Tenby or not Tenby – Part 3 (Andrew)

Saturday (Bike)

I’m rubbish at reading instruction. That doesn’t mean I read instructions and end up doing the exact opposite of what I’m asked to do. It means I’m rubbish at even glancing at instructions. I give them a quick look, check there’s nothing I need to know, then forget about them until the night before race day.  Then I panic.

This time the panic was over whether we’d actually be able to get round the 112 mile course before the cut off time for the second lap – the course involves a 66 mile circuit and then a 56 mile lap of part of it again.

We were given a 9:45 a.m. start time however the cut off was 1:30 p.m, which meant we’d need an average speed of c16 m.p.h. to make the cut off. And we’d need to make that speed despite a lumpy course and a 25 mph wind. Oh, and it was raining. And it was misty.

We didn’t make it.

Not that I minded. After four hours of cycling through the rain, the mist, the wind and up and down every valley in south west Wales I was glad to finish. I wasn’t too tired so could have gone on but I wasn’t keen to use all my tolerance for bad weather now rather than waiting for Norseman. If Norseman is bad, let it be bad, but at least let it be one of the few times I’ve got to cycle in it. I’ve got enough bad weather over the years that I don’t need to try an train in it to adjust. I know what it’s like to have cold hands, a wet body and a face so scrunched up from the elements that you looks like you’re trying to lift an oil tanker with your mind.

For what we could see, the course was nice and varied with plenty to see. It starts in Tenby, heads through Pembroke before a long but not too steep climb out to the coast where you cycle through dunes and pass beaches that, for this ride at least, were buffetted by strong waves and spray. Returning to Pembroke you then cycle through high hedges as the wind and rain swirls around you like midges. There’s some fantastic closed road sections where you head downhill among the hedges and feel like a pinball in a tunnel as they tower above you. The last third of the course has the majority of the steepest hills. A sharp climb up a valley  and through the town of Narbeth before returning along the coast with 18% plus climbs at Wise Man Bridge and Saundersfoot.

I ride with Iain for most of the route but start to edge ahead when we get to the final climbs. With only a few miles to go I stay ahead and, because I’ve not read the instructions, I get the finish all wrong. I didn’t know that riders would be redirected to the finish line if they missed the cut off. I thought I’d taken a wrong turn and almost stopped before the finish line to wait for Iain to check where we should go but I was through the finish line before I knew and relieving a medal I didn’t feel I deserved. I’d not finished the race. However, it turned out I had, by missing the cut-off we’d finished the 66 mile race instead, and still received a medal.

In the end we’d missed the cut-off by 24 minutes. Not long given the circumstances and the fact we’d not raced to try and beat it. But, even if we’d made it, I’m not sure I’d have gone out again. While I don’t read instructions, I do read the weather and the forecast for the afternoon was for heavy rain and gales and I was happy to miss that.