Bewl Water Triathlon, August 2018

Bewl was a warm up event for Weymouth 70.3 later this year – Fink suggests it’s a good idea around this stage of the training plan to do a standard length triathlon, and Bewl seemed like a good option based on location and the timing of other (non-triathlon) life events.

One of the incentives to do Bewl Standard Length rather than one closer to home was the promise of cheap camping (£10 / person / night) – and although the family was planning to come along and to make a weekend of it, they hadn’t recovered from their jet lag and decided to stay at home, so the camping was reduced to a single person for a single night.

My adventure began with an easy drive around the M25 arriving about 1800 on Saturday.

After setting up camp, and realising I’d left a number of essential items behind… stove lighter, towel & torch being the most exasperating, the most cardinal of sins was forgetting the P20. Bad Ginger. Probably very sunburnt ginger!

Popping to the local Asda for dinner allowed be a drive of the bike course: revealing nothing too exciting except some temporary traffic lights, and apparently one total road closure. No big hills to worry about. I wasn’t too enamoured with the bit of the A21 we’d be doing – it’s the imperfect combination of busy and narrow (that is, just wide enough for cars to think there’s room for two cars and a bike across the carriageways, when I wouldn’t have said there was).

A couple of burgers and bottles of water went down well, and it was time for bed.

Race Day

Up with the alarm at 0515, as registration opened at 0530. Gulped down a coffee and the now customaryrice pudding and bowl of porridge.

Registration was uneventful: wander up, show race licence, handed timing chip (which was attached immediately and wasn’t removed until I’d finished the race…) and stickers. Slap them on and then onto racking.

Racking wasn’t very well laid out: the optimal (in my mind) is that everyone has a similar route and it’s all one way: this consisted of a main trunk road down the middle with swim in, bike out & in and run out all on the same straight line with branches of racking off to the sides, so if you arrived late to racking you had to go further down a branch and then come back up the same way. I chose a spot one rack down closest to bike out and laid out my detritus.

I’ve been spoiled by m-dot events with their red carpet, I was mildly sneering at the stony transition on a concrete car park. Promised to be uncomfortable underfoot.

There was only one set of toilets that were already busy (apparently got to a 30m wait) – I wandered down the road to the alternate “secret” camping set in the sailing club, which is where the showers were.

Popped back to the tent to do some general packing of the car and then went and stood on the long grass hill to listen to the briefing.

It was a beautiful morning, although quite misty, which was going to delay race start as the safety team had to be able to see everyone in the water. Fair enough, but annoying as every moment we delayed now meant later and therefore hotter weather on the run.

The briefing was fairly standard fare: although there was no mention of the traffic lights, the road closure was apparently all planned for. Necked pre-race gel at T minus what I hoped would be 20, and wandered to the start.

As is standard, started chatting with several really nice blokes: one who was from Wimbledon who became my race buddy who I saw in T1 and again when he overtook me on the run.

Quite a few milling about in non-wetsuits: bloke with brilliant plaited beard (and no wetsuit) said it had been a mistake last week up north because he kept hitting cold patches of water, but because of how shallow it was here, he was more confident.
Off went sprint male & females, and without much further ado the sprint distance men were called into the water.

Swim – 00:32:13 official (00:30:40 – 1,613m – Garmin)

Hobbled into the water off the beach with 170 other Standard Distance males about 20 minutes later than planned. The water was very warm – bit late to change my mind about wearing a wetsuit at this point.

Wished luck to everyone around me (in a vain attempt to stop them swimming over me).

General confusion about where we were supposed to start from, didn’t seem to matter much to the starter who yelled “FIVE SECONDS… GO!”.

Usual washing machine scrum at the start: no real room – being clattered on all sides, past the first buoy it alleviated slightly and I was able to concentrate on getting on the toes of a suitable hare to chase and quietly draft off.

Visibility wasn’t great either in or out of the water: partly because the goggles alternated between steaming up and leaking slightly, and party because the water is completely opaque. Combine that with that we seemed to be sighting into the sun for half the time. Had to pause to empty the goggles twice.

The sprint did one lap and we did two. By the time we were around the second buoy we’d strung out pretty evenly, and apart from the odd chicane around a breast-stroking sprinter it was relatively straight lines between buoys. I got on the toes of a good pacer – I worked out pretty quickly that if you tickled his feet he’d kick hard for a few strokes to start speeding up in a (futile) attempt to drop me. Sniggering to myself I kept him nice and honest for most of the second lap before we seemed to bunch up again to get out of the water.

Taking the now customary 5 second crouch to avoid the dizzies we were off up the hill to T1.

