Getting Wet In Weymouth

Getting Wet In Weymouth

When I was in college – just a ‘couple’ of years ago – one of my assignments was to promote Weymouth. Being the young, care free gal I was back in those days I had no real idea what activities were done in Weymouth so came up with the slogan ‘I Got Wet In Weymouth’ to sell t-shirts on the beach. Ironman was a comic book character at that time, not something I would ‘half’ be several (hundred) years later.

Weymouth 70.3 was Joe’s ‘A’ race for the year. The one he wanted. It fell just after our youngest’s birthday so we decided as we would be down that way to take a slight detour to CBeebies Land for him. The slight detour ended up being many additional hours as we hadn’t really taken into consideration just how often we would hear ‘I need a pee!’ in a frantic voice. And let’s not mention ‘I need poo’…..

It was worth it though and he had a great time. Lesson learnt though – it would have been better after the race. Less stressful.

I had really, really wanted to do Weymouth. A perfect one to sign up to after Edinburgh. But this was Joes race so I had to set that jealousy aside and I love going to his races and supporting anyway (even if I’m ‘not invited’). Weymouth is a about 30 miles from his side of the family so I also messaged the aunties and cousins to ask them along as a surprise for him.

4am and the alarm goes off.

We have rented an uber cool pod lodge where we shower and get ready. Half the site is filled with athletes so we aren’t the only ones up and don’t have to worry too much about being noisy. We put our son in the car and drive to the car park where I will sit for an hour before heading down – Joe heads straight to the swim start.

Now. I was going to try and sleep for another hour in the car but I was awake. And excited. I may not have been racing but I really do love chasing him round a course. I also love instagram. So I made a few videos. During these videos I was spotted by a couple of people going by and let’s just say I made them smile ha ha.

Whilst messing about in the car at 6am I found Joes timing chip. Uh oh. I phoned him to tell him before he frantically tried to search for it. I would have to get it down to him. The plan was a slow toddler paced walk down to the swim start but this had now turned into a frantic move-as-fast-as-you-can-whilst-carrying-a-4yearold-and-a-heavy-rucksack. Thank god I ‘occasionally’ do strength work! Jogging (yes, jogging) to the swim whilst politely telling people to move Joe suddenly appeared behind me.

‘Chip!!!’

‘Back pocket’

And he was gone again.

Who says romance is dead?

I headed up to the rocks in the hope this would cheer up my now unhappy toddler but he was having none of it. We weren’t close enough to spot Joe anyway so it wasn’t proving to be a good idea from any aspect. We moved round to the back of the start and as we slowly wandered down I saw Joe waving. Talk about luck!

I was able to calculate his swim start was roughly 7:13am so from there I could again roughly predict what time he would exit. Oh yeah – this isn’t my first time supporting – I’ve got skills in this area! CV worthy skills!

We went down on the beach so Oliver could throw stones in to the water and I was struck by just how many people 2600 are. The start queue for the swim was huge!! I think it may have taken up to half an hour maybe more to get everyone started.

Oliver got bored very quickly so the first chocolate snack/bribe was administered. Yes, shoot me, I gave my child chocolate at 7:30am. It cheered him up ok. He doesn’t usually have such bad things so early but this was a special event. We found a good spot on the swim exit and plonked ourselves down. I pulled out the sign Oliver had made and proudly placed it in front of us – yes, I am that person. He would hear us before he seen us and he would definitely see us.

However, Oliver had other plans. ‘I need a pee’. ‘Daddy will be out any minute now can you hold it?’. Cue wailing and crying to further cement me in to the bad motherhood society. That’ll be a no then! Off we went to the portaloos. One of the good things about this race was the number of toilets so no long queue.

