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 JulyThe 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…
Saturday 4th JulyArrived 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 JulyA 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! ;-)