Welcome to the 'Challenge Hursty' Blog!

The Adventures so far!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

50mile L2MUltra run from Liverpool to Manchester ~ 9 hours 59 mins 58 Seconds!! (& £741 raised for Macmillan Cancer Research)

L2MUltra Route
The need to continue to try and push my boundaries and see what I can achieve lead me to take on the challenge of an Ultra Marathon.

An ultra is loosely defined as anything over the standard 26.2 miles but this run caught my eye as being a great candidate for a first ultra run with it's relatively flat topography. Once again I was joined by my mate & adventure challenge partner in crime, Dave McDonald, who true to previous form, decided to join me on this having never done any real distance running... Not that you'd ever know! (Dave and I have previously done the #3PeaksByBike and also canoed, cycled and hiked coast to coast across the Great Glen in Scotland).


Dave McD and myself at a pre dawn start line
Ultra runs generally take place over undulating trails and hills, with runners usually choosing a slower than normal running pace, walking up hills or very technical sections, running on the flat sections and doing a mixture of both on the descents.

A friend who ran this race last year told me that the trouble with the L2MUltra route was that you can in fact run it all as it's pan flat! So we needed a strategy! After much research, and trials on our own training runs, we adopted a 25 minute run / 5 minute walk strategy which seemed to leave something in the legs as our long runs got in to the upper 20 mile regions. We also invested in specialist running back packs with hydration and nutrition pockets and space for the runs 'essential items' of waterproof jacket, head torch, map and space blanket, as well as room for gels, etc.


We did a bike reccie of the route a few weeks before hand which was great to know what to expect but was quite hard cycling in itself! Our training runs took us respectively to around 30 miles (never thought I'd see the day where I went on a 30 mile training run!?), with lots of 20+ mile runs and 10 mile runs becoming bizarrely easy!?

Despite that, we knew that once past 30 miles we'd be in unchartered territory with 20 miles to go and would have to undoubtedly dig deep to finish this. These sort of things are often 80% training and 20% bloody mindedness on the day just not to give up!


The Mersey with Runcorn Bridge in the background
The run was organised by GBUltras with the route following the Trans Pennine Trail from Aintree in Liverpool to Didsbury in Manchester following a mix of disused railway line trails and paths along the Mersey, Manchester Ship Canal and some other canals and small towns.



We both stayed over in Liverpool the night before the race (Dave with his family and me in a local hotel) and were up at 4:15am for a 5:30am race briefing and a 6am start. The chilly air was soon lost and we were removing layers before we got to the first 6 mile checkpoint.

We tried not to think about the race being 50 miles, instead breaking it into two 25/5 run/walk repeats roughly between each pit stop (with a pit stop every 6 to 7 miles). The pit stops were well stocked and the atmosphere at the stops and with the runners on route friendly and very supportive!

The first 10 miles was done before we knew it, and maintaining a 5mph pace 20 miles was also soon done and saw us on the banks of the Mersey

As we passed under the M6 Thelwall viaduct we tipped the 30 mile mark... The next checkpoint at around 32 miles was were the going got really tough! Psychologically knowing there was another 18 miles to go (even when trying not to think about it) was a big hurdle to get over but we pushed on quietly and without much chat on our 25/5 pacing strategy.

We kept leap frogging the same groups of runners and I think generally everyone was in much the same frame of mind at this point of being tired but battling on.

The mood picked up as we got near Sale Water park and tipped the 40 mile mark! After that we were in single figure remaining miles and once again on the picturesque banks of the Mersey and around Chorlton Water Park.

Sprint finish!
Finally we got to a trail within site of the finishing line with our watches showing around 9 hours 53 minutes!? Unbelievably we were in with a very unexpected chance of coming in under 10 hours!?

As we got into the car park we were told we had to do a 'lap of honour' around the Rugby pitches!?! Thoughts of a sub 10 hour finish ebbed away but as we rounded the final bend with little more than 100m or so to the finish our watches clicked from 9:58 to 9:59! What could we do but muster a sprint finish!! Crossed the line with a whole 2 seconds to spare and a feeling of massive elation!


