Challenge Weymouth - ETU Long Distance Champs - Sarah Leakey

We set off for Weymouth on Thursday evening and finally got there late on Friday afternoon after a stop off in Manchester. Turns out Weymouth is quite far away from Inverness if you drive!

We registered on the Friday night which was a pretty simple process, had a brief look around the expo and then headed off to our campsite for the night. I got a short bike and run in on Saturday to see if the legs were still working and then we were off to the race briefing and racking. I had no end of problems with my brakes and just couldn’t get them aligned. When I finally racked the bike after hours of fiddling I thought they were all sorted… I discovered the next day they weren’t and I had the pleasure of listening to them rubbing for 6 hours the next day.

We awoke on race day to rain… you’ve gotta love racing in the UK! We made our final preparations and headed to the swim start complete with emotive music! The pros set off first, followed by the ETU age groupers, followed by everyone else. First lap around the swim course went relatively well (although the buoys were practically invisible) and I managed to get sandwiched in a group that kept me on course. By the second lap it had got quite a bit more choppy and I kept veering off course… at one point I even head butted a kayaker who seemed to find my misfortune very amusing (clearly need to work on my sighting). Transition went smoothly and the marshals were great.

Out onto the bike which was a 2 lap course, the first half being a bit hilly with quite a few 90 degree turns from one road to another and the second half of each lap a bit straighter and flatter. I was pretty happy with how things started and I was holding the power I was aiming for. Sadly about 25km in I punctured and saw crowds of people whizzing past. I’m not the best at bike mechanics (as demonstrated by my inability to fix my breaks) but I had been doing lots of puncture practise with lots of helpful advice from Richard back home. Luckily I remembered his advice, found the cause of the problem (a sharp stone lodged in my tyre) and got it all sorted. It did take 15 minutes so there’s definitely room for improvement but it could have been a lot worse! Surprisingly for me, I also didn’t panic or have some form of childlike tantrum – Blair recommended the book The Chimp Paradox which I’ve been reading and the ideas in it helped me to keep my head straight and also consider the fact that despite lots of people passing me, lots of people had also punctured so maybe some of my competitors were also unfortunate and so all may not be lost. I also tend to be stronger on the run than the bike so hopefully I could make back some places there too. I still can’t quite work out though whether the guy that wrote the Chimp Paradox is actually mad or perhaps wrote the book as a joke but has convinced the world of the psychological benefits in the process… but even if that’s true, it seems to be working. Just after the first lap my chain came off too (twice), most likely my fault! So all in all the bike could have gone smoother. However, the course was great, a nice mix of landscapes and country villages, great marshalling and some friendly spectators.

Out onto the run and I was feeling pretty good but had to check myself as I had set off at a rather ambitious pace. I slowed myself down and settled into it while popping my little gel shots as I went and was happy to see family out supporting too which was great. About half way into the run my body decided it didn’t want anything else to eat so I stopped being able to force food down and then my pace gradually slowed as well. I think I may have overcooked it a bit on the first lap of the bike course trying to regain my place after the puncture and was most likely paying for it now. The wind had picked up quite a lot by this point and sand was getting blown into your face as well… I guess it all adds to the occasion! The run course was great though, it was a 4 1/2 lap out and back course which I like as it helps me to break it up into small manageable chunks telling myself I only have to run about 5km at a time. There was great support all along the beach front and also through the town as you headed though the high street and through ‘beer mile’.

Finally I headed through the finish shoot and was greeted by friends and family. It wasn’t quite the race I’d planned for but I had a brilliant time nonetheless and it was pretty cool to be wearing the GB tri-suit as well. My friend and I later discovered we’d both got podium places in our categories which introduced the final dilemma – do we stay for the presentation which was at 12pm the next day and then drive home or skip it and head back first thing. We decided it was an opportunity not to be missed and as long as we were both at our desks by 9am Tuesday morning all would be fine! We made it in one piece and have a few more medals and trophies to add to the collection.

It was a great race, I’d definitely recommend it and hats off to the organisers because it transpired that some serious sabotage had occurred on the bike course overnight. The race organisers fixed everything with us being none the wiser that anything untoward had happened. They’ve got a tough job and did brilliantly!

Planning has now begun for next year :)