I was quite sure we would have missed Joe coming out of the swim so decided to plonk ourselves about 70 metres down from the bike out. It was another great spot. I was ridiculously nervous Oliver would wander on to the road in front of a bike and get seriously hurt and knock a rider off. There was no reason for this train of thought – he had never done anything like that before, was aware of the fast moving cyclists and had clamped himself to my legs anyway. Still, it was nerve wrecking. Only to be made worse by witnessing a bike crash in to another and one rider go head over heels. It looked painful and I’m not sure the rider continued! And of course it was at this time Joe came passed. And he looked right pissed off! (Excuse my language). Looking at the time I took an educated guess he wasn’t happy with his swim. He was out though and on the bike, his favourite section.

I updated Facebook (life’s priority ha ha).

Looking for somewhere warm Oliver and I headed to the Sand Sculpture place hoping for entertainment for him and a cup of tea for me. ‘Do you have a warm cafe in there?’ I asked the women at the desk. ‘Yeah we do’.

Lies!!!!! Absolute lies!!! It was a TENT. And a leaking one at that! Bloody freezing! Colder inside it than out! Olivers lips actually started turning blue so it was back out and a walk up the promenade whilst wondering why we lived and raced in such a cold bloody country. Decision was made then and there to emigrate.

We found a proper cafe further up and warmed up whilst I amused myself listening to the waitress continually saying she didn’t understand where all the people had come from and that they were experiencing their busiest ever Sunday. Every customer in there had Ironman merchandise on – including Oliver and I – obviously. The road outside had been closed for the event. There were signs everywhere stating ‘Event’.

I just smiled at her and shrugged.

We met up with Aunt Jackie who phoned from right outside the shop I was in. Shortly after Aunty Maria and the cousins appeared and all of a sudden it wasn’t just Oliver and myself – we had a full on cheer squad! Amazing!! (Unfortunately Aunty Julie was full of the flu and being on a beach front isn’t the best place when you are ill but she was there in spirit).

They didn’t know how we would be able to tell when Joe was coming but I was all over that. I can pretty much pin point it to the minute. I’m telling you, skills of a ninja. His doppelgänger did throw me off though I have to admit. This guy was his absolute double just slightly taller – and not wearing a Perth Tri Club Tri suit but it was blue and he had the same visor, glasses, beard and compression socks.

As soon as I saw Joe that was it.

HERE HE COMES!!! I screamed at everyone. Cheer squad assembled and we roared waving our banners. The grin from his face was worth it – he clearly hadn’t expected it. The run route was 3.5 laps so he he came back the other way less than 10 minutes later. Cue more shouting, cheers and frantic waving. Oh yeah, we owned that promenade!

He seemed in good spirits and he didn’t look like he was hurting too much. By the next time round I could see the pain on his face though so we cheered louder (hard to believe but a group of 6 women, 1 teenager and 5 small children can always get louder! Ha ha).

After his last lap past us we headed towards the finish. I knew it would be difficult to see him but miraculously we got there just before he went up the red carpet, cheering him on the very finish.

After he was done and came out the finishers lounge we all headed for something to eat. It had been a long day for everyone but worth every second. You just can’t beat having support like that. He’s always said he doesn’t ‘need’ it but I think we’ve proved how great it can be. Especially when it’s unexpected. It was a good event and one I think we will be back at next year.

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Anything IS Possible

3:15am and our alarm goes off.  

This. Is. It.

The day I have been training for 6 months for.  6 solid months.  

It’s a quick shower, a quiet one.  No music this morning.  Just focus. Upstairs it sounds like my oldest has only just gone to sleep.  Ah to be 17 again. (Actually no thanks!).

Joes made a huge mound of porridge and I try to get as much down me as I can but I don’t manage a lot.  Eating at that time of the morning is near impossible.  Aware it’s not enough I try to top it up with half a bagel.  

Into the van and we are on our way to pick up Joes dad.  First panic of the day.  Do I have my timing chip! I ‘ask’ Joe to pull over even though we are only 2 minutes away from his dads so I can get my bag from the back of the van and precede to empty it’s contents eventually finding it in the ‘safe’ pocket I had put it in the night before.

No comment needed.

His dads there bright and breezy with his coffee and we are soon on the road to Edinburgh.  Unsurprisingly it’s clear and it’s straight through.  We park up and the minute the door is opened I can feel the wind.  It’s the sea front though.  It’s expected.  I take a quick look at the water and can quite clearly see the course marked out is not 1900 meters.  We will find out soon though.