Finish line bling!
From setting off on my first 10km just under 10 years ago, I never dreamt it possible I'd be able to run an Ultra Marathon of 50 miles!? It just shows what can be achieved with a bit of training and a lot of determination!

I'm now proud to add Ultra Runner to my list of achievements... But not sure where this will take me next!? :-)



Sunday, 2 October 2016

Abersoch RNLI Cycle Sportive

I wrapped up my 2016 events with the Abersoch RNLI Cycle Sportive.

It's the second time the Abersoch RNLI have run this event which takes in some spectacular scenery (and even more so with them having extended the route this year).

Unfortunately it wasn't hugely well attended with only around 50 riders participating.

Hopefully as the word gets around, the event will attract the rider numbers it (and the crew), truly deserve!

It also made me realise just how fortunate we were with our own RNLI sportive earlier in 2016 and the participant numbers we managed.

Definitely a date for 2017 that I'd recommend!

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Ironman Weymouth! 14hours 53mins 16 secs ~ £1,875 raised for the RNLI!


So for a good few years now I'd been slightly in awe of the Ironman Triathlon event. From doing my first 10km run in 2007 I went through what probably everyone goes through, thinking how could you possibly run double that distance to do a half marathon, and then double that again for a marathon!? It just seems impossible!?

Taking that to its extreme, an Ironman just seemed so unachievable!? a 2.4mile swim, 112mile bike and then a 26.2mile marathon run!? How do people do that!? But for anyone who took that step from 10km to half marathon, etc., you'll know that it is achievable because you train for it, and probably because you're so bloody minded to finish on the day that you do it! And that's pretty much the story of my Ironman! It's been a heck of a journey, exciting, nerve wracking, moments of almost overwhelming self-doubt... But also a great journey! I've had some great training runs, rides and swims with some fantastic scenery and people, and also some time on my own for reflection. I've learned a lot about myself and other people! My friends and family I don't think ever really doubted me, even when I doubted myself, and their support has been awesome and humbling and is without doubt the single biggest contributing factor to my Ironman success!

I guess I'd actually been putting this off for a few years. Thinking that some of my other challenges would satiate that underlying desire to give an Ironman a go. Even when I did the Long Course Weekend last year I thought that would scratch the itch, but days after finishing and thinking I'd never be able to complete it all in one day, my viewpoint had changed to thinking I could do this!

Registration confirmation!
It must have been about last October when I decided to up the training just to see how sustainable it was. By January 2016, I pretty much knew I was going to do this but still hadn't admitted it or had the courage to hit the enter button on the registration page (and fork out the £460 registration fee!). That moment came in March! I posted on Twitter at the time that "that's the hard part done" and it did kind of feel like that. A bit of a weight off my mind and I could just concentrate on the training!

So the training became a lifestyle change! I 
ramped up from circa 9 hours/week training peaking at around 16 hours/week. I trained six days/week, resting on a Monday after my long sessions at the weekend. Did early morning swims and runs alternating weekday mornings, some runs in the evening and tried to cycle to work one day a week to Manchester. The ‘Bricks sessions’ came at the weekend of 'long open water swim to bike' and 'long bike ride to runs'. I had a few morale boosting 2.4m swims on a Saturday well within the Ironman time cut off which had been playing on my mind, followed by cycling 40m home from Manchester and then a 3m run. My biggest training session was a 1km pool swim followed by a 124mile bike ride from Sandbach to Pwllheli and a 3.5mile run on the same day a couple of weeks before the event, at which point I felt I was ready! 


We stayed in a caravan in Weymouth for the weekend which was great as it meant I could make my own breakfast on the day at daft o'clock in the morning and also meant as a family we could take our dog Ollie!

Sunrise over Weymouth beach
I tried to remain calm and optimistic about event day. Yes things might not go to plan but any number of things could also go right on the day! And they pretty much did! I made a start on this by getting a good breakfast of Peanut butter on toast and a banana!

