Tag Archives: half ironman

Ironman Weymouth 70.3 – my A race for 2016

9 Nov

Woo hoo! I’ve now entered my final A race for 2016 (with the other two being Southampton Half Marathon in April and Long Course Weekend in July).

However, this wasn’t because I’d been repeatedly nagged to enter more Ironman events by Ironman:

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There are a lot of other events that I’d like to try in 2016, but as usual, I need to try to be at least a bit restrained and not enter everything!!!

I’m really excited about doing Ironman Weymouth 70.3 for several reasons:

  • I loved doing Weymouth Half as my firs half iron distance race in 2014
  • It’s not too far from where I live
  • It has great crowd support
  • I’m hoping it will be good preparation for doing Ironman Weymouth in 2016

Have you planned your A races for next season yet? What do you want to enter and why?

Ironman Dublin 70.3 – The Bike

10 Aug

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!

At the bottom of the first hill

That’s me in the background © Action Photography


Starting to tackle the hill ©Action Photography

bottom of hill 2

Ready to go for it © Action Photography

Cycling up a hill

Tackling the hill – and still down on the drops 🙂 © Action Photography

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).

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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.

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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.

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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!

T2: 4:22

(Weymouth: 2:26)

Ironman Dublin 70.3 – The swim

10 Aug

We got up early and got ready quickly. Breakfast was just a Fuel protein porridge pot, but I was feeling so nervous that I didn’t think I could eat any more. We had agreed to meet Steve in the lobby at 6am, but we there ready and waiting by 5:50am. I was glad that we hadn’t stayed in central Dublin as we would have needed to get the shuttle bus out to Dun Laoghaire.

Monday Morning Motivation – Tamsyn Smith

3 Aug

Woohoo! I’m featuring myself as this week’s Monday Morning Motivation, just because I can! At the end of this week, I’ll be taking part in my second half ironman, but I was interviewed by Just Racing (on June 4th) as one of their inspirational stories ahead of the second Challenge Weymouth event:


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Ironman Dublin 70.3 is fast approaching

28 Jul

I am starting to feel so nervous about this race, but I’ve been doing my best to prepare.

I bought a new wetsuit last week. I chose a Zone3 Aspire as it had good reviews and I was able to try it on locally. According to the size guide, I thought I would be a Medium or possibly a Small Medium, but I ended up buying a Small 😀

I’ve also joined Triathlon England. I need a race licence for Dublin and had the choice of paying about €20 for a one day licence or £40 for an annual licence, so I opted for the latter.

The official athlete guide is now available online: http://m.ironman.com/~/media/27065a1e6a7a4e108ef4099e150e2c5e/imdub%20athlete%20guide%202015%20v2.pdf

We’ll be registering on Friday and will also go to a novice focussed briefing, but I’ll try not to be lured into the expo as I really don’t need to buy lots of merchandise!

On Saturday 8th, we will be going to the official swim practice in the morning. We will also be going to T1 to rack our bikes and T2 to check in our bags.

The big day:

7:40 My wave starts

8:50 swim cut off

10:00 12km bike cut off

11:20 42km bike cut off

13:00 79km bike cut off

16:00 lap 3 run cut off (about 14km)

16:10 run cut off

I’m hoping to be finished before 3pm.

This weekend, I found out my race number:


This means you can follow me on the race tracker!

Fundraising for the Chestnut Appeal

25 Jan

Chestnut Appeal logoThis year, Stuart and I are raising money for the Chestnut Appeal, which supports men with prostate cancer in the south-west. It is an important charity that has funded six nurses and a variety of treatments and equipment.



The events that we are doing:

I only started learning to swim in 2013 and neither of us has ever swum more than 2.8k before, so this is going to take a lot of training. Stuart and I are hoping that you’ll support us on our way to completing this tough year… and that you’ll also sponsor us to help our chosen charity. To make this easy, we have set up a JustGiving account:


Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity. So it’s the most efficient way to donate – saving time and cutting costs for the charity.