Walking in we see Heledd straight away – she’s volunteering as Kevin is racing too.  The poor soul is already freezing but she tells us she is about to be moved position so she can warm up.  I wish I had taken photo with her at the start.  At 6am we hear the announcement that they have shortened the swim – for the pros as well.  What? That’s unusual.  They normally have to do full length regardless.

Into transition for the last checks on the bikes and we see some from Perth Tri Club. I join the queue for the toilets and remain there until very close to start time.  Luckily, it was worth it and I had ‘movement’. I get into my wetsuit and we head over to the start.  


We are at the back of the line but can’t see any signs telling us where to be for what predicted time so we can’t place ourselves very well.  Turns out the signs were on the inside of the fences.  Not very useful.  It’s impossible to move forward so we stay where we are.  There’s a few comments about the swim (‘may as well just chuck a bucket of water over us’ raised a fair few eyebrows around). I don’t look at the sea, I don’t even try.  I wanted to see the pro athletes but I’m tiny and can’t see over people.  I’m thankful for it though because I really didn’t want to look at what I was about to attempt.  Over the tannoy we are told it’s tough conditions and to give sharp hard kicks at the first buoy and that should get us round.

Should?!? 

We get to the front and a Marshall is there shouting ‘does anyone need goggles?’.  Nice touch have to say.  He follows it up with ‘or a choc ice or ice cream’.  Made me smile. I’m at the gate now.  I’m through the gate – my god that was fast! Joes through at the same time but he’s off and in the water.  The first wave hits me and I’m pushed back.  Holy hell.  Ok.  Just get in.  I dive in and I’m hit with other athletes trying to move forward but being pulled back.  I can still see Joe at the side of me, he’s having just as hard a time.  

I’ve only just started and I see a couple of kayaks just laden with people and pulling more swimmers out.  There’s lots of shouting but I can’t make any of it out above the noise of the waves.  I have a very fleeting thought of grabbing the kayak but I throw that out my head instantly before it festers.  I get to the first buoy and I can no longer see Joe, he’s probably already on to the second.  I’m now chocking on the sea water, badly.  I switch to breast stroke to try and calm down.  Works only marginally.  I’m swallowing so much water how can there be any left to swim in?!? 

Right, come on.  I see another kayak – swamped by more people.  I start thinking of all the people who know I am doing this, those who have donated, my kids – and I start thinking how embarrassing it would be for me personally not to do this.  The pros were out the water in less than 15 minutes.  15 god damn minutes.  Move your bloody arse Ella and get to the end.  Over a thousand people are doing this – it is NOT impossible.  Stop being a bloody wimp.  

I find some sort of rhythm and begin to go with the waves.  Front crawl works for a little while but you can’t sight and have to switch to breast stroke to make sure you’re still on course.  I take a few hits but nothing major.  Then an arm smacks me on the face not once but twice.  Goggles!! Oh my god my goggles!! I can’t get them back on if they come off!! Not in this!! They’re still on though, squint, but still on.  I feel something on the top of my neck and just before I freak out it’s a jellyfish I realise it’s my nose plugs.  I’m close to the next buoy and the waves are as high as the top it.  I consider jumping on it to get out the water and just bobbing around on it for a moment. 

It’s a nice thought.

I’m making the turn now so I tell myself I’m over half way, I may as well swim back.  There’s a new challenge now though – the sun.  I can barely see a thing.  I’m still surrounded by people so I must be on course.  The last and final buoy comes in to sight.  I turn and I’m on the final straight.  It feels like forever but eventually I can stand up. 

Well.  Wobble up.  Like bambi I make my way up to transition, occasionally trying to run.  I gave a great impression of a baby giraffe – award winning performance I would say.  I click my watch and it says 33minutes.  That’s embarrassing! I must be one of the very last out the water.  I’m trying to get my wet suit zipper down and another athlete does it for me.  I was incredibly thankful.

