There are two 70.3 IM brand pro races on home ground. Staffordshire and Weymouth. If your based in the UK and your want to race pro 70.3 triathlons, it's kind of easy to pick your races. Unfortunately Staffordshire came too early for me this year, so my target was Weymouth.
Going into the race my key concerns were
- The sea swim, I live in Leeds, unless you head to Whitby for a swim, sea swimming doesn't feature very high up in the training program.
- What was the bike course like? I hadn't done a recce, so was going in a bit blind.
- My one other 70.3 race this year was The Equalizer, in Devon, my memories of the half marathon run were painful, I hoped several more months of running would mean it would be less painful!
Having spent the previous weekend in Cornwall for a friends wedding, I had taken the opportunity to get in a few sea swims. This was a good confidence boast to practice bobbing about in the waves. Race day arrived and the sea was pan flat so my waves Cornwall experiences weren't really needed.
I arrived in Weymouth on Friday evening and was camping with fellow Yorkshire friends, Andy who was racing the full Ironman and Ele who was our support crew and all round super star. She won the challenge full distance race 2 years ago so was full of helpful tips & advice. With me & Ele in our little tents and Andy in his camper we spent evenings chatting and eating in the comfort of the camper. The chat included me tossing and turning between different tactics, to use power on the bike or not to? After changing my mind several times I took Andy & Ele's advice and went with it.
Race day: The weather was perfect, it was a stunning sight, stood on the beach watching the sun rise over a calm sea.
The pro men set off at 6.50am, the pro women at 6.51am and all the age group athletes both for the 70.3 distance and the full Ironman at 6.55am.
The most painful part was running over the pebbles into the sea, once in I got quickly dropped by the other pro women. Starting fast is definitely on my 'areas to work on list'. However I soon caught back up to Natalie Seymour and we swam the rest of the 1.9km together.
The run to collect the bike was a fairly long one, I slipped and fell on one of the corners, which jolted my left hamstring. No problem I thought, it will ease off (it did but it took 80km of the bike, early race starts with cold weather isn't that conducive for warming up muscles) I was very happy to have my long sleeve Raceskin tri suit on the give me some warmth & comfort.
I decided to ride to power, between 75-85% of ftp (functional threshold power; from testing this is the watts you can hold for an hour) is the recommend power for 70.3 races. So for me, with an ftp of 229watts I aimed for 173w-193w. It was a rolling course with 1056m total elevation over 90km, fairly hilly compared to a lot of races. Having spoken with Andy & Ele the night before, I was going to try and be as consistent as possible, not to push too hard uphill and to keep pushing on the downs, the less fluctuations in watts the better was the general thoughts.
I had also gone through nutrition with Ele the night before, planning on the map where I would take my OTE gels, which aid station I would refill my bottle at and where to take my OTE duo bar. This was the best prepared I had been, nutrition wise.
I stuck to the plan, letting Natalie cycle off, knowing 90km is a far old distance.
I finished with 183watts NP avg for the bike leg. 80% of ftp, spot on. I stuck to the nutrition and came off the bike feeling good. I had caught up one place on the bike, was in 4th and 90seconds down on Hannah Drewett in 3rd. Who had come out the swim 4.5minutes up on me. The hunt was on.
The run. My plan was 4.15minute/km pace, which would give me 1h30min half marathon. I started ok and held the pace for the first 5k but just couldn't close the gap to Hannah in 3rd. Due to the out and back nature of the course along the sea front you can see the distances between competitors, which is handy and either motivating or demoralising depending on the state of your legs. I ended up with a 1.38 half, finishing in 4th.
My nutrition was good, my pacing was good but I just didn't quite have the run legs.
I think 70.3 races require practice to really understand how hard you can push the pace. Maybe going with power is useful or maybe not, I think experimenting is the only way to find out, so I will go with no power for my last race of the season in a few weeks time and let you know how it goes.
Overall Weymouth was a great course, great atmosphere and well done to everyone who raced. I will definitely be back.