We are hoping to raise £200 (about US$300), and are very grateful to everyone who has already sponsored us, as we’re already a third of the way there. It is possible to donate in a variety of currencies, including GB£, US$ and €. Every donation, no matter how small, will make a difference to someone’s life.

Massive THANK YOU to Rob, Neil, Henry, Di, Clare, Ellie, Gary, Chris and Adrian – your generous donations are much appreciated 🙂

Good Fri Tri finishers

Stuart and I at the end of the Good Fri Tri


Weymouth half – the run

23 Sep

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, but I was a little daunted as my longest run in training had only been 8 miles.

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. I then heard a familiar voice shouting “Well done, Roelie!” I glanced across and saw Roelie heading back down the seafront and then glanced across to see 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).

© Marathon-Photos

Lap 1 © Marathon-Photos

© Marathon-Photos

Lap 1 © Marathon-Photos

I headed out around the sea tower before heading around past the finish.

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 feedstation.

The feedstation at the east end was manned by people from Bustinskin – a local triclub who organise lots of great events (including quite a few tris and seaswims 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 and even though I slowed, it didn’t seem possible for me to inhale enough oxygen. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I felt frustrated and a little bit panicky. I kept moving and tried to calm myself down in the hope that my breathing would settle. I also tried to distract myself by watching out for any of my friends who might still be running.

© Marathon-Photos

Lap 2 © Marathon-Photos

© Marathon-Photos

Lap 2 © Marathon-Photos

At the far end of the seafront, I ran past a raised area where Ant, Lindsay and Ellie were supporting.

Tamsyn running in Weymouth

© Katherine Anteney

Tamsyn running in Weymouth

Finally, I could see Ant, Lindsay, Katherine and Ellie.

Tamsyn running in Weymouth

Eleanore managed to capture me running from a vantage point © Eleanore Coulthard

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. I knew the portaloos were coming up, so I decided to take a quick break. I figured that 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. I always assumed 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 the symptoms 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 – far worse than tired legs. I thought everyone experienced this, but Stuart doesn’t think so, so maybe it’s also tied up with my asthma. I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on this.

Tamsyn running in Weymouth

It was good to see some friendly faces © Eleanore Coulthard

Tamsyn running in Weymouth

I wasn’t enjoying the run so much here, but at least I knew it was nearly over with © Eleanore Coulthard

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.

Tamsyn running in Weymouth

Not finishing this time! © Katherine Anteney

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.

Tweeted photo showing me with Eleanor Haresign

For just a few moments I kept pace with Eleanor Haresign

It looks as if I might be in 2nd place 🙂

With race leader Eleanor Haresign

With race leader Eleanor Haresign

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 feedstation, 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 teh 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!

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.

I had been trying to avoid looking at my watch as I knew that my running pace was not as quick as I had expected, 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!

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, and I managed to draw level, just as we reached the Lordshill/STC motivation station where Ant, Lindsay, Suzanne, Stuart and Katherine were 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!

Lap 3 © Marathon-photos

Lap 3 © Marathon-photos

Lap 3 © Marathon-photos

Lap 3 © Marathon-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.

I finished just as a pro was finishing, so I had to avoid all of the children with balloons.

Tamsyn running in Weymouth

The red carpet to the finish

Tamsyn running in Weymouth

It was such a relief to see the finish arch © Katherine Anteney

© Marathon-Photos

© Marathon-Photos

© Marathon-Photos

© Marathon-Photos

© Marathon-Photos

© Marathon-Photos

© Marathon-Photos

© Marathon-Photos

© Marathon-Photos

© Marathon-Photos

The run (which was approx 21km in the end) took me 2:26:38, which is considerably slower than I had hoped for, but I did manage to smash my target of 7:59:59 by finishing in 7:24:54!

My results from Weymouth half

I finished… and I wasn’t last!

After finishing, I got something to eat and put on some warm clothes before going out to cheer on Liz.

Liz towards the end of her race

Liz towards the end of her race

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


Weymouth Half – The bike (and T2)

20 Sep
Bike bags at Weymouth

We’d set up our bags in transition, ready to grab before getting on our bikes © Liz Carter

After grabbing my bag and putting on my helmet, it was time to put on my race belt and ride.