Just outside the tent I see Heledd shouting.  What a perfect time to see a friendly face! Gave me that moment to calm down and take a breath.  Of course I’m pretty sure my face just read ‘oh my god I almost died, why did I do that’ – but I appreciated seeing her. 

I need water.  Oh the irony!! Swallowed so much sea water I now needed plain water to help bring it back up.  I knew my transition time was going to be bad so I try to speed up at the same time as calming myself down.  I head out to my bike (still in shock) and as I take it from the rack I hear something very strange on the tannoy’

‘Joe Webley’

What? Is he just coming out of the water? I pause for a minute and fight the instinct to go back and check he was ok.  Something’s clearly happened. It’s not what you are meant to do though and he would shout at me if I did so I carry on to the bike.  

As soon as I’m in the saddle I can feel my front wheel wobbling.  Like really wobbling.  This isn’t good! What’s happening? It’s that bad I stop and check it several times.  Doesn’t feel lose when I’m stopped but doesn’t feel safe when I’m cycling.  I don’t know what to do.  I can’t find the problem but I’m not confident.  

So yeah, I carry on.  As you do.

I know I have to start re-fuelling as soon as possible on the bike but I can’t face an energy bar or a gel so I opt for the jelly babies I had bought last minute. Aware this was a very risky thing as I hadn’t trained with them I still put one in my mouth.

Best. Decision. Ever.

Those jelly babies were a life saver.

Nigel came past me with a cheery hello – I love that.  Then at seven miles I hear what I really, really needed to hear.

‘There she is.  Alright wife.’

‘YEAH!!!!!’ He’s caught up with me.  He’s fine.  What ever happened in the water hasn’t stopped him and he’s not in the medical tent.  He’s all smiles and laughing.  ‘What about that swim eh?’ He asks.  ‘I am never doing that again’ is my reply.  I tell him Nigel’s just ahead and I will ‘just stay back here’. It was a good boost and feeling of relief.

I know the Gifford loop is coming and at about 26 miles the course gets incredibly hard.  I’m honestly scared of one of the downhills that turns sharply in to a steep up hill so I’m preparing myself for a quick unclip – possibly even a fall.  First few climbs are hard but I do it.  My cornering is shocking but I’m still wobbling a little on the front wheel.  Still convinced it’s coming off.  I pass a few with punctures at the side but I don’t see any crashes.  Down through the first bad corner and I’m still up right.  Back up another hill.  I pass one or two and it gives me a little boost.  Further up I see a couple walking up and I use them as a ‘target’ to keep going.  Next comes the dreaded hairpin.  But – it’s not as bad as I had dreamed it was.  I slow right down but I still keep going. 

I’m still waiting on the dreaded downhill-sharp left-steep incline section when I get back in the village.  Huh? Where did it go? It was definitely before here.  I must have already done it!! Whoo hoo! Cycled the part that had given me nightmares and didn’t even realise it! 

Just a few miles on and I’m getting sore.  That love QL muscle is nagging away.  I don’t know how my youngest is as I wasn’t going to phone my mum at 6 in the morning.  My throats seriously hurts from all the gagging in the swim.  My swim was bad and I’m not convinced I made the cut off.  What if I don’t make the bike cut off? I’m well aware I’m not hitting my target time. 

So, I start singing.  

‘I love you baby, and if it’s quite alright I miss you baby, hold you tight’.

This carries on for a few miles.  

As does the wind.  At times it feels like I’m going backwards it’s that strong.  The crosswinds catch me a few times as well and I sway across the road. I don’t like cycling in the wind.  I don’t like it at all.

I count down the last 10 miles.  The cobbles were ‘interesting’.  My under carriage didn’t appreciate them.  Neither did the guy next to me.  ‘What the bloody hell is this!! This isn’t a road! And are we going up there?!?’

I got the sense he hadn’t enjoyed his cycle so far.

I knew what the last climb was and I knew where it levelled out so I went for it.  ‘Up, up, up you go Ella’ – got me a few funny looks.  I also knew the last downhill section was steep.  Taking no chances this late in the stage I kept hold of the brakes.  Maybe one day I will be confident on the bike but today wasn’t the day for risks. 