Conditions on the day were amazing. Clear skies, warm but not hot, glass calm seas and only a breath of wind!
Swim exit over the shingle
beach... Ouch!
I'd been nervous about the swim. Mass starts can be brutal! There was both the main Ironman and a Half Ironman event all setting off swimming at the same time... 2,800 competitors in total!!! But the organisation was impeccable and amazingly the self-seeded rolling swim start worked exceptionally well! I really enjoyed the swim! I had plenty of space to swim, the sea at 17'c was warmer than the 9'c air temp at 7am in the morning and the water was clean and clear. Being able to see the sandy bottom for most of the swim was a huge bonus. The two 1.2m laps with an 'Australian exit' between times was soon done in a personal best of 1hour 30mins! If you're going to pull a PB, what better time than on event day (and well within the 2 hour cut off to give me a head start on the bike)!

Run from Swim to T1
I'd decided I was going to make sure I was comfortable on the 112mile bike ride by getting completely changed out of wet gear into my cycling gear. I knew this would cost me a little more time in transition but felt I could make up for it being settled for a long day in the saddle on the bike. I think this paid off!

By the time I got on the bike the sun was warming the air nicely! I'd done a lot of training on the steep sharp climbs of the Welsh hills, but the Dorset countryside turned out to be mostly long rolling hills without any real intense climbing and some stunning scenery on route!

Home made Bike food!
My nutrition strategy was to eat normal, solid food on the bike rather than overdosing on gels which tend to give you gut rot after a few of them. I did top up on one gel just to get me going on the bike but for the remainder of the ride relied on homemade rice cakes, homemade flapjack and homemade egg, bacon and sausage 'breakfast bakes'. Also a couple of ham and Philadelphia sandwiches and cereal bars. These were wrapped in parchment foil for easier access! The recipes were from a cycling food book a friend recommended and were excellent (and well tested on training rides!).
Start of the bike leg
I made use of the 'personal needs' bags to be deposited at the 33m/86m feed station so that I could re-stock en-route which seemed to work really well!  

Into the climbs!
The bike leg itself went great! I maintained a steady pace of around 15mph to 16mph and had a good ride on mostly closed roads. The support around the course was amazing! Lots of locals who had clearly been trapped in their own lanes and driveways in full carnival spirit with cow bells, drums, etc.!

The route took us on a circular tour North East out of Weymouth around Osmington, Puddletown, Buckland Newton before turning South West through Godmanstone and around Dorchester back over hills to Weymouth for a second loop. I completed the bike leg in 7hours and 32mins which I was really pleased with at 1.5hours within the cut-off for the swim/bike segment. I had a bit of a twinge from my hamstring behind my left knee towards the end but nothing too drastic.
On the run
So a not so quick change from cycling to running gear in T2 and just a marathon run to go! Four and a half loops of the promenade into Weymouth felt a better way of dealing with it so I tended to focus on the loops rather than the miles.

I felt pretty good still! The atmosphere on the run was fantastic and for the first time that day a proper chance to have a bit of banter to take the mind off the running with the other runners. It was a great feeling of camaraderie! Each loop you were given a wrist band of a different colour. Four wrist bands and then into the finish chute! What could be easier!

I met a few really nice people on the run. I ran a loop with a girl called Tess from Wakefield and I think that helped considerably to take my mind off the niggle in my left knee that was getting steadily more uncomfortable. Another lap I ran with a guy and again all thoughts of the knee went away. The final lap I felt my knee give way slightly and had to stop and stretch a bit. It was frustrating because other than that I still felt really good!

It was here that my support team of my wife Karen, Daughter Lucie and dog Ollie were fantastic on the day! They were up at the crack of dawn with me to get to Transition for 5:45am right through to my finish just before 10pm! It was fantastic to see them popping up unexpectedly at various points of the course around Weymouth.

