saw quite a few jellyfish near to the buoys. I can see much better in the water than last year, but I didn’t notice any jellyfish, which was a relief.
The swim back to shore was much better. If I’m not bilateral breathing then I prefer to breathe to my right, however, I had my breathing under control and breathing every 3 seemed OK. I could also see that there were still plenty of swimmers in sight, which made me feel a sense of relief that I wasn’t going to be last on the swim.
The last 25m of the swim was fairly shallow, so I waded to the shore and then up onto the shingle. I was very close to three other women and could probably have beaten one or two of them if I hadn’t removed my goggles and then promptly dropped them in the sea – doh!
- Last year: 53:38
- This year: 33:06 (20:32 faster) 58/64
During the briefing, we had been reassured that the swim course was accurately measured. My Garmin made it a couple of hundred metres short, however, I can’t compare it with last year when I accidentally clicked the lap button on my watch halfway through the swim. Either way, I’m really pleased that there is evidence that I have made progress – I was 20:32 faster!
It had started raining a bit, so I struggled to get my socks on (yes, I do need them!) and I faffed around a bit. However, my lack of organisation held me back. I think I just about managed to squeak some progress on last year as I didn’t need to insert contact lenses!
- Last year: 3:22
- This year: 2:46 (0:38 faster) 50/64
I glanced at my watch when I went out onto the bike and was surprised by how well my swim seemed to have gone. I could still see someone in the sea and started to wonder whether I had somehow taken on a short cut on the swim and would, therefore, be disqualified later. This was something I pondered several times during the race. Could I really have improved that much?
The bike course is an out and back to Wool that has a fairly long climb early on out of Weymouth before dropping back down to Wool. It started with a left-hand turn before going around a roundabout and heading back past where we started. Somehow I ended up in the wrong lane and suddenly realised that I was going in the wrong direction. I managed to pull over, unclip one foot and then had to clamber across a traffic island to get back on track – oops!
I managed to pick up my speed a bit but was soon passed by a female cyclist. Then it was on to the long, hard climb out of Weymouth. I managed to get about halfway up before I was passed by a male cyclist. I kept pushing as hard as I could as I was determined to beat my average pace from last year (and also wanted to hit an average pace over 25kph, which is the fastest pace I’ve ever managed to maintain). At that point, I decided to have a cherry shot blok as the strong flavour would take away the salty taste in my mouth.
I started pushing harder and was really motivated when I got to the main turn and saw Stuart shortly afterwards. When I neared the turn, I was really cheered by seeing lots of cyclists who didn’t seem to be too far ahead – I started to believe that I could catch up with them.
When I got to the final turnaround point, I was averaging over 27kph and feeling strong. I got halfway around the roundabout… and was hit by the wind. I hadn’t realised there was a tailwind on the ride out (I just thought I was doing really well!) The ride back was really hard, but I could see a cyclist ahead and decided to do what I could to catch up with her and then pass her.
One thing that I didn’t like about the bike ride was the number of dead animals on the road, it was like this:
I finally caught up with the female cyclist ahead and managed to pass her. I then kept pushing and saw a male cyclist on the final hill heading back into Weymouth. He seemed to be struggling, so I decided to chase him down.
I had discussed my nutrition strategy with Sam and he advised me to eat some dark chocolate on the bike. I foolishly decided that I would eat a piece of chocolate whilst trying to go uphill. It was dry and wouldn’t melt, so I decided not to try another piece and had a bit of my nuun Kona cola drink.
The male cyclist got to the big downhill before me, and I’m still a bit nervous on hills (especially as the road was quite slick by that stage), so I couldn’t catch up with him. (I think he may have had some weight on his side too).
As I passed by the side of Lodmore Country Park, I saw Stuart turning on the run, so I shouted to him. He raised a hand in acknowledgement, which made me feel good. I knew that he would be more than 15 minutes ahead of me, so he must be on his second lap.
I wanted to save time in transition, so I decided to remove my Garmin from its bike mount and put it back onto the wrist strap. I couldn’t click it on and realised that I needed to brake at the roundabout, so I quickly put my watch down the front of my top. After the roundabout, I got my watch back out and put it on the wrist strap, but realised that I had pressed something and it was on a screen I didn’t recognise. I tried to get it back to normal, but couldn’t. I pressed the lap/reset button and saw it click onto T2 – oops! I had hoped to beat my time from last year, but now had no idea whether I was on track.
I finally passed the male cyclist on the road back to transition. I had wanted to remove my mitts and use my inhaler but didn’t have enough time on the bike. I took my feet out of my shoes and nearly lost a shoe on the road as I couldn’t get it the right way up. Next time, I’ll not try to get my shoes off whilst cycling uphill.
- Last year: 1:32:11 (23.9 kph)
- This year: 1:33:20 (25.1 kph) (+1:09, but a longer course) 59/64
As it had rained hard when I was out on the bike, all of my kit was soaked, so I decided not to pick up my visor. It had also stopped raining, so I wasn’t too worried about having driving rain on my face. I put on my shoes, grabbed my inhaler and was off. As usual, T2 was my best discipline of the day, although I was not as good as Stu, who managed a 42 second T2 and was the fastest competitor of the day!
- Last year: 1:42
- This year: 1:02 (40 seconds faster) 17/64
My goal for the run was to finish in under an hour. I was a little concerned that I had perhaps run too hard at parkrun yesterday, so my strategy was to start in a steady manner and try to keep under 6:00/km.
Fortunately, the run started with a downhill section, which allowed me to make good progress without getting out of breath.
I like the run route as it reminded me of the triathlons that I did in Weymouth last year and all of the happy memories from that time. I passed a few spectators who told me that I was running well, which gave me a boost.
After a while, I saw another runner up ahead in a turquoise t-shirt, so I decided to try to chase her down. It took me a few more minutes, but I managed to pass the other runner and then headed into the country park. There were some ladies from the sprint distance walking two abreast, so I called out ‘excuse me’ to them and they stepped aside so that I could pass. I then got to the junction: left for lap 2 and right for the finish. I collected a wristband and then headed left for my second lap.
I was still feeling quite good although my pace had started to slow a little. When I got to the drinks station, I grabbed a cup of water and had a mouthful before picking the pace back up. I kept an eye on my average pace and was pleased that although I had slowed, I was still comfortably under 6:00/km.
There was another female runner up ahead, this time in a turquoise vest. She looked like she was slowing, so I put in a bit more effort and passed the other runner.
As I turned right at the final junction, I showed the marshal my wristband and straightened my race number. I had to cross a car park and could see someone else in a turquoise top – it was Stu waiting to cheer me in 🙂
There was a slight incline towards the race finish, but I gave it everything I had and was delighted that I had beaten last year’s run time by over 10 minutes.
- Last year: 1:08:49
- This year: 54:50 (11:59 faster) 48/64
Overall, I had a fantastic race.
- Last year: 3:39:42
- This year: 3:05:04 (34:38 faster) 55/64
If only I could have dug a bit deeper and been 5 seconds faster!
The marshals from Bustinskin Tri Club were fantastic as always and there were some great goodies: a technical t-shirt, buff, water bottle and giant medal for everyone.