Up to the line and I dismounted. The woman next to me didn’t dismount until after the line then looked at the Marshall as if she didn’t know what he was saying.  I heard them arguing as I ran off.

Bike racked and I changed into my trainers. Ah my trainers.  My lovely, lovely trainers that meant I could now run!!! The part I love!! I know I can run 13.1 miles! My stomach wasn’t too good – still had salt water in it – so it was a quick stop in the porta loos. 

I’m out on the run and my legs feel surprisingly good.  I know it’s a flat before it starts to climb and I can already see people walking.  I pass a fair few but it’s impossible to say what lap of the three anyone is on.  I’m only half a mile in and I have a light bulb moment.  My front wheel wasn’t lose.  I was Sea sick from the swim! I laugh out loud at myself, not sure it’s something I should admit to but know I will later on.  

Top of that hill and I see a 6 foot tall ginger lad on a bike.  My arms are up and I’m waving like mad.  ‘Frazer!! I didn’t die!!’.  ‘Yeah!’ He shouts back.  What a boost to see my original running buddy at that point! He tells me Joes just ahead and I can catch him which I laugh at as this is quite clearly a lie and meant as encouragement – it’s appreciated.  

Along the first straight that goes over the tunnel and I see him.  My arms are up again.  I am so happy to be running and to see that Joe is in good form.  A high five as we pass and it’s smiles all round.  Now it’s into the tunnel which is nowhere near as bad as I thought it was going to be.  In fact, I quite liked it! I was getting a comfortable pace through it.  Back out and the sharp incline took its toll on my legs and I resorted to a short recovery walk for 10 seconds.  

Not long after was the feed station, typically  going up a ‘hill’ also.  Although happy to be running I had had enough of hills at this point.  A Marshall came right in to my face ‘go Ella’.  A bit taken aback I almost stopped.  Then I realised it was Gosia, another running friend.  What a cheery sight! ‘This is hard’ I tell her.  ‘What did you expect, it’s ironman’ she laughs at me.  


I push on to my second lap and instantly get confused on when I need to turn in to the finish.  Counting is not my strong point when running! I see Frazer again and give him a big smile.  I saw him earlier cycling along the side of Joe which was great to see.  He was working later so I knew he wouldn’t be there at the finish.  I saw a few more I recognised and cheered them all on.  I was actually enjoying the laps (once I got in my head when I had to turn in) and it broke it up fantastically.  I passed Kevin going the other way in the tunnel – Heledds partner – he was on his last lap.  I sang a little in the tunnel too, hard not to when the tunes were blaring at the turn.

Coming down near the last section of my second lap I see Kevin at the side stretching his leg.  ‘Are you ok?’  He’s got cramping in his leg.  He starts running with me and tells me he arrived late to the start so started at the back of the pack.  He didn’t find the swim easy either.  I really enjoyed running that short section with him and as he turned up the finish I shouted after him ‘Take it home Kevin’.  (If you’ve ever listened to Lonely Island you’ll know why I’m laughing, Michael Bolton can actually be funny).  


Last lap, last lap, last lap.  I’m doing this, I’m doing this I Am Doing This.  I wanted to enjoy every last moment of this race.  There was definitely no sprints for me! Last time past Gosia and her station and what a cheer I got from them.  Put the biggest smile on my face! Through the last feed station manned by West Lothian Tri Club and lots of encouragement again.  

Final section.

I can see Joe at the side, cheering me on.

I turn up to the finish.  No one is in front of me, no one is behind me.  I fight back the emotions threatening to make me cry.  I have THE biggest grin on my face ever.  I push right to the end.


Holy shit I just did it!!!! I just completed my first Half Ironman!! How did I do that??

Finisher photo taken and I make a bee line for the food.  I don’t move from the watermelon for a good five minutes. I can’t eat anything apart from that and the orange segments.  But I don’t care.  I am officially a Half Ironman. 