My top supporters! Lucie,
Karen and Ollie!
"Dave... YOU are an Ironman!"
As the darkness drew in, the atmosphere got better! As I got near the finish chute I could hear the crowd cheering runners through and I finally allowed myself to believe that I had this!

At 26 miles it was just a final trot around the pier and into the finish chute. What a feeling! I'd though that I'd be in tears but they didn't come until later.

It was though an unforgettable experience to hear the commentator say "Dave... You are an Ironman!" :-)

It was even more overwhelming to find out that Karen & Lucie had 'live streamed' my finish via Facebook to family and friends at home, in Italy, Mexico and my eldest daughter Zoe in Australia! It was reading the 100+ comments when my aching legs woke me up at 4:30am the next morning that the tears came! ~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQkpCkU4wa0

Ironman ~ Brag for the rest
of your life!
So... For anyone considering embarking upon their own Ironman journey, my advice would be do it! Ironman have a motto of ‘Anything is possible’ and I believe that! Ironman is 80% training and 20% stubbornness to finish! You’ve obviously got to put the right training preparation in and get the nutrition right but I’ve had some great training days. I have watched what I’ve eaten, lots of carbs before and during training and protein afterwards, cut down on the alcohol but didn’t exclude it completely except for the last few weeks before the event. I burnt between 2,500 – 5,000 calories a week so no matter what I ate I pretty much burned it off (so if I fancied the occasional pie I had one!). I lost 9kg in weight since Christmas where I didn’t think I really had weight to lose. Most of all though, I’ve had huge support from friends and family. Without my family support in particular I don’t know how I would have done it!

A massive thanks to all those who made donations to my ongoing RNLI cause! This year it's going to the Pwllheli lifeboat to aid their new inshore lifeboat appeal. I know they will be pleased with our combined efforts... Thank you!

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Conway Middle Distance Triathlon ~ 6 hours 31 minutes and 3 Seconds!

I decided to enter this as a training event for my full Ironman event in Sep 2016 as although only half the distance at a total of 68 miles, it was a very similar structured event with a sea swim, hilly bike ride (1,000m of climbing) and a looping flat coastal run to finish. It was also going to be an ideal opportunity to refresh the experience of a mass start Sea swim... Usually quite a brutal experience!

3m run to start
My training in the months before had been going pretty well but on reflection, the previous weekend of partying in Mallorca for my wife Karen's birthday with a very late mid week flight back and disturbed sleep in the run up to the event was perhaps not the best preparation for my first half Ironman (but a bloody good party)! ;-)

Unfortunately, despite flat calm seas on the day, due to an accidental sewage spill in the area the day before, the swim was pulled and replaced with a 3 mile run to proceed the bike and proper run. That was a bit of a setback but with such a good atmosphere and organisation, soon sorted!

One of the climbs
The initial run was good. I hadn't really thought about the pace and went out quick... 24mins 21secs for the 3 miles which is the quickest run I've done all year!

I paid for this on the start of the bike leg which immediately climbed from the coast into the hills around Betws-y-Coed. For the most part the bike leg was stunning and felt great. Steep ascents and descents, a total of 1,300m climbing.

A very wet return
And then the heavens opened :-(... The last 20 miles on the bike were grim. Heavy rain and slippy roads. There were more than a couple of spills but fortunately I managed to stay tyre side down! 3 hours 46mins for the bike leg

Fortunately the rain blew over and with a complete change of clothes (and socks), the two lap, 13mile run went pretty well!

Crossing the finish line!

I felt pretty strong at the finish, with a run time of 2hours 9mins which I was pleased with to give me an overall time of 6 hours 31mins which bode very well for the Ironman cut of times.

All in all, a really good event and great preparation for Ironman Weymouth! :-)

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Llyn Coastal 51m Cycle Sportive, Pwllheli ~ 3 hours 15minutes

At the start line
As part of my hilly Ironman Training for the year I took part in the Llyn Coastal Cycle Sportive. It's a beautiful but challenging 51m circular route with three main climbs ascending over a total of 1,000m.