Race number 1737

I really like personalised race numbers – it’s lovely when spectators cheer your name

I’d decided to put my shoes on before getting to my bike as there was a slightly twisty section before getting out onto the road, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of spectators. As soon as I was out onto the main road, I heard Ellie cheering 🙂

Tamsyn on bike

Thanks to Ellie for snapping me on my bike © Eleanore Coulthard

Tamsyn on bike in Weymouth

Ellie cheered loudly enough to get my attention, so I was able to smile back © Eleanore Coulthard

Ellie managed to take a couple of photos and then I was off.

I knew that it would be quite a long time before I saw anyone I knew and was also aware that which ever way we were going out of Weymouth, it would be up a steep hill, so I started taking on fluids as soon as possible.

I was familiar with the first part of the course as we had cycled on it during a triathlon earlier this year. Fortunately, the route was well-marked and there were marshal at all junctions, so although I remained observant, I wasn’t too worried about the traffic.

Marshalls at roundabout

The course was well signed throughout and the marshalls took care of the traffic © Challengetriuk

It wasn’t long before we got to the steep hill. Someone had written all of the pros names on the hill in chalk, but I was focussing too hard on keeping my balance and getting up the hill to read the names. I was also quite surprised by the number of supporters on the hill, which was really motivational. I was also cheered by the number of people who I was able to pass on the hill. Towards the top, the supporters seemed to be getting very vocal and were taking lots of photographs, which was very flattering… however, after I turned the corner and was starting to relax a bit as the angle of elevation became less steep, I suddenly became aware of why the crowd had been going crazy – I was immediately ahead of the elite men who had started their second lap of the course!

Tamsyn at the top of a hill on the bike ride

Nearly at the top of a hill © Marathon-Photos

Tamsyn cycling to the top of a hill

I’m not sure that my expression shows how much I was enjoying myself! © Marathon-Photos

I pushed on, and as the photos show, I finally made it to the top of the hill.

The course was picturesque and despite the fact that it was early in the morning, there were quite a lot of spectators out and about. Many of the bystanders were elderly people who were clapping enthusiastically, so I did my best to smile and give them a thumbs up.

Fairly early into the course, a couple of men on bikes who were not in the race cycled passed me and made some comments, so I spoke to them. They pulled alongside me and asked me what I was doing, so I explained about the race. They then asked me whether I’d like to stick on their wheels for a while, but I quickly declined explaining that I could be disqualified. We then came to a junction where I had to turn off and they headed onwards.

A little while later, a man in an Oxford Tri Club kit passed me, but as soon as we got to teh next hill, I passed him. We ended up playing a cat-and-mouse game for about 25km, with me passing him on every uphill and him passing me on every downhill. I felt frustrated that I wasn’t able to go as fast as some other people going downhill and tried not to brake, but I’m still very nervous after my accident earlier this year and worry that I will crash.

In the photos below, you can see my foe – they’re at a point when I was still in the lead 🙂


© Marathon-Photos


© Marathon-Photos


© Marathon-Photos


© Marathon-Photos


© Marathon-Photos

At one point in the course, there was an out and back section. It was quite nice to see other riders, although I had no idea of how much further ahead than me they were. I didn’t feel disappointed that I was at the back as I was conscious that I had started in the last swim wave. I was also a little distracted as I wondered whether I would see Stuart, Gary, Suzanne or one of my other friends on the bike. After a little while, someone called out to me and I realised it was James. This reassured me that the turn around point couldn’t be too far ahead. I estimated that James would have been 5 minutes faster than me on the swim and that he had started 5-10 minutes ahead of me. I also assumed that he would have taken several minutes less time in transition than me. This meant that he would be about 20 minutes ahead of me.

A few minutes after passing James, I saw someone up ahead in a Southampton Tri Club trisuit. I knew it couldn’t be Liz as I had left her in the changing tent, so I guessed it was Jan. I shouted some support and then passed her as quickly as possible on the hill… possibly a bit too quickly, but Jan’s a senior official, so I didn’t want her to think I should be disqualified for drafting!

