Three down, Challenge Weymouth completed. #RememberBen
by timPSep 18th 2015
Well first things first, we've done it. We have completed the three challenges that we took on in your memory and also exceeded the fundraising target that we set ourselves for the two charities chosen by your Mum & Dad.
I'm sorry that this blog has taken a few days to produce but to be honest we were both completely wiped out by the weekend, I think the fact that we both picked up a nasty cold in the week leading up to the event and the cumulative effect of the racing and training over the last few months has finally taken its toll.
We had entered Challenge Weymouth in 2014 but due to the tragedy on July 17th naturally we didn't start. We did however go to Weymouth for the weekend as the hotel room had been booked and paid for so we at least had an idea of what to expect. Coupled with our recce visit in August we felt we were pretty well prepared, so early on the Saturday morning we loaded up the van for the short journey from Bristol to Weymouth. We had booked into the same hotel as its location was absolutely fantastic, overlooking transition and 200m from the swim start on the beach. So with the van parked up we walked the mile and a half into town to go and register.
I must say that the registration process set the tone for the whole weekend, the organisers and volunteers were absolutely fantastic. The process was very slick and everyone, without exception was extremely friendly and enthusiastic. We also got the opportunity to talk to a number of people and tell them your story and why we were doing the event. The size of the event and the fact that it was also the European Long Distance Championships meant that there was a proper race briefing in a theatre that we all had to attend. The information given out was pretty much the same that was in the race information booklet that was published the week before, it was the question and answer session that provided most of the entertainment!
from the pretty banal questions,"can I wear arm warmers on the bike?" and "am I allowed to wear a vest between my trisuit and wetsuit?" the most interesting question was when someone asked when they would be making a decision whether disc wheels would be allowed. The official response was that they would make the call at 5am on race morning. Luckily I had brought a spare rear wheel but there were plenty of unhappy people that only had discs.
After a reasonably expensive visit to the trade stands in the expo we wandered back to the hotel to sort out the bags and get set up in transition. Once again the volunteers were great walking us through the layout and making sure everything was in the right place. They showed us where the handover would take place after the bike leg and after a little bit more socialising we left to go and get something to eat in the next door pub.
The proximity of the hotel to transition meant a very relaxed start to race day. The alarm went off at 4.30 so that we could get down into transition when it opened at 5, check the bike over, have a last run through swim in and bike out routes and check whether a ruling had been made about disc wheels. As most of the pro bikes still had rear discs fitted we took that as a good sign and went back to the room to relax for another hour.
Challenge events tend to have a wave start for the swim portion, rather than a mass start and Weymouth was no exception. As a relay team we were in the last wave of the full distance event starting 30 mins after the pros and 15 mins after the last age groupers. If you've read the previous blogs you'll know that swimming is my least favourite discipline made even more daunting in this case because it was a sea swim so it was a pretty anxious wait in the holding pen until it was time to start. Although the sea wasn't nearly as rough as in 2014, there was a reasonable swell and after only 3 minutes or so at least one age grouper had to be pulled out of the water by the rescue boats.
Just after the leading pros completed their first lap, the horn went off and we were running into the water to start the race. Apparently the water temperature was 16.5 degrees but it didn't feel that warm diving in and it certainly took my breath away. The course itself was roughly triangular, swim out 700m, swim 500m parallel to the beach, 700m back to the beach, get out run 50m dive back in and repeat.
The first leg of the course was fine, although there was a noticeable swell sighting and breathing were both okay and I made reasonable progress. Once I got round the first turn buoy it was much more difficult and I was getting thrown about a lot more and sighting proved problematic. Luckily by this time I had been caught by the faster age groupers on their second lap and I was able to follow them. After I made it 'round the second turn buoy I expected a reasonably easy swim back to the beach sadly it seemed to get even rougher and it took an age before I was back at the beach and running to start my second lap. I managed to glimpse my watch and although it had felt really slow it was within a minute or so of my typical time for a 1.9km lap.
As Debbie told me afterwards the wind had been picking up whilst I'd been swimming and I immediately felt the effects of the bigger swell as I made my way to the first turn buoy again. This time I was finding sighting really difficult and breathing became a bit of pot luck. Once again I was lucky that the first wave of competitors racing in the half distance event had set off only a couple of minutes after I had completed my fist lap and I was soon swimming in company again.
The second lap took significantly longer than the first and I know that Debbie was getting quite worried. I was just getting cold, very, very cold and to be honest pretty miserable! The sea swim was living up to my fears and it was a struggle to make reasonable forward progress. On more than one occasion a safety kayak had to guide me in the right direction and when I looked at my satellite track afterwards I wasn't surprised when it said that I had swum 4.4km rather than 3.8. Of course everything is relative and I know that the better swimmers thought the conditions to be good.
Still I did manage to complete the course and eventually I was hauling myself out of the water and starting the 300m run to transition.
Normally transition is pretty straight forward, this time it was anything but. I had been in the water so long that I was extremely cold, to the point that I was sat in the changing tent unable to put my cycling kit on because I was shaking so much. Eventually after 12 long minutes I made it to the mount line received a very welcome good luck cheer from Debbie and set off on the bike leg.
