The Dorset seaside resort of Weymouth plays host to the largest 70.3 race in the UK, (that’s a half Ironman to us laymen) It was also the setting for our Abigail Farwell’s debut at this legendary multi discipline challenge.
Abi, her dad Pete and 2698 other athletes faced 70 miles worth of exertion amidst the Jurassic Coast setting. Kicking off with a 1.2 mile sea swim in Weymouth Bay, they then needed to transition to a 56 mile bike leg through the undulating Dorset hills before returning to Weymouths promenade for a flat half marathon along the beachfront and promenade…. all within 8 and half hours.
Arriving on Friday, the weather was sunny but storm force winds were making for some crazy looking waves
“I could hardly look when were driving around the bay!”
Hoping the wether would have settled somewhat overnight, Abi had hoped to get her wetsuit on and get in the water and try a swim, to calm her nerves over her least confident discipline, but the stormy conditions put paid to that. Instead she had a masterclass in the transition process from her Dad and Darren Cole before doing a recce of the bike course.
Race day… the nerves and excitement fighting against each other! That ridiculous time in the morning when the sun isn’t up yet, the revellers from the night before are still straggling home. Abi made her way over to the transition area in the darkness for a few last minute preparations before heading over to the beach.
The weather was still stormy with the sea swirling around the bay. The organisers had decided to delay the start times and cut the swim distance. Wet and cold Abi had to wait around an hour before she was set off on her swim, shuffling along in lines of 4, each being set off every 5 seconds.
“The atmosphere was buzzing!”
Her time came and she was off! Into the waters for a trapezium shaped loop around the bay before returning to the beach in 23 mins and 42 seconds.
“It took me until the first bouy until I got into the swing of it. One more turn then I headed back to the beach. I was so happy at this point…. I’d made the swim!”
Transition negotiated, she set out on her wheels into the rolling hills of the Jurassic Coast and Dorset countryside. The rain was lashing down and the wind was taking its toll on the trees there were cyclists crashing all over the place with debris and surface water wrecking havoc.
“It was going to be a long day. There were plenty of downhills to complement the uphills. I tried to utilise these and get aero, but it was hard as the wind was pushing the bike around”
Despite the challenges, Abi made up 278 places on this leg as she went through the aptly named Puddletown, turning at Kings Stag, through Pleck and southerly return via Charminster, Dorchester and finally back to Weymouth, support a plenty along the way.
4 hours behind her now and just that half marathon left. She set out, still smiling on this 3 and a half lap final stage from the transition area to Lodmoor Country Park, throngs of supporters at every turn.
“My plan (as advised by Coach Cole), was to take the run slow and steady”
The first 2 laps passed by comfortably as she cheering on fellow runners.
“It was great seeing my dad on the laps, (way ahead of me I might add!) and my family cheering me on”
When she passed the finishing chute entering the last lap, she picked up the pace drawing strength from the crowd and knowing that next time she saw it would be her turn to run down the red carpet of glory. She powered her way through the busy field making up 356 places as she went before she finally made it back to the finishing chute.
“Running home to the cheers from my family and friends was the most amazing feeling”
She’d done it! Smashing the half marathon in just 9 minutes over her already nippy PB, she’d finished in an incredible 5 hours and 58 minutes.
Time for a well earned glass of bubbly – well done Iron (wo)man!