Further down the road, there was a man in some lurid patterned yellow trousers standing in the middle of the road and shouting something. I’m not sure why, but my first thought was that he was a saboteur. A couple of other cyclists had stopped and I could see a girl walking up the hill pushing her bike. The man explained that there had been an accident and said something about the air ambulance. I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew that we were still on the clock, but I had no idea what had happened up ahead. Soon, Jan arrived on the scene and pointed out that if we proceeded with caution in single file then we should be OK. She carried on, so I follower her (at a suitable distance). I was so relieved that she had turned up, otherwise I think we would have stopped for a while. Apparently, a fast male cyclist had tried to overtake another fast male cyclist on the way up the hill. He went onto the wrong side of the road and went straight into a female cyclist who was on her ay down the hill. Apparently, there were no serious injuries, but the air ambulance and another ambulance were required at the time.

Nutrition was available at the turn around point, but I didn’t fancy anything, so I carried on, passing the chap from Oxford Tri Club who was refuelling. We called out to each other and I said I’d see him again soon. Sure enough, he passed me on the way up the next hill.


© Marathon-Photos


© Marathon-Photos

Before the event, my strategy had been to stop every 25-30km to drink and take on nutrition as I’m terrible at eating and drinking whilst moving, but I just didn’t want to stop, so I forced myself to drink as much as possible. I had a bottle of pink grapefruit High-5 with caffeine in it and a bottle of water. To be honest, I’d much rather drink water, but I knew that just some water wouldn’t be enough to sustain me for the entire event. I also had a small flapjack and a few black cherry shotbloks. I tried to take small bites of the flapjack as I struggle to chew and swallow it whilst cycling, but old habits die hard and several times I bit off more than I should have! I was really pleased that I drank 75% of my electrolyte drink and about 25% of my water.

By the time I reached the tank museum, I was feeling fantastic and started to worry that maybe I had been cycling too hard. I had managed to drop the chap from Oxford Tri Club and seemed to be cycling alone. However, the last section of the course was great as I was familiar with it and I knew that there were no more hills coming up, just a gentle incline that was barely noticeable, so I started pushing the pace.

I’ve now had my road bike for just over a year and, in that time, I’ve only ever had one puncture (at the top of a steep hill in Cornwall, whilst out on a 100km ride with Stu and Donna). I tried to fix it myself, but the tyre would not budge and my colleagues started asking me whether I had tubs. After a lot of huffing and puffing with the tyre levers, we managed to replace the inner tube, but the experience meant that getting a puncture was something I feared most about the race. I knew that if it happened, it would take me so long to fix it that I would probably end up finishing with the last iron-distance competitors.

When I got to the final 10k, the relief was in my mind that if I needed to run with my bike, I could do that (the fact that I was wearing cleats wasn’t something that I considered!) I was also glad to see that my average pace had been creeping up throughout the race and it was around 24.1kph. The Garmin Sharp Ride Out had given me confidence that I could ride consistently at 25kph without exhausting myself, so I was pushing as hard as possible to reach that target. Although I didn’t make that time, I was quite pleased that I managed to remain ‘in the zone’ as if I cycle on my own for more than 45 minutes, I tend to start daydreaming and then my pace drops.

When I turned at the final roundabout, I could already see people running up and down the seafront, so I started to pick up my cadence to get my legs ready for what was coming. I undid my shoes and slipped my feet out of the, so I that I could dismount as quickly as possible. As soon as I reached the dismount line, I jumped off and passed my bag to the waiting marshal.

My time for the bike was 3:47:02 – 116/131 women.

I was delighted that I had beaten my targets – my realistic target was 4:15-4:30 with an optimistic target of 4:00-4:15. I was even more surprised that I finished within 2-3 minutes of James N., Roelie and Clare, all of whom I would consider to be much better cyclists than me.

I ran around the corner to where my transition bag was lined up.