The weather was dry, sunny and a very warm 27'c! :-)
Descent into Aberdaron

Setting out from the new Sailing School in Pwllheli the first of the climbs is West up to Mynytho with views over Abersoch bay and also Hell's Mouth,


Route map and stats :-)
A winding descent then down to Hell's Mouth and coastal lanes towards Aberdaron, taking on the colossal Rhiw hill between the two!

The route then traverses North along the Llyn Peninsular through Tudweiliog and Morfa Nefyn before the final climb back over to the South of the Llyn returning to Pwllheli via Aberech.


Finish Line
I was pretty pleased with the time, pushing it for the last five miles back to Pwllheli.

Spent the afternoon with the family on the boat with a beer :-)

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Inaugural RNLI #ThreeShires Cycle Sportive! £5,600 rasied for RNLI :-)

I started thinking about organising an RNLI Cycle Sportive in August 2015 and after going along to the Abersoch RNLI Sportive in September of that year to chat to them about the viability of such an event got swept along into organising my first event! The #ThreeShires Cycle sportive! How hard could it be!?

Three routes on offer to encourage and accommodate cyclists of all ages and abilities.



  • 100km Three Shires route, taking in the quite country lanes of Cheshire, Shropshire & Staffordshire
  • 35km Three Shires Event intermediate Route
  • 6km Family Fun route
It was a lot of work, but the adage 'many hands make light work' has never been truer! It really couldn't have been done without the help of so many people and at the risk of missing a few here goes!
  • Rod, Phil & John and the team from Crewe Nantwich & South Cheshire RNLI for the massive organisational help, route planning and risk assessments, route signage and Marshalling on the day
  • Sophie and the team at RNLI Head Office
  • Simon, Steph, Peter, Pete, Russ, Rich & Dominic and the team from Sandbach Cycling Group for creating and test riding the routes and helping with the route marking and on the day event
  • Rob, John, Symphony Bistro and the team from Sandbach Rugby Club for their support and use of their fantastic venue and catering
  • Yvonne and the staff of Waitrose Sandbach for their in-store support
  • Barrie and Gary of http://bikemarshals.co.uk/ for the event Motorcycle Marshall and medical support
  • Overwater Marina and Alsager Leisure Centre for the use of their facilities as Pit stops (and the Alsager RNLI guild for staffing the Alsager pitstop)
  • Our Pro Cyclist support for the event from Kristian House of ONE Pro Cycling
  • And last but not least, our 35 volunteer Marshalls on the day for making the event such a success
  • and of course... The participant riders!
The weather on the day was fantastic and the Marshalls seamlessly filled any of our planning gaps to make it look like we'd been running the event for years!

We had over 330 participant's over our three routes which was more than we actually thought would be possible in our first year! Everyone made it home without injury which was a huge relief!

If you have a few more minutes to spare, you can watch the photo, video montage put together by my daughter Lucie here ~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDNMtRvdQEw

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Pwllheli Aquathlon ~ 39mins 23 secs :-)


My fourth outing at the Pwllheli Sprint Triathlon but unlike previous occasions unfortunately this time the weather really didn’t cooperate! Winds gusting to 50mph and a lightning and thunder storm immediately before the event caused the event organisers to quite rightly pull the bike leg (to be honest I would never normally have gone out on the bike in such winds so it was quite a relief).
So, the Triathlon became an Aquathlon! A 400m swim and a 5km run.

The swim start didn’t go to plan. I was waiting for the nod to enter the pool when the starter blew the whistle to go!? I didn’t even have my goggles on L. Other than that, the swim went quite well and accounting for the 20 seconds or so it took me to get in the water and off, along with the time to get out of the pool and building and across the timing mat, my swim time was clocked at 10 mins 21 secs which I guess would equate to around 9 mins 50 actual swimming time? My swim is something Ive been working hard to improve in readiness for the Weymouth Ironman later this year so all in all pleased with that.