(The 90 second difference in swim times between official / Garmin is because the transition mat was at the top of the hill whereas transition started at the swim end on the Garmin. )

T1 – 00:02:08 (00:03:00) 
Transition was, as guessed, a pain in the feet and an exercise in avoiding people running past in both directions.
Not much to report. Not particularly fast as slathering self in sun screen and deciding to put socks on at this point rather than later.

Bike – 01:19:54 (1:19:36 – 38.7km)
The bike was a 2 lap affair on mostly quiet B-roads taking in some glorious Kent (The Garden of England) countryside. Starting on a single track road with little overtaking room (and a helpful Audi coming the other way for some reason) we were soon turning left onto the open roads.

Road surfaces okay and positively good in places, usual UK roads in others with random pot holes and surface blemishes.
As predicted the temporary traffic lights caused chaos with some people stopping at the red light, and others ploughing through as there was no oncoming traffic.

The worst bit on this course was past the closed road with what seemed like a deliberately obnoxiously parked JCB blocking most of it. There was a one metre wide gap with sharp JCB on the right and gravel speed trap on the left. It was well marshalled though with a nice man shouting “slow here, careful of the gravel).

The predicted A21-idiot traffic wasn’t actually not too bad on 1st lap, but we had our quota of idiots on second.

The only other noteworthy event happened on the second lap: I failed to avoid a particularly feature-full blemish on the road surface and the tool kit that is attached (a water bottle shaped case in a water bottle carrier on the back of the bike) broke free and set off down the road without me. Fortunately I heard the cash as it hit the deck and was able to stop and retrieve the pieces that were scattered all over the road: including the car key, which could have been exciting had I lost it in the hedge. The tool case breaking free has happened in past, but rarely. The solution is probably to mount it more horizontally.

Tools retrieved and back in the saddle, foot down on the left hand turn onto the A21. A couple of close passes and a friendly honk of horn later and the final turn back into transition beconed.

Dismount, jog over line.

T2 – 00:01:36 (00:01:00)
Some twonk put their bike in my rack space (probably racing, so can forgive them), a quick shove out the way and we were all good again. On with visor, tube of sunscrren in pocket, grab gel and we’re off.

Where’s run out? Whoops, back this way.

Run – 00:52:27 (52:23 – 9.4km)
Almost immediately out of transition was the turn point and water station. Grab a cup, drain, try and establish a rhythm and overcome the jelly legs. The bricks have helped with a first km of 5:00 (slowing to an average of 5:33).

“It’s four laps” the nice marshall at the turn points out.

The 2.5k lap is dominated by the dam that forms the lake: the out stretch is along its base, out of the breeze but in the sun, and then half a click of “up an incline” (with crunchy gravel underfoot) to the top and a 180 back along the top, then up some steps (Steps ? Who puts steps on a run course?!) followed by a narrow drag back up to the turn.

Underfoot is mostly hard pack with gravel in places, and the majority of people seemed to be running along the edge which is dried mud and grass.

First two laps the only things I remember are dropping the sunscreen after application and trying to put it in my pocket, and being laughed at as I requested two cups of water – one to drink and one to pitch over my head and down my back.
This is mostly just a grind: although the views are spectacular, and the fishermen are having some luck as we dash past. Hares to chase come & go, but I’m overtaken more often than over-take.

Lap 3, my new pre-race friend passes with a friendly wave at the bottom of “that bloody hill” as it has now been christened. He’s flying, on his last lap (predictably).

The start of Lap 4 friendly marshall at the turn says “I’ve seen you lots before, can’t be many left now” – at least I’m making an impression (even if that point my impression is of a particularly unfit and asthmatic hippo who has turned an interesting shade of bright purple). Happily reaching the top of that bloody hill for the last time I high-fived “the cheeriest marshall” and pushed on to the end.

Finally I cross the line. Takes a few seconds to recover, grab a water, coke and some jelly beans. Perhaps another water. Handed a generic looking medal. Wander to transition.

Overall – 02:48:20 

89th overall of 175 (mid table mediocracy)
17th in AG of 25 (ah)
Rubbish medal mind you.

No free t-shirt (but this isn’t really reflected in the price).

Felt like the bike was the weakest link but comparing myself to the rest of the field it’s actually the run that was comparatively the worst.

Bloke at the start of the bike said “thank god the swim is over” – but I’d really enjoyed it.

Still, when comparing to my targets….
Don’t Drown, Don’t Crash. Don’t walk. (tick)
Don’t leave timing chip in transition. (tick)
Have Fun. Finish in good health and good spirits. (tick)
Race the whole thing and finish with nothing left to give. (tick)
Finish sub 3-hours (tickety-tick-tick).
…it’s a success.

It was brilliant. Next year I’m going to do some more standard distance races, they aren’t quite the ‘event’ that the half iron is, but it’s still enough to be a challenge.

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