Blue run bags at Challenge Weymouth

The run bags were laid out behind the changing tents © Liz Carter

I quickly found my bag and stopped by it to grab a couple of bits, but a marshal called out to me saying that I had to go into the changing tent. I then heard someone else say my name and was surprised to see James in amongst the transition bags. I had expected him to be long gone on the run as he had been quite a long way ahead on the bike, but he wasn’t having a very lucky day.

I put on my trainers, abandoned my helmet, headband and sunglasses, grabbed my visor, had a quick puff of my inhaler and was off… This transition only took me 2:40, which placed me 8th in my category and 46th female, so it was by far my best discipline of the day!


Weymouth Half – the swim (and T1)

16 Sep

We got up stupidly early as triathlons always start before sane people are awake. Stu made an instant porridge, whereas I ate some cold blueberry protein porridge that I had made the day before. It didn’t taste especially delicious as it was so cold, but I thought it was safer to stick to tried and tested. I then had a shower as I wanted to be able to do my hair in a French plait. I’ve tried lots of hairstyles and this seems to be the best way to tie my hair up for the swim and the bike, but I can also fit a bike helmet over it quite easily.

We picked up all of our bags and drove to a car park near to Lodmore Country park where the transition area was set up. It was a short walk, and I managed to locate the right places for my bags. I took my bottles over to my bike and had a chat with the woman whose bike was racked next to mine. her friend came over to ask for some water as there was none available in the transition area. I had a full bottle for before the race and another for one for afterwards (750ml), so I offered him one of mine. That’s one of the things that I like about triathlons – most people are friendly and willing to help others, no matter what their ability is.

It was very windy, so we were told that the race start had been delayed for half an hour whilst the officials decided whether it would be safe for the swim to go ahead. After I had finished sorting out all of my stuff, I headed over to the nearby pub where I heard that James and Ellie had a table. We were soon joined by Liz and Suzanne who had been to have a closer look at the conditions.

Rough sea

Liz captured an image of the rough sea that greeted us in Weymouth © Liz Carter

After a while, we learned that the course had been adjusted and cut in half for the iron distance competitors. I was uncertain whether I would feel reassured if I went to look at the conditions for myself, so I stayed in the warmth and comfort of the pub.

Soon the whole gang had assembled for some pre-race chat/pep talks/hot drinks.

Group photo in the pub

(L-R: Roelie, Gary, James N., Suzanne, Liz, Stu, Clare, Tamsyn & James S.) © Eleanore Coulthard

Ellie was being fantastic in her role as chief supporter. She had even made a banner to wave.

Ellie's banner

Ellie had made a lovely banner to wave © Eleanore Coulthard

No-one was sure when to get ready as sitting around in a wetsuit isn’t pleasant, but eventually we saw the pros start running past the window, so we thought we’d better get ready. It’s very odd stripping off in a pub and putting other clothes on, especially when there were some ordinary people there just having their breakfast with no idea what was going on.

Group photo

Final preparations before heading outside © Eleanore Coulthard

We also made sure that we had our race number tattoos on, which led to a very bizarre conversation.

Someone: Stu, did you need to shave your arm to put your tattoo on?

Stu: No. I just stuck it on top.

Ellie: I did Roelie’s for her this morning.

All: You shaved Roelie’s arm?!!!

Ellie: NO, I put her tattoo on!!!

James getting ready

James enjoyed the opportunity to show off his guns © Eleanore Coulthard

I had one last quick look at my phone and a couple of puff of my inhaler, before handing these items to Ellie for safe keeping. I know that external assistance is not allowed during triathlons, but it comforted me a bit to know that a friend would have one of my inhalers with her if I had an emergency situation. (Also, Ellie is the best friend to have in this kind of situation as she’s a medical student!)


Roelie looking ready for action © Eleanore Coulthard

We headed outside and despite the strong wind, the air temperature felt quite warm. The sea looked cold, but the local weather guru said it was 16°C.

A table showing the sea temperature in Weymouth between 6th and 14th September

A week earlier and the swimming conditions would have been perfect!