When I got out to the transition area, my kit box wasn’t where I left it!? It took what felt like an eternity to retrace my steps, search around only to find it had been blown across the paddock and was heaped in the corner with some other folks kit! T1 was 2:42 and then out for the run.

The run out with the wind behind me was ok, the run back into the wind was like running in treacle! Still a respectable time of 26mins and 22secs to give an overall event time of 39 mins 23 seconds J

Much kudos to the event organisers for once again pulling off a great event despite the weathers best efforts! Also to my pal Dave McDonald who I did the #3PeaksbyBike & #BikesBoatsBoots events with on tackling his first ‘Triathlon’! Welcome to the Dark side Dave! J

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Abersoch RNLI Cycle Sportive ~ Done! 1 hour 57 mins

I took part in the inaugural Abersoch RNLI Cycle Sportive on Sunday... The RNLI produced a press release about it all which I thought I'd reproduce below…

It was a great day out cycling 28 miles around quiet country lanes and I can thoroughly recommend it for next year! It's given me a thought for 2016 ;-)

Rescued man takes to the saddle to support Abersoch RNLI          

Lifeboats News Release
  • Date:
    07/10/2015
  • Author: Chris Cousens
A man who said he owes Abersoch RNLI an ‘enormous debt of gratitude’ after being rescued at sea has completed a cycle challenge to raise money for the station’s lifeboat volunteers.

Dave Hursthouse after completing the first ever Abersoch RNLI sportive.Dave Hursthouse was among those who got into the saddle on Sunday (4 October) for the first Abersoch RNLI Sportive.

The event saw cyclists complete one of a number of picturesque routes on the roads in and around Abersoch – with all money going towards helping the RNLI charity save lives at sea.
It is the latest in a long line of fundraising feats completed by Dave, who was rescued by Abersoch RNLI after a serious sailing accident in 2007. He was struck in the face by the yacht’s boom and knocked overboard, breaking his nose and leaving him concussed and struggling in the sea.
Abersoch RNLI lifeboat volunteers raced to his aid and rescued him out of the water.

Dave, who lives in Sandbach, Cheshire, and is also a member of the RNLI’s Crewe, Nantwich and South Cheshire Fundraising Branch, has already completed a Three Peaks By Bike challenge, the Great North Run, the Great Salford Swim, the Tenby Long Course Weekend triathlon, the Way of the Roses coast to coast cycle route and a Scottish coast-to-coast canoe, bike & hike trek in aid of the charity. He jumped at the chance to support a new fundraiser for the very lifeboat crew which rescued him eight years ago.
‘I have always felt I owe a huge debt of gratitude to those guys at Abersoch RNLI,’ he said.
‘I needed help after what happened to me and the volunteer crew at Abersoch RNLI got to me in no time with exactly what I needed.’

The sun shone for the maiden event on Sunday, which saw riders start and finish at The Vaynol in the centre of Abersoch village and  take on one of two cycling routes – one 28 miles and one nine-and-a-half miles long. 

Dave took on the longer route, which included a climb of 2,200 feet, and completed the course in 1 hour 57 minutes.
‘It was shorter than some sportives, but it certainly was a challenge with the climbs,’ he added.
‘It was a fantastic day, the weather was beautiful and the scenery along the route was breath-taking. I can’t recommend it highly enough and I can see it becoming a really successful event in the future.’

The event raised over £1,000 for the RNLI charity.

Abersoch RNLI Chairman Phill Brown said:  ‘I am really pleased that we did so well today and am
pleased with the foundations that we have laid for future events.’

Notes to editors:

The attached picture shows Dave Hursthouse after completing the first ever Abersoch RNLI sportive.

