2016 was the inaugural running of the West Bay Triathlon. It was organised by a local fledgling company Beyond Events.
West Bay is a perfect venue for sports events. It is in beautiful rural Dorset and on the spectacular Jurassic Coast.
Beyond Events are very keen to encourage inexperienced athletes to have a go and push their limits. There were 2 distances – Sprint and Olympic. The Sprint course was very flat and aimed at newcomers to triathlon. The Olympic distance course had a challenging bike and a very challenging run and all though there were some athletes who took this on as their first triathlon the majority were more experienced.
The swim for the Sprint course was 400 metres. Following this was a relatively easy 25km bike ride with no hills. The run was 5km long and also very flat. As athletes arrived to register and rack their bikes in transition it was obvious that Beyond Events had achieved their objective of getting inexperienced triathletes involved as a wide variety of bikes were being wheeled in. These included hybrids with straight bars alongside the fancy TT bikes.
The weather on June 5th 2016 was especially favourable for the event. Dry and warm but with light cloud cover and very little wind.
At 09:00 there was a safety briefing and then at 09:15 the Olympic distance athletes were ready to take the plunge for their swim. The Olympic distance swim is normally 1500m but the West Bay swim was only 750 metres, so we were let off lightly.
The swim started in the harbour and once out of the entrance it headed west around a buoy before finishing on the beach. I always try to start at the side of the pack for a Le Mans start on the swim to avoid congestion.
This worked quite well and although I took a few knocks I did manage to keep swimming until the first red post when I had to ease my away around in a crowd.
Once out of the harbour I made steady progress across to the buoy and then headed for the beach. It’s always a bit of an effort to keep moving out of the water and up the beach.
The clock does not stop in a triathlon and the time taken between the 3 disciplines is called transition. T1 is the time taken from exiting the swim to when you start riding your bike. Time is measured accurately by an electronic tag worn around the athlete’s ankle.
I jogged along the promenade – trying to remove my hat, goggles and the top half of my wet suit as I went and reached my bike. I managed to remove my wetsuit (always a triumph) and get my cycling kit on. I made my way to the Mount Line as fast as I could and was soon on my way out of West Bay for the 45km ride around scenic Dorset.
The route headed east to Burton Bradstock where it left the coast road and headed up the Bredy Valley through Litton Cheney to Long Bredy. At Long Bredy the Sprint Route headed back to West Bay.
The Olympic distance carried on up the valley to Little Bredy. After this was a loop where the ride became more scenic and arduous. It went up and over to Martinstown and then up over Hardy’s Monument before coming back down into the valley and retracing back to West Bay.
The route was familiar to me as it is home territory but nonetheless it was well signed and marshalled with very little traffic. In the last few kilometres of the bike ride I drank as much as I could and ate some dates and nuts so I was fuelled ready to tackle the 10km run.
Back at West Bay I got off my bike at the dismount line and jogged back to rack my bike. I changed from cycling shoes to running shoes and set off on wobbly legs along the sea front. There is a horrendous feeling of heaviness in the quads as you try to run. Your body has been used to cycling for a couple of hours and now it has to adjust to running which uses different muscles. It takes a while for it to adjust.
The West Bay run is particularly harsh. It is one of the hardest triathlon runs out there. After a flat 400m around West Bay it heads up the hill following the South West Coast Path towards Eype.
Thereafter the route plunges down to sea level again at Eype and then climbs up to Thorncombe Beacon before dropping to sea level again at Seatown. At Seatown the route reverses and the athletes return up hill and down dale to West Bay. After sprinting down the hill the big finish is along the sea front.
It was a relief to finish as this had been a very challenging course. After a hilly bike ride out in the countryside the hills on the run were pretty brutal. However it had been a fantastic days racing with a wonderful atmosphere and lots of support on the very scenic challenging course.
The organisers Beyond Events had done a great job with their first Triathlon. It is a huge asset to the local area to have such high prestige sporting events bringing thousands more visitors into Bridport and West Bay. I hope more local businesses, the local press and media support Beyond Events in the other races they have organised for this year and wish them every success with the 2017 West Bay Triathlon which is on June 4th 2017.