The last triathlon that I did in Weymouth was the fantastic Weymouth Classic run by the super local triclub Bustinskin. The sea was perfect then… and we were able to wade out quite a long way before starting to swim. This time people were trying to wade out in the hope of making it through the breakers, but this didn’t seem to be making it any easier than diving into the giant waves.

People starting the sea swim

The sea was so rough that the iron distance competitors only swam 1900m © James Nicolas

We all posed together for one last photo before Stu and James had to hurry off and join the rest of the pink wave competitors.

Pre Weymouth swim group photo

Getting on our game faces before the swim © Eleanore Coulthard

I then stuck with Liz as we’re both near blind without our glasses, which were in our green bags. We handed in our bags, but people tend to give you funny looks if you walk around with your goggles on, even if you’re wearing a wetsuit and swimming hat and are within 200m of the sea!

We headed off to a pre-swim briefing, but there were so many of us that it was difficult to hear. We were told that the course had been changed completely and that we just had to head out towards one yellow buoy, swim west across the bay to another yellow buoy and then head back to the shore for a quick run before heading out and doing the loop again. There was some mention of an Erdinger arch, but I had no idea what was being said and was starting to feel a little nervous. I’ve never done a triathlon with an ‘Australian exit’ before and I was a little concerned – if I stop swimming then I can get cold quite quickly, so leaving the water and then returning might be a problem. I was also worried that it would mess my breathing up as I don’t run well straight after swimming.

Tweet about the Australian exit

Fortunately, this Australian exit did not involve diving back in off a pontoon… but we did have to be pulled in from the sea!

My original aim for the swim was to finish in under an hour with an aspirational goal of getting as close to 50 minutes as possible, but the extreme conditions meant that my goal was revised to surviving the swim. I was really grateful that Liz was there waiting with me. She really is the most amazingly positive person. Instead of seeing it as a nightmarish situation, she kept saying how ‘exciting’ it was.

Finally, we were off. I started wading in and was pleasantly surprised by how warm the sea was, which was good. It was difficult to know whether to start swimming or to dive in, but the waves made that decision for me as I’m too short to wade out very deep with waves the size and power that they were.

I quickly realised that sighting would be my main problem. I’ve been trying really hard to improve my sighting, but it does rely on you having a fixed point to aim for. I was trying to time my breathing with the waves, and also needed to look. I prefer to breathe every 3 or 5 strokes, but that simply wasn’t possible, so I ended up breathing every two, which does tend to make me hyperventilate. The were lots of swimmers around me, but because of the spread of people, I didn’t feel like I was too close to others… and they weren’t the ones creating the washing machine effect. Every time I could feel that I was on the crest of a wave, I tried to sight the large yellow buoy, but quite often they couldn’t be seen, so I just had to follow the swimmers ahead of me and hope that they were generally going in the right direction. I don’t think that this is a recommended technique, and if anyone has any advice on how to deal with these kinds fo conditions, I’d love to hear from them.

I was aware that I wasn’t making much progress and was surprised at how calm I felt. I just kept moving and felt slightly smug that I was at least managing some front crawl, although in hindsight, maybe the breaststrokers were sighting better (not sure their breathing would have been easier).

As I came towards the first yellow buoy, I saw a reassuring sight: a wetsuit with a blue top poking out of the neckline and a visible bit of a white swimming hat sticking out from under the purple hat. A quick glimpse at the wetsuit let me know it was Liz. Yay! a friendly face. I’d love to be able to say that I was able to draft Liz, but in reality, I was vaguely following in her direction and I’m not sure that drafting would work in such rough conditions.

After passing the buoy, there was a brief respite of swimming across the bay. I knew that I could only breathe to my right (towards the beach) and it felt a little easier. Before too long, I was rounding the second yellow buoy and then I turned again to head towards the shore.

This was when my swim started to go wrong. I hadn’t really understood the comments about the Erdinger arch and was just aiming for the beach. I didn’t know which way the current was going and could see a couple of swimmers up ahead. After a couple of minutes, I realised that the couple of swimmers up ahead really was just a couple of people and that we were heading towards some rocks. This meant that I had to start heading east in the hope that I would not be dragged onto the rocks.

