This past June I booked a trip to Bermuda to do the SheRox Tri in November. I had never been to Bermuda and after seeing and hearing about how beautiful it was and imagining how much fun it would be to do a tri in crystal clear water and riding and running next to the ocean, it sounded too good to pass up. Flights were reasonable, the hotel looked great, and it sounded like at least a few other MHWTC ladies were going to go. It was setting up to be a fun weekend, with a nice little sprint tri thrown in to cap off the season.
I believe the true “fun” started for me after my failed North East Olympic Tri bid in August, which coincided with the last time I blogged. Shortly after that, we went on a family vacation to Rome, which was incredible (involved no training, but plenty of delicious food and wine) and then returned for my kids to start school. I then started traveling for work fairly intensely, and was on the road in a different city anywhere from 2-5 days every week during September and most of October, including a very last minute trip to London. All of this played a bit of havoc with my training plan, and somewhere along the way I managed to pull a muscle along my shoulder and down my arm, making it painful to swim. I managed to get a couple of very decent bike rides in, including part of the MS City to Shore 150 and a great ride called the Wild Goose in Maryland, but barely swam and ran even less.
But, not to worry, right? How hard could it be to race a sprint tri in beautiful, sunny Bermuda?
As departure time got closer, I started checking out the weather forecast. Mid 70′s, day and night, with a chance of rain each day. Not bad, and fairly typical for that time of year. The logistics of the trip made the packing challenging. Since there was a practice bike ride and practice swim the day before the race, one needed workout clothes, Tri clothes, swim stuff, bike stuff, running stuff, daytime fun stuff, nighttime fun stuff, and shoes for everything. At some points I felt like I was packing for a schizophrenic.
Plus there was the bike. Advised by Barb, the SheRox race director, that there were not many bikes available to rent in Bermuda, and advised by others that shipping my bike could result in it being delayed by customs, the surest way for me to have a bike to ride on the day of the race was to bring it on the plane with me. Having changed a few flat tires this year I am more acquainted with my bike than I was previously, but certainly not in the position to dismantle it, pack it, and reassemble it upon arrival. Thankfully, places such as Action Wheels exist. They dismantled it and packed it into a box for me to transport. And SheRox had bike mechanics in Bermuda for reassembly before the race and dismantling after the race. All for a tidy fee, of course….along with the fee the airline charges. But we won’t dwell on that. It was all for the experience. And it was quite an experience dragging that large cardboard box around an airport and a hotel.
Getting to Bermuda was easy. It’s less than a 2 hour flight and the ride to the hotel is fairly short. Waiting for our room to be ready, Amy and I, who were rooming together, sat outside, ordered drinks and lunch and just soaked in the view.
Later that day we headed to the beach and just kept on enjoying. This was definitely going to be a perfect weekend.
When we went back later in the evening to pick up our reassembled bikes, we noticed a printout of the marine forecast for the rest of the weekend. The words, “gale-force winds, worsening conditions for Saturday night and Sunday morning” jumped off the page at us. We mentioned it to the bike mechanic, who said not to worry, forecasts and conditions change rapidly in Bermuda.
Friday night we went out on the town and sampled some fine Bermuda food and beverages.
Saturday morning’s practice bike ride was scheduled to depart from the hotel lobby at 8:30am. We awoke around 7:30, looked outside and saw rain and wind and promptly decided to go back to bed. When we woke back up about an hour later, the sun had come out, so we decided to ride the course on our own.
Looking at the map of the course, it did not appear to be difficult. One road, go about 2 miles, turn around, then go the other way about 4 miles and turn around. 12 miles in total. How hard could that be?
The hotel was situated for maximum views of the ocean. In that regard, it sat on top of a large hill. We first had to ride to the bottom of the hill. On the way down I was fairly certain I was going to need new brake pads before the day was out. After we got down the hill, we started on the road, Bermuda-style, which is on the left side of the road, which is a two-lane road with no shoulder and cars driving a bit manic. And along the way we noticed the course was somewhat hilly and curvy. But once we got a few miles underway and started enjoying the views, which were fabulous, we decided we could definitely manage the course, especially since it would be closed to traffic on race day.
