IRONMAN 70.3 Weymouth

I first took up triathlon after watching the Ironman World Championships and thinking that looked like a tough challenge. I had a rough schedule in my mind: do an Olympic distance next year and think about Weymouth the year after.

As it happens, I ended up doing my first middle distance race in my first year and my first full distance race this year. But I was keen to do Weymouth anyway as that had been the goal at some point.

If nothing else, it was still a challenging course. A sea swim and an undulating bike course would be much harder than Allerthorpe. Especially as last year was the weekend they cancelled. Leo South due to gale force winds. IRONMAN halved the swim and advised people to use their shallow wheels.

Preparation

I arrived in Weymouth on Wednesday. We were staying for a week, combining the race with a family and friends holiday. I took a spin down the promenade on Thursday morning to suss everything out.

Being there early meant I could register first thing on Friday morning, avoiding any queues. I also took in the Friday evening athletes’ briefing. On Saturday, we had specific time slots to rack our bikes, but there were no queues at 1 pm even if you were not in your slot.

I had a splash around in the sea on Thursday and Saturday and a bit more of a swim in my wetsuit on Friday. I also did Weymouth parkrun on Saturday morning.

Pre-race

Elina came with me to the start. I got up at 6 am, had a pretty boring breakfast and then headed out just before 6. When we arrived at the start, they announced the swim had been cut in half due to safety concerns. I am not sure what they were as the sea was calmer than Redcar. Lack of water safety crew, perhaps?

I set my bike up, dropped my finish like bag off and queued for a toilet. Finally, I put my wetsuit on and prepared for the race.

This was probably the hardest hard. I still had 30 minutes to wait as they had delayed the start due to the shortened swim, and then it took them a full hour to get us all into the water. Staying warm for this length of time is hard (star jumps in a wetsuit) and although they had carpet down, this only started just before the start line, so we were stood on stones for over an hour. By the time I got to the start, my feet were in agony, I was cold, fed up and ready to have a little cry.

I would have quite liked to give up at this point. Unfortunately, there were two problems with this. One was that even if I pulled out of the reason, I wouldn’t magically be transported back to my nice warm home. So, I might as well do the swim. Second, was that I don’t give up easily. It’s probably a personality flaw. But quite useful in this instance.

We finally reached the carpet where volunteers were letting people into the water one-by-one, to allow plenty of space between swimmers. I don’t think that happens in Kona.

The swim

After being in a cold and rainy beach for hours, the sea was lovely and warm to jump in. it was a triangular course with an out, along the waves, and then back into the shore. I took it steady using a mixture of breaststroke with some added front crawl whenever I decided I was moving too slowly.

I think swimming out into the waves is the easiest. Moving along the waves is hard because they keep slamming into your side when you are not expecting it. And swimming back towards shore gives you a quick bump forward, then a long pull back before the next wave.

Transition 1

I took 27 minutes in the swim (with a cut off of 35) plus 10 minutes of transition should have given me plenty of time to get changed and ready. Unfortunately, it was rather stressful as a marshall kept yelling “get out, you need to get out, we’re closing the doors in 6/3 minutes”, despite athletes still being in the water. I made it out and took a precautionary toilet stop on the way to my bike.

The bike

Weymouth is a tough bike course. It is a 90km circular route that just seems to go uphill all of the way. There was barely a flat inch on the course so I spent very little time on my aero bars. Some descents, but mostly climbs, including three categorised climbs (by that I mean they were marked on RideWithGPS). The hardest maxed out about 12%, so not Yorkshire-tough, but still unpleasant in the middle of a seven-hour race.

The hills did not give much time back: the descents were often narrow, muddy and covered in rainwater so blasting down them was difficult, especially with so many other athletes on the course.

There was a tonne of punctures. I have never seen so many people changing tyres on the side of the road. Luckily, my tubeless tyres and I did not run into any problems.

Because of all of the climbing, my lower back started hurting quite early on. This eased off as the race went on, and the pain shifted to my bottom being fed up of sitting on the saddle. Despite my overshoes, my shoes were squelching inside them.

I took a gel every 10 kilometres, planning to have a break to stop and stretch at 30km and 60km. As it happens I was feeling a little better by 60km so I carried on until 80km for my final stop-riding-for-a-minute break.

It was at least warm and the fact that I had dropped my gloves in a puddle during T1 did not matter as I did not need them.

Transition 2

I racked my bike and took another brief toilet break before heading into the tent. The fall of my left foot was hurting quite a bit but was fine once I got up and started running. There was less time pressure with this transition as I was well below the 4.5-hour cut-off.

The run

The run was 4.5 loops of the promenade, starting at transition and ended up at the other end of Weymouth seafront where the finish line was located. Early doors it was dwelling on my mind that 21 kilometres was a lot of kilometres but I soon settled into an easy rhythm.

We had all of the weather on the run. I took my suncream with me and ended up applying some more to my arms mid-run. An hour later and heavy rain washed most of it off. I felt rather tight in my legs so I alternated between isotonic and cola at the feed stations (or, on one occasion, taking both). I purposely walked each feed station but otherwise ran all of the way.

It was busy on the run course when I started but began to thin out the longer I was running. There was still plenty of volunteers and supplies at all of the aid stations. On the final lap, I treated myself to one last wee to make sure I was not distracted at the finish.

As I headed to the finish, I found my friends cheering me on at the corner and Elina and Venla on the finishing straight. I stopped to give Venla a high-five. I punched the air as I crossed the finish line in what I hoped would look cool but, in reality, looked more like some strange body twist.

Apparently, I was “very excited to be here”, according to the commentator. And I was.

Post race

After the race, we were all given a few slices of Domino’s pizza. I managed to eat them which is far better than I managed after Sundowner. I went to say high to Elina and Venla, then went for a massage, picked up my finishers bag and put some warm clothing on.

I stuck around the finish line to watch the final finishers come across the line.

The finishers t-shirt was a bit rubbish, which I assume is to drive us to buy the nice paid-for merchandise available in the shop. Which I did, because it was lovely gear. It would have been nice to have a shuttle bus back to transition to collect my bike as the additional 2km kilometre walk was not a welcome one. But I made it and managed to slowly cycle back to our accommodation in time for tea.

The result

My official time was:

7:28:01

Which is 12 seconds faster than my time at Sundowner! But do not get excited too soon. Sundowner was a full-length swim, so when you add on the extra 25 minutes the swim should have taken me, my pace was slower.

I am happy, though. I knew Weymouth was going to be a hard course and did not expect to set a faster time than Sundowner, so this was in line with my expectations.

Section Weymouth Sundowner
Swim 27:06 50:20
T1 11:15 7:35
Bike 3:46:10 3:34:01
T2 11:44 7:12
Run 2:11:44 2:09:05
Total 6:48:01 6:48:13

That was good enough for 1,703rd place. It was a big transition and I had toilet breaks, so everything I would expect: slightly slower transition times, much slower pace on the bike due to the hills and a very similar run split.

Conclusion

This is a cool event and I am pleased that I did it. It was hard, too, though. If you go do something like Castle Howard or Helvellyn and think “this is a fun challenge” then you will love this race. But, if you think “this is why I love Allerthorpe”, you will probably want to stick to easier courses.

I think my biggest takeaway is that I do need to bring some clothing and footwear for queuing up in before the start of big races. And to work on my victory celebration.

Timeline

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This entry was posted on Monday, September 30th, 2019 at 11:00 am and is filed under Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.