Emily takes on her first IM Branded event! Weymouth 70.3

Weymouth 70.3 Sunday 19 September 2021

This race has been a long time coming.

It began as an entry to Stafford 70.3 in 2020, then became Weymouth 2020 and then Weymouth 2021. As I sit here I’m still not sure that it even happened, it all feels very surreal.

The atmosphere in Weymouth was buzzing. Two thousand or so triathletes each with their freebie red Ironman 70.3 rucksack. Sadly far less than two thousand parking spaces and the town had clearly exceeded capacity. The logistics of the weekend were arguably the hardest part.

After registering on Saturday afternoon, I drove a few miles across town to transition in Lodmoor. There was an opportunity to pop back to transition on the race morning but I decided to sort everything except food/drink on Saturday afternoon. At least this meant one less thing to think about on race morning. It also gave me more space in the VW in which I’d be sleeping.

Transition was a sea of red and blue plastic bags, only identifiable by your race number. No laying kit out in an orderly fashion, everything had to be placed in the two bags – one for bike kit and one for run kit – and I imagined that it would all just get stuck to the Velcro of my bike shoes and come out as one big kit blob! With all that done I went in search of a cuppa and sat watching the buoys being put out at sea for the swim course. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and conditions couldn’t have been better.

The town was literally buzzing akin to New York marathon, I felt excited, excited to be part of it and excited that things felt so normal again. My campsite was a few miles out of town. I’d merrily thought I might cycle to the start but with my bike in transition that was going to be tricky. Had even considered using one of the kids scooters for the job but I’d be broken before I started if I began the day with four miles on a scooter! The road to transition closed at 4am. I decided to opt for a very early night and set the alarm to get to the closest car park before 4am.

I slept deeply until 2am and then after a fair amount of tossing and turning I got up, boiled a kettle of hot water – much to the annoyance of fellow campers I’m sure – and hit the road to Weymouth. Got there to discover the car park was closed and although they’d let me in it, they said I wouldn’t be able to get out until 7pm Sunday night when the road re-opened. Rats. Quickly came up with plan B and drove to find a residential road. Feeling like the logistics were harder than the triathlon, I sat in the van eating porridge. Must have fallen asleep as I woke with a panic at 5:30am thinking I’d missed the start!

So, to the start. Turns out everyone in Weymouth that day was predicting a 30-40 minute swim time like me. Whilst it’s been a summer of open water swimming, none of that has been in the sea. I needed perfect conditions and thank goodness I got them. Enjoyed the swim. Goggles misted up so much I couldn’t see a thing. Opted to clear them half way and this definitely made me swim faster as I could see where I was going and concentrate on speed and technique. But ended up with sea water sloshing around in them and my eyes were sore. How the Sirens endured hours of that I don’t know. Came out of the swim in 4th place in my age group. Hardest part done.

Transition was a long one but it gave me a good opportunity to overtake a few swimmers on the run in. Found kit, found bike and off I went, no arm warmers for about the first race this year! Learnt a big lesson in the first mile, don’t open your food pouch on a potholed road. Hit a pot hole whilst reaching for a jelly baby and sent carefully calculated bitesize chunks of Powerbars, Soreen and jelly babies all over the road. Thankfully I’d allowed a few extra so I put it down to experience. Hit the first hill out of Weymouth and overtook a few men and women.

I hadn’t had an opportunity to recce the bike course and at one lap (56 miles) I wasn’t prepared to drive it the night before on top of the 150 miles to get to Weymouth. It definitely would have been beneficial as it was undulating and full of surprises. I’ve built up confidence on the Tri bars on the flat this summer but need more work on descents and twisty, potholed lanes. Once again I noticed people were on their bars when I wasn’t. At times I encouraged myself to follow their lead. I realised I prefer a multiple lap based course where after lap one you know what’s coming next. I picked off the ladies one by one except for one who was having none of it. Got to the big hill at mile 40 and overtook a few more. Felt reassured by the fact that Darrin had said the bike course is over at mile 40 and it’s all downhill from there. I was determined to retain my lead over those I’d overtaken on the hill and went for it. Descending on the Tri bars at 35mph was a first for me and after an initial wave of panic I just started singing at the top of my voice and felt alive! Thankfully there was no one else around.

From 4th place out of the swim I was now in 1st age group place. Sub 3 hour bike time which I was pleased with.

Onto the run. 2.5 laps of a lovely flat course along the esplanade. The atmosphere was amazing and crowds of people had turned out to support. It didn’t matter that no one was there to support me as it felt like everyone was there to support me. In fact it took me a while to work out how they all knew my name, another Ironman attention to detail to personalise race numbers. I returned each shout of encouragement with a smile. I felt strong and I was enjoying the run. Kept checking in on technique in the way Allie had encouraged me to and I laughed when I passed a runner carrying more tension in her shoulders than I do. She looked almost robotic, made my technique look relaxed by comparison. By now it was hot, hot, hot in the midday sun.

Around the halfway point a spectator shouted “1st in age group” to me. Whether he was right or not this gave me a massive boost and I was determined to dig deep and retain any lead I might have. Finally, it was my turn to cross the finish line, it felt good to be sprinting up the red carpet and even better to be lying flat on my back on it a few minutes later.

I’d given the race all I had that day. Traded the pizza on offer for two glorious cups of tea and then began my long (3 mile) walk back to the car. I was still unaware of my official results.

Retrieved my kit, bike and car keys from transition and an hour after finishing the race I got to my phone to find the most amazing messages of swear word ridden support from Chris, Allie and Triforce. Beyond my wildest dreams I’d managed to win my age group.

And so on Sunday night I found myself on the podium at the Ironman 70.3 awards ceremony and thank goodness I remembered to get some photos because it all feels very surreal. I didn’t accept my Utah 2022 place. It wasn’t my goal and I can’t do everything. I did accept a rather smashing trophy which I will treasure forever. No opportunity for an Oscar style speech so I’ll say it here… yes I put in the training hours and yes I’m committed – sometimes too committed – but 20 months ago I was putting in the same hours and just churning out the same old sessions and results. Allie provides the expertise, the structure, the support, she tells me when it’s time for effort and tries to tell me when it’s time to rest. She got me to the podium on Sunday…alongside Tri-Force and of course my long suffering husband and children who have grown to love my 5am starts!


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