I picked this race because it looked like a challenge, and similar terrain to Pembrokeshire so it would be easy to train for. I also used to live round here (bit of a theme going on here!) It was my first middle distance event so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had a goal in mind but was flexible about it!
On Friday I went to register and was given my rucksack full of the usual stuff plus all the bags that you had to pack. I decided to walk the run course with my mum and started to get a little bit worried. We then got in the car and drove the bike course, and got a bit more worried! I just had to remember to stick to my plan and all would be fine 😉 Got back to the house and packed my bags for transition. I really liked being able to do this, as its all prepared beforehand. All you have to do on the morning of the race is turn up and get your wetsuit on!
It was great to be able to do this packing without the kids around, as I could actually concentrate properly! They arrived that night still awake at 10.30. I was really tired but happy to see everyone so went straight to bed but couldn’t get to sleep. Bells did not help!! I think I fidgeted around for about three or four hours then was woken up at 6am by Milo 😮
On Saturday I went to the race briefing, racked my bike, and put my bags in transition, then walked the route and listened to a helpful marshal who was explaining the ways in and out of transition. We then had a lovely afternoon down at the play park and river in Dunster. Went to bed early and got to sleep a bit better but Milo decided he would wake up every time the clock chimed from midnight onwards. My mum and I had decided to leave at 3:45am because we were told that there was an hour and a half wait to get on site so not much sleep was had! Patrick and the boys came down later, getting the bus from the spectator car park.
In the morning on Sunday we arrived at 4am. We actually ended up leaving the house at 3.30 as we were awake anyway. There was no queue to get in the car park so we got a space close to transition and more importantly THE EXIT ! Ate my breakfast in the car (peanut butter sandwich and banana) then joined the queue of track pump wielding triathletes at 5am, waiting to get in to transition. As I took my bike bag off I learned lesson number 1, do not put elastic bands on your shoes the day before. Someone must have knocked my bike because one had pinged off and I didn’t have any with me. I had to use a very old one that was too long which someone kindly gave me. I pulled it into a shorter band and tied it together but didn’t hold much hope for it, oh well. The woman racked next to me was nervous as well and asked me to help pump up her tyres. Felt quite capable at that point! Went back to the car to listen to some music.
The Swim Garmin data here ( 7th in category, 43rd in gender, 373th overall)
Everyone had to walk down to the swim start at 6.30am which we were told would be to rapturous applause, but obviously it was too early and cold for that! There were a lot of people though and I managed to spot my mum on the corner and gave her a big wave. We got in the water but there was no space to swim so I put my face in the water several times and breathed out. This was the first time I had tried this and it worked really well, mind you the water was much warmer than Lyn Padarn! I started on the inside quite near the front and it was probably the most calm swim start I have ever done. There was lots of space and no punching, kicking or violence!! Halfway up to the first buoy I had a great feeling of “I’m doing it and enjoying it” One of the best swims I think I’ve had.
Its an uphill run on grass to T1, all went fine, got my bike and learnt lesson number 2, make sure you recce the mount line. I kind of knew it was uphill, but thought it would be alright. I was in the right gear but when I tried to nimbly hop onto my bike, as I have done many times in my driveway it did not work as expected, I lost my crappy elastic band again so had one shoe dragging on the floor. I was not the only one. It was carnage. A few people in front had done the same as me and were swearing then someone behind fell off. Then lesson number 3 LOOK AT THE ROAD NOT YOUR GARMIN. I crashed into the back of someone who was stopped on the side I apologised profusely and he swore at me. I was off!!
The Bike Garmin data here (7th in category, 28th in gender, 422nd overall)
The bike course is 2 laps. The first part of the bike is uphill for 3 miles so I was very careful with my power. I set my Garmin to beep when I went over 206w so I mostly kept under that. There were LOTS of people passing me and it was quite hard to let them go but I was hoping I would see them later. There were a lot of people going really fast up the hills and then dropping their speed on the flats so I overtook quite a few keeping an even power. The first half of the course is great fun, gradual up and down, then a long downhill. I was passing a lot of people on this section which was quite satisfying, queen of the downhill I am not! The second half of the lap is….hilly. I tried to smile and say thanks to as many marshals and spectators as I could I was really enjoying it and felt strong. Onto the second lap and I mastered peeing on the bike (not pleasant) but really didn’t want to stop! Got a high from caffeinated gel started singing to myself in a kind of manic way, and started to get very wet. The downhill was not quite so much fun in the wet and I passed a crash, took it steady, and up again round the hills then back down to T2. Lesson 2 reared its head again as I had no idea where I could get my feet out of my shoes so I was quite slow going down, and then didn’t even manage to do it as it was quite a blind spot coming onto the dismount line.
Lesson number 4 use your brain! I ran into transition, racked my bike then ran the wrong way into the changing tent, so had to go back out and round. Got running shoes and socks on, then was off.
The Run Garmin data here (6th in category, 21st in gender, 263rd overall)
The Run course is 3 laps. The run is quite undulating! There is a steep uphill near the beginning, but its on tarmac, so not too bad, then you run along the lake and back to transition. This is where I thought the worst bit was. It loops around on muddy grass and you kind of lose your sense of direction, but…there are lots of people cheering there! The feed station with the cadets on deserves a special mention, as they were so enthusiastic. Every time you went round they were shouting and giving loads of encouragement, also there were some women on a corner near the finish who shouted my name every time I went past, fantastic! I was aiming for a 1.50 half marathon but secretly hoped I would do better! Again I passed a lot of people on the downhills where I just relaxed and let my legs go, (free speed) On my first lap, Peter Brook the winner of Sandman 2012, the year I won, passed me and gave some words of encouragement. He was on his last lap and said he had just been lapped by Will Clarke. He went on to come 3rd in his category. I was passing people all the way round, so felt pretty good, and was on course for the time I wanted, also seeing the boys and giving them a big smile and high 5 was great, and I got to see them 3 times! Time seemed to go quickly on the run and before I knew it I was on the finishing chute grinning.
I finished in a time of 6:03:25. Now… if I hadn’t stopped for a pee on the run, or had to tie my shoelaces twice on the run, done a smoother and faster transition, under 6 hours?
Also more importantly thank you so much to my family who have enabled me to train and compete in these events, and stood in the crappy weather watching me run round a lake!
Full results here