For the last few years the UK “Challenge” triathlon has taken place in Henley-on-Thames. A place so posh it needs hyphens. Henley hated the triathlon. The alleged closed road race would often be interrupted by a Range Rover or Aston Martin. The locals having decided that closed only meant closed to cheap cars.
Last year, Myself and my brother did the Henley Half. It was well organised and as it’s at the end of the summer it meant we could work up to it when the weather was good rather than over the winter. This year we wanted something similar so we entered the newly created Challenge Weymouth (half)
Weymouth is a place that doesn’t need hyphens. If you love ice cream, chips and donkey rides then this is the town for you. It’s also worth a visit if you want to see Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper recreated as a sandcastle.
We drove down on a Friday for a Sunday Race. We wanted the extra day to get ready and recover from the drive. Google maps says it takes 8 hours but that doesn’t take into account any other cars and roadworks! It was closer to 12 hours. We should have got a medal for just getting there.
There’s plenty of accommodation in the area. We stayed in an ex Ministry Of Defence building that was used to test bombs. This meant the walls were so thick WiFi and mobile phones didn’t work!
Registration takes place at the Pier which is the end point of the race. The transition areas for the swim/bike/run is about a mile and a half away along the beach. This is ok but it does mean you have to work out where to park your car on race morning. Do you want a long walk to the start but be close to the finish or vice versa.
Registration takes a couple of minutes and we were given all the usual – a race number, a tattoo of the number and different colored bags to put our transition stuff in. One for the bike, one for the run and one for post event.
We went back to the hotel to sort everything out. Once we had all the stuff ready we headed over to transition. At this point my brother remembered that he had not put any his bags into the car. So it was back to the hotel…and then back to transition! As a forfeit he had to buy me dinner. I picked the expensive options.
The hotel was open for breakfast from 3AM so I popped along at 5AM for some Weetabix. There was a few others eating. They all had weetabix too except one man who was having a full English breakfast. I hope he wasn’t racing but just a hungry insomniac.
We choose to park nearer to the finish than the start. As we walked along the beach to transition we noticed just how fierce the waves were! A quick check of twitter (always a useful reference to find out whats going on) revealed the waves were so strong the course was going to be altered and the full lengh race was going to be shortened. Our race would be delayed by 30 minutes.
This meant a long cold wait by the sea as we watched the full distance athletes struggle in the waves. I’d swam in similar conditions last year in a charity event in fife. That day the weather was so bad the Women’s Golf open was cancelled. I hadn’t enjoyed it as it became an exercise in survival rather than fun. I wasn’t looking forward to the swim!
Luckily it had calmed down slightly by the time we were due to start so we thought we’d give it a go. After all, whats the worse that can happen?
It was two laps out and back to a buoy. The way out was very choppy. I quickly lost my brother in the swell. Sighting was straightforward as there was so many folk around I just followed everyone else. I actually quite enjoyed it but it probably helped that I’d been swimming in the sea whilst on holiday the week before so I was used to the salt.
I finished the swim in about 45 minutes.
We have an agreement that we wait for each other in transition. As neither of us is going to win the race we just race each other so all we care about it the times for each section. I had a 10 minute wait for him before he turned up. He said he was delayed as he’d gone for a spin on a boat! If I knew that was an option then I’d have taken it. He had felt fine on Lap 1 but near the end of lap 2 he had felt sick so had to hitch a lift on the boat so he could be ill. Luckily it was just all the salt that had upset his stomach or maybe he had ordered a full English breakfast when I wasn’t looking.
Experts say you shouldn’t change anything before a race. I decided to ignore that advice and put Aero bars on my bike and adjusted my seating position. I’d never used Aero bars and I was surprised at just how great they were! I’m going to use them all the time now. The race was one lap of 55 miles into the countryside. It was fairly flat with some slight hills. I saw some riders getting off their bikes and walk up the hills. They should moved to Scotland and learn what real hills are like.
Highlights of the ride was passing a Tank Museum. The speed signs on the road to it had separate speed limits for tanks and cars.
I enjoyed the bike ride and I finished it in 3hrs 10min
I waited for about 15 minutes for my brother. He likes watching his speedometer and keeping to a steady pace whilst I don’t bother with any tech and just cycle faster when I feel good and slower when I don’t. I think this is why he is better at going up hills than me but I’m usually better on flatter courses.
Annoyingly the run was 15 miles. Which I thought was a bit unfair, as its a half race not a half and a bit race. We had no choice in the matter so off we went. The course was two and a half laps of the seafront taking in a section past all the pubs called “the beer mile.”
Whilst on the run we past a section of beach which contained just one man. One man playing the bagpipes. One man playing the bagpipes badly. It was clear why he had that part of the beach to himself. Even in one of the most southern parts of England there was still a reminder of home.
The run was good and I dropped my brother after half way as his chat was dull 🙂 I then made a fatal error! I thought I’d run for a bit with headphones on. I didn’t realize doing so is a complete no-no! I do it on all running races so I assumed it was OK here. I’d find out about it at the end when I wanted to check my result….
I finished the run in 2hr 3min and then hung about for 15 minutes untill my brother finished.
We both checked the distance on our watches and it had only been 13.1 miles so we were thankful it had been changed from 15. It later transpired this change meant the full distance runners didn’t do a full marathon. Their race was 4k short.
It was a good well organised race in a nice part of the world. Both myself and my brother beat our time from last year on all three disciplines so we were happy. Afterwards I went to check our times and found out
A) My brother had been DQ’d. It turns out a ride in a boat isn’t allowed
B) I was marked as “withdrawn from race” which was news to me! I then found out it was due to been spotted wearing headphones.
Luckily neither of us care about the final result other than who beat who and we still got our medal 🙂