Meeting Joe and his dad outside the finishers tent he tells me to quickly put more layers on before the cold hits me.  It’s been raining on and off and the wind was bringing a chill.  He also gives me an update on our youngest who had had a bad night but was ok, not to worry. 

Of course I hit the expo tent.  Card in hand. Proud memoribelia purchased.  

On the road home and I check my phone.  I  had absolutely loads of support from the road runners and friends.  How I didn’t cry when I was reading it all I will never know. It was fantastic.  

Joe and I talked non stop on the way home recalling the achievement we had just accomplished.  He had struggled with the waves and had grabbed a kayak at one point.  He knew the swim was going to be his hardest part and seeing an overturned safety boat didn’t help. He had done it though and pushed himself through.  And it hadn’t put him off.  Just made it all the more important to get more sea swim practise in.

One of the pro athletes dubbed the course the hardest she has ever done – and it makes Staffordshire a walk in the park in comparison.  That settles it in my mind for me.  It was right to cut the swim.  It was not an ‘easy’ option.  Around 50 people got pulled from the water.  Many chose not to even start and the latest figures I read quoted a 29% DNF rate overall.  The swim conditions got worse the later you went in.  

I did it though.  I did every part of it.  I may not have been the fastest, I may not have ranked high in the results but I did it! I crossed that finish line.  

So yes.  I believe that Anything IS Possible.  I’m having a couple of days rest to let my body recover and I’m going to wear my finishers t-shirt for a week! I’m in no rush to scrub off my number tattoo and my new Ironman bag will be going everywhere with me. 

I bloody did it!! 

This Is Why I Love Parkrun

One of my personal goals this year was to finally drag my now slightly smaller behind to Parkrun.  I had always found the concept of Parkrun a bit daunting – it may be fewer people than the usual type of event I go to but the chances of seeing someone I know are increased phenomenally and that in turn increases my anxiety.  The very first time I went I was actually sick behind a park bench. 

It’s ok no one saw.  I don’t think.

However, ridiculous issues aside, I do enjoy it and I do try to go when I can.  (I no longer throw up by the way).  So this past Saturday when I discovered my other half was not working I decided I should go.  I rock up just in time for the little de-brief.  It’s raining but the course is ok just now, round of applause for the fabulous marshalls who will kindly be standing in the rain and a shout out to those doing mile stone runs.  

It’s not my best pace.  My left hamstring is slightly niggly – I’m definitely feeling the ‘running on tired legs’ I’ve been told I need to practise.  I try to keep up with a girl who’s usually about my normal pace but quickly decide not to risk pushing it and instead let my mind wander as I go along the river.  It’s very therapeutic running in the rain along the trail, I do enjoy it.  It’s an out and back route with a bit of an uneven section and my mind wanders to the trail race I’m doing next weekend.  Now that’s a tough route! 

Back on to the concrete path and as I near the last 500metres an older gentleman comes up beside me and says ‘thank you for being in front of me, an inspiration to keep going’.  

I can’t help but smile and laugh a little.  I ask him if this is where he takes off and does a sprint finish.  He replies ‘oh I don’t think I have that in me’ but he does slowly pull in front.  He reminds me of Rob on the TV show Stella.  He’s wearing one of the Parkrun 50 T-shirts, red with the big ’50’ on the back.  As I watch him near the finish I realise that,  just a few months ago, I wouldn’t have been there, At best I would have had my earphones in refusing to make eye contact with anyone and staring at the ground, literally running off as soon as I had finished.  

Yet, I was here.  

And here was this gentleman too.  Politely speaking to me – a stranger – for more than his fiftieth time at a Parkrun.  He may have said I had helped inspire him to get round that day but truth be told he inspired me to keep going with my goals.  To continue to push myself out of my comfort zone and to continue doing what I have found I love – running.  

After I get my barcode scanned (very important, don’t ever forget your barcode!) I see him stretching his legs out before slowly wandering away, saying hi to several people with a friendly smile and I find I’m smiling too.  I feel comfortable.

This is why I love Parkrun.