We hadn't managed to do a recce of the bike lap during out visit to Weymouth the previous month so the only information I had about the course was a review written by a pro triathlete and the gps track given out by the organisers. It seemed to be a reasonably fast course, 2 laps with approximately 800m of climbing per lap. What was clear was that there was a pretty stiff climb out of Weymouth onto the ridgeway. As it turns out this was ideal as the low speed high effort thoroughly warmed me up and by the time I reached the top I was feeling fine and soon settled into a nice steady cruise and was able to concentrate on drinking some fluids.
Because of the wave start and my slow swim I was one of the last long distance racers to start the bike but it wasn't a lonely ride as I found myself in the middle of the competitors taking on the half distance event. I really enjoyed the bike lap, it had a good mix of roads, other than the first climb it was a rolling course and with very efficient traffic management in place it was easy just to concentrate on the riding. After about 20km I caught and passed a competitor in the long distance event and then managed to tick off a good few more during the remainder of the first lap. There was a nice exhilarating downhill section just before the run in to transition and I even managed to do a little showboating in front of the motorcycle camera man (it was being recorded for a channel4 show).
Once again I got some really enthusiastic cheering from Debbie at the turn point and set out on the second lap. Just like the Cotswold 226 this was a completely different proposition, at the top of the first big climb the nice steady cruise of the first lap turned into a head down slog into a raging head wind. This set the scene for the rest of the lap, obviously everyone else was suffering as I was still able to pass a good number of competitors during the course of the 90km. One thing that I found really interesting was that I suffered quite badly with neck pain which made riding on the aerobars difficult. This is something that I had experienced quite badly at the Outlaw event in 2013. Following that event I made a small tweak to the position of the bars and also made sure that I carried a couple of nurofen tablets just in case. Since then there hadn't been a problem until Weymouth. The difference? I forgot to carry the nurofen tablets!
There was more really enthusiastic cheering as I turned onto the final km from Dave and Debbie (team mates from Thunder Run) who had driven up from their weekend break in Exmouth to cheer us on. Approaching the dismount line I could see Debbie waiting in the holding pen, so after handing the bike to a volunteer I passed the timing chip to Debbie and she set out on the run.
I must admit I was pretty glad to have finished my part, the swim and the bike had really taken it out of me and the thought of running a marathon wouldn't have been very appealing. Instead I was able to collect the bike from transition, have a very long shower and get some real food down before heading back out to support Debbie
As we had found from our recce visit the run was pancake flat, mostly along the prom covering the whole bay from the end of Preston beach to the finish line at the ferry terminal next door to Weymouth Pavilions. There was a nice section that wound its way through the shopping streets of the down to add a little variety but fundamentally it was an out and back course. From transition you first had to complete a half lap to get you back to the finish line and then it was four full laps to complete the marathon distance.
After sorting myself out I caught up with Debbie who by the time was a good way through her first full lap. I must admit I felt a great swell of pride as I saw her coming towards me, proudly wearing the running vest that we got made in your memory. Blimey she was running really well and looking very, very strong. I was absolutely chuffed to bits because I know that she had been extremely nervous about the lack of running she had managed to do, obviously the strength training was paying off.
I managed to meet up with Debbie and Dave (& Harvey the dog) and we set up a mini Team Pocock cheering station near to the middle feed station. The next time we saw Debbie she was still looking really strong and showed it by powering past an athlete wearing a GBR trisuit.
Unfortunately, for once, the weather forecast turned out to be accurate. The wind had been picking up all day (as I had found in both the swim and the bike legs) and almost dead on cue the rain came hammering down. This turned what had been a difficult run with the high winds into a downright miserable affair. I managed to get Debbie a rain jacket but to be honest I don't think it really made much difference and the last three hours of running was painful. Crossing the finishing line, normally an exhilarating experience became I think for most of the later athletes just a sense of relief that it was all over and it was time to get warm and dry. So after a short time in the recovery area it was time to get wet again and walk the mile and a half back to the hotel.
Although we were both physically shattered we were both completely wired and even after a hot shower we were in bed, unable to sleep just talking until about 2am. Over breakfast the next morning we talked through the race and the experience for both of us was really good, despite the weather. The organisation had been superb and the volunteers wonderful, the fact that it ran so smoothly does them all great credit. A few days later we were shocked to find out that the event had been the victim of deliberate sabotage. Someone had spilled oil on the cycle path that formed part of the big climb out of Weymouth, a number of safety barriers had been stolen as had a number of direction arrows on the bike course. The fact that none of this was visible to us on the day gives even more credit to the skill of the organising team but it is sad that a few mindless idiots are willing to cause potential harm or serious injury to unsuspecting people that they have never met!
Now almost a week later we can reflect on the event and be proud that we achieved what we set out to do. However it's also left a bit of a hollow feeling as the last six months have been focussed on training for and completing the 3 challenges that we took on in your memory and now that particular journey is over. Don't think that means we will forget you, far from it! In fact we have already got some thoughts and plans for a big event next year to continue the celebration of your life, but then you already know that because I talked to you about it out on the bike course.
Both Debbie and I have been genuinely touched by the kind comments and support we have received over the past few months. Lots of people have read the blogs and learnt a little bit about your story, lots more have donated to the charities chosen by your Mum & Dad. And we aren't alone many other people have been taking on personal challenges and organising events in your name demonstrating what an impact you had on all of our lives.
I think it's time to sign off now but once the plans are firmed up we'll put pen to paper again and see how many other people we can get involved.
Lots of love
Auntie Debbie & Uncle Tim
My next race