By Stuart Nicholas
16th September 2015
140.6 miles of swimming, biking and running – Challenge Weymouth Long Distance Triathlon 2015
2.4 mile swim
112 mile cycle
26.2 mile run
Consecutively, within the allocated time limit of 17 hours.
Standing on Chesil Beach at 0645 on a rainy Sunday September morning, with 1500 other triathletes waiting for the claxon to sound to commence the Iron distance triathlon journey.
Huge PA systems blasting out epic tunes (generally by Hans Zimmer), mentally preparing us all and building the tension to tremendous effect. The Pro’s (actual professionals!!) set off at 0705. The yellow hat wave went off at 0710. General ‘Age groupers’ set off at 0715. When the pro’s set off, it meant everybody else had to be in their relevant pens, a last chance to say goodbye to their loved ones and exchange ‘good lucks’ with supporters and competitors alike.
For me, this was my first standing start open water tri, so as the claxon sounded, we all charged into the shallows (with an element of caution) for the first of two 1.2 mile loops in fairly flat conditions. A generally uneventful swim, the wind picked up for the second lap so it became a bit more lumpy, exchanged a few punches and kicks, and the added bonus of only spotting one Jurassic coast sized jellyfish. Bonus!
Lap 1 completed in 35 minutes and lap two in just under 45, total swim time of 78 minutes, not my fastest but hey, first 2.4 miles sea swim!
Half a mile jog from the beach into T1, to get prepared for the 112 miles on the bike. The BBC weather app had forecast windy conditions, with the threat of rain – As you have zero access to kit whilst on the bike, you gotta wear what you take the time to put on. And if I’m out there for 112 miles, I want to be as comfortable as possible!
2x 56 mile loops of wind and gradual inclines commenced, and thank the cycling gods, no mechanical failures for Stu. Though saying that, I did not have use of my two easiest gears so it wasn’t as easy going as it could have been. Six hours and an average speed of 18mph later, back into the seaside town of Weymouth to change into my STARC race gear for the marathon.
So, the marathon. I promised myself and my loved ones that when I finished this race, it would be my last long distance tri. After suffering no mechanicals on the bike, it was down to the run, my strongest of the three disciplines.
The run was a very spectator friendly course, being 4 and half 6.5 mile loops up and down the seafront. I went out with the attitude to smash the run and finish strong. After eight sub 7 miles, my body was telling me otherwise, and had to visit the portaloo more times than I care to remember. And the 14mph onshore wind made things trickier also. Went from beast mode to ‘just finish’ in an instant, reverting to walk 0.2 of a mile, run 0.8 of a mile. This later changed to run 0.2, walk 0.2, run 0.2 and so on just to get that finish time and elusive finisher’s medal.
The run felt like it took an eternity, especially as the final two laps were done in strong wind and rain… but finally, my turn came to run down the red carpet, and under the red finishers gantry… I had done it!!
Marathon time of 4.5 hours, total race time of 12hrs 6 minutes. I had not raced my fastest, hardest, or elegantly at all, but as a long distance tri swansong, simply finishing was the aim of the game.
It is possible to do what others believe to be impossible. If you have the confidence, drive and most importantly the support of those around you, you can do anything.
I was not alone out there on that course. There was a ‘middle’ distance tri going on which is exactly half of the long distance, of which Matt Nicholas, Dave Speake, Michael Crane and Denzil Williams competed and all completed in phenomenally good times. Well done boys.
Finally, as I mention support of friends and family, there is one person that has supported me all the way, put up with me training 6 days a week and went through every stroke, pedal, and step of the 12 hour journey with me. Thank you Anna, you have been an absolute diamond and I promise not to put you through that again.
And to my folks, thanks for being there and fuelling the engine that allows all of the above possible.