Satisfied with that, we decided to skip the practice swim, mainly to save my shoulder for race day, and spent a lovely afternoon outside. During packet pickup and the pre-race meeting, there was talk about decisions to be announced in the morning on the beach about any weather-induced changes to the race.
We prepped everything Saturday night and with the extra hour of sleep for DST, were ready for action at 5am on Sunday, as transition opened at 5:30. As soon as we awoke we opened the doors to the balcony, noticed it was not raining, but there were strong winds blowing. Not a good sign.
After Saturday’s harrowing ride down the hill, we decided to walk our bikes to transition, especially since it was pitch dark. As soon as we walked into transition, Neil, the race director told us the swim was canceled due to rough seas. But the bike and run were still on.
Noticing that the bike racks were being held down by sandbags and dark clouds hung overhead, we decided to rack our bikes but not take our stuff out of bags. We soon realized this was a good decision as someone’s sneaker flew by in the wind.
We waited around in transition for what felt like forever. Especially since it was windy and a bit cold. The best part about it was getting to meet other triathletes who had travelled from other places for this race and were great to commiserate with. Everyone was friendly and fun.
The bike was a time trial start, each athlete would start at 10 second intervals. Once the race finally got underway, I had a great vantage point at the start. What I noticed after the first couple elite athletes started was that Barb was giving each biker a push and run up the hill at the beginning to get everyone started. It was a steep hill to start and tough to get momentum to start and clip in.
When it was my turn, I got my push and was able to get going, thinking it wasn’t too bad. Then I turned the corner, faced the wind, and an even steeper hill. With burning lungs, I made it to the start, thinking of how much energy I just used to ride about 1/10 mile. I was then ever so thankful that the bike portion was only 12 miles. During the ride, I cannot recall how many times I compared it to the day before and thought about how different it felt with 35-40+ mph winds and how challenging it was. Thankfully? the winds were headwinds and not crosswinds so there were only a couple of times that it felt like my bike was being swept away from me. After the second turnaround the wind was behind me so the last couple miles felt great.
Then there was the run. Did I mention I have not been running much lately? The run started on the same path as the bike, up the same hill (maybe it was a mountain or just felt that way). The views were still beautiful, but my whole goal was to finish as soon as I could. The turnaround felt like it took forever to get to and as soon as I hit it, I realized the run back was against the wind. And uphill. There was more than once that I felt like I was running on a treadmill, just running but not going anywhere.
I eventually made it to the finish line and found the rest of the MHWTC and of course at that point felt great for having accomplished the race. We posed for pictures and celebrated our craziness. Then headed for the massage line.
After we walked our bikes and gear back up the hill and to the hotel, we found the hot tub, then hot showers, then brunch. That night was a dinner and awards party. Since most races hand out awards at the end of the race and everyone is still in their race gear, seeing everyone dressed with hair and makeup done was quite a switch. After a fun time at the party, we continued with the celebrating at the hotel club. Along the way we met up with several rugby players, who were in Bermuda for an international rugby tournament. Apparently the tournament, which was to have started on Sunday, was canceled until Tuesday, due to the weather. Not because rugby players cannot play in windy and wet conditions, but because the winds blew apart the sponsor’s tents and apparently rugby cannot be played without beer tents. Perhaps they should have connected with the SheRox team and borrowed some of the sandbags from the bike racks. It was quite funny that we could race a tri, but these huge rugby players couldn’t play.
Overall, Bermuda was quite a trip. The race was definitely challenging, due to the weather, but the course itself also provided a good workout. Even though the weather was not picture perfect, the group of MHWTC girls that were there found plenty of ways to relax, unwind, and laugh about, which is what a weekend away is all about.