Two years ago, I took part in Long Course Weekend. I’d originally entered the full distance, but when I got pregnant, I realised that I wouldn’t be able to do the full event. I loved the experience, so we agreed that we would come back when M was a bit older so that I could do the full distances.
M is not a good sleeper, so my training has taken a nosedive this year. It’s been very frustrating for me as I spend most evenings getting M to sleep and therefore do not go out. As a consequence, I decided to downgrade my distances to the half swim, bike and run.
The good: the swim
I’ve swum less than 10 times this year, so I was quite nervous about whether I would actually be able to swim 1900m. Stu and I did a test swim on Wednesday, which was OK. The water felt a little cold, but not too bad. However, neither of us swam very far – just enough to check that our wetsuits fitted!
On the evening of the event, I felt really nervous. When I got into the water, it felt quite warm, which was a relief. I had positioned myself near the back as I knew I would be one of the slowest swimmers.
I started at a steady pace and just kept going.
The swim course is essentially a triangle. It felt like it took me a long time to reach the first turn buoy. I looked around and was surprised to see that there were a lot of other swimmers around me and quite a few behind me. My main concern was that I had used too much of my energy too soon and that I would get progressively slower as I swam further.
The second half of the swim
The swim leg across the bay was quite challenging as there were a lot of boats. At one point, I felt like I was on my own and worried that I had gone off course, but when I looked around, I realised that there were swimmers a few metres to my left and some more a few metres to my right, so I assumed that I was doing OK.
Finally, I reached the turn buoy on the far side of the bay, near to the lifeboat station. The water was much more choppy and it was getting harder to swim.
As I turned back to the beach, the sun was in my eyes and I realised that I couldn’t see well enough to sight accurately. I just kept swimming. As I got towards the beach, I noticed some of the fastest swimmers doing the 3.8k swim going past me. I had expected to see them much earlier, so that was a surprise.
At one point, I realised a safety kayaker was speaking to me – the current was dragging swimmers across the bay, so if I didn’t swim to my left, I would end up swimming into Goskar rock!
Finally, I was out of the water, I didn’t have enough energy left to high five children who were clapping and I only managed a feeble jog.
When I saw my finish time, I couldn’t believe it:
My previous best for a 1.9km swim was about 55 minutes, so to knock 5 minutes off that with very little training was such a lovely surprise.
The bad: the bike
Probably the less said about this part of the weekend, the better.
I asked Stu before we left Southampton whether we needed to charge up our bikes as they have electronic shifters, but he said they’d be fine. I thought no more of it until we were heading out of the chalet on Saturday morning. It was a short ride from where we were staying to the start of the Wales Cycle. On the way there, Stu said that there was a problem and that he wasn’t able to change gear. I was concerned, but he said he’d be fine.
We got in the pen with others and had a little while to chat. At about 10:40, it was time for us to start.
We crossed the line and headed away from town. Just a couple of kilometres in, we got to a hill. It wasn’t a big hill, but it was enough for me to want to change gear… but I couldn’t. Unfortunately, my bike also needed to be charged up 🙁
We turned around and rolled back to the campsite. That was the end of our sportive.
The ugly: the run
We got up early to head to Five Arches to get on a coach to Pembroke. Unfortunately, when we had transferred our places from the marathon, we were not told that we needed to buy coach tickets and when a friend checked for us later, she was told that it wasn’t necessary.
The coach drivers had checklists and we were not on them. There were a lot of people in a similar predicament. After a lot of nervous waiting, we were allowed to get on a coach.
Stu and I were joined by several other members of STC including Dean, Martin, Angela and Becca.
Angela said that she would run with me, so we started together.
It was a hot and sunny day and my lack of training quickly became apparent, so I encouraged Angela to run on without me.
I knew the second half of my run because I had done the 10k two years earlier. I was a lot fitter then and felt frustrated that I was running more slowly than when I was pregnant.
Towards the end, I started walking, but I saw Becky Tovey (former STC member and Romsey Road Runner). She shouted encouragement and I started running again.
Towards the finish, I saw my mum and M and then I passed my friends from STC.
It was great to reach the red carpet.
I finished. It was of my slowest ever half marathons – I think I finished Weymouth Half only a minute or two slower and that was at the end of a half ironman.
I’ve definitely got unfinished business in Tenby and hope that I can come back and complete the full Long Course Weekend one day.