We got there at just before 10 and went to register. The "Expo" (grand name for a few tents) was still being assembled, and there was hardly anyone around.
The "Expo", still being assembled - there's no-one here yet!
The PA being assembled just past the finishing line
This is the only time I'll ever see a 70.3 finishing gantry with a time starting with "4 hours"!
We got our ID bands attached, these would have to remain on until after the race, and collected our registration packs containing a hard copy of the race programme, numbers, swim hat (thick, red), and the all-important timing chip (left ankle, so it can't foul your chainrings on the bike). The last table was giving out transfers (number on right arm, age category identifier on back of right leg).
Mrs at registration
Wristband ID being attached - smiles all round!
Picking up the race packs
Funky fake tattoos for our race numbers - just like the elites
The registration team were still clearly very new at their tasks (no mistakes, just not particularly optimised) and so I estimate we were two of the first half dozen athletes to register.
Our jewellery for the next 3 days
Contents of registration bag
It was a nice experience being there so early. We wandered around unimpeded and had time to take a good look at transition, the lake, the various routes we would be taking. A technique to ease the pressure on race day is to visualise the route you take and what you'll be doing at each point, and this relaxed time to survey the layout is very useful.
The lake, cold but bearable
Giant buoys - aim for these on Sunday and you won't go far wrong
The runway mowed into the grass from lake exit up towards transition
Part of the run course (it's a crazy route near the lake, you go round in triangles!)
We had a long chat with Peter from Totally Bikes about bike hire and kit and all manner of things. I was particularly impressed by the Vision Metron bar end shifters on this Felt DA, at first I thought they were little secondary brake levers. Squeeze the lever to change up one way, click the end to go down - beautiful, and much less movement/balance required than with conventional bar end shifters. Might have to look at those for a potential upgrade.
Cute - Vision Metron bar-end shifters
The rain came in while we were down by the lake, so we scuttled off back to the car in search of somewhere to go and buy some snacks. We decided to go down to Dulverton, the bigger village just down the road from Exebridge where we were based. We hid from the showers in Lewis's Tearooms, where I had an unexpectedly wonderful salmon and noodle lunch - perfectly teriyaki, soy, and miring flavours. I was due to speak to my coach at 14:40 so we hung around and then huddled in a phone box for 20 minutes (is there really absolutely no phone reception anywhere around here?).
Bloody lovely lunch
Next job was bike assembly. They'd been sat in the car since we got here. There was a minor problem in that one of my brake levers had come loose, and the only way to tighten it is to take out the brake cable inner, re-seat and tighten it, then re-thread. Thankfully I had new cable cutters and all the tools I needed (see big list of stuff I brought). To be honest, when I looked at the list yesterday I thought I'd gone a bit over the top with precautions, but now I feel vindicated - score one point for preparation and not needing to roam around trying to find a bike shop in the middle of nowhere.
Bikes assembled, and one quick test-ride later, and it was back to the lake for a swim. The water was cold, damn cold, but thankfully not as icy as at the familiarisation day. It was well under 10C on that day (6-8C estimated) but a positively balmy 14C at the moment. Whilst cold, you don't get the wind knocked out of you, and it feels easier to manage the naturally occurring cold-water reflex. A good confidence boost as I didn't freak out, and was able to swim properly after 6 or 7 minutes of warming up. As long as I get a chance to warm up on race day, I should be fine.
Back to base for dinner and getting everything ready for our race bags. The blue BIKE bag has everything you need in T1, the red RUN bag s everything for T2, and the white SWIM bag os for putting things in right at the start, then you get it back right at the end, so use it to store anything you'll need straight after finishing (recovery drink, warm clothes, etc). The bags have to get dropped off the day before the race in transition along with your bike, and there's (theoretically) no access to them on race morning - therefore careful preparation is required.
Bike in one piece and ready to go
White SWIM bag - covered in "before and after" things, not everything will end up in this bag
Blue for Bike and Red for Run
Blue bag: Bike helmet, warm socks, cycling shoes, gloves, arm warmers (prepared for it to be chilly out, can always roll them down if it's warm), sunglasses, race number attached to race belt, inhaler (shouldn't need it, but it's better to be safe, and psychologically I'm less likely to experience difficulty breathing if I know it's near).
Red bag: Well used run shoes (I don't care if they get trashed in the mud, it's going to be a very messy course I think), run hat, spare socks (lovely if my bike ones have proven too hot, or have got wet) and another inhaler (I'm not planning on cycling with the one from the blue bag, and I won't have blu bag access again until after the race, so this is another safety net).
First two gels, mounted on tri-bar extensions with electrical tape round the rip-off top
More gels, more tape, prepared for one per 30 mins - enough here even if I have a bad ride
I'm planning on being self-sufficient on the ride. 2x 750ml drinks bottles and 7x gels. I shouldn't need to stop at any aid stations, this will save me a lot of time (I can imagine it gets very crowded around them) and will remove one of the highest risk crash points - taking bottles, gels, and bars whilst cycling.
Not long to go now!