At this point I noticed that there were some swimmers near me who had on green and pink hats. I know I’m not a strong swimmer, but I guessed that these people were even less prepared for the sea swim than I was.

Finally, I was nearly back at the beach. It was impossible to put my feet down as the waves had a strong undercurrent and I kept being sucked back out, so I had to swim into quite shallow water. Fortunately, there were some lovely marshalls who were giving a helping hand.

There was then a short run along the beach. I noticed that some people were walking, but I tried to maintain a swift pace.

I turned back towards the breakers and headed out for a second lap. It didn’t feel as scary this time and I think my sighting was slightly better. As soon as I got to the second buoy, I made sure that I saw where the Erdinger arch was and kept heading towards it, so that I did not end up veering towards the rocks.

Finally, I was being pulled out of the waves again and a kind volunteer unziped my wetsuit.

The Erdinger arch

We were told to use the Erdinger arch for sighting ©StuWeb timing

I ran along the carpet and crossed the timing mat in 58:56. My initial goal had been to complete the swim in under an hour and I had achieved that, even with the severe weather conditions.

Just before I passed the timing mat

Just before I passed the timing mat © Marathon-Photos

Smiling for the camera

Smiling for the camera © Marathon-Photos

I had to keep my goggles (and hat) on as I ran towards the transition bags as my eyesight is too poor for me to run without some sort of visual aid. This made me feel a bit self-conscious, but there wasn’t time to worry about that. I managed to find my bag and headed into the changing tent. I had decided not to change or put on any additional layers of clothing as the air temperature felt quite warm. I put on socks and my cycling shoes as well as a head band and my bike helmet. I also put in my contact lenses and used my inhaler before stuffing my wetsuit, hat and goggles into my bag. It didn’t feel like I was going really slowly, but the clock doesn’t lie: 9:35 – oops. I shouted goodbye to Liz and headed out to find my bike.



Preparation for Weymouth Half

15 Sep

The weekend of the big race was finally here. Stu and I finished packing and drove down to Weymouth, knowing that Liz and Suzanne were also on their way. We’d booked a hotel room in Dorchester, which is a 10 minute drive away. We thought it would be quieter there and it was also quite a bit cheaper. The traffic on the way to Weymouth was quite heavy, so we headed straight into Weymouth to register.

We headed towards the pavilion and saw the expo outside. I was a little surprised by how small the expo was. I’ve been to large-scale events like London Marathon and Paris Marathon, which had amazing expos, and to smaller races like Brighton, which still had a reasonable sized expo, but this expo seemed much closer in scale to what is at a local race. I didn’t need to buy anything, but it’s always nice to have a chance to browse new products.

We went in to register. I was given an envelope with my race numbers in it, transfers and stickers as well as some promotional info. I also picked up a magazine. We then had wristbands put on, proclaiming that we were ‘athletes’. We were then given three bags to include items for the two transitions and one for after the race. We also picked up our timing chips. I accidentally asked for 1787 instead of 1737. Fortunately, we had to run the chip over a mat to check that our names came up. The chip I had belonged to a man, so I checked my number and was able to swap it for the right one. I also realised that I had left my chip strap at home, so we went out to the Huub stand where I bought the last chip strap.

Calm sea at Weymouth

Calm sea at Weymouth

We then headed down towards Lodmore Country Park to rack our bikes. Stu found a nearby car park, so we got out bikes off the roof and attached our race numbers. Unfortunately, I tried to open my bike bag and the zip got stuck. I tried to close it again, but it just wouldn’t budge. Finally the zip moved, but it wasn’t actually closing the bag. Aaarrggghh! I was feeling really stressed and this was not what I needed. I removed the bike bag and decided that I would try to deal with it later.

The car park was gravelly, so I wasn’t able to ride my bike. I had hoped to be able to check which gear it was in to make it easier to leave transition in the morning. We queued up at the gate as transition wasn’t open. We then saw James, so went over to chat to him. There was a delay in opening transition, so one of the marshalls came around offering us electrolyte sachets. When we entered transition, we were also given drinks bottles.