For more infornation please contact Chris Cousens, RNLI Press Officer, on 01745 585162 or 07748 265496 or by email on Chris_Cousens@rnli.org.uk.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Manchester 100mile Sportive ~ Done! ~ 6hours 11mins

Having been debating whether to enter this or the Nantwich Sprint Triathlon which clashed on the same day, I opted to do the Manchester 100 when I found out a few friends from work and the Sandbach Cycling club were also doing it. I entered the week before but had been keeping the training up since the Long Course Weekend earlier this year so felt good :-). We set off as a group at 7am from Wythenshawe park in Manchester with Dave (who I've previously done #3PeaksbyBike & #BikesBoatsBoots with) & Brendan from EGL and their friend Andy, Paul from Findel and Steph from Sandbach Cycling Club in glorious Indian Summer weather (if a tad chilly initially).
The route took us out through Knutsford and quickly onto the regular Cheshire lanes I now cycle frequently with the Sandbach Cycling Club... Home Ground! The route signage was good as too were the Marshall's but the pit stops left a bit to be desired! A 20minute queue for the one loo at Norley where we made our first stop and had to pay for water!? A recurring theme on the drinks at every stop!

We cycled on around Beeston Castle and through Nantwich were the route combined with the Triathlon cycle route which was also in progress and it took a bit of concentration to ensure we stayed on
the right route (many didn't!).

On through to Winsford where we stopped for another 20mins or so to attend to a mechanical on Dave's bike and then continued through Church Minshull to Middlewich (a stone's throw from where I live but 25 miles from the finish line!). Continued on through the again familiar lanes of Mobberley and Wilmslow and on the home stretch through the outskirts of Stockport and Manchester to the Finish Line.


A good group photo at the finish line meeting up with Pete from work too which was great!

All in all a good ride on a great route let down a lot by the pit stops... At the very least I'd expect free water if not some top up sustenance of cereal bars and bananas!? A finishers medal would have been a nice touch too!?

Here are the stats from Strava...


Sunday, 5 July 2015

Long Course Weekend, Tenby, Wales ~ 3rd to 5th July 2015

The Long Course Weekend is something I’d been thinking about doing for some time now. It’s an Iron man distance event of 2.4mile sea swim, 112mile bike ride and a 26.2mile marathon run but run over a long weekend rather than back to back as in the full Ironman. It has the same cut off times for each of the disciplines and I thought this would be a good tester to gauge the feasibility of an Ironman which for some time has felt like unfinished business for me!

Centred in Tenby in South Wales it runs over the Welsh Ironman course and takes in the stunning Pembrokeshire coast and National Park. Running alongside the Long Course Weekend are the separate events of The Wales Swim, The Wales Sportive and The Wales Marathon, Half marathon & 10k… involving over 6,000 athletes in total, 650 of which were doing the full long Course Weekend like myself.

Friday 3rd July
The swim kicked off at 7pm on the Friday evening. Two laps of a 1.2mile circuit in Tenby bay with an ‘Australian Exit’ between the laps involving a run up the beach around ‘Goscar Rock’, over some timing mats and back in for the second lap. The swim start itself was brutal! A mass beach start of 1,800 swimmers!? The first half mile was shoulder to shoulder, nose to tail swimming in a froth of water. It took some deep breaths and calm thoughts to settle in to but once around the first marker buoy at 0.5miles (which was like getting pushed around a fairground ‘hook a duck’ attraction) thinned out to a more manageable and comfortable swim. I never had any doubts about being able to swim the distance but was anxious about the cut off times of 1 hour for each circuit and 2 hours for the total swim, even though I’ve previously swam mile events in a comfortable 35 to 40 mins… I exited my first lap and noted a time of 52mins on my Garmin watch which indicated a comfortable second lap.
The second lap seemed to go much without incident. It was difficult to gauge the time without really being able to see my watch but felt ok. As I approached the beach for the finish though and caught snips from the event P.A. system and could hear shouts of ‘come on’ and then a countdown as I neared the beach!? Surely not!? As I scrambled out of the sea in a bit of confusion & bewilderment the countdown was counting down 5, 4, 3, 2… 1 ??? I ran up the beach, across the line, stopped my Garmin ~ 2hours and 20 seconds!? How on Earth!? I was gutted! Having covered the distance it seemed I’d missed the cut off ending the chances of the LCW medal even though I could continue and do the other events… It was an evening of very mixed emotions but I tried to console myself that I’d still done the distance… In fact by my Garmin I’d covered 2.78miles even though I thought I’d swam a pretty good line…
We forced down something to eat that evening (with my good friend Dominic who was also doing the event) and got an early night for the 7am Bike start the following morning.







