• Nikki Bartlett

Challenge Weymouth (Half)

Challenge Weymouth: I was lucky enough to have a great support crew, where we all travelled down together from Cheltenham to Weymouth on Saturday. Admittedly deciding not to spend the extra ££ to travel down earlier to check out the course. I admittedly didn't do a huge taper for the race, due to my next and last race of the season being the main target. I was doing the 'Half' distance which is 1.9k swim, 56mile bike and advertised 23-24k run. Setting the scene: On arrival I knew it was going to be a cracker of a race, the sea looked choppy and great for surfing, the countryside looked pretty and the promenade where we were set to run was jam packed!

(Thanks Gail Wilkinson for the athlete 'swim' surf pic)

Just to top it off, the run course was longer than the half marathon distance, although advertised at 24k, I still don't know whether this is right or not? I used Kate's Garmin as I magically broke mine the day before. I forgot to start it for a while, but managed a 1.26 on the run, so I don't think it was that much longer than half marathon distance, maybe 1k at most? Race day: When leaving our interesting shack we stayed in on Sat night, we walked the 1mile stretch to T1. Even through darkness you could see the waves were strong, due to high winds. The sea was horrendous, and I've been out in choppy, cold Scottish Lochs, but they don't come anywhere near to the waves on race day. Swim: The swim consisted of a beach start, with 2 x laps, consisting of 1.9k in total. On exit of the first lap you ran along the beach, to re-enter for the second lap. The sea was a gorgeous tropical colour, on a calm day I would have loved every second of that swim. So after my stupid panic at Aberfeldy, I had to seriously man up to even get in that water. I haven't swam in these sort of conditions before and my nerves were all over the shot, I'm sure a lot can relate to the nervous feeling about even getting into the sea!! I decided to run in within at my own space, and to put simply - casually get in! I started off just getting used to the fact that I was purely doing it for survival. Yes-not the best way to start a race. But psychologically that was my aim. The water stayed quite shallow, so we ran/dolphin dived (btw haven't even come close to mastering this!), for a while until it was deep enough to swim. I tried the whole diving into the waves, but actually I was like a big kid and actually started jumping on the waves. I did have a giggle to myself and glad no-one could individually pick me out! You had to complete 2 laps, and re-enter after a run along the beach. To be honest the event organisers did an awesome job even keeping the swim on! They re-jigged the whole swim course, but had to adapt to the strong conditions. This meant we had to site two main yellow buoys, which was extremely difficult. Athletes were everywhere in the sea, quite comical to watch but frustrating when it was your turn! I'm not going to lie, I didn't enjoy the swim one bit, and for me I didn't even feel like I raced it. My heart rate was only high due to panic! So with that in mind, when I finally got out, I knew I was way off the leaders. I came out 7th female and about 5 minutes down. Oh crap! However, I was 6 minutes down at Aberfeldy, so knew it wasn't game over. Bike: So, when you don't fully taper for a race, it will hit you along the course at some point, for me it was the bike section. I felt strong, but my legs were on fire after about 10 miles in. The first part of the course had a fair bit of climbing in. On reflection, I wouldn't class the bike as a flat and fast course. I took on quite a bit of nutrition on the bike; 3 x gels from A1 Multisport in a 750ml, a 9bar, 750ml nuunelectrolyte, and I was sweating like a beast so took on another 750ml at an aid station. I still felt really thirsty after that still! For me the bike was difficult mentally and physically, I couldn't see any of the front 5 girls, or even know where they were. I felt horrendously flat, but just powered through the burning sensation. Off the bike I came, my dad and brother relayed to me that I was 10mins off the leader, and 4-5mins off of 2nd, in 6th place overall. Run: My legs definitely had the jelly feeling going into the run. I haven't had a race this year, where I have finished outside of the podium, so coming into the run I actually thought this could be the first race to not podium this season. STUPID thought process I know. So with that in mind I was on the chase. With the run at '24k', I did everything opposite to being careful, and did my first 2miles in sub 6.20 each. Ooops, I actually backed off massively after seeing those two miles, however on the flip side, within the first lap I had managed to make up a fair chunk of time. The run was 2 1/2 laps. I saw Kate, my grandparents and mum within the first 1/2 loop, and I could see on their faces that it was a tough ask to come any better than 5/6th today. But as always egged me on! By the time I had completed the first 1/2 loop, and half way through 1st full lap, I was 'only' 2-2.5 mins off of 4th. Carole Bridge was way off in the lead, then there was Georgie Rutherford, Eloise and Polly battling it out between the three. I was now in 5th. I saw the three of them come back down the promenade and I was going up. The support on the run was out of this world. There was no patch that was quite on support and cheers, so thank you very much! Onto the last big lap of the run, and I was about 1.5 mins off. My grandparents, mum and Kate at one end telling me I was closing quickly. With my dad and brother further down the promenade giving out splits. My body was absolutely bushed, but I could see them all within my vision, on the same stretch. I simply wasn't coming away without a podium spot, my brother and dad kept giving me 2nd place finish splits, so I was gunning for 2nd. I kept keeping positive thoughts in the head, as I knew it was going to be a close one! I managed to sneak into 2nd place with 3miles to go, so kept ticking over the legs to the finish. Times: Overall: 4.52.45 Swim: 33.49 Bike: 2.47.18 Run: 1.26.36 I'm absolutely over the moon to finish 2nd, that was a hard arse race in tough conditions. Well done too everyone, especially just getting through the swim section!! One more race left for me; Challenge Paguera - Mallorca acting as the Europeans too. Big thank you to the race

organisers and volunteers on the course and behind the scenes, amazing people! Thanks again for all of the wonderful support, and the lovely people you meet whilst competing :-).

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