It wasn’t easy to see where my bike should be racked. There were signs at the end of the rack, but we could only see the reverse sides, which had numbers printed it on them from a previous event. (We were entering transition from the other side during the event). I was able to find my bike at the back of the racks. Bikes were racked on alternate sides and as we were using bags, we could only leave items that were attached to bikes.

My bike in transition

My bike in transition

Bikes in transition

Transition filling up nicely © Liz Carter

View of transition

James had a fantastic view of transition from his hotel room © James Saunders

We left our bikes and headed back to the other end of Weymouth for the race briefing, where we were hoping to meet up with some of our friends. We were running a little late, so James, Stuart and I headed straight into the pavilion. James, Roelie, Gary and Ellie had got there a bit earlier, so they had spent some time sampling the Erdinger Alkoholfrei.

James Roelie and Gary

James N., Roelie and Gary © Eleanore Coulthard

James and Roelie

James and Roelie sampling the freebies © Eleanore Coulthard

The theatre where the race briefing was taking place was filling up when we entered. It seemed like a good place to have the briefing – lovely comfortable velvet seats, which makes a change from standing outside just before a race starts!

Race briefing

Race briefing

We could see James N, Roelie and Gary sitting in the row in front of us and Liz sent us a text, before coming to find us for a big hug. The briefing was clear and quite reassuring, although there seemed to be a number of people who hadn’t heard that the run was to be 25k/15 miles.

Stuart received a text from our friend, Clare, so we agreed to meet her outside after the briefing had finished. I didn’t manage to take a photo of Clare, but she took one of a group of us from Southampton Tri Club:

Group photograph

(L-R: Me, James S., Liz, Suzanne, Stuart, Jan. © Janice Goble)

The others left to rack their bikes, so Stu and I had a wander around the expo. A local bike shop (Mud Sweat N Gears) had bike bags, complete with repair kit and CO2 for £20. I was able to try it on a bike that had a very similar seat post to mine and it fitted, so I gratefully bought it and hoped that I wouldn’t need it.

Tweet about the Expo at Challenge Weymouth

Although there wasn’t a lot of choice, the expo had all of the essentials, including a new tyre for Liz and a bike bag for me.

Stu was tempted by some flapjack, so he bought a box of 24 for £10 from Dorset Flapjacks. We figured that we would get through them with all of the cycling that we’re planning to do.

The grandstand at the finish

The grandstand at the finish

We also tried some Erdinger. I don’t have any photographic evidence of me drinking it, but I can definitely say that it’s not for me. I nearly had 1/4 pint, and I don’t like to see myself as a quitter, but I just couldn’t drink it, so I donated it to Stu.

As I was admiring some lovely Salomon shorts, Liz arrived back in the expo. I was a little surprised as I had assumed that she would be at the other end of Weymouth in transition with Suzanne, but she’d had a bit of a disaster. She’d suddenly found that her tyre had perished, so she needed a new one. Fortunately, a lovely chap was not only able to sell her one, but he put it on her wheel and sorted it all out. Result – one extra happy, smiley Liz!

Stuart and I decided that it was time to head back to our hotel to unpack and get ourselves ready for the big day. We had some food at the nearby Carluccios (the courgette and gorgonzola risotto is lovely!) and then sorted out our transition bags.

I couldn’t believe how much stuff I needed to get organised. The red bag contained everything I needed for the bike part of the race: shoes, socks, race belt, mitts, arm warmers, cycle jersey, sunglasses, clear glasses, contact lenses, bottle of water and inhaler. The blue bag contained everything I needed for the run: spare socks, trainers, visor, sunglasses, bottle of water and another inhaler. The green bag included stuff for the swim and for after the race: two hats, two pairs of goggles, body glide, glasses case, wetsuit, cosy clothes, flip-flops, shoes, water, chocolate milk, snacks – I really included everything – next time, I probably won’t pack as much!

Transition bags ready!

Transition bags ready!

It was then time for an early night!