Saturday 4th July
Arrived at the Bike start course having not had time to grab any breakfast but stacked up with energy gels and bars. The disappointment from the previous evening had waned some and we were both looking forward to the start (with my start time 15mins ahead of Dom’s).
I’m now very comfortable on the bike, getting out with the ‘Sandbach Sunday Cyclists’ most Sunday’s for regular 50+mile rides and cycling to work once a week (40miles), so soon settled in to my own comfortable rhythm and was pleased to find my hill climbing good, passing quite a number of folk on route.
The route took us out from Tenby, cycling West along the coast through Penally and Manorbier, through Pembroke and out to Angle before heading back to Pembroke, through Lamphey and a long, steep hill climb into Narberth and then back down to Saundersfoot to return to Tenby… A 70mile first lap and then a repeat partial loop of 42miles through Lamphey and Narberth again to make up the total 112mile distance.
There were plenty of opportunities to chat to fellow riders along the way which helped the miles pass… A conversation with a guy called Stuart from Harrogate at around the 20mile mark though made my day! It was him that passed on the news that the swim cut off times had been extended by ten minutes due to the course being inadvertently set out at 2.8miles rather than 2.4miles (meaning that the second lap was also out against the tide). It was amazing the energy that news put back in my legs!
Even stopping at most if not all of the ‘pit stops’ including taking a ‘bacon butty’ stop at the 100mile mark when energy gels, bananas and cereal bars were no longer enough! I made a fairly respectable time of 8hours 12mins with an average moving speed of 14.5mph. All in all a really good ride. Not an Earth shattering time but comfortably within the cut off times and leaving something in my legs for the following day’s marathon run. Unfortunately Dom had a mechanical which explained why he didn’t pass me on route (but he too still finished within the cut off).

Sunday 5th July
A 10.00am start in Tenby town centre for the discipline we’d least been looking forward to… The Marathon.
Dom and I had decided to start together, run a fairly steady pace of around 10minute miles with thoughts of dramatic finish times set-aside and look to get around as best we could! The strategy seemed to pay off well. A mile looping around town and a descent out of Tenby and then a 2 mile climb up a 16% hill to Penally in a shower of rain that turned into a full blown downpour! Actually this kept us relatively cool and fresh on the run out through Freshwater East to Pembroke. More runners joined us at the halfway mark to run the Half marathon back to Tenby and similar for the final 10km so the atmosphere on the return into Tenby in improving weather was pretty good! The last couple of miles back up to Penally were very tough involving our first bit of walking! The steep descent down from Penally to Tenby not as good as we thought with the pressure on tired shins on every step. The Compression sleeve leggings that had been given to all LCW eventers at registration really paid off though and despite not looking great, worked amazingly well! I won’t do distance runs again without them!
The atmosphere as we returned into Tenby was euphoric! Truly overwhelming! Tenby clearly loves Triathlon with even the local mayor greeting every finisher with a handshake! A finish time of 4hours 46mins. Nothing to set the world alight but again well within the cut-off time giving me a total LCW time a smidge under 15hours at a very respectable 14hours 59mins and 06seconds!

We had time for a couple of well-earned beers and a pasty (rehydration and nutritional choice of elite athletes!) before the Long Course Weekend medal ceremony at 4.30 that afternoon… The ceremony itself was like the celebrities coming out of the jungle! Full of pyrotechnics, streamers and pumping muzak! Fantastic!!! All in all a superb event in a stunning area of Britain! And for anyone wondering… A full Ironman is definitely not off the cards… Watch this space! ;-)