I grabbed my bike as quickly as possible, attached my Garmin and ran towards the mount line. I was surprised to see that almost everyone else was holding onto their handlebars or bars and saddle – I may not be quick, but at least funny and pushing my bike whilst holding onto the saddle is something that I can do!
The race briefing and endless information about possible infringements had really out the fear into me. We had been warned that crossing the centre line could result in disqualification, so I was really torn about what to do. Lots of people seemed to be struggling to clip in and were weaving all over the road. In the end I decided that as there were already plenty of cyclists on the right hand side and that it was a closed road, I would probably be OK.
It was quite a fun heading out of Dun Laoghaire, as I recognised the road. I was feeling confident, but started to get a bit worried when I was passing people with aero helmets and disc wheels on tri bikes… Did they know something I didn’t know? I wondered whether I had started out far too quickly. (Having driven along the same road this morning, I’ve realised that it was on a slight incline), but I’m surprised that some of the people I passed never passed me again, and the ones who did, too nearly 70km to do it!
I was very conscious that I shouldn’t draft, but quickly realised that if people passed me I didn’t need to freewheel as they were well out of range by the time I had counted to 10 (5 in most cases!)
I was surprised at how quickly I was in Dublin by the Liffey – a journey that had taken an hour in the car took a matter of minutes on a fast bike on a clear road (and by going via the toll bridge).
I decided to change my Garmin screen to a screen that I was more familiar with, but I couldn’t find a cycling distance or average speed, so I decided that I would just have to aim to get each km split at 25kph.
I really miss the distance markers that are the norm at running races, but rare at triathlons. It’s really nice to be able to see the distance ticking off. There were pockets of support out on the course and despite my terrible bike handling skills, I was able to wave or give a thumbs up to some of the groups of children who were waving and cheering. (I know most of you won’t approve of this, but I’m sure Liz would think it was OK). A lot if the supporters seemed to be particularly encouraging to female triathletes, which I thought was really nice.
About 15km in, I noticed something on my front tyre. My tyres have been on my road bike for just over two years, and although I don’t cycle as often as I should, it’s probably nearly time to change them. They have been incredibly reliable and I have only had one puncture (last summer in Cornwall on a horrible road), but I know they are starting to get worn, so I was really worried that it was a flap of rubber 🙁 (My car tyre has a loose flap on the side, but the local mechanic has told me that it’s fine for now). I started to envision having a blow out whilst going at speed, which made me feel quite nervous. Many people will probably ask why I didn’t stop to investigate my tyre, but if it was damaged, what could I do? There were mobile mechanics on the course, but I had no idea where they might be and I didn’t have a spare tyre with me… And I only had one inner tube. I am also a lousy bike mechanic and dread to think about how long it would take me to replace an innertube in a race scenario. (*I checked my tyre after the race and found that it was a piece of black tape that had attached itself to my tyre – grrrr!)
Most of the roads were really smooth and well maintained, but the manhole covers made me a bit wary. As I got into Dublin, it started to rain – not hard, more of what I’d call ‘mizzle’, a misty drizzle that made it hard to see out of my sunglasses and made the roads feel greasy. Anyway, the manhole covers seemed to come in groups of 8, so I had to make sure that I aimed through the middle of them.
I panicked a few times on the bike course. I took one corner too quickly, hit some gravel and was lucky to maintain control of my bike, which made my heart beat a little faster. I also went to snack on some nuts when a course bike went to pass me. The motorcyclist said something to me and I was worried that I had inadvertently got too close to the woman in the front. (We had just gone through a feed station and quite a few bikes were in a clump). Luckily, the motorcyclist was just telling me to go ahead and that he would pass when there was more room. Later on, a marshal started waving a hits card at me. I really had no idea what rule I had broken and didn’t know what a white card penalty was. Luckily, I heard the woman behind calling out ‘thank you’ to him and realised that the marshal was simply being friendly and supportive! My last panic was when I tried to get something out of my overfill bento box and my tissues accidentally blew away. It wasn’t intentional littering, but there was no way I could safely stop and go back to retrieve them.
I saw a cyclist who had some kind of mechanical just as we reached the toll bridge in Dublin, another female cyclist who seemed to be having a puncture repair with the mobile van and one poor girl whose rear mech hanger had broken up a short hill after a tight corner, but I didn’t see anyone at the side of the road fixing a puncture on their own. However, I did see a huge numbers of items in the road: bottles, gels, bottle holders, bike bags, pumps and lots of high end sports sunglasses. I don’t think any of these were intentionally discarded.
There were a couple of km in the middle of the ride where I struggled to maintain a pace over 24kph and I found it tough to do well on the final hill, but my strategy of doing each km at over 25km/h paid off. Despite not having done very much cycling this year, my final average was 26.59km/h. I know the course was flatter than most, but I rarely ride for so long with no breaks at all.
I didn’t eat or drink as much as I should have done on the bike; I had two shot bloks, a dozen nuts, about 250ml of nuun Kona cola and 125ml water. I had packed a bottle of strawberry protein shake in my back pocket, but when I took it out to drink it, I realised that over half of it had gone – some had been spilled earlier in the day, but I think the rest was up my back 🙁 I think I need to find a better way of packing things into my bento box, without my inhaler getting in the way.
We had been warned about a hill at about 85km and were told that the pub next to it (The Anglers’ Rest), would be a hotspot for spectators. Sadly, this was not to be – there were a few locals in the beer garden, but none of them seemed particularly interested in the spectacle on the road. One poor Irish lad had got off his bike and was pushing it. I called out some words of encouragement, but he explained that his legs had cramped up and he just couldn’t do it. The hill wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected. There was then a flat section before another hill that took me by surprise. We then had a lovely smooth downhill section that took us to T2.
Usually, I do a flying dismount, but I had absolutely no idea where the dismount line was (there was no indication at all about where it might be, and a 400m out sign might also have helped). I was also still stressed about what the rules were. It wasn’t clear whether we could leave our shoes on our bikes and I didn’t want to catch one on the grass and lose it (or be charged with littering!) Admittedly, as I have quite small feet, this isn’t that likely to happen, but there is a slim chance.
I was really pleased to learn that my bike splits improved as the race went on, although perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised by this as the second half of the ride was a net downhill, in comparison with the first half which was a net uphill. My average pace was 26.63km/h which is better than I’ve ever managed before.
Weymouth bike time: 3:47:02
Dublin bike time: 3:23:05
Division rank: 71
As I arrived on my bike, I saw Stuart, which was nice. I dismounted and immediately started running whilst holding my saddle. I found it very odd that most of the cyclists who were near me were merely walking with their bicycles – did they not know they were in a race?!!
My bike needed to be racked at the far end of the field, so I ran quite a long way, and then as I got to numbers near mine I slowed down to look for the right spot. Bikes seemed to have been racked in all directions and I was too tired to think of the correct way. I hung my bike up as best I could, prayed that it wasn’t some sort of violation and grabbed my Garmin before heading into the change tent.
Yet again, my bag was easy to locate. I picked it up and went over to the chairs. I hadn’t planned to change my socks and have never done that before, but my socks were very wet and I thought dry socks might help me to run faster without any risk of blisters. I changed socks and shoes, decided that I didn’t need sunglasses or a visor and had a swig of water. Time to go!